Music in the Venetian Countryside at the Time of Tiepolo

Perhaps not many people know that in eighteenth-century Italy the history and use of wind instruments, as well as their construction, were strongly overshadowed by the spread and production of string instruments, thanks to the renowned lutherie of which Italy was so proud. For wind instruments, on the other hand, this quality was the preserve of France, England and Germany, nations which in their excellent builders and representatives, names such as Hotteterre, Stanseby and Denner, for the late-baroque period, and Delusse, Milhouse and Grenser for the classical period, contributed to creating hordes of skilled instrumentalists but more importantly led most transalpine composers to insert wind instruments ad abbundantiam in many of their scores to say nothing of writing specific compositions for bands of oboes and flutes.

This negligence may be understandable, but the fact that we still know little about the life of wind instruments in the “Age of Enlightenment” is quite unforgivable. We cannot indeed underestimate the ample collection of pieces of instrumental music written by Vivaldi in which wind instruments appear, nor the remarkable international reputation of oboists like Giuseppe Sammartini, Alessandro Besozzi and Matteo Bissoli.

The city, and in a more ample view the Republic of Venice can boast a leading role in the evolution of instrumental music for wind instruments, such that we may define it as “a pedagogic province” for the rest of Italy. The music publishing of the Venice region, contributed to the overall growth of cultural life. Indeed, it is possible to find an extraordinary likeness between the musical instruments built in Venice and those depicted in the great painting of Baschenis, Tiepolo, Bellini, Tintoretto, Guardi, Belloto and many others.

Trio sonatas and sonatas (let us remember that the term is derived from the Venetian sonada) composed by musicians coming from or trained in the Venetian area, who were however obliged to emigrate abroad or enter into contact with many instrumentalists, especially foreigners, who undoubtedly gave them the input for writing these scores. In particular our attention has focused on the oboe and its natural bass, the bassoon, two double-reed instruments that became popular in Italy in the early eighteenth century. The oboe, invented in France between 1660 and 1680, soon found its place in many European musical centres, gradually replacing many double-reed instruments like the bombard and the cialamello, thanks to a mouthpiece which allowed for better control of the reed, a softer more dynamic sound, as well as better agility of technique. In Venice especially, and as a result in much of the inland territory of the Venetian area, the oboe was introduced by French and German virtuosi, replacing the “piffaros”, instruments that had now become outdated.

It was in 1698 that the Ducal Capella of San Marco’s dismissed its last cornet player and at the same time appointed Onofrio Penati, probably the first oboist of the Venetian Republic, who was paid the highest salary of the entire orchestra. We should not forget that in 1716 Vivaldi dedicated his demanding oboe sonata RV 54 in C minor to the virtuoso from Dresden Johann Christian Richter, and that the first oboe teacher at the Ospedale della Pietà in 1703 was Ignazio Rion, of French or perhaps Spanish origin. At the end of 1705 Rion left for Rome where he introduced the “new hautbois” and thus won the esteem of composers like Caldara, Alessandro Scarlatti and the young Handel.

Another German instrumentalist who stayed and worked in Venice was Ludwig Erdmann. The Venetian oboe school also became important through the contribution of some of the “putte”, orphan girls, at the Pietà, amongst whom we remember the “Pellegrina dell’oboe” [The Pilgrim of the oboe], and the school spread thanks to many Italian instrumentalist who worked in orchestras in various theatres, like the “Gioseppe venetiano” immortalized in a caricature of Ghezzi.

The bassoon, on the other hand, was the only wind instrument used uninterruptedly in the Venetian tradition from the early 1600s, if not before. Although it was then used and associated with the cornet à bouquin, it nonetheless acquired important reflections in the writing of many scores, a fact that leads us to suppose that its technical and expressive qualities had already become well known. Despite this the construction of the 18th-century bassoon was quite different from the previous version: it was made up of four separate pieces, with three or four keys for stopping the holes and called for quite a different fingering technique from its predecessor. We do not know clearly when the shift from one instrument to the other came about, and indeed the name fagotto (bassoon) remained unchained (it is only in modern parlance that we define the earlier instrument as a dulcian, to distinguish it from the real bassoon). And again it was Vivaldi who wrote thirty-nine concertos for this instrument.

The composers (like Platti, Brescianello, Steffani, Lotti or Montanari) had contact with the Venetian Republic, through birth, studies or visits, and were all attracted to the special beauty of the timbre and peculiarities of these wind instruments. As they migrated across Europe, many of them later came into contact with virtuosi or simple instrumentalists who probably encouraged them to write for instrumental ensembles that were unusual and rarely catered for by other Italian composers. The presence of two oboes and a concertante bassoon is indeed typical of the music culture in northern Europe, and of Dresden in particular (see Lotti), other examples of this type of work are rare in many Italian composers of the eighteenth century and rarer in the following centuries.

