Courante literally means "running", and in the later Renaissance the courante was danced with fast running and jumping steps, as described by Thoinot Arbeau. But the courante commonly used in the baroque period was described by Johann Mattheson in Der vollkommene Capellmeister (Hamburg, 1739) as "chiefly characterized by the passion or mood of sweet expectation. For there is something heartfelt, something longing and also gratifying, in this melody: clearly music on which hopes are built."Johann Gottfried Walther in the Musicalisches Lexicon (Leipzig, 1732), wrote that the rhythm of the courante is "absolutely the most serious one can find."
Beauchamp-Feuillet notation: the steps of a courante
During the baroque era there were two types of courante; the French and the Italian. The French type is usually notated in 3 2 or 6 4, occasionally alternating between the two meters, and had the slowest tempo of all French court dances, described by Mattheson, Quantz and Rousseau as grave and majestic, while the Italian type was a significantly faster dance.
Sometimes French and Italian spellings are used to distinguish types of courante, but original spellings were inconsistent. Bach uses courante and corrente to differentiate the French and Italian styles respectively in his Partitas of the Clavierübung and, in Dance and the Music of J. S. Bach by Meredith Little and Natalie Jenne, the courante and corrente are treated as distinct dances, but editors have frequently ignored the distinction.
In Bach's unaccompanied Partita for Violin No. 2 the first movement (titled Allemanda) begins as if in 3 4time in a manner one might initially perform and hear as a courante. The second movement is titled corrente and is rather lively. An indication of faster tempo that appears to exist in Baroque composer Georg Muffat's instructions on Lullian bowing is a confusion in translation.
^Alfred Blatter, Revisiting Music Theory: A Guide to the Practice (New York: Routledge, 2007), p. 28. ISBN0-415-97440-2.
^ abQuoted in Alfred Dürr, preface to Johann Sebastian Bach, Französische Suiten: die verzierte Fassung / The French Suites: Embellished Version: BWV 812-817, new, revised edition, edited by Alfred Dürr. Bärenreiter Urtext (Kassel: Bärenreiter-Verlag, 1980).
^Philippa Waite & Judith Appleby: (2003) Beauchamp-Feuillet Notation: A Guide for Beginner and Intermediate Baroque Dance Students, Cardiff:Consort de Danse Baroque ISBN0-9544423-0-X
^ abMeredith Ellis Little and Suzanne G. Cusick, "Courante", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001).
^Alfred Dürr, preface to Johann Sebastian Bach, Französische Suiten: die verzierte Fassung / The French Suites: Embellished Version: BWV 812-817, new, revised edition, edited by Alfred Dürr. Bärenreiter Urtext (Kassel: Bärenreiter-Verlag, 1980).
^Meredith Little and Natalie Jenne, Dance and the Music of J. S. Bach, expanded edition. Music: Scholarship and Performance (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001) ISBN0-253-33936-7 (cloth); ISBN0-253-21464-5 (pbk); pp. 114-142.
^Meredith Little and Natalie Jenne, Dance and the Music of J. S. Bach, expanded edition (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001) p. 115. ISBN0-253-33936-7 (cloth); ISBN0-253-21464-5 (pbk).
Lenneberg, Hans. 1958. "Johann Mattheson on Affect and Rhetoric in Music: A Translation of Selected Portions of Der vollkommene Capellmeister (1739)". Journal of Music Theory 2, no. 1 (April) and no. 2 (November): 47-84, 193-236.
Mattheson, Johann. 1981. Johann Mattheson's Der vollkommene Capellmeister", a revised translation with critical commentary by Ernest Charles Harriss. Studies in musicology 21. Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press. ISBN0-8357-1134-X.
Walther, Johann Gottfried. 1732. Musicalisches Lexicon oder, Musicalische Bibliothec. Leipzig: verlegts Wolffgang Deer. Facsimile reprint, edited by Richard Schaal. Documenta musicologica, 1. Reihe, Druckschriften-Faksimiles, 3. Kassel: Bärenreiter-Verlag, 1953. Modern edition of the text and musical illustrations, edited by Friederike Ramm. Kassel: Bärenreiter-Verlag & Karl Vötterle GmbH & Co. KG, 2001. ISBN3-7618-1509-3.