Journal for the study and practice of early music
Arnaldo Morelli
LIM Editrice [2019] 230 pp, €30 ISBN 978-88-5543031-9

Click HERE to buy this volume at the publisher’s website

The 2019 RECERCARE contains three studies in English and three in Italian plus a detailed, illustrated “Communication” by Giacomo Silvestri on his discovery of a surviving 18th-century  recorder, Un nuovo flauto diritto contralto di Castel a Perugia, now in Perugia’s Museo Diffuso di Strumenti Musicali. As always the summaries are in both languages and quite informative on their own. Recercare means ‘to investigate’, and its articles always have a cultural or geographic connection to Italy or Italians or Italian culture outside of Italy. Paris figures in two studies, Venice and Rome in several others, and they are ordered chronologically.

Memory of the past and perception of sound in the Renaissance: the Aristotelian perspective by Stefano Lorenzetti addresses the specific Humanistic perception of music and the dual roles of theory and practice in what the theorists, composers and musicians of the Renaissance were actively concerned within writing, composing and playing. They positioned themselves as followers of those whose influence they acknowledged, but often their dialectical concepts about the ‘new’ versus the ‘old’ had limitations. Musical texts are not music until performed and heard, and subjective performances are lost, lasting only briefly in memory. Lorenzetti interestingly distinguishes (using Latin as theorists of the Renaissance usually did)  between what we think of as an opus by an author (a composition or text), and what Aristotle meant by the labour, or work, the activity of producing and performing a work. Subjectivity injected human qualities (at times inspired by historical and religious movements) to the performance of music by techniques that were themselves inculcated by memory. Lorenzetti sees the Aristotelian perspective – a potential activity and its realised product – inherent in treatises of the 16th century.  Ganassi, in 1535, had explicitly juxtaposed two abstract terms in his chapter Declaration of the ‘effects’ caused by diminished ‘acts’. And in 1596 Zacconi stressed the art of diminution as a means of renewal of written music.

Examples show Aristotle’s underlying concepts echoed in Zacconi, the most interesting competition in 1555 between Andrea Festa and Benedetto Spinone, each challenged to add a sixth voice to a madrigal by Adrian Willaert and one by Cipriano De Rore, composed in Willaert’s revered style. Willaert himself, reluctantly, was persuaded to be the judge, receiving the submitted parts sent to Venice from Genoa. Rather than just scrutinizing the two radical rewritings of each madrigal, he had them performed by his singers at St Mark’s. His judgements were thus based on fleeting executions – newly performed ‘repetitions’, of madrigals the singers might have already known.

Lorenzetti’s writing is fine, but the study’s title, alluding to three mental functions, makes it more difficult to follow! A simpler one might be ‘The Humanistic Perception of Music and its Roots in Aristotle’. He gives the Italian or Latin wording of citations he translates: readers should look at these in every case. For example, translating Zacconi’s materie as ‘subjects’ might misleadingly suggest contrapuntal themes, whereas here the theorist must have meant poetic ‘subject matters’. And ‘… popular singers … expected nothing more than pure & simple modulatione’ does not refer to changes of key, mode or pitch names (here), but rather to intonation or melody itself. Instead of using the cognate ‘modulation’, perhaps ‘melody’ would do? Cognates are deceptive traps, best left in italics, as Lorenzetti does in the case of accento, which here means any sort of ornament, and often (e.g. in Diruta) a specific one.

We are again in Venice in Marco Di Pasquale’s Silvestro Ganassi: a documented biography, again at the time of his contemporary, Adrian Willaert. RECERCARE always excels in presenting detailed biographical articles on figures about whom little is yet known. This very detailed account, if sometimes fragmentary or circumstantial, is beautifully illustrated (paintings, prints and portraits such as the 1577 fire at the Doge’s palace; a map by G. A. Magini of the territory of Bergamo; other historical events and figures; a procession of trombe, piffari, tubae et barbiton on Palm Sunday by M. Pagano and another by G. Franco), and is followed by 25 pages of 50 transcribed documents.

Perhaps this biographical study was translated into English for the sake of non-Italians who could never hope to locate so many unpublished documents;  and additionally because the treatises of Ganassi (?1492 – after 1571) on recorder playing (La Fontegara, 1535), the viola da gamba (Regola Rubertina, 1542) and the violone (Lettione Seconda, 1543) are of such great interest to players. Here these works are discussed only in relation to their printing, publication, dedications, and commercial longevity.

Silvestro, his father, two of his three brothers and one of his sons were musicians (two, as was common in Venice, working also as barbers). At least four of them were among the six prestigious pifferi del doge [the duke’s private pipers, trumpeters and trombonists, founded in 1458], who accompanied ceremonial events and played for an hour daily from a balcony of the ducal palace in St Mark’s Square. Silvestro was appointed piffero in 1517 and was still an active player there in 1566. He was also a lutenist, a gamba player and a teacher of professional musicians. His son Giovanni Battista was also a virtuoso cornettist, and the family performed for aristocrats as a private free-lance ensemble. Much of the study shows how free Venetian musicians were to play in various venues, such as the Scuole, St Mark’s and palaces. An open question (among many) is whether Silvestro played with Willaert. Fires, upheavals (and floods?) destroyed many of the historical archives over the centuries, so we will probably never know.

In Pietro Aretino’s bantering Dialogo of 1543 Silvestro Ganassi is addressed with friendly sarcasm as a ‘musician, painter and philosopher’. Di Pasquale cites other references to his serious interest in painting, possibly earning him admiration for his portraits. Numerous links to other figures in cultural circles are discussed as likely or possible, but so far without hard evidence. The study is a perfect example of RECERCARE’s function: pointing out new directions for further research.

Paolo Alberto Rismondo’s article Antonio Grimani ‘musico galileiano’ tra Venezia e Roma also provides scattered facts, references and hypotheses about the life and activity of an esteemed castrato (? -1665) who took his surname from the noble Grimani family who raised him and whom he first served. The study connects him significantly to Galileo because he later served a highly respected liberal Florentine prelate and poet, Giovanni Ciampoli (1589-1643), travelling with him and singing at his gatherings in Venice and in Rome, which were frequented also by Galileo. There are letters to Galileo in 1630 specifically inviting him to some of these in order to hear Grimani. Up to 1632, Ciampoli enjoyed the favour of Pope Urban VIII (Maffeo Barberini) and Antonio thus became active in Roman clerical circles. He also sang in Parma under Monteverdi in 1628, in the Marches after Ciampoli fell into disfavour with Urban and became governor there, and in Venice at St Mark’s from  January 1617 (‘cantor soprano eunuco’) to at least 1637, and at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco.

Grimani began his career performing chamber cantatas for the nobility but continued it in the opera theatre, to which his voice was less suited. He sang: the title female role in Giovanni Felice Sances’ lost opera-tourney La Ermiona, performed in Padua (1636) in a place suitable for the processions and stylized battles with horses and armaments; the principal role of Clizio in Benedetto Ferrari’s Pastor regio (1641); and that of the old nurse Delfa in Francesco Cavalli’s Giasone (1649). There is a note – possibly by Barbara Strozzi herself – about Grimani singing in praise of her for the Accademia degli Unisoni. His life was an extremely lucky one if indeed he was the orphan of Turkish parents: he benefitted from the care, education, contacts and inheritance of the important Grimani family, with its widespread cultural and clerical connections.