Giuseppe Nalin

Galuppi: Mass for St Mark’s, 1766

When, on the strength of his fame throughout Europe, Catherine II invited Baldassare Galuppi to her court in St Petersburg, the composer was most reluctant to make the long journey and only changed his mind after Venetian diplomats got round the problem by assuring him that his acceptance would not involve forfeiting either his position as maestro di cappella at St Mark’s or the regular payment of his salary between 1765 and 1768, provided that he supplied a Gloria and a Credo for the Christmas Mass (one of the most elaborate services in the church calendar) each year during his absence.

It was traditional at St Mark’s to adapt the form of the Mass itself to the requirements of worship, but also to conditions more peripheral to the performance: the Kyrie had to be composed by the first organist, the Gloria and Credo by the maestro di cappella, the Sanctus and Agnus Dei were ideally replaced by a motet and an instrumental composition, while the Proper of the Mass was still intoned in plainsong according to the patriarchal rite. The fact that the composition of the Kyrie was entrusted to the first organist shows just how important the role was; the post was viewed not simply as one carrying performance responsibilities, but as an apprenticeship for a possible future appointment as maestro di cappella, which was precisely the course of events in the career of Ferdinando Giuseppe Bertoni. The Kyrie was, however, considered to be a section of relatively minor importance, so its preparation was often more hasty and, naturally, the various manuscript sources that preserve such pieces have become separated from those in which the other two movements of the Ordinary are to be found. The manuscripts of the 1766 and 1767 Christmas Masses are still extant, conserved in Genoa. Galuppi must have provided for the 1765 celebration before leaving for Russia, and by 1768 he was back in Venice. The advantages of his prestigious new post are emphasized on the frontispiece of the Mass:

First Master and Director of all the Music for Her Imperial Majesty the Empress of/all the Russias, etc. etc. and First Master of the Ducal Chapel/of St Mark’s in Venice.

Shortly before Christmas 1766, the cappella ducale [musicians in the pay of the duke] had undergone a substantial reform. Usually attributed to Galuppi, this was in all probability (as has been noted on several previous occasions) the work of Gaetano Latilla, the assistant maestro. The musical bodies were completely restructured, leading to many of the musicians being pensioned off. To the twenty-four remaining singers, distributed equally among the four conventional sections, the following instruments were added: a pair of flutes, oboes, horns and trumpets, a solo violin, twelve rank and file violins, six violas, four cellos and four violoni, or bass viols. The institutionally most important posts were held by Latilla (assistant maestro but in overall charge during Galuppi’s absence) and the organists Bertoni (first organ), Alvise Tavelli (second organ), and Alessandro Maccari and Domenico Bettoni who played the organs in the palchetti.

The autograph manuscript shows the Mass structured in the two movements Gloria and Credo. The division of these two prayers is wholly conventional, the Gloria much more expansive than the Credo where the greater conciseness brings with a gain in textual clarity suited to the importance attributed by Catholic tradition to this major declaration of faith. The Gloria has a freer structure, with the text divided theatrically into ten short verses varied in character. The ‘Gloria’, the ‘Gratias agimus tibi’ and the ‘Suscipe’ are all choral, each with a different tempo marking, the first being Andante spiritoso, the second Largo, the third Allegro. The remaining seven sections feature solo parts, the soloists almost always specified by name in the manuscript, Pacchierotti and Rolfi were allocated the ‘Domine Deus’ and ‘Cum Sancto Spiritu’, Santi the ‘Qui tollis’, Pacchierotti the ‘Qui sedes’, Rolfi and De Mezzo the ‘Quoniam’.

The manuscript of the Christmas Mass is a rich source of information for anyone interested in the exact deployment of individual performers at St Mark’s. As already noted, the twenty-four choristers and thirty-five instrumentalists occupied the spaces beside the first and second organs, where they must have been uncomfortably cramped. The two palchetti, temporary wooden structures placed above the Sansovino galleries, provided additional space. Removed in 1952, they accommodated an organ and organist, a cello and violone, which meant that the four groups of these instruments could be distributed among the four musical locations to provide an indispensable wholeness suited to the realization of the continuo. An examination of the original parts, dating from the second half of the eighteenth century and still preserved in St Mark’s archives, yelds confirmation of the arrangement. The cello and violone parts carry the added annotation ‘organo I’, ‘organo II’ and ‘palchetto’. There cannot have been more than one or two singers in each palchetto, as it would have been impossible to fit more more than four or five musicians (not forgetting the bulky instruments) into a space which, being just below the vaulted roof, had very limited headroom. The most logical arrangement for the Gloria would have been to place Latilla, Bertoni, Cozzini and Santi (the manuscript expressly states that these last two were altos) in the chantry of the first organ, naturally along with a substantial part of the orchestra and choir; Tavelli, a cello and a violone plus the rest of the orchestra and choir in the chantry of the second organ; Bertoni, De Mazzo (bass), a cello and a violone in the palchetto on the left side; and Pacchierotti (male soprano), Rolfi (alto), Maccari, a cello and a violone in the palchetto on the right side (in line with the second organ, within sight of the chantry of the first), alternating the contributions of the soloists housed in each of these fou chantries.

