Gasparini: Missa a quattro voci…

arranged by Johann Sebastian Bach…”
Edited by Peter Wollny.
Full Score.
Carus (35.503), 2015.
24pp, €18,00.

Francesco Gasparini (1668-1727) was born near Lucca and studied probably with Corelli and Pasquini, along with a wide range of formal or informal teachers. He was maestro di coro (the German term is repeated in the English text) at Venice’s Ospedale della Pietà for 12 years; subse­quently he was based around Rome, composing operas, church music, etc. There are several extant copies of the Mass in F, distinguished by its title Missa canonica. This edition is based on Bach’s parts, which comprise SATB (only one of each), 2 oboes or violins, taille or viola, unfigured continuo and figured organ, 1 cornett and 3 trombones. The copies were by Fritsche (see introduction) though Bach copied the woodwind, continuo and organ; Bach also emended the cornett/trombones. Until fairly recently, a score with four systematically polyphonic parts would have been assumed to be a cappella, with a keyboard reduction assumed to be for rehearsal! But Bach wanted more. The three groups of instruments (strings, woodwind and brass) are unlikely to have played together. The strings and woodwind are notated a tone higher including the unfigured continuo, whereas the figured bass for organ is in F. The brass has presumably gone down to the low pitch, unlike the Leipzig addition of brass down a tone for Christ lag in Todesbanden. The work was presumably composed in Italy, which doesn’t exclude strings or brass (but wind is less likely). The music itself is absolutely clear: Bach seems to have played it at least three times in the 1740s.

Clifford Bartlett