Michael Klaper’s article An Italian in Paris: Giovanni Bentivoglio (1611-1694) and a neglected source for seventeenth-century Italian cantata poetry is about a 790-page manuscript of 1050 poetic works, begun in Rome in the late 1630s, mainly written in France from the early 1640s to the late 1680s, and now no.19277 in the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid. Two-thirds of these works were for musical settings (sonnets, cantatas, madrigals, canzonettas and serenatas), making this source unique. A copyist entered the poems up to 1670. The remainder are in the hand of the poet, the Abbey Giovanni Bentivoglio. Born in Ferrara, he worked in Rome in the 1630s, and lived in France from the early 1640s to the later 1680s. The Italian composers for whom he wrote also went to France in the 1640s. Together they responded to the demand for Italian music in the court of Jules Mazarin, and then Louis XIV’s, and for public occasions from 1643 to 1715. Klaper’s table of 62 cantata texts shows the number of works for which an actual musical setting and possible dates of composition are known, and whether the text was written in Italy or in France. There are: 1 by Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704); 8 by Teobaldo di Gatti (1650-1727); 26 by Marco [dell’Arpa] Marazzoli (ca. 1602 – 1662); 1 by Atto Melani (1626-1714); 1 by Francesco Petrobelli (1618-1695); 13 by Luigi Rossi (1598-1653); and 12 are anonymous.

The second part of the study describes the works for Marco Marazzoli, identified by concordance with Chigi manuscripts, and possibly for a Roman soprano in Paris. Five cantatas were for ceremonies, meetings, or publicly celebrated occasions. It is assumed that many of the texts for these were set by other composers – the music and the concordance lost. Bentivoglio’s poetry might have been set by Cavalli in 1660-1662 or by Lully. Thanks to manuscript 19277 we know that 7 of Gatti’s 12 Airs italiens, published in 1696, are set to poems of Bentivoglio. It is probable that the poet and Gatti had direct contact, but nothing excludes the possibility that Bentivoglio’s poems were set to music by others and later borrowed by the composers of the concordances we now know.

Klaper also gives a telling example of lyrics not properly allotted to the right voice in a musical setting, compared to the text as written or corrected by the poet. The author’s version improves the structure and meaning of a dialogue between an Amante and his Amata. In this case, a correction to the music can easily be implemented, since the Lover and his Beloved are both sopranos: the notes themselves are fine, and can easily be sung by the right singer!

Alessio Ruffatti’s study ‘Un libro dorato pieno di ariette’: produzione e circolazione di manoscritti musicali tra Roma, Parigi e Venezia nel Seicento also treats Italian vocal music exported to Paris, illustrating particular investigative challenges and opportunities. He describes some general characteristics of manuscript sources of 17th-century Roman cantatas, how historical conclusions can be deduced from them, and he concentrates more on one exceptional source. This fascinating study shows how potentially useful the analytical techniques of musical palaeography and philology are, and the ‘golden book full of airs’ itself is of great interest. By coincidence – and before seeing Recercare XXXI – I had downloaded from IMSLP the first half of the large ‘golden’ Roman manuscript of cantatas (F-Pn, Rés Vm7. 59-101) in order to accompany two of its 47 cantatas. I thought immediately about the ambiguous accidentals and continuo figures, but not at all about its physical characteristics! Ruffatti’s analysis of such evidence, as applied to Roman vocal sources of this period, uncovers their makers, purpose, chronology, sponsors, and reception. He is a musicologist, a professor of music history, a singer, and an authority on this repertoire and on Luigi Rossi in particular.

Now in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris (F-Pn Rés Vm7 59-101 and 102-150), these cantatas were bound and probably sent to Richelieu in Paris in 1641. They attest to a very early demand for ‘contemporary’ Italian Roman vocal chamber music, especially laments modelled after Monteverdi’s influential Lamento di Arianna (Ariadne), an aria from his otherwise lost opera (1608), later published by the composer as a madrigal (1614), as a monody (1623), and in Latin as a lament of the Madonna (1641). One of the two extant manuscript copies of the monody, now in the British Library, is in fact in Luigi Rossi’s hand1. It cannot be over-estimated how it inspired a taste for dramatic ‘airs’ and cantatas in Italy and quickly thereafter in France.

The contents of such codices say a lot about the music in vogue in courts in Rome, Venice, Naples, and those of Louis XIII, Mazarin, and Louis XIV in Paris: as the demand grew, the figures who ordered manuscripts to be copied for execution abroad, and the letters and reports of ceremonial occasions yield possible dates for some copies. Physical evidence, however, is often ambiguous: the paper could have been produced and watermarked long before it was used, the ink and the handwriting, even of well-known copyists, varied over time and could have been deliberately adopted for specific jobs. The more equivocal these clues are, the more Ruffatti gleans from them: specialized professional scribes worked in teams – some notated the music, some the texts, still others the decorated initial letters. And they knew how to imitate the styles of other scribes! To produce each and every codex these processes were sequential.

The potential to uncover more clues multiply when many different sources, as in the cases described by Ruffatti, share some of the same cantata repertory, with inevitable variants in the musical and poetic texts. Philological reasoning attempts to ascertain the historical lines of transmission between sources, which then leads back to History, and musicology overlaps with musicianship in the final challenges of editing or performing from the sources.

The Appendix provides three useful tables. The first lists in alphabetical order by title the 15 cantatas shared between three sources: the first and second parts of manuscript F-Pn Rés. Vm7 59-150 (59-101 and 102-150) from before 1643; and the later manuscripts I-Rc 2505 and I-Nc 33.3.11. In only one case is the composer unknown, and 7 of the other 12 are by L. Rossi. For each cantata, Ruffatti gives the poet, the voice or voices, and the library shelf numbers. The second table lists the 18 cantatas of the Naples Conservatory source in order, of which only 5 have known composers (Carissimi, Savioni, and L. Rossi). The third lists all 47 cantatas in order of the first Rés Vm7 volume, of which 41 for solo soprano, followed by the 50 cantatas of the second, of which 48 for solo soprano. The first volume can be downloaded under Cantates italiennes de différents auteurs.

1  Monteverdi, Claudio: Lamento d’Arianna and Addendum, for soprano and b.c., a critical performing edition edited by Barbara Sachs. (London: Green Man Press, 2001)

Giacomo Silvestri’s Un nuovo flauto diritto contralto di Castel a Perugia follows the previous studies as a short technical ‘communication’. With close-up photographs and measurements, it meticulously describes an 18th-century alto recorder by [N.?] Castel, to which 5 keys were added, probably in the 19th century, possibly suggesting that the instrument was for an amateur. It was recently discovered by Silvestri and is housed in the Museo Diffuso degli Strumenti Musicali in Perugia. The communication includes his findings about this instrument maker or team of makers, and the rest of their surviving production: 18 wind instruments, including oboes and transverse flutes along with recorders.

Barbara M. Sachs


Chant, Liturgy, and the Inheritance of Rome. Essays in honour of Joseph Dyer

Henry Bradshaw Society Subsidia
Edited by Daniel J. DiCenso and Rebecca Maloy
The Boydell Press, 2017.
596pp, ISBN 9781907497346  – £60

Joseph Dyer is a scholar of early medieval plainchant and liturgy, based in the University of Massachusetts. He has made a seminal contribution to our understanding of early Medieval Roman liturgy, how it developed and was performed, what are its sources, and how it fitted into the topography of the city. This hefty collection of nineteen essays by some of the biggest names in early medieval scholarship is offered as a tribute to his decades of quiet work. Most are based in the US, but they are joined by two from Cambridge, UK (Susan Rankin and Christopher Page) and one from Regensburg (David Hiley). Although the period covered is earlier than my own, I found much to stimulate me, and I am confident that the same would apply to a wide variety of readers. There are specialist contributions on chant and liturgy, certainly, but there are also essays on the layout of medieval Rome, the construction and continued expansion of Old St. Peter’s Basilica, the design and functions of Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral and Sainte-Chappelle, the powerful role of the medieval archdeacon, and the codification of monastic psalm-chanting. There isn’t room here to cover all the essays in detail, so I will highlight some that particularly caught my attention, while giving a generalised overview of the collection.