As we can now see, there was ample scope here for flexibility, the solos (‘Laudamus te’, ‘Domine Fili’, ‘Qui sedes’) and ensemble pieces (e.g. ‘Domine Deus’) being framed by those calling for the customary tutti, resulting in a thrilling theatricality to which all the performers were well accustomed. Among them, Gaspare Pachierotti is certainly the most interesting. Born in Fabriano in 1740, he was on the threshold of a great career as a soprano; he was not only to perform in the most important theatres in Italy and abroad but, lending even greater prominence to his technical and interpretative gifts, would achieve equally well-deserved fame as a teacher. The other names mentioned are those of the bass Pietro De Mezzo, also well known as a teacher of etiquette in the Venetian ospedali: the alto Pasquale Cozzini (who also in 1766 sang the role of Amasi in Pietro Alessandro Guglielmi’s Sesoseri at San Salvatore); and the alto Pietro Santi (who took the part of Farnaspe in Antonio Mazzoni’s Adriano in Siria at the San Samuele in 1760 and that of Olinto in Antonio Gaetano Pampani’s Demetrio at the San Benedetto in 176). That Galuppi’s claim to having an expert knowledge of voices was fully justified is confirmed here by the choice of parts he allocated to Pacchierotti, who sang the ‘Domine Deus’ (with Francesco Rolfi) and the ‘Qui sedes’, the sections which are far and away the most passionate, though the term may seem disrespectful in a liturgical context) in the whole Mass.

Franco Rossi (2003)

Songs by Antonio Salieri

Common knowledge is still apt to associate, quite unjustly, Antonio Salieri (1750-1825) name with the legend of his enmity with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, even though in his own time this Italian composer was a highly respected figure, Salieri was a bridge between members of several generations: a successor of Fux, Gassman and Gluck, he witnessed the career of Mozart, his brilliant colleague, he was acquainted with many artists and scholars of the 18th and the early 19th centuries, and he taught composing and singing to the greatest figures of the generation born between 1770 and 1810 such as Beethoven, Schubert, Czerny, Hummel and Liszt. That he hated and poisoned Mozart is a quite groundless accusation made by the romantic posterity fascinated by the divine Mozart. Mozart himself, for instance, recorded that on a performance of the Magic Flute Salieri broke out in rapturous “bravos” after each number. He was highly respected by his pupils, Schubert, who studied with him between 1812 and 1817 dedicated several works to him.

Salieri began his musical studies in Venice at the Cathedral of St. Mark, and then he was taken by L. Gassmann, who noticed his talent, to Vienna. He was to spend most of his life there. His most important genre as a composer was the opera; his works were highly acclaimed in Paris as well as Vienna. He served for more than fifty years in the Viennese court; within this period, he was the emperor’s court conductor for thirty-six years, exerting his influence over the whole musical life of Vienna. Besides operas, he also wrote church music, oratorios, cantatas, chamber music and orchestral works as well as smaller vocal pieces. The latter category includes more than seventy songs, most of them written as entertainment for domestic celebrations. His activities as a singing teacher are reflected, in addition, in twenty-eight vocal exercices without text. In his heart, Salieri remained a composer of the old opera school, and thus his chief means of expression was always, in all kinds of compositions, the human voice, the singable melody. His songs are in Italian, German and French. Since the development of the song genre took quite diverging routes in each language territory, Salieri’s pieces are written in three different styles.

Perhaps because it was his mother tongue, or because of his career as an opera composer, most of Salieri’s songs are in Italian. In Italy, after monody gained ground, the opera became the leading genre, and thus the song with piano accompaniment has never really come into prominence. As in Salieri’s case, such vocal compositions were mainly for home entertainment, and they had almost all the characteristic features of the opera aria.

