View Full Version : Historical mandolins and cultural preferences

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Dec-11-2003, 3:14am
I'm making a push to get this topic it's own subject heading since it is very interesting and worth pulling away from 'Stocking stuffers' lane.

The original subject had to do with which instrument is appropriate for a 'historical approach' performance of the Grand Sonata for Pianoforte with Mandolin (or Violin) by J.N. Hummel. I have argued for the use of the Neapolitan instrument of the time (gut strung E, brass or bronze wire for the A, twisted brass or bronze for the D and overspun gut (or silk) for the G (like violin G strings). We know for whom this sonata was written (not Bortolazzi, Cremonese mandolin virtuoso and the dedicatee of Hummel's concerto), but we do not know what specific instrument Malfatti played (he was a highly skilled amateur mandolinist, physician by profession). You'll have to swing back to 'Stocking Stuffers' for a full explanation. I quote Alex with his very interesting reply:

Thanks, Richard for your explanation.

It is - if we want to be purists here - unfortunately a very unclear matter. If maestro Hummel only had specified the type...

I can imagine that you think that now the metal strung Neapolitan mandolin is the best choise to play the Hummel Sonata.

But from 1790 up to 1840 the gut-strung mandolin was very much the prefered choise in northern Italy and Austria (Vienna).
In this light it is not surprising that (gut-strung) mandolinists like a.o. Vimercati (in connection with Rossini) and Bortolazzi concertised and lived in that town for longer or shorter periods.

Interestingly the number of gutstrung mandolins from that period that I have found in old Austrian (and in particular in Viennese-) and south-east German musical instrument collections, both private and public, excel easily to those in the same collections strung with metal strings (Roman or Neapolitan types).

I therefore have the strong impression that the Neapolitan mandolin was - most probably to it´s "twangly" (to quote Bortolazzi in his German language method published in 1805) sound caused by it being strung at that time with bronze harpsichord strings, a twisted second string pair and gut strings for the chanterelles) - not so much (or not at all(?)) favoured in Vienna.

Another reason in this matter to give more weight to the Cremonese mandolin with its single gut strings is the fact that this Italian mandolin type was actually made and improved by Viennese instrument makers of that period. I have found an excellent example made as late as 1827 and another one build even later. To me this indicates that from around 1795 up to about 1830 the modest Cremonese mandolin enjoyed a greater popularity than is in general thought. In any case people still played it and makers improved it. As you undoubtedly know the Cremonese mandolin was played with a quill made from a piece of wood from a cherry bark. I think you will be surprised about the volume that can be made with it on the mandolino Cremonese.

Perhaps it would be nice to know on what Pianoforte type Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837) composed his Sonata for Mandolin/Violin (±1810). Maybe he played a (comparatively leight) double strung "Hammerflügel" as made by the Viennese Johann Jakob Könnickes (1756-1811) or a later Viennese Grand Pianoforte by for instance Conrad Graf (1782-1851).

Interesting it is but we will perhaps never know for sure...


Not having had much contact at all with the collections (museums) in Germany and Austria, relying more on my own sources which appear much too biased, the claims Alex makes as to the dominance of the gut strung mandolins (Cremonese-Bortolazzi type or that of Vimercati), comes to me as a new information. However, irrespective of cherry bark plectrums and such, the historical reviews that I have read about these 2 celebrated players, do not lead me to believe that their instruments were noted for projection or volume of tone. That Bortolazzi would call the Neapolitan mandolin 'twangy' is obviously a personal bias from someone who had everything to gain for his stature by downtrodding another instrument's claim to the title of 'mandolino'. Reminds me of the debate between modern German and traditional Neapolitan mandolin types or, in the USA, Gibson versus the 'taterbug' type mandolins. I have fine examples of the late 18th century Neapolitan (with it's mixture of gut and brass strings), a milanese type (copy of Lambert), a Lombard late 19th century by Monzino. All played with identical plectrum (whatever type), it is more than clear that the Neapolitan instrument projects the most. As to twangy sound, I don't think so... it depends on the skill of the player and how well setup the instrument is.
For me, the real argument is 'predominance' of a given type of instrument or not. What I find so strange is the paucity of illustrations (paintings) of the cremonese type mandolin compared to the neapolitan at this time. Perhaps I've been looking in the wrong art galleries. After 1815 or so, I would say that the Neapolitan mandolin sort of tredded water until Bertucci, Munier and Queen Margarita and the Vinaccia clan rekindled interest in the Neapolitan type (about 1860). I would say that the rise in popularity and development of the guitar in the early years of the 19th century probably created the motivation to bring the mandolin into this esthetic and would have been one of the reasons for the switch. There is also the matter of tremolo (yes/no/maybe) which I have always argued for with the exception of certain mandolinist/composers who were specifically not enamoured with this technique (Denis, Leone for example). A single strung mandolin (gut or metal) sounds very dry and unconvincing with tremolo compared to the double course (strung) instruments. The Hummel sonata does not specify tremolo and could be played well without. However, the composer also imagined a violin playing the piece and the only way to create any sort of tonal modulationon a sustained note, other than a rapid dimimuendo, is with the tremolo. It also provides more distinction between the pianoforte and the mandolin (the two instruments can sometimes sound so much alike in certain passages).

The Hummel sonata was written at a pivotal point in the history of the mandolin, a parting shot as one vogue was transcended by another. My own feeling is that the Neapolitan instrument would better serve this music but it may well be that the Cremonese mandolin was the one played by Franc. Mora de Malfatti.

Plamen Ivanov
Dec-11-2003, 8:54am

Very interesting thoughts! I didn`t find any information in the booklet of Duilio Galfetti`s CD regarding the type of the mandolin, that he plays in this recording. Any idea about it? Probably it would be interesting to know also his opinion.

Good luck!

Dec-11-2003, 9:04am
But... ehm... Richard, some of us lowly pickers actually like the twang! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

I am not, of course, speaking of "twang" as in the sound of false, overly loose, poor quality strings buzzing and rattling like crazy; just of the sound inherent in the instrument. I know this is a feeble tautology but... you know what I mean.

*sigh* Just call me Mr. Tinkle. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif

Alex Timmerman
Dec-11-2003, 7:47pm
Hello Richard,

Let´s first clarify what you mean by (quote): "a milanese type (copy of Lambert)".

If you are talking about Jean Nicolas Lambert, a Parisian luthier who was active as such in the middle of the 18th century, I think you are talking about a Mandolino strung with double gut-strings.

There are only two Mandolinos known to have been made by him. The oldest was made in 1752 and the other - a less ornamentated example - in 1765.
Although build in a very personal design, both Mandolinos show the characteristic French style of the time.

As far as I know there are no makers with the name Lambert who made the Milanese mandolin type that was strung with single gut-strings.

Anyway, here something else: I have the conviction that if one really wants to compare the volume of the different mandolin types of a certain era it is best to first find out how they were played, with what or without and than play each type (for months) in the prescribed manners (as far as we know of course from early methods of the time.

This means: fingerstyle or played with a quill?

As I have already brought forward here many times the Mandolino was (mainly) played fingerstyle and since it is not really the subject here, I will first move on with a bit more on the required quills of the time:

An eighteen century quill, as was propagated by the first tutors of the Neapolitan mandolin (for instance by Gervasio, Corrette and Leoné), was made of the pen of a birds feather. Interestingly there were preferences for several kinds of quills as different birds were recommended: feathers of the raven by Fouchetti, ostrich by Leoné and hen by Corrette.

There is never the mentioning of a tortoiseshell plectrum like we know them today, so it is assumed that this firm and solid material was not chosen to make quills/plectra for the Neapolitan mandolin.
Instead of that kind of hard material we see that the much more flexible feathers of birds were preferred for reasons of tone quality. Words like ´pleasing´, ´sweet´, ´delicacy´, and ´melodious´ to express concern for tone quality [not to confuse with tone volume!] are often used in these old methods for the Neapolitan mandolin.
The required material for gut-strung mandolin types on the other hand, is wood. Both Bortolazzi for the Cremonese mandolin and Fouchetti for "mandolins entirely strung with gut strings", point out that quills made out of cherry bark wood is the best choice for these kind of mandolins.

Interestingly for the attentive reader Fouchetti makes in his Paris published tutor (1771), no distinction between the main gut-strung types of the time: the double strung Mandolino, the Cremonese- and the Milanese mandolin. But nevertheless, it is important that he and Bortolazzi give independently and more than 30 year apart from each other, their preference to the same kind of wood.
A material much more solid and rigid when compared to the thin pen of a bird feather and that produces - when a gut string (or string pair) is hit with it - a firm, round and direct tone with a sound can be surprisingly full and loud in volume.

Fouchetti is very clear about the precise number of strings for both the Neapolitan mandolin and the Mandolino when he describes them in his tutor: "La Mandoline à six cordes, en contient douze, parce qu’elles y sont doubles, comme dans la Mandoline à quatre cordes".
Of particular interest is the fact that here a mandolin teacher (Fouchetti was a student of the neapolitan mandolinist Leoni) already in 1771[!] points out that if a gut-strung Mandolino is used it should be played with wood, because feathers are no good!

(I would say very interesting, especially for modern performers of this type that so often is wrongly indicated as "Barock-mandoline". But that´s a different story...)

Having established the varius kinds of quills with their own caracteristics and the accompanying mandolin types, it is now possible to really compare each mandolin type on differences in and loudness of their volume.

And than I think Richard, that when prejudice to a certain mandolin type is put aside, a lot of performers (and others who are interested in old performance practices) will be quite surprised by the outcome of the tests.



© Alex Timmerman.

Dec-12-2003, 12:06am
Hi Richard and Alex,

What a delightful thread :-)

I'll add a few thoughts though I'm unable to offer any "proof" of my own to substantiate one position or another... just opinions and observations.

I like Richard's word "aesthetic". I think we have to look at these questions not just in terms of projection but in concert with the aesthetic of the music of the time. To my ear (and yes, this is completely subjective), the late 18th century Viennese music (Mozart/Beethoven/Hoffman/Hummel) "sounds" more convincing played with a plectrum on single gut strings than with historically-correct Neapolitan stringing. I personally don't think that it is a coincidence that those instruments (Cremonese/Milanese) are found in Vienna at that time.

In his book "Mandolins of the 18th Century", Stephen Morey uses rising pitch to account for this change. He theorizes that as pitch began to standardize near A-440 around 1800, the brass A-strings on Neapolitan mandolins became difficult to maintain. Interestingly, I have seen a very fancy 18th-century Neapolitan mandolin (with eight peg holes) that sports a nut and tiny bridge that very clearly carried only four single strings. The impressions in both nut and bridge seem consistent with the diameters of gut strings. Though this instrument was clearly built for Neapolitan stringing, it was shortly thereafter modified for a "Cremonese" approach.... it has worn this bridge for a *very* long time.

My own historically-strung 18th-century Neapolitan mandolin (copy), though it projects very well indeed, lacks a certain "evenness" that I think this music requires. As Richard and Alex have explained, each course uses rather different technology (G: silver-wrapped gut with a brass octave, D: twisted brass, A: single brass, E: gut). This sounds great (again to my ear) on earlier Italian/French music that uses lots of string-crossing plectrum effects. The Viennese music, however, seems to call for a quality and evenness of tone that I find all but impossible to extract from the different courses of the Neapolitan instrument. Single gut courses, on the other hand produce (for me) exactly the right effect under a plectrum... a ringing clear tone that is even across the instrument.

I play a later restored Albertini Lombardian instrument, and even though it is built quite heavily, it projects and resonates wonderfully with single gut strings. As I've said here before, though its a little late, it makes a convincing foil for playing Hoffman with a plectrum (sorry Alex, I know we don't yet agree yet on Hoffman).

So... I will shortly need a cherry bark plectrum. Unfortunately, I live in the middle of the New Mexico desert. Can anyone offer advice for making such a thing... or offer a source of cherry bark?

All the best,


ps - As more subjective support, I'll offer my own Stocking Stuffer suggestion: Caterina Lichtenberg on an album called "Musikinstrumente des Ferdinandeums 4". Yes, Caterina is of the modern German school but she is an extremely musical person. On this 1997 album, she plays a restored "Neapolitan" style mandolin built by Johann Georg Psenner (interestingly from Innsbruck, 1775) joined by a period piano and guitar to play Beethoven, Mozart, and Leonard von Call. The mandolin is not strung in a historically-correct fashion but maybe that's the point. Though I grew tired of many of these pieces years ago, in her hands they are simply wonderful! IMHO (again), this is what this music should "sound" like. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

Dec-12-2003, 5:31am
This forum must be the best place available for learning about the history of mandolin and mandolin music. I love this place (and you!)

A question about cherry bark plectrums: does anyone have information about how these were made? I don´t have any cherry tree nearby to look at, but I have the impression (maybe wrong) that the bark is pretty thin. Were the plectrums..umh..."laminated"?

many thanks, Arto

Dec-12-2003, 8:01am
I have that Caterina Lichtenberg CD, Musikinstrumente des Ferdinandeums 4, and I like it very much. #The soprano on it has lush tone and marvelous control. #My quibbles are that they take the Mozart songs too slowly for my taste and that the mandolin isn't strung with regard to historic stringing. #Frankly, I don't know how the mandolin is strung, but from the sound and images, I'd guessed Caterina used four courses in unison throughout, either in gut or metal-wound silk. #I know Eric has evidence for the conversion of a Neapolitan to Cremonese tuning; such modification was very common to guitars as the 6-string guitar won popularity over that in 5-courses. #Is there any evidence that anybody had strung an 18th-c. Neapolitan as Caterina has?

On the stringing of the first generation of Neapolitan mandolins, I think it may be best suited to the solo variations of the late 18th c. (e.g., those of Leone and Denis). #In particular, the octave g often fleshes out a line that would otherwise seem unpalatably sparse.

I have made several attempts to craft a functional plectrum of goose quills pirated from the aquaculture program at my day job (the feathers are used to stir fish milt and roe). #Everything I've concocted is either too stiff or too flexible. #I have finally resorted to shaping a very narrow, quill-shaped plectrum of ivoroid (i.e. ivory-colored celluloid). #I like the results very much, although it doesn't fray like the real thing. #The tendency of fibrous quill to fray was a feature celebrated by Leone in creating mellow tone.