One abiding area of controversy among scholars has been the exact nature of early ‘Roman’ chant, and how it might – or might not – have been reflected in the codified ‘Gregorian’ chant which began to appear in manuscripts dating from the time of Charlemagne (c. 800 AD). One of the book’s editors, Daniel J. DiCenso, tackles this in his ‘Revisiting the Admonitio generalis’, taking a revisionist approach to the accepted narrative that the Carolingians forced the adoption of a standardized ‘Roman’ Rite and its chants, to the detriment of local traditions. Taking just one chapter of the Carolingian Admonitio of 789, he shows convincingly that this was not intended to be prescriptive and that the situation was generally more nuanced than the accepted narrative would have it, with each locality making its own choices, and uniformity only gradually being established, if at all. Adding the word ‘Roman’ could give a spurious authority to practices not necessarily connected to that city. The problem for scholars has been a dearth of genuine Roman sources from the period before 800, making it difficult to judge such claims of papal authority. Other essays in this area deal with the earliest office antiphons which are found in Roman sources (Edward Nowacki), the development of the Roman Paschal Vigil (Thomas F. Kelly, another crucial figure in researching early Roman chant sources), and with Western sources for the Greek Doxa in ipsistis Theo (Gloria in excelsis Deo) which Charles Atkinson thinks were not derived from Orthodox sources, as scholars have generally assumed.

Liturgy cannot be separated from buildings and places, and a number of these contributions focus on particular locations. I was struck in reading Charles McClendon’s article, ‘The Changing Role of Old St. Peter’s in Late Antique and Early Medieval Rome’, by how little we know about when the basilica was actually built – whether by Constantine or by his successors – or how it developed during its first six centuries. McClendon summarises recent research on the change in function from high-class burial ground to world pilgrimage centre, taking the story up to the visit of Charlemagne in 800. Equally enlightening to me was Catherine Carver’s ‘As the Bell Tolls: Parish Proximity in Medieval Rome’, conjuring up the city’s narrow streets and its very high number of parish churches c. 1200, with conflict between local and centralised power being tolled out by innumerable bells. In a later section of the book, dealing with more peripheral developments, Rebecca Baltzer discusses medieval Paris’s two great sacred buildings – Notre Dame and the Sainte-Chappelle – analysing the symbolism inherent in their sculpture and stained glass. The former, devoted to the Virgin Mary, exploited polyphony; the latter, dedicated to Christ and symbols of his Passion, preferred to utilise rhymed offices and sequences, in plainchant. In that same section of the book Mary Wolinkski usefully compares the surviving sources for liturgy in two Parisian churches, both hosting confraternities dedicated to St. James, with those describing liturgy at the heart of that cult, Santiago di Compostela. Susan Boynton’s ‘Music and the Cluniac Vision of History in Paris, BN Ms lat 17716’ takes a detailed look at a complex manuscript from the monastery of Cluny, seeing its liturgy and music as a catalyst in the construction of memory and a Cluniac vision of history.

There were many facets to the practice of plainchant, some of which are explored here. Susan Rankin’s ‘Singing the Psalter in the early Middle Ages’ investigates the layout of psalters and what they can tell us about the process of memorising the psalms, as well as how psalm texts were organised and divided up for the monastic hours. This is a particularly layered contribution which shares the author’s deep knowledge of both sources and practice; it might have benefitted from more than the one illustration which accompanies it. David Ganz shows how basic prayers like the Creed and Pater Noster were taught to catechumens in Merovingian and Carolingian France: this teaching was reinforced by their inclusion as chanted items in the liturgy. Luisa Nardini examines ways in which the Italian secular literary tradition began to seep into liturgical chant, through the process of adding texts – called prosulas – to complex melismas. John F. Romano looks at the role of the archdeacon in both Rome and elsewhere: as well as being a powerful administrator, the archdeacon played a crucial role in organising the liturgy.

Finally, a number of essays look in detail at specific chant repertories, mainly from outside Rome. Emma Hornby shows how four extended tracts were added late to the Beneventan Easter Vigil in the ninth century, in an attempt by this waning local dialect to compete with new Franco-Roman models. James Borders looks at a twelfth-century Pontifical from Lyon, trying to pin down the sources for the antiphons etc. which it contains, mostly for the service of Dedication of a church. It is painstaking work which typifies the labours of chant scholars. Also complex but rewarding is Barbara Haagh-Huglo’s ‘The Tonality of the Numerical Offices in Cambrai Ms. 38’, dealing with modal ordering of antiphons and how this might have been understood by singers. William Mahrt’s ‘Melodic Trope as Modal Rhetoric’ analyses a series of chants which either change mode briefly in the middle, or use a mixture of modes, as a rhetorical device. Christopher Page’s ‘To Chant in a Vale of Tears’ seeks to explore, through music psychology, how those singing the chant might have been moved by melodies which, on the face of it, seem to do little to reflect their text; he uses Rex autem David as an example. Finally, David Hiley examines some proper office chants for the feast of St. George in a South German noted breviary from c. 1140. As well as providing a thorough analysis, he explores the possibility that they might be part of a lost office for St. George by the medieval chronicler and writer Hermannus Contractus, though is unable to give a definitive answer.

Of their nature, Festschrifts can be a bit hit or miss: scholars are invited to contribute, with only very general guidelines, and the temptation to visit the bottom drawer can be strong. Divisions into sections are made after the submissions have come in and can seem rather arbitrary: that is the case here where something like my own divisions above might have worked better than those used by the editors. That said, this particular Festschrift has a very weighty set of contributions which readers will find useful on many levels. For chant scholars, there is a compendium of useful models and methodologies which are applied to sources, analysis, and performance contexts. Other readers will be able to pick and choose between articles which cover architecture, manuscript layout, memory and transmission, centres versus peripheries. Commissioning this book has been a worthwhile undertaking for the editors, as well as being a clear labour of love. Production values by the publishers, Boydell Press, and the Henry Bradshaw Society which has sponsored the book, are very high.

Noel O’Regan

Book Festival-conference

Sara Levy’s World: Gender, Judaism and the Bach Tradition in Enlightenment Berlin

Eastman Studies in Music 145
Edited by Rebecca Cypess and Nancy Sinkoff
302pp. ISBN 978-1-58046-921-0 £80
University of Rochester Press, 2018.

This book is the outcome of a symposium in 2014 at Rutgers University. Eleven chapters, packed with information and extensive notes, attest to one of the cornerstones of musicological research: learned contributors excavate, analyse and explicate figures hidden from history.

Here the subject is Sara Levy (nee Itzig, as she signed herself in some of her few surviving letters). Madame Sara Levy (1761- 1854) was Felix Mendelssohn’s (he of the historic1829 performance of J. S. Bach’s St Matthew Passion) great-aunt. She died aged 94, had no children, and is a fascinating and significant figure for two reasons.

The first reason is musical. Levy was a friend and patron of the Bach family. She was a skilled harpsichordist, taught by W. F. Bach, and performed privately and publicly into her 70s – Charles Burney apparently heard her play. Her banker husband played the flute (alright for some), and they commissioned music from C.P.E. Bach. She had a remarkable collection of autographed music manuscripts and prints of the works of the Bach family, which she donated to the Sing-Akademie in Berlin (there is a photo of the house in the book). The collection disappeared, and was – finally – discovered, largely intact, in Kiev, in the Ukraine, in 1999.

Till then, Sara Levy was virtually unknown, However, Peter Wollny, director of the Leipzig Bach-Archiv, published a book about her in 2010 (in German, as yet untranslated, as far as I know). He is also responsible for the Grove entry on her.

Sara Levy was a significant figure for another reason. She was one of the salonnieres in the 18th-early19th centuries in Berlin. These salons were gatherings of friends, family and acquaintances, and they were cultural as well as social events: there might be discussions about books or politics, play-readings, and, of course, music. The salons were generally hosted by women, who were thus able to take part domestically in cultural activities from which they were excluded in the public sphere.

