Harmonizing Chorales Systematically: A Translation of G. H. Stölzel’s Kurzer und gründlicher Unterricht (Brief and Thorough Instruction), ms. ca. 1719–49

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Derek Remes


This article provides the first English translation of a little-known manuscript treatise by the central-German composer and Capellmeister, Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel (1690–1749), titled Kürzer und gründliche Unterricht (Brief and Thorough Instruction, ca. 1719–49). Stölzel’s method frames speculative theory (trias harmonica and the tabula tradition) practically in terms of thoroughbass in order to provide simple instruction on how to invent the bass and middle voices to an original chorale melody. In the second half of the treatise, Stölzel uses thoroughbass to describe not only harmony, but also counterpoint. He does so by explaining various dissonant intervallic constellations in terms of the traditional terms “agent” and “patient,” which describe the two voices involved in a dissonant syncopatio. Stölzel’s treatise thus has both historical and practical value, since his method of chorale harmonization can provide welcome guidance for today's students and pedagogues.

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