Such songs as Ch’io mai, Oh che felici, Conservati fedele, Tornate sereni or Gia la notte may almost be regarded as excercises in vocal techniques, Salieri utilizes almost be regarded as exercises in vocal techniques, Salieri utilizes all opportunities to adorn these works with embellishments, passages and cadenzas whose virtuoso solution is entrusted to the performer. A similar technical skill is required in the songs Bei labbri, Caro son tua and Abbiam penato e mer, which are, both in their technical features and their recapitulation form, closely related to the Da capo arias so popular in the old opera school. The Ode and La Grotta is in fact Efelia’s aria from Salieri’s opera La Grotta di Trofonio first performed in Vienna in 1785, while the is a scena whose dramatic quality is enhanced by the recitative inserted in the aria. Salieri set to music the poem In questa tomba twice. Although he composed a passionate accompaniment for the longer version, the shorter one attains a stronger dramatic effect through its very simplicity.

The number of Salieri’s songs to French and German texts is roughly the same. The development of the genre in French- and German-speaking areas differed from the Italian path. By the late 19th century the solo song for piano accompaniment called Lied in German and mélodie in French became prevalent in the vocal music of both regions. In Salieri’s time, however, these genres were still in a rudimentary stage. In France the mélodie developed from the romance, a very simple genre, always in a strophic form, aiming at naturalness. Salieri’s songs Adieux au bon pay de Pannonie and Ce que je désire undoubtedly belong to the romances. Both are strophic, simple and graceful, without a hint the operatic clichés of his songs in Italian. Il est un mal, on the other hand, is rather to be seen as a mélodie: it was probably written later than the previous two. Its interesting harmonic turns deliberated consistently throughout the form elicit a surprisingly dramatic effect. However, since in Salieri’s age the mélodie had not yet reached such a high level, this work was clearly more influenced by the German Lied, which had by this time such great representatives as Salieri’s student, Schubert.

A major influence on the emergence of the German composed song was the German folksong, which is also characterized by simplicity and a strophic structure. Der Zufriedene (1816), Maylied and Wie ist mir basically mediate this atmosphere. The latter is an aria from Leopold von Auenbrugger’s three-act musical comedy, Der Rauchfangkehre (1781), whose music was composed by Salieri. An die zukünftige Geliebte was written in Leipzig. The virtuoso, embellished character typical for the vocal style of Salieri’s almost every song appears here mainly in the fortepiano part.

Éva Rita Nagy

Marcello: Requiem

Benedetto Marcello’s place in history of Venetian music is not easily defined. Born into an old patrician family, he described himself in his youth as an ‘amateur contrapuntist’. Throughout his life he held a variety of important posts in judicial and administrative departments of the Venetian Republic, becoming a member of the Council of Forty, then Provveditore of Pola and finally Camerlengo at Brescia, where he died in 1739.

Today, when we think of Venetian music in the first half of the eighteenth century, we think immediately of Vivaldi, a priest but primarily a professional musician. The rediscovery, and ever-expanding popularity of Vivaldi, which has been a phenomenon of the twentieth century, has all but eclipsed the reputation of Marcello; yet the latter enjoyed the esteem of Bach, Telemann, Locatelli, Avison and Goethe, and later that of Cherubini, Rossini and Verdi. Once, the ‘Nobile Veneto’, the ‘Venetian Aristocrat’, was considered one of the musical glories of Italy on a par with Palestrina and Pergolesi. He was admired for his skilful counterpoint, his masterly attention to the words of the texts he set, the noble simplicity of his melodies.

For the past few decades, however, all these considerations seem to have faded into the background so completely that Marcello’s place in history of music appears to rest primarily upon his famous satirical pamphlet, Il teatro alla moda, about the evils of the contemporary theatre. Even his great work, Estro poetico-armonico (1724-6), comprising settings of the first fifty psalms paraphrased in Italian, has been somewhat neglected.
The current marginalisation of Marcello by writers on music history, compilers of concert programmes and by record companies, is possibly the result of his unusual relationship with the major Venetian musical institutions. His music was never played in St Mark’s, in the hospitals or the theatres of his native city, but only in the great houses and the salons of the aristocracy.

An interesting exception to this is his setting of sacred Latin texts. From its specifically liturgical nature, it is obvious that this music was intended for use in church, and certainly not in domestic situations nor in the private societies known as accademie.

Unfortunately we do not know when, where, nor for what specific occasion Marcello composed his fine Requiem for soloists, two choirs, strings and continuo. A biography of Marcello written in the late-eighteenth century by a great admirer of the composer, Giovenale Sacchi, only tells us that “Marcelo also set other sacred Latin texts: ...the Miserere Psalm... and three Masses, one accompanied by violins, the other two only basses and organ.’