The added dimension to this part of musical/social history is that Sara Levy was one of an elite group of Jewish salonnieres in Berlin. Thus, as more than one chapter points out, she was part of a community of Prussian Jews who were involved in shared cultural activities with Christians – activities which straddle the two concepts of ‘emancipation’ and ‘assimilation’, in the process, as one of the chapters puts it, ‘of becoming modern Europeans’.

However, these oases of cultural coexistence should not be idealised. While there were conversions and intermarriage, there was also fierce controversy. Some of Sara Levy’s family became Protestants, but she remained steadfastly Jewish, though there is no evidence as to whether she was observant. She was involved in Jewish organisations, subscribed to the publication of Hebrew books and supported Jewish and Hebrew education.

At the same time, ‘she embraced Christian elements from German and European culture’. However, while some Jews ‘acquired a taste for church music’, and even had Christmas trees, ‘she and other Jewish women’s musical training (was) through Bach’s instrumental music’, rather than through compositions with Christian religious texts. Women were banned at the time from participating in Catholic and Protestant liturgical music.

It is clear that there were cultural tensions in operation, intertwined with the co-operations. Perhaps one of the most telling examples is the case of Mendelssohn himself. Baptised aged seven into the Protestant faith, at the age of twenty he was responsible for the revivalist performance in 1829 of J.S. Bach’s St Matthew Passion, the story of the passion of Christ as king and Messiah, a challenge to Jewish theology. Contradiction and co-existence in a single piece of music. This historical period marked, as so many others have, arguments for Jewish tolerance alongside anti-semitism.

The book is fascinating, since, in the absence of autobiographical writings and other evidence, Sara Levy and her world are presented through an interdisciplinary perspective. It would have been great to have more information and gossip: was Sara present at the 1829 Passion? Did she know how Mendelssohn got the music in the first place? We will just have to imagine.

Towards the end of the book, an essay aims to clinch the cross-cultural argument by referring to the number of duets for various instruments in Sara Levy’s collection – including nine duets by Telemann which do not appear attributed anywhere else. These duets, it is argued, show that, in the equal balance of voices consists the metaphor through which an analogy and model for cultural co-operation is sealed. In turn, concepts of counterpoint and imitation, drawn from music, become metaphors for conversations between cultures. The images are elegant, anthropomorphic and musicomorphic (to coin a term).

While they function as an attempt to elide cultural and religious tensions, the book, in its carefully researched detail and variety of approaches, shows its subject, Sara Levy, as a social exception who serves to prove the musical rule, that women in music were rarely seen or heard. In this case, she is retrieved as having a crucial role in helping to generate, preserve and revive, the music written by the Bach family (all men, in case the point needs to be made!).

Michelene Wandor




Palestrina for All : Unwrapping, singing, celebrating

Jonathan Boswell
ISBN 9781721-968954

Click HERE to buy this at

This volume, self-published by the author, and produced and distributed by eBook Partnership is intended to address a perceived gap in the market for an accessible introduction to Palestrina and his music for the non-specialist reader – the title hints at this, and the information on the back of the publication spells it out in further detail, suggesting that it will be ‘welcomed by early music fans, choral singers and church musicians, and by thoughtful, imaginative music lovers.’

I may not be in the front line of Mr Boswell’s target audience, so I have tried to approach his publication with an open mind and with an eye on his intended public. In his opening chapter, the author helpfully lays out his plan campaign, as well as hinting at his methodology. Presumably in deference to his target audience, he states that he will ‘avoid too many technical terms’, and in a general chapter plan he promises an account of Palestrina’s career and life story as well as a treatment of aspects of the composer’s style and more detailed analysis of the Mass settings.

When I got down to reading the text itself, it seemed that the author was all too willing to depart from his promised structure, with bits of biography bleeding into sections of analysis and vice versa. I found the sections on Palestrina’s life and the context of his career the most interesting, and there were occasional genuine insights into how the intellectual fashions of the time would have influenced his music. Too often, though, there were sweeping general statements, which were simply inaccurate. The assertion at the opening of chapter 8 that Palestrina’s music was largely ‘in limbo’ for three centuries is just nonsense – it influenced composers throughout this period, and of all the Renaissance composers Palestrina was the one whose polyphony continued to be sung and copied and imitated until he was joined by his contemporaries in the great 20th-century rediscovery. Too often such sweeping statements of dubious accuracy stand in for genuine fact-based analysis – is this the inevitable result of the author’s aspiration to popularise his subject matter?

To look in more detail at the text, already in this introductory chapter, I encountered an aspect of the author’s writing style, which I found to be an issue throughout the rest of the book. Mr Boswell is prone to express himself in rather opaque turns of phrase. I could cite numerous examples of sentences, which I had to reread several times and some of which I am not sure I ever got to the bottom of. It is only fair that I should give some representative examples :

In the opening paragraph of the book we have –

‘A highly eventful reception and discussion history followed, focussing among inexorable and perennial issues about music, its cultural influence and complex meanings.’

In chapter 4 we have –

‘There is a marked contrast with styles which disclose a large-scale purposive design where everything seems to develop according to a virtuosic master plan.’

Towards the end of the book we have –

‘Palestrina’s counterpoint follows a different path. The texts are centre-of-attention, not woven into enveloping musical structures, however beautiful. Bald description and pure repetition are avoided.’

I have limited myself to three examples, and could, of course, be accused of taking phrases out of context, but in all honesty, context did not clarify any of these statements for me, nor the many other obscure sentences and phrases throughout the book. Many passages read like a bad translation from a foreign language, but as far as I can ascertain English is the author’s first language. I puzzled long and hard about why I found the author’s style so regularly impenetrable, and think it is principally due to two things. Firstly, this is a book, which was in urgent need of a hands-on editor to ask the vital question, ‘Just what do you mean by that?’ (Such an editor would also incidentally have picked up on some of the many typographical shortcomings.) Secondly, I think it is impossible to analyse contrapuntal music in the degree of detail to which the author aspires without the technical terminology he has consciously denied himself – as a result, I think he is often simply inventing his own technical terminology, which frequently means nothing to anybody except himself.

One example would be the term ‘lead’, sometimes expressed as ‘melodic lead’. This would appear to be the author’s term for the cantus firmus, but not always, and sometimes bafflingly he also uses the term cantus firmus, or rather fermus (sic). This sort of mess seems to me inevitable if you deny yourself recourse to technical terms, but then aspire to analyse without them.

The analysis, particularly of the selected mass movements, aspires to musicology, but again without the technical terms to express the main concepts the author seems to engage in the most eccentric fields of analysis. There are several tables recording aspects of Palestrina’s Masses, which seem entirely without relevance. One table expresses the redeployment frequencies of voice parts. Even after reading the surrounding text several times, I am not entirely clear what this even means, let alone why anybody would be interested in these statistics. Is he talking about the density of the polyphony? I really don’t know. More immediately comprehensible, but equally irrelevant is the table laying out the percentage of bars sung by each voice in 12 Kyrie sections, while the statistical analyses of ‘developments of melodic leads’ and the proportions of settings which open with specific voice parts also seem like analysis gone rogue.

So to return to my original mission, has the author made Palestrina’s music more accessible to a general audience? I think that a general reader would struggle as much as I did with Mr Boswell’s eccentric turn of phrase, perhaps even more so without the framework of technical terminology to fall back upon. Would a general reader have any more use than I had for the statistical tables, addressing apparently irrelevant aspects of the composer’s music? Almost definitely not. As I have already suggested, the biographical sections of the book are generally accurate, while their factual nature helps avoids them being infelicitously expressed, so they would probably provide a useful context for anyone listening to Palestrina’s music. However, it has to be said that it is not as easy as the introduction suggests to fillet this information out of the rest of the text. And of course, in the days of Wikipedia, most of the generally agreed biographical material is available online, where it can also be updated. More worryingly, a non-specialist reader would come away from the text with a number of serious misconceptions – that certain passages in Palestrina are badly written, when in fact the author for some reason just doesn’t like them, or indeed that Palestrina’s vocal lines lie comfortably for singers. Try telling that to your amateur tenor section! I will concede that Mr Boswell may be right in identifying the need for an accessible text to support the general listener to or singer of Palestrina’s music, but in all honesty this isn’t it.

