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A barcarole (from French, also barcarolle; originally, Italian barcarola, ; sometimes barcolle) is a folk song sung by Venetian gondoliers, or a piece of music composed in that style. In classical music, two of the most famous barcaroles are those by Jacques Offenbach, from his opera The Tales of Hoffmann and Frédéric Chopin's Barcarole in F sharp major for solo piano.



A barcarole is characterized by a rhythm reminiscent of the gondolier's stroke, almost invariably a moderate tempo 6/8 meter.[1]

While the most famous barcaroles are from the Romantic period, the genre was well-enough known in the 18th century for Burney to mention, in The Present State of Music in France and Italy (1771), that it was a celebrated form cherished by "collectors of good taste".[2]


The barcarole was a popular form in opera, where the apparently artless sentimental style of the folklike song could be put to good use: in addition to the Offenbach example, Paisiello, Weber, and Rossini wrote arias which were barcaroles, Gaetano Donizetti set the Venetian scene at the opening of Marino Faliero (1835) with a barcarole for a gondolier and chorus, and Verdi included a barcarole in Un Ballo in Maschera (i.e., Richard's atmospheric "Di’ tu se fidele il flutto m’aspetta" in Act I).[2]

Arthur Sullivan set the entry of Sir Joseph Porter's barge (also bearing his sisters, cousins and aunts) in HMS Pinafore to a barcarole. Schubert, while not using the name specifically, used a style reminiscent of the barcarole in some of his most famous songs, including especially his haunting "Auf dem Wasser zu singen" ("to be sung on the water"), D.774.[2]

Other barcaroles include: the three Venetian gondolier's songs from Songs without Words, opus 19, opus 30 and opus 62 by Felix Mendelssohn; the "June" barcarole from Tchaikovsky's The Seasons; Charles-Valentin Alkan's barcarole from the Op. 65 Troisième recueil de chants; Béla Bartók's "Barcarolla" from Out of Doors; Leonard Bernstein's The Kings' Barcarole from Candide; several examples by Anton Rubinstein, Mily Balakirev, Alexander Glazunov, Edward MacDowell, and Ethelbert Nevin; and most impressively of all, the collection of thirteen by Gabriel Fauré for solo piano.[2]

In the 20th century, examples include guitarist Agustin Barrios's Julia Florida, the second movement of Villa-Lobos's "Trio no. 2" contains a Berceuse-Barcarolla (1915), and Ned Rorem wrote his Barcaroles in Morocco (1949).

See also


  1. ^ Randel, Harvard Dictionary of Music
  2. ^ a b c d Brown, Maurice: New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1980)


  • The New Harvard Dictionary of Music, ed. Don Randel. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 1986. ISBN 0-674-61525-5
  • Brown, Maurice, "Barcarolle", in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie. 20 vol. London, Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 1980. ISBN 1-56159-174-2

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BARCAROLE, or BARCAROLLE (Ital. barcaruola, a boat-song), properly a musical term for the songs sung by the Venetian gondoliers, and hence for an instrumental or vocal composition, generally in 6-8 time, written in imitation of their characteristic rhythm.

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