Cherry-bark plectra: I have mused on that for some time. #I can't imagine how anybody would have crafted a functional, pliable plectrum from such stuff. #Please forgive the spelling of what's to come; I'm at home and away from appropriate biological references. #Vast numbers of wild black cherry (Prunus serotina) abound in the woods around where I live. #The older bark is rather hard and brittle and segments into distinct "flakes." #The young bark seems pliable, but is laden with lenticels (little respiratory pores). #What do I need to do to start a massive cherry-bark plectra fabrication operation for export to all you gut-strung mandolinists? #I also love cherry as a tone wood on the backs of 19th c. guitars (can't vouch for cherry mandolins).

Dec-12-2003, 9:34am
Hi Eugene,

I talked to Caterina about this album once a long time ago. I remember her saying that it wasn't historically-strung but I'm not sure how. I agree that it has a unison G-string.

I once had someone in Ohio send me some strips of cherry bark. I have no way of knowing how big/old the doner tree was but what I received was very soft, green, thin, and flexible. Unfortunately, it had grown mold in the bag so I never did anything with it. The sample I had would have yielded a very soft, cork-like plectrum. I let the stuff dry, and then it seemed like it would have been too brittle.

I've been hoping to find a luthier who had a piece of cherry with some mature dried bark attached.... or better yet, a mandolinist who would hand me the perfectly-turned item!

Any and all information eagerly received.



ps - Richard, not to stray too far from your thread, can you elaborate on how we know the dedicatee of the Hummel Grande Sonata? Is his name written on the music as with Bortolazzi and the Hummel Concerto?

Dec-12-2003, 10:10am
Just an addendum,

Here is a link to a photo of the "Neapolitan" instrument that Caterina plays on "Musikinstrumente des Ferdinandeums".


There is a nice photo, but unfortunately, its difficult to see how its strung (its at exactly the right angle to create "jaggies" on a computer monitor... and those make everything look like a wound/twisted string).

Of course, there's no telling if the photos (either on the Website or the cover) have anything to do with how the instrument was setup for the recording. Looking at the different photo on the cover, and listening (as I am now), I might guess just straight gut. Listening (again)... I might further hazzard single stringing (!)... least on upper courses. Of course, Caterina has a very developed plectrum technique so she may be fooling my ears. Museums that have just spent money restoring instruments are often rather sensitive about putting them under tension so gut seems like a possibility to me... all the more convenient for this discussion :-).

For those wondering why we care about a non-historically-configured Neapolitan mandolin on a modern recording, I only submit it is a particularly nice modern rendering of music near in time and geography to that of Hummel. Hummel even lived with Mozart for a time right?


Dec-12-2003, 10:54am

The mandolino I have is a copy of the Lambert (late model) and what I call Milanese is a simplified reference to a 6 course double strung mandolin type that has a G tuning (fourths, one third) and is undoubtedly not precise to a true scholar such as yourself. We've been down that road (discussion) before and I find it hopeless to try to educate the musical public as a whole to the different mandolin types. You have to admit that at the time, these instruments were mostly all called 'mandolino', 'mandoline', or mandolin depeding in what linguistic sphere you happen to be in. Personally, I'm not that much interested in this but rather the reality of the instruments as musical instruments dealing with musical matters, like making audible, intelligible and meaningful sounds.

As far as how these mandolin types sounded 'then', it is a bit of conjecture if we take into account the vast differences in the skill and aesthetics of the performer (like a Bortolazzi or Gervasio). I have examples of some of the mandolin types and play them all. I do not possess anything worth mentioning in terms of fingerstyle technique (alla lute), but I have a big collection of plectra of all sorts of material and quills that I make myself. The latter is not all that easy to do and I must admit that only about 1 of 10 that I make are satisfactory for my playing. With the right quill or cherry bark plectrum, the neapolitan mandolin can sound exquisite with historical stringing. Most of today's mandolinists playing the 18th century Neapolitan mandolin have compromised stringing because of one reason or another that makes the historical stringing more difficult or risky in performance. Personally, I think it is simply a matter of getting to know the material and working out the problems through study.

As soon as I can get hold of a good example of the Cremonese mandolin, I'll run some tests (for whatever it's worth, I have on loan a decibel meter). Concerts in the past that I have given with the Lambert type mandolino and the neapolitan type, favored the latter instrument in terms of general volume (the concert in question featured concertos for each instrument with orchestra on period instruments).

For Eric: The title page (I have a copy of the original 1st edition), lists the work (in Italian):

"Grande Sonata per il Clavicembalo o Piano Forte con accompagnamento di Mandolino o Violino obligato, composta e dedicata al Signore Fr. Mora de Malfatti da Giovanni Nep. Hummel di Vienna"

Dec-12-2003, 12:49pm
Not that anyone could possibly care, but as primarily an English speaker who can comfortably refer to the generic as "mandolin," I have come to be most comfortable addressing the early form with courses of usually paired gut strings tuned mostly in fourths as "6-course..." or "5-course mandolino" as appropriate. Of course, there were 4-course mandolini (a term that possibly could be confused with the modern instrument), but now we're addressing the truly ancient and obscure; I don't know that anybody is playing such a thing nowadays. #As I have discussed with some of you, I am not entirely comfortable with the terminology Tyler & Sparks tried to establish with The Early Mandolin by simply referring to the mandolin-type instruments usually tuned in fourths in Italian (i.e. "mandolino") and those tuned in fifths in French (i.e. "mandoline").

On historically correct (the early-music enthusiasts' equivalent to PC) strings and plectra, when I saw Paul O'Dette play 6-course mandolino to the accompaniment of baroque orchestra, he was always loudly audible, having strung the instrument in Aquila's synthetic Nylgut and plucked at it with a thin nylon guitar pick by Jim Dunlop.

Dec-12-2003, 12:53pm
Thanks Richard,

>> With the right quill or cherry bark plectrum,
>> the neapolitan mandolin can sound exquisite with
>> historical stringing.

No argument from me on that point, though I still constantly experiment with quills of various types.

Richard, would you be willing to share your experiences with making a cherry-bark plectrum? Did you use young or old bark? Collected "in the wild" or from trimmed, aged stock? How did you shape it? etc.

The sooner we put Eugene in the full-time plectrum business, the better... if he aggrees not to dip them in fish roe!!! :-)



Dec-12-2003, 1:32pm
http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif ...But the roe is my blessing to ensure your music will find fertility in the hearts of the hearers.

Alex Timmerman
Dec-12-2003, 8:13pm
Hello Richard,

I hope you understand my persistence in keeping the true and original nomenclature of the mandolin family alive.

A knomenclature that is directly linked to the types of the mandolin family. Not a naming ´made up´ or ´given´ to the instruments by myself, but a knomenclature that was originally expressed to the various mandolin types by the players/tutors of the mandolinsts of the time.

Therefore I always want to know exactly about what Mandolin types a discussion is about when this is started. Especially when I am spreading my knowledge, build up through research over the past 25 years, world-wide through the internet.

That you (quote): "find it hopeless to try to educate the musical public as a whole", I can imagine; it is to complicated to understand if one is new to it and has come to enjoy a (mandolin) recital/concert. The matter needs a bit more than a 3 to 5 minutes pre-playing talk.
I can however suggest to you to refer to the double strung Jean Nicolas Lambert mandolin as the Mandolino, to the Vinaccia copy as a Neapolitan mandolin, to the Monzino as a Lombardian mandolin and to the Larson mandolin as an American made modern Neapolitan mandolin.
Or, when you think the latter type has a bit of both, Embergher and Calace, simply to an American made modern Italian mandolin.

To your writing that I, (quote): "have to admit that at the time, these instruments were mostly all called 'mandolino', 'mandoline', or mandolin depeding in what linguistic sphere you happen to be in. ", I can say #- with no problem to the subject at all - that is fine with me.

When one wants to be more precise however, distinctions between- #and specifications of types are needed to point out differences and similarities. This has always been done and I am happy to say that also at the time this was the case and that names were given to the main mandolin types.

Exactly these names I am re-using to establish the true nomenclature of the Mandolin family.

That collectors, musicologists and Museum personnel from the early 19th century up to now (although it is getting better here and there) made a mess of the existing[!] nomenclature in their catalogues and other writings, is exactly why we find ourselves in this shambles.

Even today we are, through CD booklets and prefaces in newly published period music etc. written by so called "experts", mislead with false, unchecked and over and over repeated ´information´ and/or with absolute nonsence resulting from their own un-educated imagination. Either because of ignorance, or simply because of the desire to be the first to record or write something.
A good example of misinformation here is that the Mandolino is to be played with a feather quill. Regardless to what time the music to be performed was composed.

Well I am convinced that the Mandolino was mainly played finger-style throughout its presence in time and that plectrum-style only from the second part of the 18th century - a time when it had to compete with metal strung types like the Genoese- and the Neapolitan mandolin - was advocated by some mandolinists of the time.

I am delighted to see that my mentioning of the quill made from a cherry bark/tree to be used for playing the Mandolino (and the Cremonese type), has caused such excitement here. To my knowledge Fouchetti´s tutor is the only written proof in a dependable source we have (at the moment) on this matter.

If, - and please be sure I, like you, go for the best sound - #we want to be pure on the subject, this is what I can and want to say.

Knowing you, I find your writing (quote): "Personally, I'm not that much interested in this" [terminology] hard to believe, since I know how much you are devoted to- and how much you care for the mandolin, both it´s history and future.

Warm regards,


© Alex Timmerman.

PS. Of course it speaks for itself that players are free to use whatever mandolin type, quill, plectrum or finger-tip they want to play their instrument and their choise of music. And there is a lot to enjoy nowadays!

Alex Timmerman
Dec-12-2003, 9:57pm
Hi Eugene,

Your suggestion will not make it easier, I am sorry to say.

There is then for instance always - if you talk about the "6-course mandolino" - a string material issue with another 6-course mandolino, namely the mandolino Genovese to explain.

Also, refering to the number of strings only, to instruments with the same characteristics like design, tuning etc. can not be suitable enough to distinguish a ´type´.

It is also not necessary in this matter, for the 4-, 5- and 6-double gut-strung ´mandolins´ are simply models of the Mandolino type.

Best, Alex

© Alex Timmerman.

Dec-12-2003, 11:51pm
Your suggestion will not make it easier, I am sorry to say.

There is then for instance always - if you talk about the "6-course mandolino" - a string material issue with another 6-course mandolino, namely the mandolino Genovese to explain.

Also, refering to the number of strings only, to instruments with the same characteristics like design, tuning etc. can not be suitable enough to distinguish a ´type´.

It is also not necessary in this matter, for the 4-, 5- and 6-double gut-strung ´mandolins´ are simply models of the Mandolino type.
You have made this assertion before, Alex, and I understand it. #I think you were reading too much into my use of descriptors. #I am not suggesting that "6-course mandolino" be embraced as a formal designation for a whole type of instrument. #Of course the 4-course, 5-course, and 6-course mandolino are of the same type. #Adding courses here makes it no more a new type of instrument than adding a seventh string to an electric guitar would make it something different than an electric guitar. #I am only using those descriptors as adjectives where appropriate for clarification; i.e. "6-course" is not of an analogous level to "Genovese" in my semantic schematic. #For example, I would describe the Cutler-Challen Stradivari as a 5-course mandolino and the famous V&A Lambert as a 6-course mandolino...but I conceive of them both as being of the larger mandolino whole; "5-course" and "6-course" here serve as no more than adjectives. #I believe we are more in agreement than you had believed...I think...maybe.

Dec-13-2003, 3:36pm
Alex, don't fear, I could talk mando shop with you for days on end. My point is that this terminology thing and the diversity-adversity in the mandolin world has been what has kept these odd fretted instruments on the outside of the mainstream in music. The classic guitar managed to achieve it's position in the realms of nearly any music conservatory or music department on the face of this earth. The mandolin has such a meager presence in the mainstream classical world that it is often ignored all together (how many times has the serenade from Don Giovanni by Mozart been played on an 'alternative'?). Simplicity of nomenclature is inevitable and should be encouraged at the same time that, in receptive academic circles, the real story is taught about the wide range of instruments, technique and styles.

As for what one uses to pull out sounds from these instruments, there are as many options as one can imagine. I've seen mandolin (neapolitan) tutors from the late 19th century (don't ask me which, it would take another full evening to dig up the source) which lists the quill (plume) as a viable plectrum for the modern mandolin of that day. I've used bark, tortoise, quill, and a few oddities (a vintage pick made of hard card paper that I bought in a shop in The Hague) that all have some qualities that are worth exploring. What one uses depends so much on the general technique and desires of the players. For those who have expressed interest in quills, my own preference has been for 'wild turkey' or ostrich quills. I leave them a bit on the strong side and it takes some hours of playing to develop that bit of fray which produces addtional sweetness of tone. I only wish I succeeded more often making them since it is the rare bird (sorry, couldn't resist) that actually makes a great quill.

Perhaps it isn't very purist but I'm happy to use the Lambert copy for so much of this 5 or 6 course mandolino music. I would like to have a nice copy of the Strad mandolino (5 course), a fine representative example of the 4 course Brescian or Cremonese mandolins, and maybe even a Genovese but, so would I like to have someone do the cooking around here besides myself... dream, dream. So, the Hummel concerto is played on the Vinaccia copy, along with most of the other pieces of this time including Bortolazzi's music. It is still more interesting than using a modern instrument or one with modern wound nylon strings.

Alex Timmerman
Dec-13-2003, 7:12pm
Hello Eugene.

Perhaps I was (am) a bit too sensitive at times. But you know me; the subject of historical plucked instruments is important and dear to me and sometimes I´m just carried away in my thoughts.
I am happy to read that we are still on the same track!

I was a bit surprised by your (quote) "I am not entirely comfortable with the terminology Tyler & Sparks tried to establish with The Early Mandolin by simply referring to the mandolin-type instruments usually tuned in fourths in Italian (i.e. "mandolino") and those tuned in fifths in French (i.e. "mandoline")".

I do not think that James Tyler and Paul Sparks tried to establish a terminology that is based on the linguistic matter (the French, German and Dutch "mandoline"). On several occasions I talked with Paul about the subject and I never had the impression that this ("mandoline") was their goal.

To distinguish the (as is assumed) oldest double gut-strung soprano member from other soprano instruments of the Mandolin family, Tyler and Sparks choose for "Mandolino", because the bulk of the music composed for this type is - in the original scores - referred to as written for "Mandolino" (on covers and on parts).

At the time this type was, although to a lesser extent, also known with other names.
This was why I have chosen in my book De Mandoline en de Gitaar door de Eeuwen heen (1994) to use the name "Armandolino", which is the second name in line to "Mandolino".
I liked this name because it is an historical correct name and the whole word mandolino is in it. And most important, I believed (and still do) that when it was used, all problems were solved, both in the old and modern linguistic hassle and in the mandolin typology.