D. James Ross


Walter Chinaglia: Towards  the Rebuilding of an Italian Renaissance-Style Wooden Organ

Deutsches Museum Verlag, Volume 5, 2020
97pp, ISBN 978-3-940396-97-6 €19.95

This significant monograph details Chinaglia’s research into the making of a copy of the famous and only surviving Italian-style organo di legno in the Silberne Kapelle of the Hofkirche in Innsbruck, Austria. It was undertaken during a residency with the research group on ‘The Materiality of Musical Instruments: New Approaches to a Cultural History of Organology’, based in the Deutsches Museum in 2018.

When I was looking for an organo di legno for a number of performances of the Monteverdi Vespers this April in Lombardy, I was introduced to Walter Chinaglia. I knew that Italian music of that period needed a real organo di legno, with narrow-scaled open wooden pipes rather than the commonly available chamber organs based on a stopped 8’ flute, as I believed it would give more body and securer tonality for the singers and players alike with its unforced, singing tone. I was planning to perform with just eight singers and a minimal band, so the right organ was crucial. Alas, that project fell victim to the lockdown, but what I heard of his organs encouraged me enormously. Margaret Phillips has one in her collection at Milborne Port in Dorset, and there are a series of four youtube videos on his project – Duoi organi per Monteverdi, which I much recommend:


There you can hear what the unforced sound of the open principal wood pipes is like with voices.

Chinaglia has an interesting background. After a first degree in physics and five years of research in nonlinear optics, he set up his workshop Organa in 2001, and has been building organs and researching the history and making of historically informed instruments since. In I.3 (p. 18) of his monograph, Chinaglia sets out his philosophy: ‘I strongly believe that a perfect sound from a wooden pipe can only be achieved if it comes naturally from the newly built pipe, in one or two strokes: when mouth cut-up is wisely chosen and the wind-way is properly opened, no other adjustments being necessary (such as toe-hole regulation, or tricky positioning of the mouth cover).’ He is committed to following exactly the dimensions and cut-up of the Silberne Kapelle organ pipes, and the clear, unforced, singing tone that results. The pipe-feet are cut integrally with the pipe and are pyramidal, not turned and glued on later. There are split keys for D sharp and E flat, and G sharp and A flat, giving the most useful major thirds in E and B, while allowing for E flat major and F minor as well as C minor in the flat keys. There is an informative spectral analysis of the sounds of open and stopped pipes, and from metal as well as wooden pipes, and the whole is profusely illustrated by drawings and diagrams, as well as photos.

This project combines scholarship with pragmatic experience, the disciplines of physics and woodcraft (there is detailed analysis of the different ways in which to saw planks and the difference it makes), of historical research into the written sources of the period and organology today. As a record of this work in progress, its author should be congratulated on the comprehensive recording of every step and the Deutsches Museum on sponsoring such an important cross-disciplinary project in the service of us mere musicians, trying to re-create the sound-world – especially the vocal sound-world – that Monteverdi and his forbears, contemporaries and successors inhabited. Vocal production and the difference that the right organ accompaniment makes lags far behind the recovery of the sound-world of strings (both bowed and plucked), brass, flauti and cornetti. These organs will help us immeasurably.

David Stancliffe

The book is freely available online, but you can buy a copy directly from the publisher here:

Book Festival-conference

Musik in Anhalt-Zerbst

Bericht über die Internationale Wissenschaftliche Konferenz am 12. und 13. April 2019 im Rahmen des 15. Internationalen Fasch-Festtage in Zerbst/Anhalt
Edited by Barbara M. Reul and Konstanze Musketa
374pp, ISBN 978-3-937788-61-6 €39.50

Click here to buy this book from the publisher’s website

It seems appropriate on the 322nd anniversary of the composer’s birth to review the latest in a series of conference reports that have enriched our knowledge and understanding of Johann Friedrich Fasch’s life and works. Personal circumstances meant I was unable to attend the conference (which, as regular readers will know, is part of a festival in which music pertinent to the many papers is often performed) so I am doubly glad to have received a copy of the book, packed as it is with new information.

Jan Stockigt produced evidence of a previously unknown trip to Leipzig that Fasch made in 1738; records that survive for those entering through the city gates have survived and amongst many other gems and snippets about musicians and royalty attending the annual fayres was a note of Kapellmeister Fasch entering with a Pastor Voigt. Possible reasons for the trip are suggested that would tie in with payments from court coffers, but Stockigt suggests that among the many thousands of unread documents in the various Dresden archives more evidence may yet be found.

After editor Barbara M. Reul‘s key address in which she produced a vast quantity of new information about musicians active within the court of Zerbst and the Anhalt lands over which it ruled, Maik Richter discussed the 1717 celebrations of the anniversary of the Reformation. Then came my own paper which presented new evidence of musical activities in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, including two unknown musical inventories revealing the extent of music-making in the earlier period, three new printed texts for cantatas performed in the Bartholomäikirche (which functioned until 1719 as the court chapel) in 1718 and identifying several of the sources of music performed in the new palace chapel from 1719-1722 when Fasch arrived. Amongst the music performed were two cycles of cantatas by Johann Philipp Krieger; several texts from those three years were repeated in later cycles, including the so-called “Dresden” cycle – that lends support to Marc-Roderich Pfau’s theory explored at a previous conference that the cycle may have been compiled in Zerbst.

Gottfried Gille – whose Fasch-Repertorium (a comprehensive list of Fasch’s religious music) has just been updated – explored in great detail the palace chapel diaries for the church year 1735-36, identifying preachers, establishing the standardised service structures, and exploring non-liturgical texts used in non-Sunday services. Marc-Roderich Pfau‘s second article on cantatas for Apostle Days (something of a Zerbst curiosity) revealed that these were only performed when the date of the feast fell on a Saturday or a Sunday; this explains why Fasch set the texts twice – as the music would be needed in consecutive years, it had better be different (Fasch used and re-used the same cycles throughout his career).

After Stockigt’s paper, Rashid-S. Pegah delved into music in Jever, a town in the north of Germany that fell under the control of Anhalt-Zerbst when the last ruler died without issue. Painting a rich picture of an active musical scene, Pegah also found music by various cantors and other applicants of the job. Like his 2017 paper, this is packed with information and will take weeks to absorb.

The following two papers concerned dancing and more specifically dancing masters in Zerbst. Hanna Walsdorf and Tatjana Schabalina took different approaches; the former concentrated on archival documentation for her portrait of the Hoftanzmeister Anton Albrecht Borckmann and suggested music for dancing might be staring us in the face in many of the Jever music sources (as well as Fasch’s orchestral suites – of which I am rather sceptical), while the latter presented a treatise by Gottfried Taubert that she discovered in the National Library of Russia in St Petersburg.

The next two neatly paired papers concerned the bassoon; Ursula Kramer discussed Johann Christian Klotsch, a virtuoso on the instrument who played in the Zerbst Hofkapelle for over two years until 1736 before moving to Darmstadt (where Fasch’s former prefect, Christoph Graupner, was Kapellmeister). while Klaus Hubmann described Fasch’s music for the instrument and the type of instrument it was most likely played on.

Samantha Owens paper was not directly related to Zerbst but was nonetheless relevant; for years, much of what we know about the activities of boys in court music-making has been (with the exception of Ralph-Jürgen Reipsch‘s 2015 article on a boy soprano from Magdeburg whom Fasch seems to have tried to attract to the Hofkapelle) confined to names and passing references; Owens uses documentation from other Lutheran courts to build a compelling picture of the life of choirboys in the first third of the 18th century.

