Oakeley, Sir Herbert (Stanley)

Ormestad [Ormsen], Caspar

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Ormestad [Ormsen], Caspar.

See Ecchienus, Caspar.

Ørn [Øren, Ohren], Jacob [Aquilino Dano, Jacomo]

(d after 1652). Danish musician and composer. He is first heard of as one of the four musicians (the others being Mogens Pedersøn, Hans Brachrogge and Martinus Otto) sent by King Christian IV of Denmark to England in 1611 to serve his sister Anne, James I’s queen, while he was away at the wars and thus had, as he wrote, no need of them. They remained in England for three years. A pavan by Ørn, under the latinized name Jacomo Aquilino Dano, was copied (in US-NYp, Sambrooke manuscript) by Francis Tregian, who was at that time a prisoner in the Tower of London for recusancy. There thus appears to have been personal contact between the Danes and Tregian which is further evidenced by the presence in another of the manuscripts copied by Tregian (GB-Lbm Eg.3665) of ten otherwise unknown madrigals by Mogens Pedersøn and a similar number of Italian madrigals copied from Melchior Borchgrevinck’s two Giardino novo anthologies (1605–6). On his return to Denmark in 1614 Ørn was given an appointment in the royal chapel, which he served for 35 years. He received a benefice of Roskilde Cathedral in 1619 and was given the charge of six choirboys in 1624. He became deputy director of the chapel in 1637. He officiated at the coronation of King Frederik III in 1648, and in January 1649 he retired on his full salary for life in recognition of his long service. His name appears in the records for the last time on 28 February 1653. Apart from the above-mentioned pavan his only known composition is a four-part chorale setting in L.P. Thura’s Canticum Canticorum Salomonis (Copenhagen, 1640; transcr. in T. Laub: Om kirkesangen, Copenhagen, 1887). A project to provide settings for four voices with continuo of the whole book of Psalms, to which he referred in 1645 and 1647, if realized, has apparently not survived.


A. Hammerich: Musiken ved Christian den Fjerdes Hof (Copenhagen, 1892)

J. Bergsagel: ‘Anglo-Scandinavian Musical Relations before 1700’, IMSCR XI: Copenhagen 1972, 263–71

J. Bergsagel: ‘Danish Musicians in England 1611–14: Newly Discovered Instrumental Music’, DAM, vii (1973–6), 9–20 [incl. edns of both pieces]

J. Bergsagel, ed.: Music in Denmark at the time of Christian IV, ii: Music for Instrumental Ensemble (Copenhagen, 1988)

H. Glahn: ‘Om musikken [til L.P. Thuras Højsangsparafrase]’, Hymnologiske meddelelser, xvii/5 (1988), 224–46



For discussion of improvised embellishments see Improvisation; for notated ornaments and graces see Ornaments.


Those more or less brief and conventional formulae of embellishment which have always been liable to occur within traditions of free ornamentation (see Improvisation), and which proliferated in European music of the Baroque period. They have often been indicated by symbols, although composers, performers, music copyists and editors, and scholars have by no means always shown consistency or agreement in the use of specific symbols. Moreover, the general understanding of signs, symbols, terms and contemporary performing styles of ornamentation has varied greatly across time and place. This article deals primarily with the symbols used in Western art music and their interpretation.

Throughout much of the history of western European music, performers have been inclined to embellish the notes provided them by the composer. Even in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, it is convenient to make a distinction between two kinds of embellishment. On the one hand, the technique of applying improvised or semi-improvised running figuration patterns to a given melody, so-called divisions or passaggi, creates melodic variation. Graces, on the other hand, are conventional melodic ornaments applied to single notes; by the Baroque era graces were indicated by a variety of stylized signs, most of which had, at least by intention, a particular meaning.

1. Middle Ages and Renaissance.

2. Spain, 1500–1800.

3. The English virginalists.

4. Italy, 1600–50.

5. Italy, 1650–1750.

6. English Baroque.

7. French Baroque.

8. German Baroque.

9. Late 18th century and 19th.

10. 20th century.

11. Index to ornaments and table of signs.




1. Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Before the 17th century ornamental signs in the conventional sense, added to notes to change their interpretation, were found only in keyboard and lute manuscripts, most of which were written in idiomatic tablatures. The earliest known use of stylized ornamental signs is seen in keyboard sources of the 14th and 15th centuries: the Robertsbridge Codex (c1320, GB-Lbl Add.28550) places a small circle above certain notes, and a number of German keyboard tablatures of the 15th century, most prominently the Buxheim Keyboard Manuscript (c1460–70, D-Mbs Mus.ms.3725), use a note form that adds a downward stem with a triangular loop. In all these cases it is clear that some sort of ornament is being indicated, but its exact nature (or even whether the same figure was meant every time) remains obscure.

Ornamental signs in lute tablatures came later: Vincenzo Capirola, in his manuscript anthology of lute music (1515–20, US-Cn VM C.25), used dotted red numerals to identify the upper auxiliary of a mordent and two dots above the number of the fret for the grace he called tremolo d'un tasto solo (tremolo on one fret), by which he meant a mordent, usually alternating between the first fret and the open string. In the 1548 Milanese edition of P.P. Borrono's music (Intavolatura di lauto … libro secondo, published by Castiglione) parentheses were inserted to isolate the two notes of a mordent.