Still, in spite of the correctness of the name Armandolino, I was not happy that I used jet a different name than Tyler and Sparks did. Also my contact with Ugo Orlandi about the names Mandolino - Armandolino gave me a reason to re-think the matter.

For the benefit of clarity I decided to join Tyler and Sparks in using the name ´Mandolino´ for the instrument. Luckily I found out that it didn´t give any problems to my ideas of establishing a true and original nomenclature for the complete Mandolin family that is based on historical facts.



Dec-13-2003, 8:22pm
My point of contention isn't so much with the term "mandolino" as with "mandoline." #I would have preferred "Neapolitan mandolin" or defaulting to the English (as it is an English text) generic of "mandolin." #I assumed Dr. Sparks was searching for a convenient term to differentiate the earlier, light, brass-strung Neapolitan from the modern instrument. #I guessed he drew "mandoline" from the French simply because of the mandolin's popularity in mid-late 18th c. France, and most of the classic methods of that first "golden era" were published in France. #I have never corresponded with Paul on this particular issue. #Although if you recall, it was Dr. Sparks who first introduced me to you, Alex...well, introduced from afar by letter, such as it is.

Alex Timmerman
Dec-14-2003, 4:22am
Hello Eugene,

Indeed, it is done because of the mandolin´s popularity in France at that time and to avoid confusion at that time.

There is no problem in naming the ancester to all the other types - the soprano double gut-strung type - with it´s original name: the ´Mandolino´.
Once the name ´Mandolino´ is accepted (and this is already happening by Museum personnel and by scholars at the moment), all other types of the mandolin family can be pointed out with their first and original names. And there are no problems wheter these names are written in Italian, French or English.



Dec-14-2003, 8:27am
There is no problem in naming the ancester to all the other types - the soprano double gut-strung type - with it´s original name: the ´Mandolino´.
Once the name ´Mandolino´ is accepted (and this is already happening by Museum personnel and by scholars at the moment), all other types of the mandolin family can be pointed out with their first and original names. And there are no problems wheter these names are written in Italian, French or English.
I agree. Sadly, one still sees wacky, inappropriate labels like "pandurina" and "mandore" persisting in many collections.

Alex Timmerman
Dec-14-2003, 9:22am
Yes, unfortunately.

But what is much more depressing today are the CD booklets and prefaces in newly published period mandolin with false information, because these have a far more reach in the music world!



Dec-14-2003, 2:40pm
I agree that nomenclature is germain to this discussion but I'd like to steer the conversation back to Richard's original thread topic to see if we can pry some more opinions and supporting evidence out of eachother :-). The well-named topic was: "Historical mandolins and cultural preferences". As Alex has stated, we may never know just what those cultural preferences were but hopefully we can make some slow progress.

It goes without saying that "historically-appropriate" can be a slippery and elusive descripter. If one uses historically-appropriate stringing on the wrong instrument, then the point is less valid. In the final analysis, there are many things that we may never understand. It is equally difficult to put asside our own prejudices for what variety of historical mandolin is correct for particular music (based on our own experiences, available instruments, abilities, etc.) Subjectivity ultimately creeps in. Nonetheless, I feel strongly that it is our responsibility to persue these truths and half-truths as far as we can to present our instrument in the best and most accurate light possible.

The period in question (late 18th-century Vienna) spawned mandolin music by some of the best-known composers (to modern ears) so this is clearly important. While none of these composers left large libraries for the mandolin, the popularity of these men and their music today should give us some perspective. I am a firm believer that we should try to fit the right mandolin to the composers and their era, rather than the other way around.

Today we tend to assume a solo role for the mandolin (or violin by analogy) but the full title of the Sonata (thanks Richard) reminds me that earlier classical sonatas of this type were often for piano *accompanied* by another instrument... at least implying a more equal relationship between instruments. I have handy a set of Carulli Sonatas "... Pour Guitare ou Lyre avec Accompagnement de Violin ad Libitum..." The violin clearly assumes a more equal or even accompanying role in these pieces.

Though I've argued toward the Cremonese and Milanese instruments for music of this period (Mozart, Beethoven, Hoffman, Schlick, etc), today as I write I'm listening to Richard play the Hummel Sonata on his brass-strung Vinnacia copy.

While I am not usually a proponent of tremolo for other Viennese works, it seems to play an effective role when used judiciously in this particular recording. I've not recently listened to this work without tremolo but can imagine the mandolin being rather swallowed in some passages without it. Richard starts this movement with a very nice flowing tremolo which stands in nice contrast to subsequent alternating chords of the piano and later non-tremoloed passages.

I also notice the title for the middle movement: "Andante moderato sizlliano". Can we assume that "sizlliano" is some reference to Sicilly (or Itally generally)? Even if there were regional tendencies toward single-strung gut instruments in Vienna, we have to consider the dedicatee of the sonata. What does this (and Mr. Malfatti's probable Italian lineage) say for tremolo (and thus, perhaps, an indication for doubled brass strings)?


Dec-14-2003, 2:46pm
>> Richard starts this movement

Sorry... should be
"Richard starts the second movement..."

I'm not awake yet...


Dec-14-2003, 4:28pm
Galfetti recorded the Hummel sonata without tremolo, I believe on the Cremonese-type instrument, but his instrument choice is never specified in the liner notes. #(Richard says Orlandi's recording is with a Cremonese mandolin, but I don't have that one.) #I assume to compensate for the rather rapid decay of mandolins in general, Galfetti takes the tempo of the middle movement a bit faster, maybe a solid andantino or so. #Frankly, I like this movement to be just a touch slower. #I also like what Richard has written of tremolo in this piece, that "It also provides more distinction between the pianoforte and the mandolin (the two instruments can sometimes sound so much alike in certain passages)." #I find this interesting and quite true given the percussive, bell-like attack of a singularly plucked note. #Of course, I have no way of knowing whether Hummel wanted the two instruments to blend as one or to contrast. #I don't imagine we ever will know unless somebody finds conclusive evidence of the instrument preferred by Dr. Malfatti.

Richard also writes Bone is usually unclear as to which mandolin species he was addressing in any of his articles. #I might even accuse Bone of occasionally being boldly, blatantly speculative. #He goes so far as to provide an image of the bowl of "Beethoven's Mandolin" that looks for all the world like a Lombardian instrument made more than half a century after Beethoven's passing. #The picture he offers of "Paganini's Mandolin" looks like a Genovese-type instrument, but with the peghead modified to carry four courses of paired strings riding down the center-most nut slots of an unmodified 6-course nut! #A seemingly odd way to modify an instrument from six courses to four! #Does anybody know where this instrument resides now?

Bone also writes that the Viennese guitarist Mertz taught and composed for mandolin. #I have searched a number of online catalogs of well-known collections of guitar music as well as consulting scholarly friends with substantial private collections and found no evidence of extant mandolin music by Mertz. #Mertz played guitars by Schertzer, a protege of the Stauffer shop. #When Makaroff, another guitarist, visited Schertzer, he wrote that Schertzer had no guitars commissioned to show him, but did show him a mandolin commissioned by "Count L." #The mandolin was "excellently made." #I have mused that Schertzer might have had a semi-standardized model for mandolins, and if Mertz, a popular and published guitarist, did play and compose for mandolin that it may have been the same species commissioned from Schertzer by "Count L."...and may even be whatever species was most popular in Vienna at that time. #I don't think anybody has uncovered a mandolin that could be solidly attributed to Schertzer. #I know Alex has unearthed some interesting Cremonese-type flat instruments of Austrian origin. #Of course, there is still no guarantee that an Italian expatriate, which I'm guessing Malfatti was, would favor Vienna's popular breed of mandolin (whatever that was) over a Neapolitan.

Alex Timmerman
Dec-14-2003, 4:55pm
Hello Eugene,

Paganini´s Genoese mandolin unfortunately got lost during the bombardements of Cologne in World War II.



Dec-14-2003, 5:00pm
Let's not forget that Hummel also specifies violin. Look at the notes, look at the expression and try to convince me that certain passages are better served by a single and phenomenly nutured pluck. I experimented a great deal with this music (and the Beethoven pieces) and just felt that refraining from the use of the tremolo was handicapping a great deal of what I understand of this music. Despite the printed words by certain French mandolinists of the previous generations (Corrette was a dissenter and encouraged the tremolo whenever possible) and the fact that single strung instrument sound less well with the tremolo, it is still possible that the Cremonese virtuoso might have employed it (take stock of the domra players, playing on a modern day Cremonese mandolin). It certainly isn't the business of gut versus metal strings since I find no problems going from one course to the other on the early Neapolitan mandolin (top course is plain gut, A strings are plain brass, D's are a curious twisted brass, G's are either two violin covered G strings or one with an octave brass string). My friend and colleague, Ugo Orlandi, who has made a wonderful recording of these works uses all steel stringing, with the understanding that this was possible at the time. I've tried steel e's but found it hopeless for tuning purposes with the simple peg tuners (already a difficult procedure with the A and D strings). So, is there a truth, does it even matter? I do believe that the Hummel sonata is infinetly better served by period instruments, the modern piano sounds much too dense and overbearing in the intricate writing that Hummel gives us. The early mandolin projects quite well and can hold it's own easily with the fortepiano (we had reverse balance problems during the recording and finally removed the microphones directed at the mandolin) while I cannot say the same with the modern mandolin and a concert grand piano. I haven't heard any of the other recordings (outside of Ugo's) so I can't comment on them but I will try to get a copy.

I agree with Eugene on the over-extension of Bone's book. The Paganini mandolin was definitely a Genovese and strung accordingly. You only have to look 2 seconds at his odd pieces he wrote for the mandolin to see that they cry out for an E tuning. That someone many generations hence took it upon themselves to transform the mandolin into a 'mandolin' of a later day is not surprising. The same goes for the Beethoven instrument (if someone could prove that). Beethoven's interest and involvement with this instrument was very short and seemed to be directed to a specific goal (not achieved). Anyone else out there have any ideas on this subject? I would love to have a month to comb through the archives and libraries of Prague to see if one might be able to locate the 5th piece supposedly completed by LVB. Getting back to Bone, I do find reading this book interesting and I have started through it again taking notes of all of the pieces that he attributes to various composers of the past that seem to have disappeared. For example, he states that Ranieri had written an orchestra accompaniment to his concerto in D. This piece is not all that old (not quite 100), his relatives are still around but no one knows where the score is. Ah, so much to explore.

Dec-14-2003, 5:02pm

Where do you get the idea that it was a Cremonese mandolin? Was not his father his mandolin tutor and direct contemporary of Nonemacher? The image I saw of this mandolin (in one of the Paganini biographies) was very, very similar to Nonemacher's work. The pieces themselves are writen in keys that favor this instrument. ?

Alex Timmerman
Dec-14-2003, 5:25pm
Yes, of course Richard, I was thinking whether I had an image of Paganini´s Genoese instrument and at the same time reading Eugene´s post about the Cremonese mandolin. It is definitive a Genuese mandolin and it could very well have been made by Christiano Nonemacher (I have corrected it in my text, thanks for your fast reply!).

The Paganini family lived in Genoa and Nicolò (or Niccolò, as is printed on his music) was born there (1782). Before he moved to Parma in 1795 he was already performing and composing his first sonatas. It is believed that his compositions for the mandolin were written in this early period of his live.

By the way, Carlo Aonzo has recorded Paganini’s complete works for mandolin on the mandolino Genovese (Integrale per Amandorlino (that´s how Paganini called his mandolin) & Chitarra Francese, ARN68420(ARION label).

For those interested and don´t have Bone´s book, here an exact image of Paganini´s Genoese mandolin.

Drawing by Alex Timmerman ©.

Alex Timmerman
Dec-14-2003, 7:35pm
Hello Eric,

Yes, let´s go back to the original thread topic: "Historical mandolins and cultural preferences", as we now have some agreement on the first part of the topic title "Historical mandolins" and their names.

Perhaps it is also good to see from which angle Richard likes to look upon the second part of his title ("...cultural preferences".)
This because I have the feeling that Richards tends to look at it from a todays point of view and what sounds best now (with ´modern´ ears, so to speak), whether you, Eugene and myself are rather approuching the topic title as "Historical mandolins and cultural preferences at the time".

We could of course do both (as already is happening) as clean as possible and if that´s OK, it would be nice to start with how it was prefered at the time a bit more (and give our readers a good insight about when, what and who we are talking) and from that elaborate further to what ever it leads us.

If you think I am jabbering please don´t bother to reply.

I just thought of a question asked by our own Plami (01 November, 2002) at the German Mandolin Diskussionsforum (http://www.bdz-online.de/frameload.htm?refer=http://www.bdz-online.de/musik/kompzo.htm) (click at the left side-bar on "BDZ Interaktiv" and then on Diskussionsforum) where he never got a any real answer back. It would be nice to inform him and others as good as possible.



Dec-14-2003, 9:21pm
Hi Alex,

This is my favorite kind of "jabbering"! :-)

(Sorry, I couldn't find Plami's other message)

I think our task is always a struggle between historical validity (as best we can understand it) and practical reality (as the best we can provide from our present-day vantage point). To succeed, we can't ignore either view.

We'd all like the opportunity to travel back in time to look over the shoulder of a favourite musician or composer to glean their techniques and the sound bouncing off the walls. I'd love to sit just outside the open door as LVB instructed "the beautiful J" from the piano to play his music on her mandolin. Or better yet, be a fly on the wall in the room housing the rumoured jam-session between S.L. Weiss and J.S. Bach.

Alas, we only have the bones... the bits of instruments that have survived, precious few original string samples, and the few things that people bothered to write down that we haven't bombed into oblivion over the intervening years.

In short, I think that all approaches are valid and ideally they can be shown to complement eachother. Surviving instruments and written music show us patterns and give us names and places that can lead to other connections and conclusions. Playing the music, especially on the most historically-accurate instruments we can find leads to other conclusions on the part of the performer which are to my mind just as valid. I will never forget the first time I picked my way through the Vivaldi mandolin concertos for the first time using finger-style technique on a five-course mandolino. I had played and performed these pieces before on 20th century Neapolitan mandolins but it was simply astonishing to see and feel Vivaldi's true understanding of the capabilities of this little instrument.... to "get" what I think he "got". These "feelings" can also be misleading... so everything has to be taken together.

