In the sixteenth century, the word ricercar could refer to several types of compositions. Terminology was flexible, even lax then: whether a composer called an instrumental piece a toccata, a canzona, a fantasia, or a ricercar was clearly not a matter of strict taxonomy but a rather arbitrary decision. Yet ricercars fall into two general types: a predominantly homophonic piece, with occasional runs and passagework, not unlike a toccata, found from the late fifteenth to the mid-sixteenth century, after which time this type of piece came to be called a toccata; and from the second half of the sixteenth century onward, a sectional work in which each section begins imitatively, usually in a variation form. The second type of ricercar, the imitative, contrapuntal type, was to prove the more important historically, and eventually developed into the fugue. Marco Dall'Aquila (c.1480–after 1538) was known for polyphonic ricercars.
Biography sourced from Wikipedia
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