Journal for the study and practice of early music
LIM Editrice [2014]
160 pp, €24 (€29 outside of Italy)
ISBN 978 88 7096 8125

The current issue of Ricercare is slightly shorter than recent preceding ones and without a book review section. It presents five studies, four with useful summaries in English and in Italian by the authors – at about 10% the length of an article, they aren’t substitutes, but they give more substance than abstracts do.

The issue is dedicated to the memory of Saverio Franchi, a recently deceased scholar whose impressive work (musicological and more) is appreciatively outlined by the chief editor, Arnaldo Morelli, in ‘Una minuta, caleidoscopica visione del mondo’ (‘a detailed, kaleidoscopic vision of the world’). A long article by Franchi – unfinished and completed by his wife and collaborator, Orietta Sartori – follows. On Roman printers of the early 16th century (Andrea Antico, Giacomo Giunta, Valerio Dorico and Antonio Barrè), it was probably too detailed to be summarized, and it got past the editors with ungainly single paragraphs spanning two, three or four pages. Nevertheless, readers should start again if on the first try they get lost in titles, dates and the relationships between printers, composers and patrons. Franchi’s fact-finding was complemented by his intuition, reasoning and speculation. The titles call up the compositions; the reproductions of woodcuts from the prints are interpreted; and his chronological ordering of the information assembled (from 1509 to 1574) adds almost a sense of suspense.

The other papers, two in Italian and two in English, do have bilingual summaries. The first three are in historical order by subject matter, and in order of length, with the third designated a “Communication” and the fourth an “Intervention”.

Paolo Alberto Rismondo presents new documents in ‘ “Il genio natio contaminato da conversationi composte da inevitabile fatalità”. Biagio Marini a Brescia, Neuburg e Padova’, about Marini’s life, training, positions (in other cities abroad as well as in the Veneto) and events probably contributing to the end of his life. The title includes the incipit of a long citation from the composer’s anguished plea to the authorities to commute his son’s death sentence to imprisonment. It expresses his desolation at having generated an inexcusable son, but so truncated it is totally obscure. Its predicate reads: “has put sour [immature] fruit on my most embittered palate [which] if not tempered by clemency … will give off juices poisonous to my life”.

Nichola Voice is a New Zealand flautist whose doctoral dissertation for the University of Otago (n.b. not ‘Otago University’ as in the profile of her) is on northern Italian craft guilds in connection with instrument making. In the extract ‘Venetian woodwind instrument makers, 1680–1805. Their interaction with the guild’, her meticulous examination of documents from Venetian archives reverses some previous conclusions (including work by Federico Sardelli and Careras) about restrictions compromising the development of a wind-instrument industry in Venice, and finds makers named in one multi-media guild, the Arte de’ tornidori (i.e. ‘tornitori’, wood and ivory turners and reamers).

The orchestral natural horn was not only called the ‘corno da caccia’, or hunting horn, in Italy (indeed up to the mid 19th century, I believe), but associated with the Austrian Empire and generally used for that connotation or as a symbol of monarchy in general, from 1714 on. In 1748 all wind instruments were banned in sacred music by papal bull. In ‘New findings on the use of the corni da caccia in early eighteenth-century Roman orchestras’ Teresa Chirico says where and when horns (sometimes also called ‘trombe da caccia’) were used elsewhere in Italy (Naples, Venice, Mantua), and then gradually in Rome, especially by various composers (such as Bononcini, Vivaldi, Caldara, Vinci) and patrons who wanted them, and mainly for secular works. Symbolically and systematically standing for Austrian culture, hunting as a sport, and nobility, they were included for occasions celebrating English and French royalty as well. In Roman churches, Girolamo Chiti used them as early as 1720 and until the ban 1748. Thereafter, elsewhere in Italy, they became an accepted ‘naturalized’ orchestral instrument.

Giuseppe Clericetti’s ‘La verità e altre bugie’ presents an entertaining array of literary, pictorial and musical counterfeits, some of staggering erudition, others playfully strewn with anagrams or other clues to the forgers. As examples he gives works by figures of the stature of Erasmus and Leopardi, an instrumental hoax craftily perpetrated by Leonhardt and his harpsichord maker Skowroneck, a bio of an invented painter teasingly named Nat Tate for the gullible, brilliant parodies, and the accepted authorial pretence of discovered manuscripts by Cervantes, Scott, Manzoni, Eco, etc., which don’t really count. One musical fake continued to reappear in print, in English, German, French and Italian, from 1925 until 2000: The Little Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach actually by Esther Meynell. The list goes on. Musical hoaxes fooled the likes of eminent scholars (Howard Robbins Landon and Paul Badura-Skoda in 1993 over the ‘discovery’ of six lost early sonatas by Haydn, published by Winfried Michel, who took their incipits from Haydn’s catalogue and then composed 99% of the music). Clericetti arranges these thoughtfully, but doesn’t anticipate what the computer-savvy will get up to. He is quite respectful of these endeavours, no indignant class-action suits are urged: rather he points out the fundamental tradition (he says 17th century, but it certainly goes back to before the invention of musical notation) of constraintes or compositions with an obbligo, new works based on other works, which marked the evolution of all the arts.

Barbara Sachs