English lute and keyboard sources of the late 16th and early 17th centuries also employed signs for mandatory ornaments. The most familiar are probably the diagonal strokes of varying number added to the stems of some notes by keyboard composers to indicate graces, as in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book (1609–19, GB-Cfm; see §3 below); Diana Poulton (B1975) described and explained other kinds of grace, sometimes indicated by crosses or other signs, that appear in English lutebooks of the period. In all these cases the use of the signs appears to be unstandardized and experimental, and their interpretation must be made on a source-by-source, or even sometimes a composition-by-composition basis.

For most of the vocal and instrumental ensemble music of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, however, ornaments were not specified in the musical text but were added by performers at will within a more or less unwritten set of customs and proprieties. In this music, then, it is often impossible to draw clear lines between what we would call ornamentation, improvisation and arrangement, and the unwritten practice has to be reconstructed hypothetically. Evidence of its existence and nature is more abundant for some repertories than others, and as with most aspects of musical performance it is more explicit for the 16th century than before. Yet some sort of ornamental practice can reasonably be inferred for practically every repertory before 1600.

A number of early chant manuscripts use Significative letters, some of which may have had the effect of ornaments though their exact meanings are still conjectural. Several symbols of chant notation still used today had an original function that we would consider ornamental: the Liquescent neumes (epiphonus, cephalicus etc.) probably implied some sort of glissando; the quilisma also a glissando, possibly with a volume vibrato added; and the repercussive neumes (bistropha, tristropha, pressus etc.) an actual restriking of the note. All these interpretations are obscured by the uniformity of modern Solesmes style (see Notation, §III, 1).

Contemporary descriptions of 13th-century polyphony, chiefly by Anonymus 4, Franco of Cologne and Hieronymous de Moravia, show that, for all its fanciness as written, the music of the Notre Dame period was further embellished in performance. Anonymus 4 refers to a longa florata (flowered long) and a duplex longa florata (see Anonymous theoretical writings, §2, no.23), and Hieronymus describes several interpretative possibilities such as the florificatio vocis and flos harmonicus (both of which we would probably call trills), the reverberatio (an ornamental appoggiatura from below) and the nota procellaris (possibly a vibrato). All seem to have been added most appropriately to long notes, especially at the beginning or end of a phrase. The Plica, which developed from the liquescent neumes of chant and survived into the Franconian era, seems always to have functioned as a kind of grace note, sung differently from its companions.

Specific observations of this sort are more difficult to establish for secular monophony and for the polyphony of the 14th and 15th centuries. But the scattered remarks of theorists, normally lamenting excessive ornamentation, suggest that the tradition of adding ornaments to existing musical texts was all but universal, and a close examination of multiple versions and intabulations of a single song can reveal something of the character of this tradition.

By 1529 Martin Agricola in his Musica instrumentalis deudsch assumed that his audience of amateur instrumentalists would want to learn to add ornaments to their music, though his own instructions, even in a later edition, are fragmentary and abortive. As the musical literacy of amateurs grew over the course of the 16th century, however, a number of treatises offered instruction, in greater and lesser detail, in the art of instrumental and vocal ornamentation. Among the best-known are those by Ganassi (B1535), Ortiz (B1553), Dalla Casa (B1584), Bassano (B1585), Zacconi (E1592), Diruta (E1593) and Bovicelli (E1594). Their languages and vocabulary vary but, as Brown (B1976) has shown, most divide their subject broadly into graces (ornaments added to a single note) and passaggi or divisions (ornaments added between notes or over a longer passage).

They also generally agree that the two most important graces are the tremolo (in modern parlance, a trill or mordent) and groppo (or gruppo; a cadential upper-note trill, often with a turn at the end), and some add a few variants and additions such as Diruta's clamatione (a portamento up to the first note of a passage from a 3rd or 4th below) and Zacconi and Bovicelli's accento (a dotted figure filling in or expanding a written interval). Their treatments of passaggi are much more individual, but most share a pedagogical method, traceable at least to the early 15th century (see Fallows, B1990), in which each basic interval is decorated in numerous different ways – Ortiz, for example, shows 12 ways to fill in a major 2nd, Ganassi 28 and Bovicelli 35 – which the student would presumably practise over and over to develop a ready fund of ornamental figures to add while playing or singing (ex.1). Several treatises add specimen pieces of music with written-out ornamentation; these give a vivid, if perhaps exaggerated, view of the wealth of ornaments available and the use to which they were put in performance.

It must be emphasized that this kind of ornamentation was fundamentally an improvised practice, completely at the performer's discretion: no conventional 16th-century partbooks or choirbooks indicate ornaments in any way. The clean, uncluttered appearance of the music on the page is thus misleading. Performers of the Renaissance, instrumentalists and singers alike, saw improvised ornamentation as part of their fundamental training and their daily musical duty. The ability to add graces and passaggi at sight was part of the personality that a musician brought to the job; the treatises are full of commonsense advice on how to temper virtuosity with taste. Accompanied solo music, they say, may be ornamented more liberally than ensemble music; superius parts more than lower lines; happy music more than sad; cadences more than phrase beginnings; repetitions of a phrase more than its first presentation. Singers are further cautioned not to let their ornaments obscure the words, to abstain altogether in choral music with more than one on a part, and to avoid elaborate passaggi on the vowels ‘u’ and ‘i’.

See also Cadenza.


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