Domenico Campisi: Lilia Campi a 2, 3, 4, 5 e 6 voci (1627)

Critical Edition by Daniela Calcamo, Daniele Cannavò, Maria Rosa De Luca. Introduction by Maria Rosa De Luca
Musiche Rinascimentali siciliane, vol. 26
Leo S. Olschki: 2015 xxxiv + 88 pp. €44.00
ISBN 978 88 222 6420 6

Domenico Campisi, a long forgotten early 17th-century Sicilian composer and a Dominican monk of Palermo, was rediscovered in the 19th century thanks to abbott Fortunato Santini, who found and copied parts of the 1627 Roman print (Masotti) of his fifth book of motets, Lilia Campi. Complete prints are found in separate part-books in the Santini-Bibliothek in Munich and in the Civico Museo Bibliografico in Bologna. The title plays on the composer’s surname. We do not know for certain who he was: he may have been a Giuseppe Campisi, baptized in Regalbuto in 1588. Of his other collections of sacred motets (1615, 1618, 1622 and 1623), three of which were published in Palermo, only one, a Roman print (Robletti) of 1622, has come to light. Dominican documents show that he already had his bachelor’s degree in theology by 1622, and his promotion to a master’s degree was approved in 1629 in recognition of his musical accomplishments. He is listed, with others of the Barberini circle, in the bibliographical catalogue Apes Urbanae  (in honour of Pope Urban VIII) of 1632 by Leone Allacci, which may suggest that he was also active in Rome.

The introduction and critical apparatus are in Italian only, and while the first is valuable reading for the musical, historical and geographical context, it is not particularly relevant to the composer or this work, nor is there specific information about influences on Campisi. So the English reader is really not losing essential information, as the music speaks for itself.
The 22 motets are short (25 to 50 bars of breves), easy, verging on homophonic, and with a figured continuo. They can be performed by single voices or small choirs. Those with more voices present more contrapuntal play between voices that enter and those that accompany. Five are for two voices, seven for three, five a4, four a5  and one a6. Correct modern spelling and punctuation of the Latin texts precede the musical annotations. Their sources are given (the 1592 Vulgate, the Dominican 1603 Breviarum…, and the 1604 Missale), but no translations.

Three musicologists shared the editing, doing seven or eight motets each, as well as working together. As far as I can tell without seeing more than the one page provided in facsimile of the Canto part of the first motet, they are fairly faithful transcriptions, but not sufficiently well-edited. Caveat emptor/musicus!  Original errors in the print have escaped attention; most of the editorial accidentals are convincing though a few are surely incorrect, and the need for others (for consistency or to weigh in on ambiguities) was not appreciated; some accidentals “preserved” in this, the first ever modern edition, appeared originally, as often happens in prints, in front of notes they weren’t intended for (e.g. bar 20 of the Canto 1° of Beati qui habitant  in the facsimile, the sharp on the f’ was probably meant for the e’ two notes later, confirming that it is no longer lowered); the original continuo figures from the organ part are supplemented in brackets, but are not always corrected, realigned, or noted where wrong, which may be misleading. It is hard to fathom why the occasional wrong notes or figures in the original did not trigger more editorial intervention, because users of a modern edition expect such a beautifully printed score to be thoroughly proofread!

I have a question for the editors. Did Masotti not use demisemiquaver (32nd note) figures? From the facsimile page one can see that his movable characters include two styles sometimes used indiscriminately for semiquavers (16th notes): the little open 2 or the tiny closed 3 hugging the note-stem, the latter of which was, in fact, a 32nd. The mixture is just curious enough to make me wonder if the dot you removed from a quaver in bar 24 of Beati  served to make the following pair of quick notes into demisemiquavers, and if pairs of ‘semiquavers’ where the two note forms happen to alternate were perhaps meant to be sung unequally?

I take this occasion to encourage Olschki and other music publishers to print more music per page, with narrower bars and staves. We do not need an inch between minims where these are syllables of a word, and it is actually harder to read the words and phrase the music if we can only see two bars of the score per line… sometimes only one! I read somewhere that the human eye can only focus in the center of the retina, and therefore we spend most of the time reading music looking up and down, right and left, in order to gather and consign to short-term memory what we have to look around to see. Of course, there’s the sorry option of photocopying to reduce the size to a format more practical to perform from. At least the present edition is not too heavy for a music stand, and in Ego flos campi  (another reference to the composer?) Olschki easily got three systems (21 staves) per page. That print size would have been better from page one.

Barbara Sachs