Thematic Fridays

The passions of the soul

This series took place onFrom to

Since ancient times, music has been attributed with the ability to express emotions and to move the listener. But it was in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when a more detailed study of the connections between the art of sounds and the expression of the passions was carried out. René Descartes’s treatise The Passions of the Soul (Les passions de l’âme), published in 1649, served as a theoretical basis and contained a limited catalogue of stereotyped passions capable of being represented. Admiration, love, hate, desire, happiness and sadness were established as the six primary passions from which, according to Cartesian rationalism, all the others were derived. The application of rhetoric principles to music was thus the most suitable tool to "move the listener’s affections" and provoke feelings similar to those the music imitated.

Each of the concerts in this series is based on one of the passions of the soul put forward by Descartes and explores the repertories that imitated them. The last concert presents Bach’s Musical Offering, which some scholars believe was faithfully composed according to Quintilianus’s Institutio Oratoria (Institutes of Oratory), the reference treatise for the study of oratory during the period from the Middle Ages to the French Revolution.

Concerts in this series