In this sense, I consider Richard's performance of the Hummel to be admirable. The bones, are just the bones... they are not the music. He as a performing musician is left to "flesh" out the rest to make something that communicates to the listener. We must all admit that the mandolin clearly has its limitations... (in spite of the historical efforts of some to raise it to the level of the violin). In the end, each performance presents one possible answer that (hopefully) moves us closer to better understanding of the music, the instrument, and the time. You noticed that I in part reversed my course (at least WRT the Hummel sonata) after *listening* to Richard play the Sonata again. His music convinced me... which leads me to...

.. a third factor, and one that I alluded to in my first post, that of putting ourselves in the role of critical listener. I like to think that an uninitiated audience member (or CD buyer), upon hearing the right combination of historically-accurate instrument, strings, informed performance practice, and appropriate venue would be genuinely moved. I'd like them to tap their foot or loose themselves. I'd like them to identify with hearing early Beethoven (or Hummel, Mozart, Vivaldi, etc.) hear the longing emotion in his young mind... hear the familiar musical elements that would later find their feet in more developed ways... I'd like them to realize only lastly that they were hearing it through a mandolin. More music, less novelty.

That's why I used the word "subjective" as much as I did. In spite of my enthusiasm for the mandolin (and yes, mine goes back 20-some years as well), I must admit that only a small amount of the performed or recorded mandolin music I've heard actually moved me upon a first listening (my gosh that sounds snotty!). In reality, I *believe* that this is a result of us just beginning along the road of historically-accurate instruments and historically-informed performance practice. I try to put myself in the position of the uninitiated listener as often as I can... both to hear my own attempts at performing this music as well as those of others. To succeed, it all has to work and convince and move a listener. This is why I mentioned Caterina's CD. It moved me when I least expected to be moved... with music I'd heard countless times before.

We also have to remember that much of this music was intended for fairly intimate settings, and small(ish) ensembles, not our large concert halls and large modern orchestras. It is for this reason that I am generally less concerned with "loudness" than I am with nature and quality of tone and how instruments blend and contrast with one-another. Today, projection is a very valid concern, particularly for those who perform publically for a living. Richard alluded to the less-than-enthusiastic reception that players such as Vimercati and Bortolazzi received as the 19th century wore on... they were clearly fighting a loosing battle against a changing musical aesthetic and changing times.

Ultimately, these little wooden boxes *are* our time machines... sorry for jabbering on so long...


Dec-14-2003, 10:44pm
Hi Richard,

If we want to build a case for the Hummel Concerto and Sonata being intended for different instruments, perhaps we should compare the two pieces musically. Can you make any observations about musical elements in the mandolin parts of the Concerto vs. the Sonata that might be construed as intent for a different target instrument (Cremonese vs. Neapolitan)?

Most composers are pretty consistent in the way they treat a given instrument... any obvious contrasts might be informative. Also, how far apart (in years) were these two pieces written?


Alex Timmerman
Dec-15-2003, 3:58am

Thank you Eric.

It was - among others - this phrase by Richard that kept going on in my mind (quote): "Concerts in the past that I have given with the [Lambert type] mandolino and the neapolitan type, favored the latter instrument in terms of general volume (the concert in question featured concertos for each instrument with orchestra on period instruments).

Especially the line: "favored the latter instrument in terms of general volume" of the sentence lead me to thinking that it was all more about the preference of mandolin performing practise today (with chamber orchestras).

I like to view these matters in their chronological order.

And therfore happy that you bring forward the number of musicians for a Concerto and the sound of the time (quote): "We also have to remember that much of this music was intended for fairly intimate settings, and small(ish) ensembles, not our large concert halls and large modern orchestras. #It is for this reason that I am generally less concerned with "loudness" than I am with nature and quality of tone and how instruments blend and contrast with one-another".

These chamber concertos were often given in a ´music-room´ in one of the larger houses by the upper class.

I am very much in favour to go (first) for the original (to quote you again): "nature, quality of tone and how instruments blend and contrast", because that is what the composers were concerned with while composing.

The Concertos for these instruments were practically all described as being written for "Mandolino Solo con Violini e Basso" (or like: "Mandolino a solo con Violini e Basso Obligati") meaning that they were scored to be played with two gut-strung violins and a tenor (or even an alto) bowed instrument (as the specifications at the cover on the Neapolitan mandolin Concertos by for instance Cecere, Conforto and Scrioli: "Concerto per il mandolino a solo con dui violini e basso) or even a plucked ´Basso´ like an Arcileuto (often indicated as "Basso del arcileuto" on Mandolino music as indicated in the ´Concertos´ by Giuseppe Vaccari and Lodovico Fontanelli). Also we are not 100% sure what instrument is meant with "Basso".

Sometimes a viola is also added as Antonio Vivaldi did in his famous Mandolino solo Concerto: "Con[cer]to p[er] Mandolino" RV 425. Here again the Basso continuo part is unspecified (probably for a bowed instrument - perhaps a violoncello (James Tyler) - together with a chordal instrument such as a ´teorbo´ or an ´arcileuto´). Interestingly Vivaldi did give a special specification for the organ to play the continuo part (to be played together with an unspecified - bowed? - "Basso") in his double Concerto: the "Con[cer]to p[er] 2 Mandolini" RV 532 ). In this concerto also a viola player has to join the band.

It would be interesting for reasons of originality and of compare, if Richard could tell a bit more on how many musicians the chamber orchestra he worked with, counted.

And of course today, to quote you: "projection is a very valid concern, particularly for those who perform publically for a living". That´s likely why Allison Stephens performes (the most recent recording) the Hummel Concerto with The London Mozart Players on her 1933 concert Embergher mandolin and not on a Cremonese mandolin or her original Vincentius Vinaccia of 1764.
She even goes a step further in this than I imagine Richard would do.

And although the Hummel concerto is a bit later than the earliest Mandolino and Neapolitan mandolin Concerti I was talking first, it would be very interesting to hear it performed on a Cremonese mandolin in it´s original chamber orchestra setting on period instruments. Who know´s one time in the (near) future....



PS. To find Plami´s question this might help: after clicking at the left side-bar on "BDZ Interaktiv" and then on "Diskussionsforum" at the page (there is no click-link at the left side-bar), and -after done so - search with your own PC search engine with the word: Paganini. (http://www.bdz-online.de/frameload.htm?refer=http://www.bdz-online.de/musik/kompzo.htm)


Dec-15-2003, 4:38pm
Eric, Alex, et al....

I really don't have the time right now but what's one more evening less of practising, the discussion is much too interesting to let slide. So, here goes with a few answers to posed questions.

First, the Hummel concerto was written early on in his career specifically for Bortolazzi and his Cremonese mandolin. We are all in agreement and there seems to be no doubt on this fact. The concerto is scored in a typical 18th century classical orchestra fashion with strings, flute and horns (7 voices in all). In only 2 measures in the first movement and the last measures in the last movement is there a situation where the horns or flute are playing at the same time as the mandolin. All of the accompaning passages are written out for sotto voce string playing and possibly using the convention of solo string players (one to a part) rather than tutti. This completely alleviates any problems of balance, even with a soft toned Cremonese instrument played energetically by perhaps the greatest exponent of this instrument. Not a problem at all. The sonata, on the other hand, is much more intertwined and complex, here balance can be a problem depending on the instruments used or the players themselves. The slow movement in the concerto is written in a totally moving fashion with short note values. It really isn't a slow movement at all, rather a comfortable 'andante' with a set of variations. Absolutely perfect for the Cremonese instrument. I've played this piece with modern chamber orchestras on the modern mandolin and, with the exception of the two measures in the very last bars (high Eb to f# under a slur), no tremolo was used nor required (even by Rafaelle Calace standards). The middle movement in the sonata is another story, the theme is so vocal, requiring (if possible) the mezza-di-voce and all sorts of modulation to bring out the emotion. #The sonata is not particularily 'mandolinistic'. It is pure music and not, as such, dependent on a given instrument. Our experience was that the sound of the Neapolitan mandolin could be mistaken for that of the piano, which is effective in spots but we needed to establish a greater differentiation from the two instruments. I realized at the time that I would be challenged from various mandolin quarters as to my use of the tremolo. All of this reminds me of the arguments in baroque violin circles about chinless playing (or not) and the use of vibrato (or not) and the omni-present 'spiccato' approach to bowing prior to 1830. The fact is, tremolo existed and was commented on (both negative and positive). All of these mandolin types co-existed in the period we are discussing. #Musicians (mandolinists) played music and were probably a lot more individual than we would like to imagine today. I regret that I do not have a Cremonese mandolin (yet) and won't know what my tonal and expressive limits are until then with this instrument, so I am indeed intrigued by Alex's observations. Incidently, the Hoffmann concerto is written in a similar fashion to that oof Hummel, and avoids balance problems. Alex can describe precisely what sort of mandolin type he played though I believe it was a 6 course, double strung mandolino, perhaps not so wide bodied, more like the Lambert.

To answer Alex's question, the concerto performance with the two mandolin types were done with historical instruments (orchestra) and, for what it's worth, baroque performance practise awareness. All I was saying is that the Neapolitan mandolin (Vinaccia style) projected better to the ears of the audience, everything else being equal. I believe the orchestra consisted of 3 firsts, 3 seconds, 2 violas, 2 celli, bass and harpsichord. Eric is quite right about the fact that this music was often heard in more intimate settings than often today (assuming the audience was attentive) but these instruments were used in opera and, for pete's sake, the neapolitan mandolin was one of the street musician's instruments of choice for outdoor serenading in the hussle and bustle of Napoli. Volume or projection seems to have been one its advantage over the other members of the extended mandolin. I would really like to see the other mandolin types given more exposure, especially because there is so much really beautiful music written for the 6 course mandolino(s).

Alex Timmerman
Dec-15-2003, 4:57pm
Good evening Richard,

That is a wonderful reply! Very informative.

You haven´t heard me on the ´yes or no´ tremolo issue; well I am very much with you on that.
If it is done in good taste it´s fine with me. It was known at the time and the spirit of the age then was very much one of discovering new ways of expression and breaking new grounds with it.

One only needs to think about the virtuoso players at the time, like for instance Paganini and his friend Luigi Legnani, who both enchanted their audiences!
The latter stayed for shorter and longer periods in Vienna and used - as one of the first - the tremolo technique as such in his solo guitar compositions. And come to think of it, Paganini in his guitar oevre did that as well.

So, why would Hummel, Mora de Malfatti or Bortolazzi object...

Well, that´s it for today; I am sure there is enough coming up the coming days!



Dec-15-2003, 6:16pm
Hi Richard,

Thanks for the valuable insights into the Hummel pieces. I'm out of time too... but unfortunately I don't get to go practice... back to the day-job... :-(

I hope you didn't perceive criticism from me on the tremolo issue. In fact, I think I wrote that I rather enjoyed and appreciated your very musical use of it on your recording of the Hummel sonata.

... but then again, I play my Baroque violin without using my chin and I don't use vibrato! :-)

All the best,


Dec-16-2003, 8:58am
[QUOTE]"...for pete's sake, the neapolitan mandolin was one of the street musician's instruments of choice for outdoor serenading in the hussle and bustle of Napoli."

NOW yer talkin' !!!

Obsequiously yours,

The Peripatetic Mandolinist, serenando sotto il balcone http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

Dec-17-2003, 11:49am
Hi all,

Richard's recording of the Hummel sonata features a fine-sounding replica of a 1795 Viennese piano by Anton Walter to accompany the mandolin.

In the interest of providing another sampling of late 18th-century Viennese "cultural preferences", it strikes me that it might be useful to provide an listenable example. Here is a link to an album (_Sonnerie: World's First Piano Concertos_) on Magnatune that showcases both "small ensemble" concerto performance with period fortepianos.

http://www.magnatune.com/artists....ncertos (http://www.magnatune.com/artists/music/Classical/Sonnerie/Worlds%20First%20Piano%20Concertos/)
(click on the hi-fi or lo-fi links to play the tracks)

According to the notes, tracks 9-11 are actually played on Mozart's own piano... built in 1777 and signed on the soundboard by J.C. Bach.

Prepare to open your mind! :-)


Alex Timmerman
Dec-17-2003, 5:28pm
Very nice examples Eric!

Especially the difference in sound and volume between the tutti- and solo- parts. #

Now imagine the Hummel- and Hoffmann Concerto in such an original entourage!

Even Leopold Kozeluch´s ´Concertant´ - heavy scored with an unusual strength of 1 & 2 violin(s), viola(s), 2 oboes, 2 horns, 2 bassoons, mandolin, 2 trompets, double bass, pianoforte and "basso" [violoncello] - will then sound to say the least, "different" than one would expect.

Of interest here is that Leopold Kozeluch was a friend of Ludwig van Beethoven...

Just think of this: Bortolazzi, Hummel, van Beethoven, Mora de Malfatti, and Kozeluch are all composing for, knowing and/or playing the mandolin...

It is because they were all linked in a certain way - most likely they all even knew eachother - and the fact that there is jet another friend of Beethoven, the Viennese mandolinist and violinist Wenzel Krumpholz (for whome Ludwig most probably composed his c-minor mandolin Sonatina), that I am inclined to believe that there were two #mandolin types prefered in Vienna: the Cremonese and Milanese mandolin, both single gut-string instruments.

The Neapolitan mandolin was known, but not very much liked and, unlike the case with the Cremonese and Milanese mandolin, there are sofar no direct indications for this type in Vienna.

Research is going on, since I found mandolin copys of the Neapolitan type by non Italian makers of exactly that period, only a few hours drive from Vienna.


Alex ©.

Dec-19-2003, 9:06am
Hi All,

Through the modern miracle of Amazon.com and 2-day shipping, I now have Mr. Galfetti's "Mandolin and Fortepiano" recording. I must say that overall I found it quite effective and "easy on the ears". It is frustrating that there is no description in the notes of what instruments he uses. Both 4-course and 6-course pieces sound to me like they are played on single gut strings.

In any case, it is clear that this was indeed a special time in musical history and Vienna was indeed a very special place. Witness the many different modern ideas of how a historical fortepiano/hammerflugel/pianoforte would have sounded... everything from "banjo-like" to "bar-room" :-) Even though it was a period of a developing aesthetic, it was still a time of great change and musical innovation.

I am very tempted to agree with Alex when he says: "I am inclined to believe that there were two mandolin types prefered in Vienna: the Cremonese and Milanese mandolin, both single gut-string instruments." As I've said before, I would go even further (out on a limb) and lobby that both may have been played with a plectrum (even though I am a fervent advocate for finger-style mandolino playing for earlier music). As we've done here, each piece should be considered on its own merits and the other types of mandolins shouldn't necessarily be shut out as possibility.