For those of us who are desperate to understand Fasch’s day-to-day life, Paul Beckus‘s contribution is very valuable; he lists the noble families who held positions at the court and explores the concept of “representation” (i. e., the way princes projected their importance to others), of which the musical establishment was very much part. The final paper by Annegret Mainzer is a survey of musicians from Anhalt who worked in Russia during the second half of the 18th century, a by-product of the marriage between the two courts and the crowning of Catherine the Great (formerly a princess in Zerbst).

So no new musical manuscripts were discovered and only two papers that were really about Fasch at all, but there is still much to learn about the man and his music, and there remain many unturned pages in the archives that will reveal more and more. Let us hope that in the post-COVID-19 world, there is still room for Fasch festivals and Fasch conferences!

Brian Clark


Dizionario degli editori musicali italiani. Dalle origini alla metà del Settecento

Edited by Bianca Maria Antolini Pisa: ETS, 2019.
796pp ISBN: 8846753305 €95

Under the auspices of the Società Italiana di Musicologia and the editorial direction of  Bianca  Maria Antolini, 36 musicologists have produced an exceptionally important ‘dictionary of Italian music publishers, from the earliest (in the late 15th century) to those of the  mid-1700s, as a companion volume to the Dizionario degli editori musicali italiani, 1750-1930’ (ETS, 2000). It is far more than a dictionary and even more than an encyclopedia. The main part (600 pages out of 800) consists of 384 biographical entries, many of which are thorough studies on early Italian printers, along with the distributors, financers, composers, promoters and sellers of editions of music. The reader cannot ‘look up’ printing techniques or Italian cities by name, but the extraordinarily useful sections before and after the ‘dictionary’ inform the reader greatly about the protagonists, the developments, and their places in the history of early music and music publication in Italy.

The figures are treated as exhaustively as information warrants. These signed entries are not standardized (as a mere dictionary might require), but organized according to the vicissitudes, relationships, innovations, and importance of each figure, including a specific bibliography. The General Bibliography to sources and research by Chiara Pelliccia is 36 pages long, and the Index of approximately 4,500 names – which may turn up in many different entries – by Maria Borghesi are features of a monographic book of research, not expected in a ‘dictionary’. No doubt some cross-references might have been missed, but these tools are highly useful because printers, composers and booksellers had families, competitors, patrons, and the subject matter gains from treasure hunting exploration.

I was mystified to find ‘Agostino Diruta’ in the Index but not his famous uncle and teacher Girolamo Diruta, the organist and author of Il Transilvano (1593; 1609 and other editions), his treatise and anthology for professional organists, and also the publication with the earliest use of ‘nesting type’ (mosaic characters) in keyboard tablatures. Indeed, three of the ten pages cited for Agostino were not about him, or were about G. Diruta or Banchieri. This is a very minor note of warning about indexes which applies to all books: they may be drafted before the page numbers are definitive, and no index compiler can possibly be an authority on thousands of figures. It is an astounding achievement that this one even gives page references leading to names buried in titles present in the extensive Bibliography!

What makes this ‘dictionary’ also an in-depth history of early Italian music printing is the tripartite introductory section. The three absorbing articles of the first 115 pages – again modestly presented as ‘aspects’, ‘perspectives’ or ‘historical context’ — outline who, where, when, how, why and with what consequences music was published:

The first is Antolini’s, a chronological overview of various aspects of the history of printing music, or inserting music in other types of books, in Italy, from the last quarter of the 15th century on, and especially in Venice, Rome and Milan. She explains the distinction between typographic and xylographic prints, the eventual demand for printing polyphony, and shortly after 1500, for tablatures. As the activity flourished in other cities, the birth of instrumental music at the end of the 16th century made new demands. Manuscripts circulated along with prints, and even manuscript copies of prints; editors specialized in certain repertories, and collaborating figures, sometimes the composers themselves, emerged to produce, finance and distribute music in the 17th and 18th centuries. In her introductory article, we encounter some of the principal names, which many musicians hardly recognize, and the reader is immediately tempted to go to specific entries.

The second article, ‘Da un’altra prospettiva: le tecniche e i processi di stampa della musica in Italia (XV-XIX secolo)’ by Licia Sirch, on the historical printing techniques employed over a span of 500 years, is fascinating for the processes developed. There are no explicit warnings to musicians of the 21st century, but it is clear that we are at risk of not considering the implications of those early techniques. When interpreting printed music, it is imperative to understand the advantages, limitations and purpose of the methods used. Woodcuts were capable of showing anything but slow and expensive to design and cut, and rather rough in appearance. Reusable, they conserved mistakes. Typesetting, the most ephemeral, had vast commercial potential and continued for centuries after the introduction of engraving.

To typeset a page of music, a form with grooves was filled with movable characters (letters, symbols, and notes for every possible value and staff position, each on a separate segment of a staff). Many copies of a page could be printed, after which the form was emptied and refilled with type for a different page. After the print run that page could not be reprinted. We find facsimiles and originals of the same date with differences, however, because the printing could be momentarily halted to change a character. Most pages were never corrected and full of errors. Bulky type (of various kinds), a fixed distance between characters, the lack of beaming, and a limited number of notes per system made the music more widely available than manuscripts, though less accurate and much harder to read. It should be remembered that it was developed for polyphony, to be printed in separate part-books, where a single page or two could contain the instrumental or vocal part for a whole piece.

The ‘mythical’ typesetter Ottaviano Petrucci (1466-1538) had a rival in Andrea Antico (1470/80 – after 1539), a superb wood-cutter. But typesetting prevailed. 16th-century Venetian printers made templates, or ‘standing type’ for successive pages, or for various part-books, into which the characters could be set. This saved some typesetting time, especially when one voice part was graphically similar to another. Not until 1762 did Petronio Dalla Volpe (1721-94) acquire movable composite characters cast as round notes (instead of the previous squares and rhombi) with separate heads, tails, and stems, which could then be ‘nested’ together. Such ‘mosaic’ type was, however, first used by Giacomo Vincenti in 1593 for Part One of Girolamo Diruta’s Il Transilvano (not from Part Two in1609 as Sirch says). Diruta advocated writing for the keyboard in double-staff tablature, with intervals, chords and multiple voices appearing vertically and sharing a single staff per hand.

The highly ornamented ‘new’ vocal and instrumental music of the 1600s saw a great circulation of manuscripts, thereby stimulating a growing use of engravings and lithographs. These resembled fair manuscripts: fast notes could be grouped and beamed; parts printed separately or in score; plates could be stored and reprints made on demand, even with modifications; the contents could be rearranged and included in other volumes. Sirch continues the history beyond the middle of the 18th century. She also includes a very helpful Appendix of terminology to clarify the distinctions between ‘edition’, ‘impression’, ‘emission’ (successive or simultaneously – as separate items or included in anthologies) and  ‘state’ (whether intentionally or accidentally changed).

A shorter article by Saverio Franchi (1942-2014) seems to have almost the same title as the Dictionary itself, but this is misleading. ‘L’editoria musicale Italiana dalle origini al XVIII secolo nel quadro della storia della stampa e dell’editoria’ traces again the course of music printing in Italy, but in the general historical context of  European printing and publishing, which the other studies do not. Franchi was a musicological polymath as well as an important musician. His detailed overview, through his reflections, includes nothing that has come before, and was probably written before all the others! The planning of this bi-partite ‘dictionary’ actually began in 1990, and my hunch is that Franchi’s contribution, published posthumously here, was projected to complement all the others and help readers to place any of the 384 Italian names to be encountered in the dictionary, in the history of Western music.

Barbara Sachs




Journal for the study and practice of early music directed by Arnaldo Morelli LIM Editrice [2018]
248pp, €30 (€ outside of Italy)
ISBN 978-88-7096-990-0 ISSN 1120-5741
Buy it HERE

Only one study in the current issue of Ricercare is in English; the other seven are in Italian and the summaries appear in both languages. The order, as usual, is chronological, from the 1300s to the late 1700s. Geographically they involve the Veneto, Bologna, Florence and Rome. The journal is dedicated to Italian musical culture, and stimulates research by bringing to light newly examined sources.

