Arcomelo 2013: Studi nel terzo centenario della morte di Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713)

ed. Guido Olivieri and Marc Vanscheeuwijck
(LIM, 2015) In Italian and English.
xxviii+538pp. €50
ISBN 9788870967975

Of the 16 papers delivered at the 7th Corelli convention held in Fusignano, ‘Arcomelo 2013’ in honour of the 300th anniversary of Corelli death, six are in English, as are all 16 abstracts. One aim of the congress was to connect musicians and musicologists, applying the latest research to questions of musical analysis and performance. The volume places the papers in five areas of study, though they can be read in any order. I decided to begin with one paper from each group, making the rounds successively, in order to let the historical, musical, technical, and documentary contributions relate to each other. The considerable size of this volume (566 pages counting the preface by Enrico Gatti and the introduction by Guido Olivieri and Marc Vanscheeuwijck) should insure its value to many readers.

Corelli and the Bolognese Instrumental Music Tradition
The opening ‘prosopograhical’ essay by Sandro Pasqual is on violinists, violins, and violin teachers in Bologna in Corelli’s time, along with the rise of music publishing houses and violin makers there. Pasqual, a cellist, historian, and economist, sets the stage for Corelli – whom his contribution doesn’t include. His aim is to show to what extent the violin created a revolution in Bologna in the mid-1600s, what activities and sectors offered work to violinists, what repertoire emerged, and therefore why one can speak of the Bolognese ‘violin school’ between 1660 and 1720. The violinists were street musicians, part-time well-trained free-lance players, professionals, and teachers of several generations of pupils. Their prestige grew in the 18th century as Bologna became the fertile centre reflected in the seminal influence of Corelli himself.

Andreas Pfisterer’s contribution Corelli and Vitali: On the Reworking of Dance Movements  compares the former’s Op. II, no. 9/1 of 1685 with the latter’s Op. 8 no. 8 Balletto Largo  of 1683. He considers Allemande  and Balletti  here as identical, and I imagine that at the Convention he must commented on the Balletti  and Allemande  in the Assisi manuscript attributed to Corelli. His analysis is enlightening, in that Corelli apparently adopted the Vitali piece as a model, but reworked it in significant, idiosyncratic ways, all illustrated well by his musical examples.

Guido Olivieri introduced Enrico Gatti’s edition of 12 ‘sonatas’ from a manuscript of 1748, I-Af MS 177, in which they are attributed to Corelli. (See the review of their edition for more about these brief suites.) At the convention, Olivieri’s longer paper Le Sonate da camera di Assisi: una nuova fonte corelliana?  investigates the plausibility of the attribution. He compares the form, harmony, cadences and melodic characteristics of these Preludi  and dances to examples from Corelli’s op. I-IV, and to works of other composers active near Bologna in the 1660s, 70s and 80s. As ‘Devil’s Advocate’ he makes hypotheses about conceivable motives for a deliberately spurious attribution, but these are not convincing; instead, as hoped, the existence of a complete set of sonatas that could have been composed by Corelli for violin and cello in the 1670s, formally dissimilar to the mature solo sonatas of Op. V, makes the case all the more interesting.

The complete Assisi manuscript is in two hands and was made in Bologna. One copyist wrote out these sonatas, as well as Corelli’s 12 sonatas of Op. 5, Albinoni’s sonata op. 2 no.10 and part of no. 6, a sonata attributed to Torelli, and the parchment cover, dated 1748. The other scribe inserted arias and minuets for trumpet. It belonged to a Franciscan lay brother in Assisi, who was praised as a cello player and bass singer, Giuseppe Maria Galli (ca. 1720-1781). He must have personally used the music; he may have been the main copyist.