At the same time that we are working at building concensus, we have to always remain open to new evidence and arguments. Remember, that it is blind concensus that got us where we are... with most modern editions of Hoffmann's works ruthlessly (and silently) edited to remove all those bothersome notes that don't fit on a Neapolitan tuning... or the instrument itself referred to as a "Baroque mandolin". I think it is admirable to seek "historical accuracy" but we must also seek geographic and cultural relevance.

We have to remain open to exceptions to the rule as well as new ideas. Alex or Richard may yet turn up evidence of Mr. Malfatti's mandolin :-). Musical "evidence", both in the hands of musicians, and in the ears of listeners must also be considered.


Dec-19-2003, 9:15am
This just in...

I just received a reply from Caterina Lichtenberg. I had asked her what sort of stringing she used for her recording of some contemporary Viennese pieces on a restored Neapolitan-style mandolin by Johann Georg Psenner (1747-after 1798). She replys:

"yes, on my recording are gut strings. Its a old instrument from the 18 century,"

Just one more piece of data that combines both approaches!


Dec-19-2003, 9:17am
All right, ye wise ones http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif Suppose an ignoramus like myself wishes —I say suppose— to climb out of his one-size-fits-all universe and "go highbrow" into some 18th-century repertoire: Which ONE instrument (i.e. type of mandolin) would you recommend?

Or is this question doomed a priori, deserving a rhetorical, rabbinical answer of "ALL types"?


Dec-19-2003, 9:35am
Good morning vkioulaphides (is it Victor? pleased to meet you),

""go highbrow" into some 18th-century repertoire: Which ONE instrument (i.e. type of mandolin) would you recommend?"

Ha! Isn't "highbrow mandolinist" some sort of oxymoron?! :-)

In all seriousnes, with music written for both the four-course (Neapolitan) tuning such as Beethoven/Mozart/Hummel/Guiliani as well as six-course (mandolino) tuning (Hoffmann), there is no ONE answer. Though, I suppose you could have a Cremonese copy built and play the heavily-edited modern Hoffmann editions. If you go with a six-course instrument, you get to learn to read music all over again for the new tuning. This is a great process but it can be frustrating if you've always played the Neapolitan (violin-like) tuning.

I personally think its best to start off with the right number and tuning of courses, then worry about how they're strung and plucked. I thoroughly enjoy Hoffmann's music on my historically-inappropriate Lombard mandolin (about 50-100 years too late). This gets you six single courses, mandolino tuning, and a plectrum. You can still find these instruments fairly reasonably priced, now and again... though most need major restoration.

All the best,


Dec-19-2003, 9:57am
Pardon me, Eric; yes, it is Victor and I am likewise pleased to meet you at the Café.

Well, yes, I suppose "highbrow mandolinist" is a bit of an oxymoron although, I must admit, in my cultural background the mandolin is held as something quaint, elegant, gentlemanly— as opposed, that is, to the bouzouki-culture that duly belongs to the urban underclasses (its ultimate "gentrification" being more a commercial product of the post-WWII recording-industry). So, in light of the fact that this thread is subtitled "... and cultural preferences", yes, the mandolin is quite "highbrow", a mark of "the beautiful people" in that 1860's-1920's era.

But I digress (again). As you may (or may not) know, I am a double-bass player by profession; I live in fourths! On the other hand, I have played mandolin(s) since time immemorial, so fifths are curiously equivalent in comfort. Is it perhaps that the intervals are directly invertible? Who knows...?

My brief training on the guitar was always troubled by that interspersed third. How confusing... Also, in my casual forays into the bouzouki-world, I simply canNOT handle the modern, CFAD tuning to save my life; I much prefer the original, pre-WWII bozuk düzen DAD of the classic, medieval six-stringer (again, a fifth and a fourth).

So, to rephrase and refine my question: Which instrument, tuned in either fifths or fourths ONLY should I consider, if I considered? http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

Dec-19-2003, 10:12am
hello Eric (et al),

Why should Hoffmann' s mandolin be a single course instrument? Has it survived? The double course mandolin of this type kept it's presence fairly late in the century (18th) I gather. Not all musicians of this time played on the latest instruments. As for the one instrument to cover the most ground of this century (18th), depends on which music you like best. I would vie towards the Neapolitan if, for no other reason, it opens up so much of the violin repertoire in a more natural fashion. Then again, you might be happy playing this music on a well tuned and fine sounding late romantic round back, so then the choice would have to lean towards the 6 course instrument (mid-18th century model) to cover as much ground as possible with the music of the time.

What does Caterina mean by gut strings for the neapolitan mandolin since the only plain gut string that should be on this mandolin is the 1st course (E string)? Of more interest to me is whether she used twisted brass for the D. This is the string that most of my colleagues avoid like the plague which baffles me since it is quite unique in sound.

Victor, you can't avoid that third unless you play the little 5 course mandolino which has a B-E-a-d-g tuning, then you're stuck with Vivaldi and a few odds and ends of the earlier period.

Dec-19-2003, 10:16am
Hi Victor,

If your criteria really is fourths or fifths ONLY, then the Cremonese is your only answer for music of this period. 4-course Cremonese mandolins are tuned completely in fifths, and tuned just like Neapolitan mandolins (and violins).

Milanese (and Lombardian) mandolins use the mandolino tuning but to my knowledge, both types were always six courses... Though earlier 4- and 5-course mandolinos were tuned in straight fourths, with the 6-course tuning, that pesky major third has to creep in to give you a G on the bottom to match that of the top course (by analogy with six-course lutes and guitars). In this case, at least, the third is out of the way on the bottom of the instrument (G, B, e, a, d, g' low-pitch to high). The G-string is also not used all that often in my experience, mostly I think its there for (open) chords and sympathetic resonance and the occasional low note.

Collect 'em all! :-)

All the best,


Dec-19-2003, 11:04am
I think Tyler & Sparks and possibly Baines cite a low f# as a possible alternative tuning for the 6-course mandolino (I'm in the office and surrounded by biological reference material, but nothing musical). #I have not personally inspected tablatures that might provide evidence for straight fourths in six courses and am depending upon my failing memory here...so take that for what it's worth.

For 18th-c. music, Victor, I think there is a fairly distinct line between the fading baroque and upstart rococo/early-classical aesthetics. #If you favor the baroque, I would suggest you definitely pursue a 6-course mandolino, "decorative" g and all (and look into Arrigoni if you do!). #If you favor the classical (excepting Hoffman...and this might contradict some of the Viennese#cultural preferences debated above), I think I would recommend an early Neapolitan in four courses of paired strings: 1) they are so much easier to locate, whether considering extant instruments or commissioning a new reproduction and 2) there is simply so much music that we know was intended for this instrument--Leone, Gervasio, Denis, etc...And it sounds mighty cool playing Beethoven too!

Dec-19-2003, 11:47am
Hi Victor,

Sorry, this thread has been mostly about late 18th/early 19th century Viennese music (Hummel in particular) and my response was based on that fairly narrow consideration. Richard's (and Eugene's) recommendation to look at 18th century Neapolitan mandolins (or modern reproductions, as is more practical) is also quite valid. The Neapolitan instrument gives you access to much of this music and earlier Italian/French music as well... and your familiarity with the modern Neapolitan mandolin will largely transfer. Choose the music you want to play, then select an instrument. Cremonese and Milanese instruments are certainly more obscure today.

Richard, Yes, of course the six-course mandolino (double-strung) can certainly be used for Hoffmann as you correctly suggest. As you know, I too own an instrument "after" Lambert and (IMHO) it works much better for this music than for earlier stuff.

Single gut strings just *seem* logical to me for Hoffmann (if yet unproven) from a player's and a listener's perspective. I don't have my references with me but I recall a couple of scholars (Tyler?, Morey?) suggesting the Milanese instrument for Hoffmann. Remember that double-coursed guitars underwent a similar transition to single strings around this same period. Perhaps one of the guitarists on the list (Alex?, Eugene?) can comment on aesthetic considerations in Viennese guitar music of the time that might imply that shift?

As to your question about Caterina's recording, all I have is the response I sent. Based on her response, and listening to the recording, I would guess that the *entire* instrument is strung in gut and I don't hear the characteristic sound of the twisted-brass D-string or the octave doubling of the G-string. Again, the choice of gut strings may also have been a consideration for the recently-restored nature of the antique instrument. Other than Leone's earlier (French/Neapolitan) method, are there other references to the brass/gut stringing technology (particularly Viennese references)?

>> then you're stuck with Vivaldi and a few odds and
>> ends of the earlier period.

Hmm... that seems like pretty good company to me! I find much of this earlier music (Scarlatti, Vivaldi, Arigoni, Sammartini etc.) to be very attractive music indeed, especially when played with the fingers on an appropriately- built mandolino. Maybe you were just being practical in your recommendation for Victor.

And, for the record... my Neapolitan D-strings are twisted (as, some would argue, am I)!

Back to the grind...


ps - We are trying to be "pure" here (as Alex said) for the purposes of discussion but it goes without saying that people should feel free to enjoy this music on what ever flavor of mandolin that they happen to play.

Alex Timmerman
Dec-19-2003, 7:53pm
Hello all,

What is most important here (in Vienna and Prague - to a somewhat lesser extent) is the fact that there was a well developed musical awareness and taste in Vienna around 1800.

All the important composers there left us works for plucked instruments, starting with Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) for the ´lute´ (´Laute´) in combination with strings, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) and Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) composed both for the ´mandolin´, and - last but not least while being a guitar player himself - Franz Schubert (1797-1828) for his arrangement of Matiegka´s composition into a work for guitar in combination with flute, viola and violoncello and the many songs that were first written for guitar and later ´set´ for voice and pianoforte.

So plucked instruments were very much liked in the Classical Art music here.

All of the men had, at a certain time in their lives, chosen Vienna as their hometown and it is because of the cultivated ´taste´ in that town (being the most important cultural European capital then), that I tend to think that the #Cremonese- and Milanese mandolin were more ´in vogue´. Also the appriciation of the (gut-strung) Mandora (´Mandorlaute´ as the Austrians and Germans called it) was still still there well up into the first decennium of the 19th century. Whereas in other places the popularity of this instrument and (other) lute likes had long disappeared.

Because of this musical understanding of the Viennese public (middle class and high society) the Neapolitan mandolin most likely wasn´t met with a lot of appreciation. Especially when it´s "jangling and unbalanced sound" (to put it bluntly as Bortolazzi did) is compared with the smooth and pleasing sound of the gut-stringers (the Mandolino, Cremonese and Milanese type)

Was Bortolazzi´s goal to simply put aside the Neapolitan type as a primitive folk-instrument...

Naturally the preference of sound has to do with the sudden popularity of the guitar (gutstrung Italian type) at the end of the 18th century. It also showed the clear possibilities of single stringing and fingerstyle playing.

But jet the role of another instrument that was played by several #musicians (both professional and amateur) in Vienna must be looked at: the already mentioned Mandora is likely to be the best example here. This is the only instrument that gives insight in the changing from being #double-strung towards single-strung. And that within a few years exactly in Bortolazzi´s period.

As for the Neapolitan mandolin: that type had not much developed in the sence of sound quality since it´s birth around 1740. This would only improve in the frist quarter of the 19th century through the development steel and the application of (thin) high strings for the mandolin (improvement especially for the 3nd and 1st string pair). This was, as is believed, first applied by Pasquale Vinaccia in Neapoli.

It is interesting and of importance that in Vienna only one tutor was available at the time we are speaking about (published in Leipzig, 1805) ànd that it was the only[!] one in the German language written by an Italian[!]; the Brescian virtuoso Bortolazzi. And that it was written for the Cremonese type with it´s single gut strings... #
Bortolazzi must have had quite a lot of pupils and admirers, otherwise no publishing house would have brought it on the market.
Also, it doesn´t need a lot of imagination to think that if there was a Neapolitan virtuoso around in Vienna (like ±25 years earlier so many of them were in Paris, all publishing their tutors at about the same time for the Neapolitan mandolin...), he would have challenged Bortolazzi with his own Neapolitan mandolin method. #

So, for the acceptation of the gutstring types as being the most popular, there are even more considerations than jet alone the number of preserved mandolin types in Viennese collections, it also has to do with the musical atmosphere at the time.

To come back to Mozart; this great composer wrote two songs: ´Die Zufriedenheit´ and ´Komm, liebe Zither´, and a most beautiful Aria ´Deh, vieni alla finestra´, with accompaniment of a "mandolin". Interestingly this Aria was ´added´ to the opera ´Don Giovanni´ during the rehearsels of the first performance of the work in Prague (1787).

Generally is believed (although without any given proof) that the type meant here is a mandolino Napolitano. About the mandolinist (composer and organist), a certain Jean-Baptiste Kucharz from Prague, nothing much is known. Except - and than it becomes interesting again - that this man was the mandolin teacher of Josephine Clary for which van Beethoven composed three of his four (perhaps five) mandolin compositions.

There is however more reason to think that the sinle gut-strung types were also more popular here (Prague) and that even in this particular Mozart case (his Aria) originally a Cremonese mandolin was involved...



© Alex Timmerman

PS. by the way, Hummel was a pupil of Mozart.

Here a nice action photo of Duilio Galfetti playing a copy of a Cremonese mandolin accompanied by Diego Fasolis on a Pianoforte (photo: Swiss radio).

Dec-20-2003, 1:46am
Perhaps one of the guitarists on the list (Alex?, Eugene?) can comment on aesthetic considerations in Viennese guitar music of the time that might imply that shift?
I don't think the guitar occupied much of the Germanic musical psyche until the very end of the 18th c. #As Alex points out, I believe citterns and lute-like kin (i.e. mandora) were favored until then. #Tyler & Sparks (2002) write that J.A. Otto, a luthier in Weimar, believed he had invented the 6-string guitar some time after 1788. #Of course, there were already 6-string guitars in Italy before then (interestingly, some famous makers of Neapolitan mandolins were at the forefront of the 6-string guitar: e.g., Vinaccia and Fabricatore). #Even more interesting, Otto wrote that the guitar was introduced to Germany as a 5-string instrument.

Antoine de Lhoyer, one of the earlier guitarists to make a career in Germanic lands during the classical age, was a character that was surprisingly overlooked by the new Tyler & Sparks text on the guitar. #Lhoyer briefly settled in Hamburg after soldiering on the wrong side of the French revolution. #He was a proponent of the earlier, short-lived 5-string guitar. #He even published a virtuosic concerto for this instrument in 1802 while he lived in Hamburg (comfortably predating similar works for 6-string guitar by Giuliani and Carulli, these latter two often being cited as the "firsts"). #Lhoyer's later music--under pressure from the popularity of the likes of Giuliani, Sor, Carulli, Carcassi, etc.--was for 6-string guitars.

