Le sonate di Domenico Scarlatti. Testo, contesto, interpretazione

by Enrico Baiano & Marco Moiraghi
Repertori Musicali 5.
LIM 2014. 321pp
ISBN 978 88 7096 7722 €30

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here is a lot to be gleaned from the research, experience, analysis, synthesis and dedication that went into this joint effort. The chapters by each author (both musicians as well as musicologists, Baiano a harpsichordist and fortepianist, Moiraghi a pianist and composer) are complementary, their agenda is one: to bring the sonatas of Scarlatti and their interpretation into focus in the light of older Italian and Iberian traditions, influences, the composer’s personal upbringing and circumstances, and centuries of dispute over styles of execution. I say ‘agenda’ because the ‘theme’ of the book is to stress the necessity of what some will consider a wildly distorting subjective attitude toward tempo changes, ornamentation, and even form.

The first half of the book is succinctly philological, developing fascinating implications for categorizing the sonatas in new ways. I remember once reading a record jacket in which Landowska described a piece as showing lovers sitting under a moonlit sky, with specific details I don’t remember! So it wouldn’t have surprised her to read a ‘plausible’ plot synopsis of an imaginary opera, offered as an example of how a Scarlatti sonata may seem to bring characters onto the stage, to produce a succession of situations, and to come to a theatrical conclusion. I was more puzzled by the relevance of the early Toccata genre (which despite its rhetorical gestures was a contrapuntally conceived composition ingeniously ornamented with passage-work) said to permeate Scarlatti’s language in some sonatas. Extremely illuminating is the reflection of Andalusian folk music in Scarlatti’s music. The history, harmonies, forms, and purpose of specific songs and dances are discussed, with short musical examples (in the sonatas, not from the folk music itself).

This major influence is really only outlined, and serious readers can use the notes and bibliographical leads to explore it further. For Baiano and Moiraghi’s ‘agenda’ all these relationships are crucial and underappreciated. Opera and free keyboard genres, full of lyricism and dramatic contrasts, dependent on conventional understanding of tempos, time signatures, cadences and tonalities, are part of every player’s experience. Less familiar to most of us is the passionate precursor of the flamenco, the canto hondo (transcribed ‘jondo’), with its distinctively oriental melodic twists, semitones, augmented seconds, and particular forms of accompaniment. Originally these songs were monodic and not subject to regular rhythmic controls. They became strophic, with variations comprising danced episodes (the dancer wearing noisy percussive shoes to make accelerations and full stops heard), instrumental solos (guitar, castanets) exploiting dramatically colorful new strumming techniques, the singing punctuated by shouts, pauses, laments (quejíos) and above all following a formal sequence: salida (introduction), tercio de entrada (singer’s entrance), tercio grande (most intensely emotional section), tercio de alivio (literally ‘relief’), cambio (varied recapitulation), and sometimes a brilliant final tercio de valiente (literally ‘virtuoso’). According to the authors, Scarlatti wrote some sonatas as jondos for the harpsichord.

In the 1500s and 1600s, slaves and commerce from Africa and nearby islands introduced dances such as fandangos, zarabandas and chaconas, along with their rhythms and melodies, into the Iberian peninsula, as well as into the Americas, and from there back to Spain and Portugal. The descending tetrachord and Phrygian flavour of the passacaglia are typical. Such elements may be heard in Scarlatti’s writing (and indeed in a great deal of Baroque music).

For these ideas, alluded to repeatedly in later sections in discussing specific sonatas and comparing interpreters, I am extremely grateful to these authors, and to Emilia Fadini, who has instilled the implications of this tradition throughout her long teaching career, and has long suffered the unimaginative approach of many proficient and worthy performers! Hers is the best Scarlatti edition to date, with eight of a total of ten volumes available.[note]For those still eagerly waiting for the two final volumes of Fadini’s ‘new’ complete edition of Scarlatti’s sonatas (begun in 1978), they will soon be available, thanks to her collaboration with Marco Moiraghi. Casa Ricordi no longer exists, but the edition is handled by Universal and their partner Hal Leonard. Click here for further information, or email[/note]