Aspects of Composition and Performance
Gregory Barnett, in Tempo, Meter, and Rhythmic Notation in Sonatas of the Corellian Era, begins with three cases requiring interpretation in performance, supported by indisputably clear examples: (1) mensural proportions, which only occur marginally in music as late as Corelli’s; (2) successive meters devised so that the same pulse in one section could be indicated by different note-values in the next; and (3) verbal tempo indications altering the durations of the same note-values. It is the second case that interests me the most, because it requires the intuition of performers: infrequently if ever mentioned in writing, this occurs over and over again in vocal music (I’m thinking of Monteverdi, Purcell, Tenaglia, Steffani, and many others), enabling smooth transitions from one section to another which the other sets of early notational rules cannot define. The author also touches on the unsolved problem of Gigues. The article contains 28 musical examples, 4 tables of tempo indications (those in combinations, those projecting affects, those implying articulated bowing, and those implying sustained bowings), and a long bibliographical list of the compositions referred to.

The title of Alberto Sanna’s Between Composition and Performance: Generic Norms and Poetic Choices in The Work of Arcangelo Corelli  would have been more inviting had it referred to Corelli’s compositional priorities or the protracted debate over ‘The Affair of the Fifths’ that raged from 1685 into the early 1700s, and which still gets treated polemically today, most recently as a confrontation between the musical circles of Rome and Bologna. Even though Sanna devotes half of his paper to the disputed parallel intervals, with redundant examples and explanations of how suspensions save the fifths, he only cites one sentence of Corelli’s defensive arguments, which allegedly were long and detailed. So the impression I was left with, besides appreciation of my responsibility as a continuo player to bring out the harmonic complexity that Corelli had in mind, was that Sanna’s conclusions about how Corelli’s practical experience informed his aesthetics were too generalized to be supported by what he actually showed. His discussion of Corelli’s Allemandes ties in nicely with Pfisterer’s contribution.

Pierre-Alain Braye-Weppe, a composer and teacher of basso continuo, discusses in the most organized and well-illustrated manner the various roles and sonorities Corelli used the viola for. The Viola Part in the Concerti Op. VI  is long but quickly read, and parts tie in beautifully with Salvatore Carchiolo’s treatise-supported recommendations for passing-note contaminations of simpler harmonies. Like Sanna, Braye-Weppe attributes Corelli’s compositional bravura to his innovative ‘thinking outside the box’, as well as to his experience as a violinist and conductor. But he doesn’t just say so: the strength of this paper is the analytical grouping of musical examples.

Bass instruments and Basso Continuo Realization in Rome at the Time of Corelli
In the 17th and early 18th centuries the violin family included a variety of instruments larger than the viola. They differed in size, tuning, playing technique, and especially in nomenclature. Marc Vanscheeuwijck has reviewed the specific situation in Bowed Basses in Corelli’s Rome. Corelli used the designation violoncello del concertino  only once, in his Concerti Grossi, Op. VI, generally calling the instrument that plays the bassline – in sonatas and trios – a violone. The article adds other data to be considered, without claiming to solve the confusing regional and organological distinctions. Although the study is in English, I think Vanscheewijck assumes that we all know that the Italian diminutive suffix ‘-cello’ is not a common one. More usual ones are -ino, -etto, -cino, -ello, some of which express affection or suggest ‘cuteness’; but ‘-cello’, also a quantitative modifier, means ‘slight’. It qualifies the suffix already present in violone  (i. e. a large viola) to distinguish the various slightly smaller large violas from each other, and from the contrabbasso, before standardization, when some players could play different sizes of instruments in more than one tuning. One other thing leaves me not quite appreciative of this dilemma: why not examine the basslines themselves, their ranges, and the techniques they require, in order to conclude definitively what the violone  in question had to be?

Previously enigmatic archlute tablatures, which seemed to produce senseless or bad voice-leading, are solved by restringing the 4th, 5th and 6th stopped double courses in octaves instead of unisons. Marco Pesci in L’arciliuto e il basso continuo nella Roma di Corelli: osservazioni sull’uso di ottave e acciaccatura, thus confirms these tablature readings, which are shown to produce the type of full (and harmonically contaminated) accompaniment specifically called for in Corelli’s time. The stringing required is an older, 16th century one. Therefore the Roman 17th-century “earlier music” practitioners reinstated it in order to have three extra voices adding and resolving dissonances, thanks to three octave doublings, and also for playing higher melodies at the same time. All the examples are given in notation as well as tablature, and the article should be read together with the following ones of Salvatore Carchiolo and Giovanni Togni. It is too bad for English readers that all three of these articles are in Italian, but they do have a great number of musical examples, and their abstracts are in English.

