Francesco Spinacino & Joan Ambrosio Dalza, Anthology from Ottaviano Petrucci’s Tablatures for Lute

ed. Paolo Cherici
44pp. €15.95
ISMN: 979-0-2153-2359-9
SDS 25 (Bologna: Ut Orpheus, 2017)

The first publisher and printer of music was Ottaviano Petrucci (1466-1539), and his first book, Harmonice Musices Odhecaton, appeared in 1501. Between 1507 and 1511 Petrucci printed six volumes of lute music with Italian lute tablature: two books by Francesco Spinacino (both 1507), a third by Giovan Maria Alemano (1508) which is now lost, a fourth by Joan Ambrosio Dalza, and two collections of lute songs by Franciscus Bossinensis (1509 and 1511). (The word “by” here does not necessarily mean composed by; it could also mean, collected, arranged, intabulated, or any combination of those.)

For the present anthology Paolo Cherici chooses a fair selection of pieces from Dalza’s collection: four calatas, two pavana-saltarello-piva suites (one alla venetiana, and the other alla ferrarese), all five tastar de corde, eight recercars, and four intabulations including two frottole by Bartolomeo Tromboncino. He could have included more calatas and more pavana-saltarello-piva suites, or even reproduced the whole of Dalza’s book, but instead he dips into Spinacino’s Libro Primo, and extracts just seven recercari. I don’t see the point, since it creates an imbalance between the two composers. I think it would have been better to save up Spinacino for a separate volume. Furthermore, to describe the edition as an Anthology from Ottaviano Petrucci’s Tablatures  is slightly misleading, since the editor includes none of the lute songs or the 46 ricercari from the two books of Bossinensis.

The format is similar to other books in the Paolo Cherici Collection. The tablature is clearly laid out on the page, with no page-turns, and there are 36 pages of music. Cherici maintains the original notation – Italian lute tablature. He provides an interesting Preface in Italian and translation into English, which gives information about Petrucci, together with what we know about the lives of Spinacino and Dalza. He compares and contrasts the contents of their books: Spinacino included intabulations of music by Franco-Flemish composers such as Josquin, Brumel, Ockeghem and Ghiselin, whereas Dalza concentrated on dance music, and music by Italian composers, notably Tromboncino. Some of Spinacino’s intabulations involved complex divisions, whereas Dalza kept the vocal original fairly intact, give or take leaving out one of the voices. It is an interesting comparison, but largely irrelevant if we have no intabulations by Spinacino in the edition. The English translation of the Preface would have benefitted from better proof reading: publicatiotts (publications), appare (appeared), and calledn (called). Strictly speaking the Salterello on page 12 should be spelt Saltarello. It is a pity Cherici does not reproduce Dalza’s introduction, which explains why there are special rhythm signs for the Saltarello and Piva (pp. 8-9), and Piva (p. 14).

As far as the editing of the music is concerned, Cherici shows where notes have been changed by putting them in square brackets. However, there is no critical commentary, so there is no way of knowing what those changes involve. The exception is a footnote for a note changed on page 7. I checked the first piece (which has no editorial square brackets) against the original and found the following alterations:

1) bar 40, 2nd note: 0 on 3 changed to 0 on 2;
2) bars 49, 50, 54, 82: right-hand fingering dots added to be consistent with similar passages;
3) bars 63, 79, 144: right-hand thumb and index dot swapped round;
4) bar 121, 3rd note: 0 on 3 changed to 0 on 4;
5) bar 127, 3rd note: 3 on 2 changed to 2 to 2;
6) bar 149, 2nd and 3rd notes: 3 on 2 changed to 3 on 3; 1 on 2 changed to 1 on 3.

The structure of this piece has puzzled me for many years, but for chord patterns to show some sort of consistency there appears to be a bar missing, perhaps because of haplology. My solution is to play bar 109 again between bars 110 and 111. Cherici reproduces the notes of the ending as they were in the original, with a pause sign over what in effect is the last chord, followed by five more notes; he does not include Dalza’s “Finis”. However, in spite of “Finis”, it is just possible that Dalza’s five extra notes were meant to lead back to the beginning as a Da Capo, in which case the last note (3 on 2) should be changed to 3 on 1 to match bar 2.

The Calata ala spagnola on page 6 of Cherici’s edition was included by Hans Judenkünig in Ain schone kunstliche vnderweisung  (1523), which helps throw light on editorial decisions:

7) bar 36, 3rd note: Cherici keeps Dalza’s 1 on 2 (e’ flat), but it is surrounded by 2 on 2 (e’ natural). There is a good case for changing it to 2 on 2, especially as that is what Judenkünig has done;
8) bar 71, 1st chord: Dalza and Judenkünig both have 0 on 5, which Cherici (rightly, I think) changes to 3 on 5, but where are the square brackets?
9) bar 84, 1st two events: Dalza and Judenkünig both have 3 on 6 followed by no bass note; Cherici changes this (unnecessarily, I think) to 3 on 5 and 2 on 5, but even though he puts these notes in square brackets, there is no way of telling what was in his source.

Despite my various cavils, this is a useful edition, and hopefully more lute music published by Petrucci will appear in future editions.

Stewart McCoy