In Un elenco Veneto di composizioni del Trecento con inedite attribuzioni a Marchetto da Padova e altre novità Francesco Zimei describes, transcribes and draws conclusions from a handwritten list of titles, originally from the area between Padua and Verona, of 35 mainly sacred 14th-century compositions with their Latin incipits. It is inside the cover of a folder made in the 18th century for containing material on musical theory, and is now in the Biblioteca Capitular y Colombina of Seville. 90% of the pieces listed are missing, but the list itself provides attributions for 80% of the titles. Perhaps previously unattributed music will turn out to correspond to these items, and in any case, from it we will know more about the composers named: Marchetto da Padova, Michael de Padua, magistri Iacobus, Petrus, Iohannes de Florencia, Franciscus de Bononia, and Zenonis.

The article Musica dagli Statuti della Confraternita di S. Maria della Morte di Bologna: ‘letanie, laude et alter oration cum canto digando’ by Gioia Folocamo is about twelve late 14th- and early 15th-century manuscripts of poetry for laude (of which 106 poems are in MS 157 of Bologna’s University Library). What the laude were used for was only recently determined thanks to newly discovered Statutes of a historic confraternity of Bologna that cared for convicts. Lauds were performed for the benefit of prisoners being led to the gallows.

Nicola Badolato’s literary examination of the typical themes and metrical forms of 17th-century Venetian poetry written by librettists for vocal settings is fascinating on various levels – even putting aside the specific works by Ferrari and Fontei used as examples. His study Soluzioni metriche e motivi poetici nei testi intonati di Benedetto Ferrari e Nicolò Fontei gives us interpretive insight into the transition from madrigals to arias, canzonettas, and cantatas, since the poetry was composed to be set to those forms of the time. Poets such as Guarini, Marino, Strozzi, Busenello, Chiabrera, and others, whether in a pastoral or a satirical vein (or both together), composed texts for the composers. One should therefore perform the great vocal music of the period with sufficient appreciation for their styles and forms.

Badolato is a musician, musicologist, and editor of critical editions of librettos and operas, and he has touched on too many elements to sum up without detail. Along the way, however, there are elements useful to performers apart from the technicalities, such as how the discussions held at the meetings of Giulio (and Barbara) Strozzi’s academies (Gli Incogniti and the short-lived Unisoni) were elaborated in music and the themes or topoi encountered in a great number of texts of the time. Singers will recall protagonists expressing their nostalgia for youthful love or refusal of love, the ridiculous expectations for it in the aged, the profound suffering and the brazen desire in others. Timidity and flirtation, love-sickness — with symptoms ranging from blushing and headaches to respiratory and cardiac; the mockery and deceit suffered by the infected; their flights or pursuits; their arming for battle or preparing to die. That these themes were discussed seriously and also made fun of should not be a surprise, given the poetry and music produced. After enjoying the poems included, on a second reading one can also delve into the contrasts of meters, rhyme schemes, and verse forms so appropriately employed.

Badolato missed the opportunity to contrast Monteverdi’s phenomenal setting of the anonymous Voglio di vita uscir with Ferrari’s: namely, that while both set the terza rima as a ciaccona (Monteverdi over variations of his Zefiro bass with continuo solo variations of the ostinato at various points, Ferrari with a straight repetition of a simpler version of the same ground), Monteverdi devoted an entire concluding section to the last four lines, set over descending tetrachords. He thereby contrasted the manic, joyous dance forn with a conclusive, poignant lament, whereas Ferrari simply halted the ostinato, adding two bars of recitative, in which the protagonist makes his last desperate resentful plea.

Antonella D’Ovidio’s article All’ombra di una corte. Lucia Coppa, allieva di Frescobaldi e virtuosa del marchese Filippo Niccolini describes the career of a Roman singer and harpsichord player born in 1625 who had the talent to become a pupil of Frescobaldi from 1635 to 1638. She also studied guitar, as well as singing and counterpoint with Filippo Vitali, and her thorough preparation and success was thanks to the Florentine marquis Filippo Nicolini di Camugliano (1586-1666), a patron active also in Rome, whom she served in his household in Florence. The archive of this aristocratic family, like others not yet explored, yields information on how such virtuosi “served” and what music was performed. According to Severo Bonini (Discorsi e regole sopra la musica, c. 1650 modern edition 1979, p. 113) she was hired by Giovanni Carlo de’ Medici because her playing ‘so leggiadramente’ was like Frescobaldi’s. (Leggiadria – lightness and charm – was specifically construed as applying to the ease in playing ornamental figures, so this source should be noted.)

Every detail of D’Ovidio’s account is telling, as for example, the Appendix. It lists the instruments and music books bequeathed to her by Filippo Niccolini: a highly decorated harpsichord by Domenica da Pesaro with two registers; a curious one containing four spinets (2 x 8’ and 2 x 4’ which can be coupled) for playing duets; an arcicembalo with five keyboards for passing from one mode to every other, invented by Nigetti and made by a son of Nicola Vicentino; another large harpsichord with all possible split keys by Canigiani; a good spinetta; a theorboe and a Cremonese violin. The article does not say if these instruments exist today, but it does say that she had the use of all of them in her music room.

Valentina Panzanaro takes us to Rome, where the Neapolitan violinist Salvatore Mazzella (ca. 1620-1690) played in a trio with Lelio Colista and Michelangelo Rossi. this was noted by Athanasius Kircher in his 1656 Itinerarium extaticum. Mazzella published a collection of dances in 1689, dedicated to Cardinal Fulvio Astalli, and Panzanaro gives a list of the 48 dance movements, four or five per Ballo, with their titles, time signatures, tempo indication, bar lengths and keys. Six are included as examples (most are for violin and basso continuo, in two repeated sections, with figured bass). The last nine are on varied ground basses. They are very short easy pieces, usually a Ballo, Corrente, Giga or Gagliarda plus dances such as Sarabande, Gavotte. Gighe and four Minuette [sic]. One can just make out which ones were actually ‘for’ dancing and which ‘da camera’, the latter typical of the Bolognese style of the 1670’s. They are similar to the sonate da camera attributed to the young Corelli, not mentioned by Panzanaro, but recently recorded, played and published by Enrico Gatti. About both Corelli’s and Mazzella’s one sees a similarity to dances for guitar, ordered into ‘sonatas, elsewhere considered suites’. Being from the south, Mazzella’s publication has a Tarantella of eleven repeatable 2-bar variations, at the end of which one repeats the first half.

In Drammi e oratori nella corrispondenza di Francesco de Lemene con il cardinale Pietro Ottoboni Clotilde Fino first outlines de Lemene’s literary production for other patrons who subsidized operas, oratorios and chamber vocal music in Rome. She then speaks of the projected works realized (or not) for the Cardinal. The correspondence between the Cardinal and the poet-librettist (1634-1704) concerned texts for oratorios – not only for Ottoboni, but also by him, from 1694 to ’98. The last exchanges are the most interesting because de Lemene was not only experienced in writing dramatic poetry for musical settings, but an honest, constructive critic. For example, when asked by the Cardinal for his opinion and suggestions on his work (Oratorio per la nascita del Redentore 1698, set by G. L. Lulier), he replied truthfully, if diplomatically, giving praise where due: an erudite recit of Lucifer was a bit too long, the demons set the scene but there was little ensuing action, and Lucifer could have commanded them to do what they in fact did to molest the newborn in the manger, and how about a reaction from the angels? His remarks give insight about how the librettist conceives, creates and constructs dramatic scenes before the work is set by a composer.