Salvatore Carchiolo, as expected from the highest authority on Italian continuo practice as a performer and researcher, takes a group of related anonymous treatises, establishes their appropriateness to Corelli’s music by their date and Roman origin, and applies their very particular recommendations to passages from Corelli’s opera I, II, III and V. La prassi esecutiva del basso continuo al clavicembalo nella musica di Arcangelo Corelli alla luce delle ‘Regole per accompagnar sopra la parte’ della Biblioteca Corsiniana di Roma  therefore is not only detail-specific for those wanting to accompany Corelli better, but explains ‘Rules’ which are still little known, or, when known, often conflated with every other style of accompaniment. His illustrative realizations may speak for themselves, but for those who read Italian, the distinctions he draws about them are most illuminating. Harmonic contamination has its rhyme and reason, its means and place, in short… its rules.

Giovanni Togni also analyzes the various uses of extemporized and almost ubiquitous dissonances in full accompaniments of Corelli’s time – those discussed in the above study by Carchiolo and referred to as ‘false’ in the writings of Gasparini (1708), Marcello (1705), and the anonymous tract Regole per accompagnare sopra la part d’autore incerto  (circa 1700). His contribution is titled Le ‘false’ che dilettano  (The ‘inharmonic notes that delight’), a phrase from the tract, which included an illustrative arietta written and realized by the ‘uncertain’ author, showing chords with five to ten notes (some held, some released). Carchiolo applied the technique to music of Corelli. Togni instead compares these various writings, adding illustrations from still other printed pieces and manuscripts (one from 1680-90), noting differences in their usage of the terms. His examples enable him to specify where they can be employed, which is the main value of his study. His statistical analysis might raise some eyebrows (e. g. 16 acciaccature  in 89 bars of a set of Passagagli, or 5.8%, versus 51.66% in the first 23 bars of the anonymous arietta), but he admits that this serves to measure the huge discrepancy between actual pieces and theoretical examples, which ought to warn us not to overdo techniques recommended for wherever appropriate, not for wherever possible.

History Context Documents
The title of Teresa Chirico’s ‘Et iusti intrabunt in eam’. Committenza ottoboniana, macchine e musiche per la festa delle Quaranta ore (1690–1713)  is a challenge, but in fact the study is concretely descriptive of the theatrical machinery, the elaborate staging and the exact musical forces used in the Church (of San Lorenzo in Damaso) in Cardinal Ottoboni’s residence for an annual marathon of solemn celebrations in the presence of the pope. Corelli’s contribution (composing, directing and playing) was essential, and after his death this so-called Roman ‘Carnival’ continued until 1740 in a reduced form.

More than 30 of the 49 documents that constitute the second and main part of Luca Della Libera’s Nuove fonti corelliane: il Fondo Bolognetti nell’Archivio Segreto Vaticano e i documenti nell’Archivum Romanum Societatis Iesu  contain references to Corelli’s work as a performer or conductor in Rome. They are single journalistic paragraphs from 1691-1703 describing occasions, the music performed, by whom; or lists of payments from 1676 to 1692 for sacred music performed in Sant’Andrea al Quirinale (renovated by Bernini with funds from G. B. Pamphilj). Musicians are named (e.g. Carlo Mannelli, Bernardo Pasquini), or listed by first name and function or provenance (e. g. Violino Archangelo; Perugino della Chiesa Nuova) or by surname (e. g. Organista De Sanctis), or function (e. g. Alza mantici or Bellows pumpers). The journal entries are selected from over 200 published by Della Libera and J. M. Domínguez in 2012. The payment lists from the Bolognetti family and Ottoboni court are published here for the first time, and in their entirety.