We cannot exclude the possibility that this Mass ‘accompanied by violins’ was in reality the Requiem in G minor. Sacchi implies that these settings belong to Marcello’s final creative period, when the composer was obsessed with ‘self-canonisation’. The most plausible dating places it between 1728 and 1733, years in which the composer, having achieved a high degree of technical competence and an intense religious awareness, was devoting himself to his final musical utterances. Similarities between parts of the Requiem and the final chorus of his oratorio Joaz (1727) would appear to support this theory also from a stylistic point of view. These were the last years Marcello spent in his native city.

We also know that the composer was in contact with the organist of the Santi Apostoli and the parish church of Santa Sofia, two Venetian churches only a stone’s throw from Palazzo Marcello. Sacchi tells us that “the composer donated these last works to the Church of Santa Sofia... where they were performed many times: but then the manuscripts fell into the hands of someone who, placing a higher value upon money than upon good music, sold them to an Englishman who knew their worth, and thus they are no longer to be found in Venice.’

This explains why the manuscript of the Requiem is now in the archives of the British Library in London. It is greatly to be hoped that this work, one of those that best reveal the originality and artistic strength of Marcello, may spark off a modern renaissance for Benedetto Marcello.

Marco Bizzarini

"Il mondo alla rovescia" by Antonio Salieri

For more than twenty-five years now the popular image of Antonio Salieri has taken on the resentful personality given to him by Fahrid Murray Abraham in Milos Forman’s film Amadeus (1984), inspired by the play of the same name by Peter Shaffer (1978), in turn loosely based in Pushkin’s Mozart and Salieri (1832). Anyone who has seen Shaffer’s drama knows that in the film Salieri’s character is softened in a certain sense. But the American actor was, however, extraordinary is rendering a perfidious, hypocritical Salieri, bigoted and sensual, dominated by resentment of the musical excellence, which he finds incomprehensible, of a silly, naïve young Mozart. The film, in itself highly successful, has only one defect: it presents a Salieri (and in many aspects also a Mozart) that never existed. It is a brilliant invention, fascinating and persuasive in its way, freely inspired by real events and characters. Unfortunately the distinction between true and false is becoming increasingly blurred in today’s society, and the results of scholars who work all their lives to ascertain certainties that everybody can share may take decades to gain general acceptance: a well-devised, successful film may have a stronger influence on popular opinions than a thousand well-documented, unchallengeable specialist studies, and in some aspects once the damage is done it takes years to undo it. Salieri indeed has been waiting for nearly two hundred years to have his name cleared, since the suspicion that he eliminated Mozart started to circulate in the 1820s. Paradoxically, Milos Forman’s film did increase his popularity, albeit negatively – if we are to accept Oscar Wilde’s maxim that the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. If it had not been for Forman’s Amadeus, we might not have had the enormous international success of a CD like the one Cecilia Bartoli dedicated to the musician from Legnago. What is absolutely certain is that Salieri neither killed Mozart nor did anything to speed his demise on.

Listening to Salieri’s music, and in this particular instance, to an opera which has been exhumed after over two hundred years’ oblivion like Il mondo alla rovescia, we immediately find analogies with the language of Mozart’s operas on librettos by Lorenzo Da Ponte. Mozart died on the night between 4th and 5th December 1791; Il mondo alla rovescia was first staged at the Burgtheater in Vienna on 13th January 1795; ergo, according to a dubious syllogism sustained by mere chronological order and no other real element of support, the opera was influenced by Mozart – a truth that is too obvious, too banal, one about which the Hercules Poirots of musicology who have investigated Salieri’s production as a whole might reasonably have plenty of things to say. For over thirty years, in fact, Salieri was one of the foremost figures of theatrical life in Vienna, and clearly could not have been if he had not been endowed with an authentic original musical talent, capable then of defining his own style and personal artistic physiognomy. In reality, the problem of the reciprocal influence of the two composers, Mozart and Salieri, still needs to be clarified to a great extent, and we can certainly not exclude the possibility that at times it was the composer from Salzburg who absorbed some of the Italian musician’s expressive features or manners.

The libretto of Il mondo alla rovescia. Written by Caterino Mazzolà (Langarone, 1745 – Venice, 1806), dates back to 1779, when its title was L’isola capricciosa; it was a work based on an old libretto by Carlo Goldoni, Il mondo alla roversa ossia Le donne che comandano, a burlesque music drama performed in the glorious, old theatre of San Cassiano in Venice, now close to demolition, in autumn 1750 with music by Baldassare Galuppi. In the new version the libretto changed its title but not the original features that Mazzolà had given it, and added to Goldoni’s plot a strong enlightenment element not lacking in a good dose of anticlericalism probably of Voltairean derivation that is wholly lacking in Goldoni. With the desecrating character of the reversal of men and women’s traditional roles, which at the time stirred no little perplexity, this was probably one of the reasons why Salieri’s opera was not well received. Indeed, Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte itself had been subjected to abundant moralistic censure in its own time and even today, especially in the German and Anglo-Saxon world, there are some who raise doubts about the quality of Da Ponte’s libretto, as absurd as this might seem.