Huub van der Linden’s A family at the opera: the Bolognetti as an audience at the theatres of Rome (1694-1736) is a demonstration of what can be gleaned from studying the ‘paying audience’ frequenting the theatres of Rome. It examines the volumes of one household’s accounts, in this case one aristocratic family who attended and thereby supported (by renting boxes or buying tickets) most of Rome’s theatres. In sheer length and detail it makes one realize how much a comparative or consolidated ‘poll’ of numerous families might yield. That said, it is cumulatively interesting. The family was Ferdinando Bolognetti’s, and the sharing and repairing of boxes (responsibility of the ‘owners’), obviously crucial to a theatre’s management, shows political affinities and financial or social relationships between members of society, and the tastes of the theatre-goers. In addition to the very well-known theatres, the much lesser known Mascherone is mentioned. Van der Linden may not know that Luigi Antinori (1697-1734), a Florentine singer and composer, wrote a satirical cantata which begins with a reference to the Mascherone – La cantante smorfiosa (The carping diva). The soprano, addressing the implicated composer, complains that he made her go to hear the commedia there the night before, after which she caught a terrible cold and fever coming home, and now he expects her to sing.

In Giuseppe Maria Tanfani, compositore e violinista del Settecento fiorentino e inventore del violin tetrarmonico, Bettina Hoffmann rectifies an accidental misspelling of this appreciated Florentine composer’s last name as the far more common ‘Fanfani’, which precluded historians from connecting his activities with his sonatas. His 13 sonatas were correctly attributed to Tanfani in the manuscripts, as was the praise of contemporaries including Quantz, Pisandel, Casimiro degli Albizzi and Nardini. But about his life and other activities nothing was known, since documents in the National Library in Florence had catalogued them under ‘Fanfani’ . (I checked the white pages of the Region of Tuscany: today there are 191 Fanfanis to 2 Tanfanis!) Hoffmann’s suspicion was triggered, and after examining the ‘Fanfani’ documents in which the T’s were misread as F’s, the results turn out to be very interesting. Tanfani (1689-1771 – not ‘1779’ as both summaries give) was active as a violinist and as an inventive violin maker.

The manuscript containing his 12 sonatas for violin and basso, six da chiesa and six da camera, (I-Fn Magl. XIX, 198) is well described, including the folio recto and verso numbers for each sonata. As the study shows a photo of the opening Largo of the first sonata, in D minor (confirmed by the following description), the reader may be momentarily confused by the prior reference to it ‘in Re magg.’ This typo may have occurred because, coincidentally, another, separate sonata of Tanfani’s is indeed in D major: one extant in a manuscript in Dresden copied by Pisendel around 1717, and in another in Cambridge (formerly belonging to F. T. Arnold) in the hand of one of Vivaldi’s scribes, from 1725 or after.

The sonatas, while certainly good music, are typical. Absolutely original was Tanfani’s work as a violin maker. Readers of Italian can read the detailed description and purpose of his violin tetrarmonico. This document, in the Appendix, from 1722 or after, is ostensibly by a friend of Tanfani’s, but it is probably by Tanfani himself. By writing in the third person, he could praise the builder and his invention, and coyly avoid giving away exactly how this new violin worked: it has to be seen to be understood. Its purpose is tantalizingly laid out. ‘Tetrarmonico’ has nothing to do with pure intervals or the differences between diatonic and chromatic semitones. The instrument was designed to be playable in the normal violin repertory by all violinists, but also to allow composers to write notes a fifth lower, without losing the timbre, balance and sonority of the violin. It had a C string a fifth below the G string, probably of gut overlaid with silver thread, as well as 12 extra strings under (sottoposte) the five to be bowed. Of these seven are diatonic and five chromatic, each tuned to resonate with one of the 12 semitones. Not much is given away!

A further mechanism of ebony makes one think of the effects added to keyboard instruments to alter the sounds: instead of having to stop playing in order to place or remove the mute from the bridge, a lever operated by the chin while playing could place and remove it. It applied three levels of pressure: the first sordina, to dampen or mute, the second to vibrate like the low bowed string instrument known as the tromba marina, and the third to mimic a piccolo flautino perhaps raiseing the pitch by an octave.

Sadly, if Tanfani did compose for this instrument, no such music has yet been found. But now researches can look for references under his real name!

Barbara M. Sachs


The Well-Travelled Musician

John Sigismond Cousser and Musical Exchange in Baroque Europe
Samantha Owens
xvi+385pp. £60 (hardback), £19.99 (eBook).
Boydell Press, 2017. ISBN 978-1-78327-234-1

Apologies to both the author and the publisher of this extraordinarily detailed book – convinced that I had already published a review, it has lain on my bookshelves for months since… Only when I came to file it away did I realise that, although I had jotted down some notes, I had never sat down at the computer to commit them to public scrutiny.

The first 180 pages of the book are taken up with nine chapters devoted to aspects and/or phases of the composer’s 67-year-long life, each of them oozing the volume of minutiae that in the hands of a lesser writer would have caused brain numbing. Somehow Owens always finds just the right combination of words to maintain enough interest to make the reader want to know more. And there is plenty to learn!

This is nowhere more evident than in her summary of the composer/musician/copyist/impresario’s commonplace book, in her transcription of his Address Book (complete with identifications of almost everyone mentioned!), and in another transcription, this time of notes made on a journey he made in 1716. The latter is little more than a tantalising list of people, music and places but it is just this kind of diplomatic transcription being published that makes other music historians’ jobs easier – somewhere in amongst the seemingly meaningless, someone will find a link that is a crucial part of their puzzle. For this, if nothing else, the world of research into Baroque music owes both Owens and Boydell a huge vote of thanks. Of course, there is much else to absorb and enjoy – the book itself is a thing of beauty.

As the HIP scene in Dublin takes off, Cousser’s music will become more widely known, so get hold of this excellent volume and immerse yourself in his world.

Brian Clark

Click here to visit the publisher’s website.


I ritratti del Museo Della Musica di Bologna da padre Martini al Liceo musicale

Historiae Musicae Cultores CXXIX
xvii + 684pp €90.00
Leo S. Olschki Editore, 2018
ISBN 978 88 222 6349 0

Most musicologists with an interest in 16th- to 19th-century music will be well acquainted with the extensive collection held in Bologna that once belonged to Giambattista (Padre) Martini, a man more renowned these days for his epic History of Music and reputation as an outstanding teacher of the laws of counterpoint than for his own compositions. That another – equally as impressive and extensive – collection has his name attached to it may be less well known; this time a fascinating array of portraits of musicians (composers, singers, instrumentalists), including celebrated impressions of J. C. Bach, Gluck, Handel, Haydn and Mozart, as well as a far greater number of less well-known characters, and a tantalising selection of anonymous works.

This comprehensive volume provides a thorough background to the collection, including its continued growth after Martini’s death, as well as more detailed studies of individual subjects (such as a chapter on Farinelli). Then it discusses and reproduces 311 paintings (mostly in full colour and slightly under quarter page sized, but some full page) in the main sequence, followed by a further 22 that have been relegated to an appendix for various reasons. The organisation takes a little bit of getting used to: eight chronological sections, each ordered alphabetically (with names beginning with Della listed under D, just in case you wondered!)

I was pleasantly surprised that the volume was not exclusively male; not that there were that many female sitters – one, in particular, caught my eye: Maria Rosa Coccia, who scraped a living as a composer. I may even be inspired to seek out some of her unpublished music. Another portrait once and for all exposes the inaccuracy of an image that is widely circulated on the internet purporting to be Alessandro Grandi; it turns out to be another composer of the same name from a younger generation. (A similar situation surrounds an image of Johann Rosenmuüller, though that has nothing to do with the present book!)

The commentary on each painting (by a variety of authors) is exhaustive from the arts perspective, describing the provenance of each, the accuracy of the identification of both the sitter and the artist, its restoration history and a thorough bibliography.

This book is a very impressive production, as important for art historians as it is for musicologists, and as at home on the shelves of a research library as a coffee table offering for visitors. At such an incredibly reasonable price, it is difficult not to commend it too highly!

Brian Clark