Constance Frei I tipografi romani e bolognesi di Corelli. Stampa e ristampa. In the 17th century Corelli’s works were printed by various typographers. In Rome, Op. I and II by G. A. Mutij, Op. II and IV by G. G. Komarek, and Op. V by G. Pietrasanta. All these were reissued in Bologna numerous times during the composer’s lifetime by the printing houses of G. and P. M. Monti and M. Silvani. This essay asks whether these prints and reprints were identical, whether movable-type prints could reproduce the complex bowings, articulations and innovative ideas of the composer, or rather what limitations movable type imposed, and what was the relationship of the typographers to the musical text. It compares the Roman and Bolognese editions, underlines aspects of Corelli’s style, defines the characteristics of each typographer, and enables players to better interpret the passage-work as presented by these prints. Appreciating the decisions the printers made is actually fundamental to reading printed music, and even the small number of examples given to support her answers will perhaps generate other questions in interested readers. I would like to ask her why groups of four semiquavers were so rarely spatially separated, and which printing houses had, or didn’t have, demisemiquaver characters.

Agnese Pavanello, in her study Corelli ‘inedito’: composizioni dubbie o senza numero d’opera. Percorsi tra fonti, attribuzioni e fortuna della trasmissione, while acknowledging with appreciation the immense cataloguing work of H. J. Marx, a pioneer of Corelli studies, shows how the works without opus numbers (WoO #) and the works catalogued as dubious or even spurious (indicated Anh. #), were not so deemed according to sufficiently clear criteria. Many of the latter are now turning out to be good attributions, and this involves over a hundred ‘dubious’ violin sonatas, and other works. Therefore her study underlines how important the situation is. A very large number of so-called dubious works are from English sources: Anh. 16–18 from the 1680s contain Op. I, II and III and WoO5. James II married Maria Beatrice d’Este, and Christina of Sweden used her influence in Rome to sustain the Catholic king of England, organizing large spectacles led by, played by, or composed by Corelli. This was but one channel for the spread of Roman music (not only Corelli’s). It is an example of how dating, transmission and style must all be considered, as well as concordances with other sources, an example of which ties in with the article by Guido Olivieri. And perhaps some of the dubious works, which we have thanks to the foreign channel of diffusion, simply did not enjoy the ultimate care that Corelli devoted to his published works (especially Anh. 62–64). This study is, by the way, a good read, even though and indeed because (!) it points out what a staggering amount of research remains to be done on Corelli as a composer.

Lowell Lindgren’s ‘Fugga, Fugga, or the Italian Rant’, which Supplied Corelli, Cosimi and Haym with ‘the Sense of Sound’  does well to show that Corelli’s pupils, in their flight from the Roman musical scene after the pope closed opera houses and banned secular music in 1697, carried away to England the excited, passionate, eloquent, even ranting (really?) style of their master in their performances and compositions. But the knot of cross-references Lindgren tries to knit, identifying Corelli’s ‘Non udite lo parlare?’ (Do you not hear speaking?) or R. Frost’s ‘the sound of sense’ (sic) with the joyful-wistful Renaissance tune called ‘The Italian Rant’ by Playford (1652) – a traditional melody that reappears in many guises (he mentions Smetana’s The Moldau, which in turn summons up HaTikvah) – only takes away from the evident influence of Corelli’s music on Geminian, Nicola Cosimi and Nicola Haym. It is hard not to lose the tenuous thread, but various movements of Cosimi and Haym, which Lindgren considers ‘rants’, are described in detail.

No need to fear for the robust mental health of Veracini from the complicated title of the paper by Antonella D’Ovidio, Corelli e «l’angoscia dell’influenza»: declinazioni corelliane nelle sonate di Francesco Maria Veracini. The subject is influence, one which was profoundly retrospective, innovative, voluntary and hardly anguished. This is a very observant and useful account of Veracini’s lifelong, conscious debt to Corelli, not to mention his passionate aesthetics of music. D’Ovidio compares Veracini’s three collections of violin sonatas, 1716, 1721, 1744, quotes from his preface to Op. 2 (1744) and his treatise Il trionfo della pratica musicale  (1760), and underlines the importance of his Dissertazioni sopra l’opera quinta di Corelli  in which, at the end of his life, he rewrote Corelli’s Op. V in his new style, which was not at all the one in fashion, as he extended their contrapuntal potential and the role of both the solo violin and the basso continuo, making the sonatas closer to concertos.

Barbara Sachs