Producing the Il mondo alla rovescia was not a simple task it seems. In the libretto which presented the opera written for the Lganago theatre, Elena Biggi Parodi writes that “the musician surely wrote the aris thinking about a cast with different vocal abilities and characteristics from those of the singers who then performed the opera”. There are in fact numerous differences between the libretto and the various musical sources of the opera which lead us to suppose that, after an original drafting, Salieri modified and substituted several pieces, adapting them to the vocal cast that sang at the première on 13th January 1795; a cast that included the bass Peter Mazzoni in the role of the “Generala”, Irene Timeoni as the “Colonnella”, Anna Gassmann as the Adjutant Major, and then in the other roles Therese Gassmann (the Marquise), Giovanni Prada (Amaranto), Carlo Angrisani (the Count), Felice Angrisani (the commander of the European ships) and Gaetano Lotti (Girasole).

Danilo Prefumo

The Squarcialupi Codex

The Squarcialupi Codex is the largest and unquestionably the most beautifully produced manuscript anthology of Italian music compliled in Florence during the first two decades of the Quattrocento. The manuscript contains over three hundred songs – madrigals, ballatas and caccias – of which almost half are unique to this source; the repertory represents many of the well-known Trecento song composers, from the earliest generation writing towards the middle of the fourteenth century to composers still active in the first decades of the Quattrocento. Fourteen individual author sections, each headed by a portrait of the composer represented, proceed in roughly chronological order: Giovanni da Cascia, Jacopo da Bologna, Ghirardello da Firenze, Vincenzo da Rimini, Lorenzo Masini, Paolo Tenorista, Donato da Firenze, Niccolò da Perugia, Bartolino da Padova, Francesco Landini, Egidio and Guglielmo da Fancia, Zacara da Teramo, Andrea dei Servi, and Giovanni Mazzuoli. Recent art-historical research helps secure the origin of the miniatures and lavish decorative work in the Florentine scriptorium of Santa Maria degli Angeli in the years ca. 1410-1415. 

Significantly, the collection offers unprecedented coverage of the compositions of mid-century Florentine repertory – works by Ghirardello, Lorenzo, Donato, Vincenzo, and Niccolò, as was as Francesco Landini’s younger contemporaries, Bartolino da Padova and Andrea di Servi. Even more impressive is the hight number of otherwise unknown works here atributed to Francesco Landini himself, despite efforts to record his operas in earlier Florentine anthologies now housed in the national libraries of Florence, Paris, and London. 

Quite clearly, the Squarcialupi Codex documents a most ambitious undertaking on the part of early fifteenth-century Florentine compilers to assemble the native high-art music repertory of the Trecento; it is in a real sense a late medieval edition of music that combines meticulous planning, comprehensive editorial considerations, and exquisite care and beauty in displaying its contents. 

The Codex at one time was in the library of the noted Florentine organist Antonio Squarcialupi (1417-1480), as is attested by the inscription on the opening leaf of the Codex: “Questo libro è di Moantonio di bartolomeo schuarcialupi, horganisto in santa maria del fiore”. The names of later owners include Giuliano de’ Medici. From there the volume passed into the Palatine Library, and at the end of the eighteenth century it was transferred together with other volumes to the Laurentian Library, where today it bears the call number Palatino 87 and still retains its elegant brown morocco binding over wooden boards acquired in the late Quattrocento.

Processional and Ceremonial Music by Giovanni Gabrieli

“…Gabrieli, immortal gods, how great a man! If loquacious antiquity had seen him, let me say it in a word, it would have set him above Amphions, or if the Muses loved wed-lock, Melpomene would have rejoiced in no other spouse…” – Heinrich Schütz

Visitors to Venice in the early years of the 17th century encountered a music of grandeur and an order of excellence unsurpassed in their experience. A musical forces involved in a performance (winds, strings and organs in addition to the voices) as he was astonished by the massive harmony produced by their combination. And an English visitor, Thomas Coryat, even more impressionable, reported of the music “both vocall and instrumental” that it was “so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super-excellent, that it was “so good, so stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like.” From Coryat we learn of the variety in the size of the musical ensembles, the diversity of the instruments employed therein, and something of the quality of the individual performers.