I have two complaints, however, about this book. If ever a book needed an index of works, this one does. Some chapter headings list the sonatas to be analyzed in detail, but not the many other Kirkpatrick numbers mentioned in passing, singly and together, often usefully. I would strongly urge players to make a personal index while reading the book. Better still: could LIM or the authors make an index available online or on

The second is more serious. I was not always convinced by the insistence on contrasts, accelerations, stunning pauses, or tempos varying from half to double their established speed. I think there has to be an extremely cogent reason for not seeking a tempo in which the piece itself, perhaps excluding introductory passages and codas, more or less as written, produces very striking effects. Yes, Scarlatti may be so potentially ‘programmatic’ that he tempts us to indulge, but should tables comparing the metronomic fluctuations not only between but within sections of a sonata, as recorded by a dozen players, be taken as the yardstick measuring the aesthetic value of their performances?

An enlarged edition of Roberto Pagano’s highly praised Alessandro e Domenico Scarlatti. Due vite in una (LIM) will be out soon.

Barbara Sachs


Mauro Calcagno: Perspectives on Luca Marenzio’s Secular Music

Brepols, 2014.
527pp, €80.00.
ISBN 9 78 2 503 55332 0

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he contents do not completely cover Marenzio’s secular music: the writers tend to pick on specific examples or types. There is a considerable quantity of the music itself discussed in extensive detail.

Music and Poetry.

Franco Piperno Petrarch, Petrarchism, and the Italian Madrigal (pp. 15-30) discusses the revival of Petrarchan verse for madrigals between 1542 & 1570.

James Haar The Madrigali a quattro, cinque et sei voci of 1588 (pp. 31-50) is the only such set by Marenzio, perhaps writing in a style that was aiming at different noble masters; English composers later used the same pattern.

Seth J. Coluzzi Tirsi mio, caro Tirsi: Il pastor fido and the Roman Madrigal (pp. 51-73) makes an attempt to distinguish quasi-soloistic sections, but I’m not convinced. The latest idea isn’t always better than previous ones until the next idea appears. The compromise is noted by Alfred Einstein (p. 70, note 23): “The whole book is full of hidden drama, but the presentation of the actual scene or monologue is always madrigalesque, even if there is a real temptation to dramatize”.

James Chater ends the group with Family matters: Music in the Life and Poetry of Giovambattista Strozzi the Elder (pp. 75-140). Both Strozzi were blind; the Elder was mostly a poet, with over a thousand poems – the Junior is less significant in the discussion of the music, especially the long list of music that is known of but not visible or audible.

Musical Styles and Techniques.

Ruth I. DeFord C and Ȼ in the Madrigals of Marenzio (pp. 143-164) has confusing examples, especially the up and down arrows which interfere with the clashing stresses in the music. The use of C (4 crotchets) and Ȼ (4 minims) are not necessarily firm rules – see, for example, ex. 6/a, b & d (p. 161-2) in C but with 4 minims. 6 is more irregular, presented by the editor with 4 crotchets | 8 crotchets | 1 crotchet |8 crotchets. I’m not convinced that singing to the beat is as significant as the theorists assume anyway: singers need to be aware of the tactus but also of the stress of the poem.

John W. Hill turns to Two Reflections of Sixteenth-Century Italian Solo Singing in Luca Marenzio’s Villanelle (1584-97) (p. 165-202). This is a useful read for those who wish to sing/play the published music or adapt playing with the vocal lines (not necessarily all of them) or strumming a guitar or lute. Performers who enjoy more flexible music should read this chapter.

Music and Patronage: A Debate

Claudio Annibaldi Social Markers in the Music Market… (p. 205-234) is followed by comments by Mario Bagioli, Arnaldo Morelli, Stefano Lorenzetti & Jonathan Glixon, concluded by Annibaldi’s A Reply in an Apologetic Vein (p. 251-261). I found myself more interested by the other writers. and wondered if the four names given above may have taken advantage of later research, and consequently Annibaldi by definition would have also followed even later. However, none of the footnotes by all the authors in this section were later than 2006 (I may have missed a 2007 item that I didn’t see on the check.) This section strikes me as the least successful, but it would have been better without Annibaldi! One misprint: Gardano and Scotto in the 1670s (p. 255, last para.) I’m a little surprised by mention of Condoleezza Rice (p. 259) – I don’t remember a pronounciation with a double zz or tz?