Tyler & Sparks also say that because there was not a strong guitar tradition in Germanic lands, the 6-string instrument was quickly embraced upon its arrival in force at the end of the 18th c. #By the time Giuliani settled in Vienna in 1806 and Diabelli was advocating things guitarry, the 6-string guitar was already established as the guitar and Austria had kind of missed out on the whole of the turbulence of transition from five courses to six single strings.

Dec-20-2003, 10:28am
Hi Eugene and Alex,

That the Viennese took to six-course "guitars" quickly is perhaps not surprising... since (as both of you point out), there was a strong germanic (and Italian!?) tradition for playing mandoras tuned to six-course guitar-like intervals and pitches going back into the early 18th century, and perhaps beyond... I will... for the present... reluctantly restrain myself in the interest of keeping this thread on topic. :-)

Let me just say that I am beyond thrilled to be having these fascinating conversations with all of you from our various corners of the globe.

All the best,


Dec-20-2003, 11:19am
Let me just say that I am beyond thrilled to be having these fascinating conversations with all of you from our various corners of the globe.
Me too! I don't get anything like this at home (save on the rare occasions I find an excuse to visit Mr. Ophee). One day we must all convene for a pint of smooth stout.

PS: I see a message to Dartmouth's lute list has just been rolled right down your mandora alley, Eric.

Alex Timmerman
Dec-20-2003, 12:40pm
Since you are both ´on line´ I´d like to say: me too!

I enjoy this very much and although I like to keep the topic as close to it´s title, am preparing a responce to Eugene latest (guitar) message and, if you like I can see if I have some more details on the Mandora in Vienna, for you Eric.

I hope Richard finds some time to react on the latest developments here.

Best and stay sharp!


Dec-20-2003, 1:27pm
Thanks Alex, that would be great.

If (as Tyler asserts), the mandora is the "liuto" found in the Guiliani and Hoffmann quartets, then it is certainly relevant to understanding late 18th-century Viennese cultural preferences. Interestingly, those similar quartets (again, according to Tyler) seem to imply both Milanese (Hoffmann) and Cremonese (Guiliani) tunings. Given the similarities in the instrumentation of these works, I wonder if we might further anticipate a similar "sound" for the mandolin?

That's not too far off-topic, right?... :-) We can always start a new thread if needed.


Alex Timmerman
Dec-20-2003, 1:37pm
No, as far as I am concerned, that´s very much ´in line´ with the topic here.


Alex Timmerman
Dec-24-2003, 9:27pm
Hello Eugene, Richard, Eric and others,

To be able to get some insight into the confusing subject on the development of plucked instruments, I´d like to go a bit more into the early guitar subject since it also touches on the history of the mandolin outside Italy.

I put the essay together with parts that are taken from previous writings which I did for several music magazines (such as the periodical of Dutch Lute society) and lectures that I gave at Music Academies and music courses. It is also #updated with material that I thought would be of interest here at our topic.

It is also a good start for my promise to Victor to write #on the subject of history of the German mandolin.

I hope you´ll all have a nice time reading it.



# # # # # # # # # # # # # # EARLY GUITARS AND MANDOLINS
# # # # #
# # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # in France, Germany and Austria
# # # # # # # # #

# # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # #written by Alex Timmerman ©

# # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # #24th of December 2003

Part I.

Guitar developments...

To begin with I´d like to quote Eugene in his last message: #“Tyler & Sparks (2002) write that J.A. Otto, a luthier in Weimar, believed he had invented the 6-string guitar some time after 1788. #Of course, there were already 6-string guitars in Italy before then” and “Even more interesting, Otto wrote that the guitar was introduced to Germany as a 5-string instrument”.

As learned from written sources this was the case in Austria (Vienna) and more important because of it´s early appearance in France (Paris), where about 11 years earlier we can find evidence that the five-string guitar was known.
Paris was also the town where several tutors written for the 5-string guitar were published of which the most important are the ´Nouvelle méthode de la guitarre ou lyre´ (published in Paris around 1790) written by Guillaume Pierre Antoine Gatayes (1774-1846) and the ones by Pierre Francois Olivier Aubert´s #(1763-1830) and Antoine Marcel Lemoine (1763-1817).

The sixth string was mentioned by Gatayes first, but it was in connection with the Lyra guitar, while the other authors Lemoine and Aubert (´Nouvelle méthode pour la lyre ou guitare à cinq et six cordes´ (±1800), deal with both the five- and six-string guitar. That in France the adding of the sixth string took place in just a decade is best illustrated when the year of publication of a method and it´s reprints, are compared.

Especially in Lemoine´s case this can be seen very clearly: the 1st #edition, the ´Nouvelle méthode courte et facile pour la guithare´, was written exclusively for the five-string guitar and published around 1795; the 2nd for ´Guitare et Lyre´ was published in 1801-2 and is in fact a copy of the first edition, but enlarged with a chapter on the six-string lyra guitar; in Lemoine´s third published method (1808) he describes the six string possibility only and without a specific distinction between the guitar and the lyre guitar.

The mentioning of the Antoine de L'Hoyer (1768-1852), as a performer on the 5-string guitar in his early career as a guitarist, is therefore certainly well at it´s place here. Especially since he was a Frenchman of origin and after leaving (fleeing) his homeland in 1791 for Coblenz, he lived for longer periods in Hamburg and St. Petersburg (here he stayed - according to M. Ophee´s prefaces in the editions of L´Hoyer´s re-published music - from ±1803 to 1812). L´Hoyer finally returned to France again, where he died in Paris.

Often to much attention is given to the violin- and guitar maker Jakob Augustus Otto (1760-1829/30) declaring himself as the “inventor” or that he “claimed” that he was the first to do so.

Even Tyler & Sparks (2002) speak about (quote): “Unfamiliar with what was happening elsewhere in Europe led a violin maker from Weimar, Jacob Augustus Otto, to claim erroneously that he was the first luthier to add a sixth string to the guitar (at some point after 1788”).

In fact, when is read more carefully what J. A. Otto himself writes about this matter - in a separate chapter - in his treatise: ´Über den Bau der Bogeninstrumente...´ (Weimar, 1828), we find out that he gave credit to someone else and that he only makes us aware of a ´small improvement´ by himself concerning the strings which he had developed for the instrument (quote): “The use of covered strings for the D and G is a small improvement of my own ”.
Of importance here is the first mentioning of a covered g (3rd) string in the history of the guitar. As we shall learn the A (5th) was already covered.

To get the right idea of what it is about, here a compiled quotation (taken from the - mostly - correct English translations by H. Turnbull and J.P. Bone) of what Otto wrote.

Jacob Augustus Otto: “The late Duchess [Anna] Amalia of Weimar [1739-1807] introduced the guitar into Weimar in 1788, I was immediately obliged to make copies of this instrument for several of the nobility; and these soon becoming known in Leipzig, Dresden and Berlin, so great a demand arose from them, that, for the space of sixteen years I had more orders than I could execute. I must take the opportunity here to observe that, originally, the guitar had only five strings. The late Herr Naumann, capelmeister at Dresden, ordered the first guitar with the sixth or low E string, which I at once made for him. Since that time the instrument has always been made with six strings, for which improvements its admirers have to thank Herr Naumann. During the last ten years a great number of instrument makers, as well as joiners, have commenced making guitars; so that, since that time I have entirely relinquished the business, and now turn over any orders which I receive to my sons at Jena and Halle, who are much occupied in that way”.

Otto gives also useful information about where the original five-string guitar was made and how it was strung: “The use of covered strings for the D and G is a small improvement of my own. In the guitar as brought from Napels, a thick violin string was used as only the A was covered”.

So neither the Duchess nor Otto, but Johann Gottlieb Naumann (1741-1801), a prolific Opera composer and one of the last generation lutenists residing in Dresden, should be credited for the implementation of the low 6th string to the guitar in Germany. Also it was Naumann who brought the guitar from Italy to Weimar (and likely to the Duchess) and it was he who urged Otto to make the first six-string guitar there.

Further more so since there are other preserved early six-string examples known that were made around that time in Germany.

Noticeably for our subject is that this Johann G. Naumann stayed in Italy from 1757 to 1764 (again in ´65 and in ´72) and that he applied a mandolin - together with pizzicato strings - in his opera “Achillo in Scyro” (1762) as the accompanying instrument to Achilles aria: ´Duldet die Seele Amors Befehle´ (Janssens). Naumann was appointed court and church musician in Dresden from 1764 till his death.

(To be continued) Guitars and Mandolins ©

Alex Timmerman
Dec-24-2003, 9:32pm
Part II. Guitars and Mandolins by Alex Timmerman ©

Another interesting example in terms of the guitar and it´s development, is found in the music composed by the sister-, bassoon-, guitar- and lutenist Christian Gottlied Scheidler (1752-1815) from Mainz/Frankfurt. His well-known D-major composition ´Duo pour guitarre et violon´ lacks the 6th string completely in the original edition.

It is quite possible that again here we find us in the company of a five-string guitar.

Also his two sonatas for solo guitar are of interest because both require only a low G on a 6th string (as pointed out by Tyler and Sparks). My assumption is that in this case the 6th string was not played with the left hand because it was lying next to the fingerboard.
This development probably stemmed from a procedure seen on guitars that had been originally made to carry five double strings, but were altered by simply stringing the guitar with single strings. Only the two strings of the 5th string pair were left on but the lowest was tuned to a low G (or E) and acted like a 6th string on the guitar. Evidence for this is found on some of the (originally designed) double strung guitars in a later placed longer nut designed to carry six strings. The longer nut gave place to five strings at the fingerboard and a sixth string, acting as a bourdon, outside the fingerboard. #

Of course Scheidler lived in Mainz and Frankfurt, places much more westward, but very near to Antoine de L'Hoyer´s self chosen place of exile Coblenz...

Before Giuliani settled in Vienna (1806) the (6-string) guitar was popularised through public appearances by guitarists of the first hour, like Leonard von Call (1767-1815), Franz Tandler (1782-1806), Wenzeslaus Thomas Matiegka (1773-1830), and Simon Molitor (1766-1848).
Leonard von Call must also be named here as a composer for his ´Variantions´ Op. 8 for violin or mandolin and guitar, was one of the first chamber compositions with mandolin to be published in Vienna (1803). #

Simon Molitor, a German musicologist, can be seen as the most important person to introduce the guitar in Vienna in the period before Giuliani, as he played, composed ànd wrote about the instrument. He worked in Vienna since 1798 after residing in Italy (1796/ 97) and it seems clear that he became ´addicted´ to this “new” six stringed type of guitar during his journeys and that he brought it back home with him. Together with the playwright Wilhelm Klingenbrunner (1782- after 1826) who was a devoted guitar player, he published the method ‘Versuch einervollständigen Anleitung zum Guitarrespielen´. It was published between 1806 and 1811 by one of the most important Viennese publishing houses named the “Chemische Druckerey”.

In the preface of the tutor Molitor and Klingenbrunner give the reader detailed information on the development of the guitar and about how it was strung through the ages. They give insight in the number of string-pairs ‘beyfügung des fünften Chors’ (the adding of the fifth string-pair) of the double strung guitar, but also informed that it was not known where this was seen first; in Italy or France. They finished saying that the guitar with that string arrangement was known already for some time in Germany as the ‘französische Guitare’ [chitarra Francese], but that this name did not give a definite answer about the origin of the instrument.

Towards mandolins with single gut-strings

Of interest to our subject “Historical mandolins and cultural preferences, Late classical period mandolin types” is that this early Viennese tutor through the mentioning of: “man schaffte die unbequeme doppelte Besaitung ab…” [´one does away with the inadequate double stringing...´] clearly shows that the single strings on a guitar were given preference above the older double (gut) strung type. Of importance here is that a reason is given for single strings: double stings were inadequate (or: awkward). With other words: they caused problems...
What kind of problems is not mentioned but one can imagine that these range from tuning problems, loosening pegs etc. up to the (double cost) of the strings.

Other information in the preface like: “Man war zufrieden, wenn zum Gesange nur so beyläufig etwas mitklang”, #[´people were happy, when to the singing there was some sound around´] point out that the (five-string) guitar was liked about 1790, but still was seen as a curiosity. In this state ”schlich sich das Guitarespiel vor ungefähr 18 bis 20 Jahren in Oesterreich und Deutschland ein, wo es vorher sehr selten gewesen war…” [guitar playing slipped for about 18 to 20 years ago into Austria and Germany, where it was seldom seen before...´].

Ongoing Molitor and Klingenbrunner wrote “Verbesserung durch Beyfügung der sechsten Saite, nämlich des tiefen E” [´improvement because of the adding of the sixth string, namely the low E´] and the added sentence “welches bey uns bald allgemein wurde…” [which soon became common here...´] that after this period it was because of the most important change that the six-string guitar pushed aside the five string model and became soon popular (in Austria).

Again, if read carefully, Molitor stressed that the 1st improvement of the guitar (strung with five double strings) was that it could easily be improved by just stringing it with single strings. This suggests that at first a double course guitar was used with a headstock equipped with 10 tuning pegs, but that it was strung with five single strings.

A practise that was not uncommon at the time in Paris, as is seen in the richly illustrated method by Charles Doisy (act. 1800-d.1807): “Principes Généraux de la Guitare dédiés à Madame Bonaparte” (Paris, according to T. F. Heck it was published between 1800/03). In it images of double course guitars are shown of which several are strung with single strings. # #

(To be continued) Guitars and Mandolins ©

Alex Timmerman
Dec-24-2003, 9:37pm
Part III. Guitars and Mandolins by Alex Timmerman ©

Alterations on Mandolinos

It is not un-thinkable that a similar treatment was given to the double strung Mandolino and that this manner preceded the creation of the Milanese mandolin. That type was originally designed to carry six single strings that were fastened in a much shorter peg head on to six lateral standing tuning pegs and a six-hole tie-bridge.

Evidence for this practise I have encountered on several survived examples (Mandolinos) and is also found in paintings of that era or a little later.

A late example of an oil painting by Anselm Feuerbach (1829-1880) titled ´Mandolinenspielerin´ (1865) can be found on page 25 in ´Das Grosse buch der Zupforchester´ (1993) written by M. Henke. This brilliant painted nearly photo-realistic work shows a beautiful woman holding a wonderful late Mandolino strung with six single strings that she plays with a two phalanx long (!) dark brown (wooden?) quill.