“Sometimes there sung sixteen or twenty men together, having their master or moderator to keepe them in order; and when they sung, the instrumental musitians played also. Sometimes sixeteene played together upon their instruments, ten Sagbuts, foure Cornets, and two Violdegambaes of an extra-ordinary greatness; sometimes tenne, sixe Sagbuts and foure Cornets; sometimes two, a Cornet and a treble viol. Of those treble viols I heard three severall there, whereof each was so good, especially one that I observed above the rest, that I never heard the like before. Those that played upon the treble viols, sung and played together, and sometimes two singular fellowes played together upon Theorboes, to which they sung also, who yielded admirable sweet musicke, but so still that they could scarce be heard but by those that were very neare them. These two Theorbists concluded that nights musicke, which continued three whole howers at the least. For they beganne about five of the clocke, and ended not before eight. Also it continued as long in the morning: at every time that every severall musicke played, the Organs, whereof there are seven faire paire in that room, standing al in a rowe together, plaied with them. Of the singers there were three or foure so excellent, that I thinke few or none in Christendome do excel them…”

Venice was a city of exuberant splendor, and the music that held visitor spellbound was an essential ingredient not only in the lavish secular entertainments, but also in the sumptuous religious celebrations that were so notable a part of the life of the city. Characteristically, du Val’s impressions were gained from a vespers service at the Church of the Holy Savior before the feast of Saint Theodore, while Coryat’s (quoted above) were based on a “festivitie.. solemnized to the honour of Saint Roch,” which feast, he tells us, “consisted principally of Musicke…” For the Venetian, the border that separated the religious from the secular seems frequently to have been blurred. In Venetian painting, one need only recall Bellini’s Procession in Saint Mark’s Square, or Veronese’s Marriage at Cana or his Feast at the House of Levi, to realize the infusion of secular pomp in the religious pageantry of the Venetians. As organist at St. Mark’s, Giovanni Gabrieli was a member of the Ducal Chapel. And as Denis Arnold observes: “The musicians of St. Mark’s are best seen not as servants of the church, but rather as being part of one of the most brilliant courts of Europe.” The work of Gabrieli is in large measure of a ceremonial character. “His motets,” remarks Arnold, “are nearly all settings of parts of the liturgy used on the great Venetian festivals – Christmas, Easter, the Ascension and St. Mark’s day.” As for some of Gabrieli’s other double choir music, Arnold conjectures that they were “perhaps written for the entertainments so popular during the term of office of the Doge Marino Grimani, played several times a year in the Palazzo Ducale.”

While St. Mark’s was not the only place where music for multiple choirs flourished, as a church whose galleries overlooked a vast interior space, it was singularly adapted to an impressive spatial arrangement of multiple choirs. The spatial component seems an especially important part of the aesthetics of Gabrieli’s polychoral practice, and the architecture of the church where he served as organist may well have provided a source for suggestion and a testing ground for experiment. Likewise, while the techniques of divided choir treatment neither originated nor ended with Gabrieli, his imagination in the exploitation of these techniques makes his work a veritable compendium of the polychoral style. More impressive than the techniques per se is the wide range of expressive purpose to which they are put. The surface of Gabrieli’s music reflects, to be sure, its once functional role as part of the pageantry of Venetian church ceremonial. But what survives in a modern resuscitation of his music an impressive relic of a curiously grandiloquent culture. “The grandiloquent man,” remarked George Eliot. “is never bent on saying what he feels or what he sees, but on producing a certain effect on his audience.” Impressing – indeed overpowering – an audience was by all means relevant to Gabrieli’s purposes, but the ceremonial strut, the pompous processional manner, is much ameliorated by moments of tender lyricism, and by a passion as urgent as it is inward. The splendor of the Nunc Dimittis must be balanced against the gentle purity of the Angelus ad Pastores and the inwardness of the O Jesu mi dulcissime. This balance in the range of expression caracterizes not only the music of Gabrieli, but also the work of the greatest of his pupils, Heinrich Schütz, whose tribute to the master serves as introduction to these notes.

Abraham Veinus

Claudio Monteverdi - Vespro della Beata Vergine

Claudio Monteverdi
Vespro della Beata Vergine (1610)

La Fenice
Jean Tubéry (dir.)

Clarinet Concertos by Weber and Crusell

One of the most imaginative, even revolutionary, musical pedagogues of the late eighteenth century was the German theorist Abbé Vogler, whose pupils included Crusell and Weber, as well as Meyerbeer. He was extremely well-travelled, and it was during a period in Stockholm that he gave the young Finnish-born Crusell his first lessons in composition. Crusell also studied in Paris, where his teachers included Gossec, and here, under the guidance of Xavier Lefèvre, he developed from being a skilful executant on the clarinet into a virtuoso. Crusell travelled widely, generally in the entourage of noble or moneyed patrons, and his first and third clarinet concertos are dedicated to two such patrons. Count Gustaf Trolle-Bonde and Crown Prince Oscar of Sweden and Norway. The stylistic eclecticism of Crusell’s music suggests a cosmopolitan outlook, and in these concertos there are echoes and hints of Mozart, Spohr and Beethoven. In the operatic buffo finale of N.º 1 the influence of Rossini is discernible, and the exuberant ‘Polish’ finale of N.º 3 in full of rustic fun. There are touches of Weber in the sparkling virtuosity of the outer movements.