Contexts of Production, Circulation, and Consumption

Giuseppe Gerbino Marenzio and the Shepherds of the Tiber Valley (pp. 265-281) is well worth reading for the short creation of a myth by the Tiber, parodying Tirsi and Clori and the pastor Ergasto. The text was published in 1597 as Prose Tibertine del Pastor Ergasto by Antonio Piccioli Cenedese.

Paoli Cecchi “Delicious air and sweet inventions”: The Circulation and Consumption of Marenzio’s Secular Music in England (c.1588-1640) is a massive exposition (pp. 283-369). While reading it, I regretted that Tessa Murray was too late to incorporate her Thomas Morley, Elizabethan Publisher – see review in EMR 162 p. 4. She creeps into p. 303 note 66 on the strength of a 2012 joint quote from Philip Brett and Tessa. This is a massive survey, not just of available music, but how much was known of its use. The printing of violas accompanying vocal solos is a mistake for viols (p. 318), but on p. 322 there is a treble viale and the viola da gamba (not within quotes) lower down the first para­graph. There is a vast amount of information, not just on existing or hypothetical editions but on how they was used.

I had expected to read the book during a cruise on a boat running from Budapest to Regensburg – but without much likeli­hood of following the plan because of the failure to get under bridges and made worse for me by the failure of my glasses. Reading became very difficult and the final day involved four hours by bus and five hours waiting for the flight, so I couldn’t get through the final section and this is the first chance I’ve been able to catch up at least some back work on our music sales activity. The final group of Print Cultures and Editions covers Jane A. Bernstein, Christine Jeanneret, Laurent Pugin and Etienne Darbellay. The end is a useful short summary of various aspects, preceded by “changing criteria and editorial techniques from one volume to the next, as is the case of the CMM series, which should should be strenuously avoided.” It is, however, impossible for such long-running of some of the series to change in mid course, but new editions should certainly use the more current form – unnecessary cutting note values and elaborate and confusing beaming, for instance. I’ve avoided CMM12 (Giovanni Gabrieli), using editions that are more accessible, though a certain amount of under­standing is needed – I’ve been involved in Cambridge with several 1615 motets for at least three distinguished organisations for the 500th year of his publication (though he died in 1612 and his amanuensis was hardly reliable!)

The final two pages (461-2) draw attention to the differences between manners and notation. Not all will agree, and performers who are not involved in the specialists’s expertise may well be distracted from perfor­mances. There are too many attempts at complete editions: it’s better to publish other composers for whom there is less access. But no complaints about this volume. It concludes with a 50-page list of Marenzio’s works and 13 pages of indexes. The cover is elegant, but 1.780 kg is rather an effort to hold. It has 527 pp, the height of an A4 sheet, and only fractionally less wide.

Clifford Bartlett

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Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession

by Ian Bostridge
Faber and Faber, 2014
528 pp, £20.00
ISBN 9780571282807

The shocking impact on its first hearers of Schubert’s Winterreise is well documented; his friends were ‘dumb­founded’ by the overwhel­ming power of the grief expressed in the 24 settings of Wilhelm Muller’s poems. It is hugely popular today, but you have to prepare yourself for a performance – rather like going to King Lear – and Bostridge notes that silence usually follows the closing song, The Hurdy-Gurdy Man… the “sort of silence that otherwise only a Bach Passion can summon up”.

This guide to its grip on us, by someone as experienced in singing it and as authoritative about its background as Ian Bostridge, is a most welcome arrival. The book looks at each song in order, giving the text in the original German and then in translation, after which Bostridge explores its historical context then finding “new and unexpected connections – both contemporary and long dead – literary, visual, psychological, scientific and political”. There is a refreshing lack of musical analysis which will recommend him to the general reader, but his wide knowledge of history and art and above all his personal engagement with this great work as an ‘obsessed’ singer make his insights absolutely fascinating.