Feuerbach, a Neo-classical painter was mainly educated in Germany. From 1850 onwards he became more international orientated with a love for painting historical subjects. He therefore travelled to study with the painter Gustaaf Wappers who lived in Antwerp (1851) and it is known that he stayed a year later in Paris. #After a short period in Karlsruhe he moved to Rome, and lived there from 1856 to 1873.
His work displays a perfect synthesis between humans and culture inwhich nearly always a certain calmness is noticeable. From 1873 to 1876 Feuerbach was professor at the Academy in Vienna.

Towards Milanese developments

A survived example of an originally double strung Mandolino that was altered into a Milanese strung type is now preserved in the Museo degli Strumenti Musicali in Milano. Sometime in it´s existence the twelve-hole tie-bridge was taken of and replaced by a later six-hole example that because of it´s more heavier design, shows great resemblance with the guitars made in northern Italy in the last decade of the 18th century. A picture of this instrument can also be found in the book ´Schöne Musikinstrumenten´ (1979) by Friedemanm Otterbach (page 31).

The oldest original Milanese examples that I have found date back to around 1750. As far as I know no five-string examples of the Milanese type are known which makes it acceptable that the Milanese mandolin was introduced in music circles in northern Italy around that time.
It became more popular in the last quarter of that century as an alternative to the Mandolino that appeared to be in it´s final state of it´s development.

As is known through the research by a.o. Zuth, Robert Janssen, James Tyler and Paul Sparks that we know that the Mandolino had enjoyed popularity in Vienna, since it was here that the Italians Francesco Conti and Filippo Sauli were appointed musicians at the Habsburg Court in the first quarter of the 18th century. Both as theorbo players and Conti also as a composer. The latter included the Mandolino in his opera ´Calatea vendicata´ (1719).
Important to realize is that their survived Sonatas and Partitas belong to the earliest known music manuscripts for Mandolino (four double string model) ànd that these were stored through the ages not very far away from Vienna, in Raudnitz (Roudnice) in the music library collection of the Bohemian Franz Joseph Lobkowitz (1772-1816). They were thought to have been lost but have been located again: Tyler lists them as being found in the University Library in Prague.

As far as is known today no method was available to study the Mandolino or the Milanese mandolin in Vienna. Only as late as in 1817 there is the mentioning of Fouchetti´s method (!) in the trade catalogue of C.F. Whistling, and F. Hofmeister (Leipzig, 1817) as: ´Methode de Mandoline à 4 et à 6 cordes´.

As is pointed out so well in the edition of his French language tutor of 1770, Fouchetti himself indicates the two mandolin types as the: ”mandoline a six cordes”, and the new type as the: “mandoline à quatre cordes”, after which he then goes on clarifying the precise number of strings for each type: “La Mandoline à six cordes, en contient douze, parce qu’elles y sont doubles, comme dans la Mandoline à quatre cordes” (page 5 of the´Methode pour apprendre facilement á jouer de la mandoline á 4 et á 6 cordes´, Paris and Lyon, 1770. Original copy in the Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, Netherlands).

I haven´t found a copy of this - what I think could most likely be a re-issue of the original Fouchetti method - #Whistling and Hofmeister mandolin method by Fouchetti yet, but as you can imagine I am very much interested in comparing it with the original edition. Even if there are no text changes (which could be very easily be made by simply removing the last sentence in italics above) made that point towards a preference for single- and gut-strung mandolins or in case no copy mentioned by Whistling, and Hofmeister is found, it is interesting that exactly this method was chosen to be published here. #

And the Cremonese preference

A more drastic alteration of a Mandolino into a four-string Cremonese mandolin (Bortolazzi´s type with gut strings) is seen in a saved specimen that is now kept at the Musikhistorisk Museum & Carl Claudius Samling in Kopenhagen.
In fact it is the earliest dated Mandolino that is known to excist. It was made by Matteo Nisle and has got a hand-written label with the text: Matteo Nisle – Leutaro – Rom 1681. The instrument has undergone a number of big changes during the period of its existence.

I have examined the instrument and here is the outcome of my investigation: The most radical of these are that it now - instead of it´s original gut-fret fingerboard - has a fingerboard that continues up until the sound hole in which no fewer than seventeen metal (!) frets are placed and that the original bridge is replaced by a so-called ‘pin bridge’. On this bridge, another fret serves as starting point for the four strings.
Also a simple wooden ‘lining’ serving as a decoration is fitted on either side of the fingerboard as well as round the sound hole. #The fingerboard itself lies flush with the soundboard.

All this points to a working procedure that was very common with guitar makers in Italy and Austria round 1800.

Another adjustment to make the sickle-shaped peg box look ´original´ to carry four tuning pegs in total is done by filling the remaining holes with wood.
Fortunately, with a view to the instruments original number of strings, this is still retraceable. On the inner sides of the head one can clearly see four original holes on the left- and three on the right side. The holes that do not fulfil any function are stuffed with wood and are no longer visible from the outside.
Here again, it is interesting to see that like lutes, the oldest (survived) Mandolinos, made in the second half of the seventeenth century, originally had three double strings with only one highest string, the so-called ´chanterelle´.

It is important to know also that players and makers didn’t hesitate to alter an old instrument in order to create a newer type. In this case, because the mentioned alterations are typical characteristics seen on early Viennese guitars, it is quite possible that it was done in Vienna around 1800 (circle of Johann Georg Stauffer).
And as already pointed out the Cremonese mandolin was much appreciated there...

Today Nisle’s originally made Mandolino (stringed: 3x2+1string) is strung with four gut strings, like the Cremonese mandolin and in the way Bartholomeo Bortolazzi (1773-c.1840) describes it in his tutor “Anweisung die Mandoline von selbst zu lernen, nebst einigen Übungsstücken” (published in 1805 by Lipsia Breitkopf in Leipzig. An original copy is found at the Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, Netherlands).

That Bortolazzi´s method was published by a publishing house as important as Lipsia Breitkopf (later: Breitkopf & Härtel) shows that he was regarded as a man of distinction and that the Cremonese mandolin type was well accepted in Viennese music circles. #
It´s therefore not surprising that Austrian and German luthiers soon would make their own examples of both the above-described mandolins. #

Back to developments in Vienna.

After the French occupation in 1805 and 1809, Vienna became the most significant music centre of Europe. The development of the six-stringed guitar started by Italian builders is clearly seen here.
The guitars used by guitarists like von Call, Molitor, etc. were made in Italy or else copied closely after their example. Outward features of the subtle Italian guitars during this period are the decorations, the tie-bridge, and the position of the twelfth and occasionally the eleventh fret on the soundboard.

Because of the growing interest in the guitar and the rising demand of good instruments, Viennese violinmakers and other wood manufacturers (often working as furniture makers) were occupied with the building of the instrument.
This was likely the reason why the importing of Italian guitars was stopped, of which the best examples were built, among others, by the Milanese Antonio Monzino (1725- ±1800), the Turin based Carlo Guadagnini (±1768-1816) and - from southern Italy - the Neapolitans Antonio Vinaccia (±1734-after 1796), Antonio Gagliano I (±1740- after 1800) and Giovanni Battista and his son Gennaro Fabricatore (±1745- after 1824).
One must not forget that these makers were almost always members of a large instrument maker families with a long working tradition making instruments (guitars as well as mandolins) and that here only the most well known are mentioned.

In the first decade of the 19th century the Viennese making of a guitar was mostly derived from Italian methods, and the first representatives of the Viennese builder’s school, such as Johann Anton Ertl (1776- 1828), Martin Stob (1778-1838), and Johann Georg Stauffer (1778- 1853), produced guitars according to that example. Only after 1815 a clear sobering down of the appearance of the “own “ Viennese guitar model is seen.

This Viennese model was quickly popularized as can be concluded by the relatively many Viennese guitars that have survived from that period and because of growing demand that could barely be met at the time. This is why first violinmakers and other wood craftsmen - often trained in the cabinetmaker guild - saw the opportunity for (more) work and occupied themselves with the manufacture of guitars and why there came an end to the Italian import.

After the disagreements and hassle in the cabinetmakers- and musical instrument makers guilds about who were allowed to make musical instruments, agreement was met to leave free the manufactory of guitars and that the right(s) for making these popular (folk) instruments was controlled and regulated in official so-called patents. These patents could last for five year and be prolonged for another year or two, gave the sole rights to maker to make guitars with a certain model of his signature.

Also improvements in playability like among others, the choice of fret metal, fingerboard adjustments (radius, extension, floating, etc.), metal tuning mechanism(s), neck (iron bar implantation) and the adding of extra basses etc. etc. #
As a result to all of this a more plain guitar design developed and the recognisable Viennese copies of the often beautifully decorated Italian guitars disappeared.

The mandolin had undergone a similar development as the few survived example show an equal sober but effective design.

This became even more clear around the twenties at the starting years of the Viennese ´Biedermeier´ time, a period in the Arts in which the accent was focussed on unpretentiousness and honest beauty, that lasted from 1815 up to the Viennese revolution in 1848.

© Alex Timmerman.

I hope you enjoyed this. Any thoughts etc. etc. are most welcome!

Best regards,


Dec-26-2003, 6:03pm
Wow Alex! Thank you very much indeed for your wonderful and very detailed contribution. As it happens I got your note while listening to G.F. Guiliani and G. Hoffmann quartets!

I'm especially interested in the evidence that you mention for double-coursed instruments that were converted to single stringing: One six-course mandolino -> Milanese mandolin and one early four-course mandolino -> Cremonese mandolin.

To round out the list, I will again mention the Neapolitan mandolin that I have seen that was converted to single courses. In fact, I'm looking it right now! :-) This instrument was clearly built as a typical double-strung Neapolitan instrument and I would place it roughly circa 1775-1790. The mandolin is quite fancy, complete with an inlayed mirror in the peg-head, and though its label has been mostly torn out, I suspect that it may be related to G.B. Fabricatore based on a number of elements. Of course, I have no clue whether it ever spent any time in Vienna. :-)

It is impossible to say for sure whether this instrument carried single gut or metal strings. In any case, they would have been attached over the bottom end of the instrument to the four surviving string-pegs. The bridge is very tiny and thin and, as I said before, this bridge has been on this instrument for a very long time. I see no evidence of a larger "Neapolitan" bridge, though it would have surely had one originally. My own opinion is that instrument was converted to single strings within 10-20 years of its manufacture. Fortunately, it seems to have been largely left alone since then.

The depressions made for the strings in the bridge are very slight indeed. The grooves cut in the nut are considerably deeper and their breadth would seem to me to be wide enough to handle fairly thick (gut?) courses. Two (non-matched) period pegs accompany this instrument. It is obviously easy to loose friction-fit pegs if there are no strings attached!

Anyway, thank you again for your generous and informative posting. I'm going to go back and read it again when I have more time.

All the best,


Alex Timmerman
Dec-26-2003, 6:35pm
Thanks Eric!

I am happy that you enjoyed it.

Very interesting what you tell about the altered Neapolitan mandolin.

I hope to see it some time!



PS. about your (quote): "I'm especially interested in the evidence that you mention for double-coursed instruments that were converted to single stringing: #One six-course mandolino -> Milanese mandolin and one early four-course mandolino -> Cremonese mandolin.", I can add that here I only mentioned two different examples to illustrate developments of the two mandolin types most popular in Vienna.

Dec-27-2003, 3:48am
Alex, Eric (et al), very interesting. I won't challenge the vienesse ghosts of the past about single course mandolins or they way they might have been played. From a player's perspective and that of someone who has spent the better part of his musical life playing on single strings (violin) and the efforts related to tuning double courses (mandolins, harpsichords, pianofortes, etc.), I do find the sound of the single course instrument (even without tremolo) very dry compared to double courses. Why the change in taste? Of course, it is easier and cheaper to maintain and setup a single course instrument. It is also easier to play. This leaves the simple matter of adapting one's taste to the sound. Given that most modern mandolinists (so-called acoustic players) now accept without question to perform with microphone and electronic amplification, that synthesizers of all sorts are accepted in modern music as the equal or superior of their acoustic cousins, it is not at all surprising. Whether this 'requires' a given peformance on a given instrument in a given manner of play in order to be 'authentic' is another question worth pondering. In anycase, it is worth trying to see how far one can go with this 'equipment' and make artistic value judgements later. Incidently (for Eric), I don't believe any 4 double course mandolins from the 18th and even most of the 19th century had more than 4 hitchpins (in place of a tailpiece to attach strings), they always attached 2 strings to a given pin.

Thanks again to Alex for sharing his research (Eric too), this has been a great run.

Alex Timmerman
Dec-27-2003, 10:21am
Hello Richard,

Thank you, it has been nice to sort out things and to share information here! I hope also other readers will benefit from it.

By the way, I looked in Paganini´s guitar music for early evidence for tremolo. I found and excellent example of this in the Andantino of his ´Minuetto e Andantino´ (Sonata MS 84, no 33). #The Minuetto acts as a kind of ´Prelude´ to the Andantino.
The Andantino is just great; it is build up of a bass line made of chords played with the thumb of the right hand. In itself already very beautifull and even more so because it accompanies a marvellous singing and graceful tremolo melody. The complete Sonata is about 5 minutes long and for me a great example that illustrates the use of tremolo in ART music at the time. According to several musicologists who made intensive studies to the live and work of Paganini as a composer for the instrument, including my friend and P. Paolini (guitarist and scholar)
Paganini´s guitar music was written at various times between 1803 to 1823.

The fact that this piece is so beautiful and well written for the guitar (it´s style can be compared with the Tarrega's famous tremolo piece "Recuerdos de la Alhambra"), gives credit to the thought that, if the tremolo style was executed tastefully on a mandolin of that time, probably no one would have had any objections. It is perhaps not the best evidence for tremolo on the Cremonese- or Milanese mandolin, but to my taste a very good argument to be used to come as near as possible in favor of it. Especially when in discussion with those who disaprove any tremolo in the Hummel and van Beethoven etc. music.



PS. That is, if one chooses to play these pieces with a quill...

Dec-27-2003, 2:24pm
Hi Richard,

Yes, I agree with you that four hitch-pins are typical for early Neapolitan mandolins and that two strings were tied to each pin. I was just trying to describe the setup and make it clear that even though this instrument had been altered for single stringing, it retained the original string attachment method with strings attached to the end of the instrument.