Weber first came under the influence of Vogler in Vienna in 1803, and was subsequently helped by him to mount various concerts in Darmstadt in 1810. In Darmstadt he met the clarinetist Heinrich Baermann, and in March 1811 they shared a concert in Munich, where the Concertino was especially well received. This work, which has a slow introduction leading to a set of variations, so impressed the king that he immediately commissioned Weber to write two full-length concertos for Baermann. Deftly composed throughout, these works show Weber at his most characteristic in their slow movements and finales. In N.º 1 there is a distinctive moment when the soloist intones against solemn horn chords, and in N.º 2, prominent recitative lends the piece a decidedly operatic flavor – Weber was currently composing his Singspiel Abu Hassan (though his first operatic masterpiece, Der Freischütz, was not to be completed for another ten years). The finales of the concertos are designed as brilliant display vehicles for Baermann’s virtuosity.

Adélaïde de Place

The Concerto in Europe

Of the four concertos presented here (for harp, flute, cello and viola), only the flute regularly featured soloistically in the late eighteenth century. These four works also offer an unusual aspect of their authors’ work as each of the composers was best known in other musical fields: Paisiello and Grétry were opera composers, Stamitz was above all a symphonist, and Garth wrote mainly church music. The scale of each concerto indicates the relative importance of form, structure, melody and harmony, as was characteristic in each of the countries, and perhaps even suggests the lifestyle of the men who wrote and played the works.

It is unexpected therefore that, with the exception of the Englishman, all other composers travelled extensively outside their own countries to wherever their work took them. England was naturally cut off from the mainstream, and the interest of John Garth’s compositions (he actually wrote six cello concertos) must therefore be in their individual spirit, a natural but perhaps uncultivated vigour. The mainland European composers by contrast were subject to many influences, both musical and social, and this cross-fertilization surely had its effect. Did Paisiello try to popularize Italian music at the court of St Petersburg in 1776, and Carl Stamitz convert the same people to a Teutonic style in 1790, for example? Or did the courts simply like variety? Both Paisiello and Stamitz also went to Paris, which prided itself on being the great musical centre, and Grétry actually settled there.

Born in Liège with an eye for fame and fortune, Grétry learned his skills in Rome and quickly moved to the fashionable Parisian environment where he popularized the Italian style of opera. His mission was to enforce the expression of words by melody, and he was fortunate in making friends with influential literary men and in gaining powerful patrons. Paisiello was also treated with magnificence by Napoleon, but he determined to return from his travels to Naples, the home of natural song. His reputation was of course also built on his operas, of which there are at least a hundred, all of them musically charming and graceful, but simplistic.

We look to Germany to find the real home of instrumental music, and indeed to find an interest in abstract musical structure and the subsequent development of the concerto form. Carl Stamitz was the most famous of his Bohemian family, all of whom contributed to the innovations of the Mannheim School. To them we owe the development of instrumental expression, and hence of the orchestra itself as we know it today. Stamitz’s Concerto Op 1 for viola has gained a rightful place in the standard viola repertoire. In proportions both formal and musical, it is weighty as befits a composer of some seventy symphonies and a dozen other concertos. It makes use of an extended sonata-form first movement, allowing the viola full use of its expressive and virtuosic range. Interestingly, as if to balance the mellow sound of the viola, there are clarinets instead of oboes in the orchestra.

Paisiello’s concerto is one of a set of keyboard concertos, but adapts beautifully to the harp. Simple in form, it is rich in colour. Of its three movements, the second seems to make an emotional centre, emerging plaintively from an intimate stage, for which a setting is presented by the first movement, and which the last movement playfully offsets. Grétry’s concerto also reminds us, in the tuttis of the outside movements at least, of an operatic stage, but one in a rather different world. The music in C major is optimistic and determined, as were many of the operas Grétry wrote for Paris, and the role of the flute is that of a hero, or protagonist. We are left to speculate on the motivation for the concerto by the church-composer, John Garth. With its robust writing for the cello, it provides us with a good example of how concerto form in the eighteenth century developed from the Baroque concerto grosso.

[unknown author] (1987)


Atrium Musicologicum Copyright © 2011 Template created by Atrium Musicologicum Powered by Blogger