The range of associations, anecdotes and illustrations make the book an unfolding treasury: behind the songs are perhaps the failed love and dread of approaching death of the tragically young composer, and the repression and censorship of the Biedermeier world of Schubert and his friends.

But they were written in the wake of the “Winter journey to end all winter journeys”, Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow, which Bostridge describes in horrifying detail. This is linked to much later history… for example, the first performance by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, given when he was a schoolboy on January 30th 1943 and interrupted by a British bombing raid. The terrible conditions of the trenches in Stalingrad are considered, and Bostridge imagines German officers and soldiers listening to a recording made by Hans Hotter: “the Winterreise might have been a consoling companion in that other winter journey in 1942, abstract emotions allowing an escape from the concrete”

More contemporary resonances are struck with C. S. Lewis, Krapp’s Last Tape, Bob Dylan and Amy Winehouse. There are some unique insights given into 19th century marriage laws in Austria, and into changing attitudes to tears and weeping. Snippets of autobiography, illustrating the writer’s own journey, are revealing and touching.

Ian Bostridge’s scholarship and mastery of such a wide range of material (the bibliography alone runs to 10 pages) is hugely impressive but his touch is light; this is immensely readable, enjoyable and enlightening. His ‘obsession’ reaches out to the mind and heart of the reader, ensuring a much deeper response to this transcendental work.

Cathy Martins

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The Musical Life of Joseph Martin Kraus…

by Bertil H. Van Boer
Indiana University Press, 2014.
[viii] + 371 pp, $55.99.
ISBN 978 0 253 01274 6

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]s someone who has long enjoyed listening to Kraus’s music, it has come as something of a disappointment that he seems to have been a rather unlikeable person. Most of the letters that comprise the first part of this volume are full of requests for money from his parents, and complaints about his lot in life; of course, these are very real considerations for all of us, and it makes it all the more remarkable that he chose to strive to make a musical career rather than become the lawyer his parents would have preferred. And while reading the letters, one constantly has to put on one’s Jane Austen hat and try to understand what he writes in the context of the period – not to mention all the arcane references he shares with his family. In this one is sometimes aided by Van Boer’s footnotes to the 116 letters, but some of his comments are fairly pointless (“The promised piece of music is unidentified”, Letter 54, note 2 is but one example of notes dedicated to mysterious people and things), while others are contentious (discussing the Handel Centenary that Kraus attended in London in 1785, “Presumably the Dettingen “Te Deum,” not the Utrecht “Te Deum.”,” Letter 77, note 2 – need one speculate at all, I would ask).

The book has four appendices, devoted to the composer’s will (and a discussion of the value and dispersal of his estate), and three sets of letters written to Fredrik Silverstolpe (Kraus’s first biographer) – 11 from members of the family and the answers to two questionnaires he had sent them, three that the family had asked Kraus’s former teachers to write and nine from the composer Roman Hofstetter, who was one of the young Kraus’s major influences. The latter tells Silverstolpe (among other things) that “the late Herr Kraus had for the most part nothing good to say about Italian composers”; from his own letters, it seems this extended to the majority of French and German composers, too.

I suppose the real value of this volume (aside from the many titbits of information about travel and postage in the late 18th century) is the insight it gives into the daily drudgery of composers’ lives at this time, constantly struggling to make ends meet, and at the beck and call of fickle royal employers (in Kraus’s case constantly at risk of being ousted by one or other of the factions at the Swedish court); it makes it all the more remarkable that he produced such beautiful music.

Brian Clark

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Messiah: Understanding and Performing Handel’s Masterpiece

by Helmuth Rilling in collaboration with Kathy Saltzman Romey
Carus-Verlag (CV F 24.070), 2015.
128pp, €16.50.
ISBN 978 3 89948 223 2.

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his strikes me as the work of an old-fashioned conductor born in 1933 – six years older than me. However, I kept my eyes on the musicology, and was refreshed when the early-instrument movement became common. I sang the work regularly in my teens, at first in the old-fashioned way from the Novello Prout edition of 1902 and later in the over-marked Watkins Shaw edition of 1959. Later I played continuo in the more fashionable style, generally reading from a complete score. I was honoured to be asked to produce a new edition of Messiah by Oxford University Press, published in 1998.[note]My Oxford University Press full-score edition of 1998 lists the 1754 and 1758 payments and parts on p. viii. The premiere in Dublin probably had 20 singers from the two Dublin choirs of Christ Church and St Patrick’s Cathedral. The 1749 must have been larger forces, both for choir and instruments, the latter having senza & con ripieno: there’s no such evidence for the later performances.[/note] I haven’t done any work on it since then.

Rilling has some good points, especially in pointing to Jennens’ complex and skilful arrangement of the Biblical text to inspire the composer. But two basic points are not discussed. (a) How many singers are appropriate for a choir? Information from the Foundling Hospital in the mid 1750s gives fairly accurate details of the forces concerned. I’m surprised that Rilling did not quote them – around 13 singers including soloists: perhaps stage performances may have had a few more singers. Rilling gives no attempts of the size of the choir or the orchestra, yet he quotes specific smaller groups without relating them to the full-scale modern orchestras that he seems to anticipate. (b) What pitch is being used? Rilling comments on high parts without referring to the lower semitone pitch, which must make some difference. And (c) he misunder­stands the presence of dynamics. The general indication of volume in the period is that the opening of a movement uses the full forces played with confidence, but piano is basically to make oboes and bassoons silent and the strings play at a lower level (though not necessarily as soft as piano).

In fact, Rilling fails by adding markings other than those that are obvious for the score but not necessarily for individual forte and piano. What he needs to think about is the shaping of individual phrases. That’s why there are so few indications of musicality within music of the period. More important than marking dynamics is the shaping of the phrase. The first Accompagnato begins with four bars of strings. The dynamic is quite low (but not low enough to warrant piano). The tenor enters on the chord in bar 4 with Com-fort ye. This has three notes: the singer requires presence, but not particularly high volume. The other half of the bar – for two violins & viola – contrasts, but the absence of a bass makes it plausible to keep the strings at a moderate volume: the two sounds are different but the strings do not need to be echoes. Bar 5 starts with the strings, but con Rip (added in 1749) implying a louder volume, but probably not a forte.[note]The OUP edition has included f and p where there are con & senza ripieno marks; Carus omits f and p.[/note] The voice enters on a top E on the second minim, with a longer phrase: Comfort ye my people. The long Com– should have a brief accent from the first letter (C), then cutting back lower at once followed by a crescendo –om– then lightening fort, semiquaver #f and #g, continuing noticeably to ye my leading slightly on to the semiquaver at the end of the bar ye, ending the phrase with a slight rise on the first note of bar 7 people, followed by diminuendo. Throughout there’s a vast pattern of shaping small phrases.

Similarly, choruses should sing in the same way. The opening of the Hallelujah Chorus presents problems since the crucial word has no fixed stress. Bars 4 & 5 make sense with a strong first syllable, but more plausible is accenting the third syllable in bar 6, but in bar 7 the strong point is the first note in the bar again, with a slight diminuendo for the strings to follow more quietly. I’m not necessarily following the accents on the Hallelujahs; they need to be shaped.

This sort of detail is rare. I think that the shaping of most baroque music is discovered within the phrases, without dynamics that became essential in the 19th century, and we eventually find modern 20th-century scores that can have a separate dynamic on and between each note – let alone pieces that flippantly have dynamics in silent bars! There’s too much about size and volume, while the shaping of phrases is ignored. It is ironic that the Carus edition (55.056) of 2009, by Ton Koopman and Jan H. Siemons is recommended by Rilling, but is more in accord with earlier editions over shortening upbeats. Rilling needs to be much more subtle. The premiere of my edition was given by the Huddersfield Choral Society for the famous Christmas events. The choir was quite large, the orchestra a substantial chamber orchestra, a big organ, a packed audience and a marvellous conductor who hadn’t played the piece before. The musical style isn’t entirely dependent on the size of the choir. Rilling oversimplifies by not commenting on different forces – both size and whether modern or early instruments.

However, the remarks on each number will encourage conductors and performers to think about the work, even if it is rather too general and often repetitive.

Clifford Bartlett

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