I suppose everyone has their own taste but to me, the sound of single gut strings plucked with a plectrum is quite appealing (especially for this music). That said, I also like the ringing sound of the Neapolitan instrument in brass, and of course doubled gut courses plucked with the fingers. I see these as different colors in our understanding of an increasingly diverse and interesting pallete for our instrument.

As for tremolo, I'll only comment that on Mr. Galfetti's recording of the Hummel, he inserts various small ornaments where one might equally insert a small tremolo. Perhaps he too felt a void that needed filling in this music. I do like the judicious or ornamental use of tremolo (as I think Richard has done on his recording) rather than providing it as a continuos feature.

Even if we do reach some concensus around single gut courses in this music, we can't rule out the influence of the earlier Neapolitan instrument.... just as harpsichords probably co-existed with increasingly-popular fortepianos.

As for six-course guitars... I'll just say that I continue to find it interesting that (to use Alex's words) "the last generation of lutenists" seem to have been influential, both in the commission of six-course guitars, as well as writing and performing music on them (Johann Gottlieb Naumann, Christian Gottlieb Scheidler, etc.). I guess I just see the six course guitar, not as a new "invention" as much as an adaptation or response by those who would have at least been familiar with the long-standing tradition of six-course (and more) mandoras that used exactly the same intervals and tuning since the early 18th century. (Apparently by 1806, Scheidler's guitar had seven courses ("A Brief Look at the 'Last Lutenist'", Thomas Schall, LSAQ, Volume XXXVII, No. 2, May 2002)).

I have found that many modern lutenists like to ignore the mandora because though it is shaped like a lute, it is tuned like a guitar... some modern guitarists do the same because though its tuned like a guitar, its shaped like a lute! :-)

Hopefully we, as lovers of things with "mando" in their names, can bring perspective to these matters over time :-)

All the best,


ps - Alex, I'm intrigued with your observation that, at least in some cases, the sixth course on the guitar served as a non-fretted bourdon. It seems to me that there are certainly musical examples in mandolino music that would be served by such an adaptation of five-course mandolinos since only open G's are indicated. Also, even if its not required for the music, I find that the presence of the lower G-string often contributes considerably by vibrating sympathetically with harmonics in support of higher played notes. We should keep our eyes open for non-fretted sixth courses on surviving historical mandolinos!

Alex Timmerman
Dec-27-2003, 6:29pm
Hi Eric,

I´d like to explain a bit more to your PS in the previous post

1) "Alex, I'm intrigued with your observation that, at least in some cases, the sixth course on the guitar served as a non-fretted bourdon. It seems to me that there are certainly musical examples in mandolino music that would be served by such an adaptation of five-course mandolinos since only open G's are indicated".

Yes, that is what I meant with these early guitar "bourdons". They were and could only be played as open strings.

2): "Also, even if its not required for the music, I find that the presence of the lower G-string often contributes considerably by vibrating sympathetically with harmonics in support of higher played notes".

I agree, that is likely one of the reasons that eventually the sixth string was standardised on both the guitar and Mandolino. (And on the double strung guitar in Spain and - only for a short period - in France). In all these cases the adding of sixth bottom string (two octaves down from the first string (-pair) helped the instrument sound better and to become more powerful.

3): "We should keep our eyes open for non-fretted sixth courses on surviving historical mandolinos!".

I have found at least(!) one five double gut strung Mandolino (private collection) that was altered in it´s time to carry six double strings. Because the alteration of this gorgeous instrument showed such fine craftsmanship and because of other factors I am inclined to think it had been a players instrument.

Of course it is very much a matter of taste, but since you both (Richard and Eric) touch the matter of sound, single and double gut strings and finger versus plectrum playing #on mandolins again, I´d like to say that taste did not changed here (in Vienna) over night.

I do not agree with Richard that single strings sound ´very dry´, but that is perhaps because I also play the guitar and lute (from an early age). As a matter of fact I quite like the the warm well-projecting pizzicato sound of these fretted instruments. An answer to Richard´s "Why the change in taste?", can perhaps be found in that the Mandolino in Vienna (and northern Italy) was known to be played with the fingers (or - in Vienna - had been known to be played in that manner).

The preference in stringing plucked/finger style played instruments (as we have seen was the case with mandoras and guitars) with single strings could very well have been the reason for Mandolino players to do so as well.

But for the rest there was no change:

The reason to play the single strung Mandolino (or the Milanese type) finger style could lay in the fact that people were used to do so.
For a ´sudden´ change to use a quill was - and is - not that easy at all. So there is your answer to your question Richard (quote): "It is also easier to play. ?". Yes, they just kept playing finger style.

Perhaps this changed a bit with the arrival in Vienna of Bortolazzi and why a new generation of Cremonese- and Milanese mandolinists choose to use wooden quills.

With regard to sound preferences I already tried to make clear cultural inter-actions - by mentioning Conti and Sauli - both Italian musicians that were employed at the Habsburg Court in the first quarter of the 18th century. And that since then there had been a flourishing cultural exchange between what today is the northern part of Italy and Austria (Vienna).

Furthermore because there has always been a kind of rivalry between the north and the south of Italy (Rome versus Neapels / rich versus poor).

In the 18th century Italian musicians were all over Europe and - seen the historical ties - it does not surprise that northern Italian musicians thought first of going to Vienna, while those of Napels sailed to Marseille and travelled from there to Lion and finally, to Paris. These are among the reasons why in my opinion the metal strung Neapolitan mandolin found its way so easy to France and why the Mandolino, it´s single strung sister instrument, the Milanese mandolin and the Cremonese mandolin caught on in Vienna.

Remember that Bortolazzi, in his late twenties, came with his son (a child prodigy on the guitar) straight away from Brescia (northern Italy) to Vienna.

Of course WE today, are not ´hindered´ by these historical connections between countries etc. and that is why we like all mandolin types (to a certain degree, that is...). I couldn´t have said it better than Eric (quote): "I see these as different colors in our understanding of an increasingly diverse and interesting pallete for our instrument".

Eric, your sentence (quote): "Even if we do reach some concensus around single gut courses in this music, we can't rule out the influence of the earlier Neapolitan instrument....", is rather complicated, because several issues are put together in it.

My direct reply on this is the following:
1) I like a consensus, but fail to see why this is necessary in cases like the Hummel Concerto which obviously composed for the Cremonese mandolin with four gut strings and the compositions by van Beethoven that are intended for the Milanese mandolin with six single gut strings.

Also for the Hummel plectrum style is the logical conclusion as is pointed out in the method by Bortolazzi to whom the Concerto was dedicated. As for the van Beethoven compositions; finger style seems to be the original way to play these.

2) (Quote) "we can't rule out the influence of the earlier Neapolitan instrument...."

I don´t think, although it was probably known, that the Neapolitan mandolin played an important role in the Art music in Vienna. So, if it had any influence it was perhaps only because it was played with a (feather) quill.


Alex #©

PS 1. As for the Giovanni Hoffmann works, single strings are possible and so is the use of a (wooden) quill as justified by Tyler (Early Mandolin, page 39). But then again finger style and double strings are possibilities too.

PS 2. The other way around is similar: for quill players #it is also difficult to adopt a good fingerstyle of playing (and this is very much the same for plectrum playing mandolinists today, and simply the reason why so many music originally intended to be played fingerstyle, is recorded feather style... #).

But,.... #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/coffee.gif # #enjoy!

Dec-27-2003, 8:46pm
Hi Alex,

Thank you for the geographical perspective, your last note has made me much more comfortable in my own subjectivity (as if I needed help in that area :-)). I like your north/south argument very much, and it makes the point *very* well for a different aesthetic in Vienna than was present in France. I think this kind of geographic and cultural "evidence" is key for understanding these matters. And yes, I had somewhat missed your point before.

As for consensus, I agree that it is not necessary, but it is certainly nice where we can find it. As I've said, uninformed consensus can also hinder our understanding of the past. This particular discussion has been extremely useful for my own personal "perspective" on this music and period, consensus or no.

You state "and the compositions by van Beethoven that are intended for the Milanese mandolin with six single gut strings."

I personally like this idea but I think I'll sit back and read the responses to see if there is consensus. :-) I think I remember Tyler and Sparks giving Beethoven to the instrument in fifths... which seems consistent with at least the Kucharz connection... or do I now need to re-think Mozart too!? Maybe that's our next thread... :-)

All the best,


Dec-28-2003, 4:35am
Alex, where do you get the connection between Beethoven and the 6 course (single or double) Milanese type mandolin other than he was active in Vienna? His mandolin teacher was a violinist who also played 'mandolin' (of some sort), surely there were Neapolitan type instruments (or Cremonese for that matter) in Vienna as well as other parts of Europe. The very fact that Bortolazzi would complain about this instrument (neapoitan) bespeaks that he was disturbed by its presence (omni-presence). It's like the business of the tremolo. Certain mandolinists complained about its use (or abuse) which would lead me to believe that it was more common than not (especially poor execution of the technique). #The music sits very well on an instrument tuned in 5ths (sight readible).

Alex, I too love the guitar and lute and even the single strung mandolin, but the sound is indeed less complex (dry) than the equivalent double strung instrument (not necessarily louder or richer in tone). If you include tremolo as part of the expressive-technical arsenal, than it becomes even more apparent the difference. #Galfetti's approach on the Cremonese instrument with the Hummel sonata byfilling out sustained notes with divisions or ornaments makes a lot of sense and would be my solution as well on such an instrument.

Alex Timmerman
Dec-28-2003, 9:29am
Hello Eric,

I forgot to reply on your

1) "I guess I just see the six course guitar, not as a new "invention" #as much as an adaptation or response by those who would have at least been familiar with the long-standing tradition of six-course (and more) mandoras that used exactly the same intervals and tuning since the early 18th century".

Yes, in Vienna(!) all these circumstances helped to evolve the guitar as a six single strung instrument. Towards the twenties the awareness among the Viennese guitarists of the mandora as a seven-, eight and nine single strung plucked instrument of which the four highest strings were tuned like the guitar, would also quicken the acceptation of the seven and eight strung bass-guitars. At a much earlier time than elsewhere in Europe. This happened in a period that the six string guitar in Vienna had already pushed aside the Mandora.

2) "(Apparently by 1806, Scheidler's guitar had seven courses ("A Brief Look at the 'Last Lutenist'", Thomas Schall, LSAQ, Volume XXXVII, No. 2, May 2002)).

Yes, this idea stems from a review in the The Leipziger Musikzeitung, 22 Januari 1806.
The review was written on a concert that was (among others) given by Christian Gottlieb Scheidler, his pupil Dem.[ademoiselle] Jung on ´guitar´, and a certain Mr. Arnold on the Violoncello. The writer, who is very praiseworthy about the performance given by the three musicians, then - a bit furtheron in his text - states #that Scheidler´s guitar had seven strings ("Seine Guitarre hat sieben Saiten").

Although this would have been possible at the time (I have found several seven- and eight stringers made by makers working in Europe´s main Capitals that were built before and around 1800 and the fact there is also a written source (±1808) that informs about improving the guitar by adding a seventh and eigth string), I am nevertheless convinced that here a different type of ´guitar´ was used by Scheidler and his pupil. Scheidler´s guitar type was called "Sister" and/or "Deutsche Guitarre", an instrument that had developed along side the guitar, from the various German Zister types.

Probably Mr. Thomas Schall, (I haven´t read his article in the LSAQ May ´02) wasn´t aware of the publication of the book/catalogue: ´Gestrichen und Gezupft´ (November 1997, Herne) written by Dr. Andreas Michel of the Musikinstrumentenmuseum der Universität in Leipzig who, when I was examining the plucked instruments of the museum in 1998, informed me about his research on the "Deutsche Guitarre", the maker of this instrument type - a mr. Johann Bindernagel working in Gotha and the connection with Scheidler.
In the book/catalogue, Andreas Michel recalls a publication in the Allgemeinen Musikalischen Zeitung of 1801, written by Christian Gottlieb Scheidler himself(!) explaining the "Sister" and/or "Deutsche Guitarre" as an #instrument strung with seven gut-strings and tuned like: G - c - f - g - c' - e' - g' (Tuning cart). Interesting is the tuning in fourth for the three lowest strings and the chord tuning of the four highest strings (similar to the "English guitar"). About the strings and how to play them, Scheidler gives the following information (free translation).

Scheidler: "The manner to hold the Sister is completely the same as with the ´französischen Guitarre´. When the strings are plucked the three wound strings are stroked with the thumb, and the four plain (un-wound) with the consecutive fingers. It can in some cases also happen that the thumb has to be used to play the middle g string. the little finger is only used very seldom".

Here we find evidence that Scheidler knew of the excistance of the ´Chitarra Francese´ and that all the fingers
(p-i-m-a) of the right hand were used by inventive players like Scheidler was himself, as early as 1801!


Alex Timmerman ©

Dec-28-2003, 11:27pm
I'm just back in to read your essays. #Very nice, Alex, very thought provoking.

I think this discussion may have arisen in part because I wrote my assumption that Hummel was writing for Cremonese mandolins in both famous instances. #To the list of those who seem to believe Malfatti played Hummel on a Neapolitan mandolin I will add Alison Stephens (from the liner notes of her modern-instrument recording of the sonata) and Paul Sparks (1995). #Sparks writes "...Signor Fr. Mora de Malfatti, Beethoven's physician and the recipient of Hummel's Grande sonata for mandoline and piano." #"Mandoline" is highlighted as this is the term of convenience by which Sparks differentiates the Neapolitan mandolin from instruments tuned in fourths. #He doesn't address the Cremonese mandolin outside of occasionally specifying "Cremonese." #Sparks does write of the Brescian mandolin, the descendant of the Cremonese (although he uses the two terms as equivalent), still being popular in Germany in the early 20th c.

On Beethoven writing for Milanese mandolin, the music seems generic enough that I really can't draw any conclusions (but please take my amateur impressions for what little they are worth). #Sparks again writes of Beethoven writing for and his dedicatees playing Neapolitan mandolins ["mandoline"], but offers no instrument-specific evidence.

In spite of the popularity of single strings in Vienna, the Neapolitan-type family of instruments did persist and eventually evolve into all the myriad modern forms: steel-strung bowlbacks to F-5 to Ovation/Crafter/etc. #Classical-era publications for mandolin seem to have considerably waned by the early 1800s. #Still, Neapolitan mandolins were being built and were still present. #As I've discussed with some of you (especially Alex), I own an anonymous ca. 1835 French-made Neapolitan-type mandolin, probably from the shop of Clement Eulry (thanks again to Alex for the solidly likely attribution). #I like to imagine that the original owners of instruments similar to mine would have happily played the Hummel sonata, the Beethoven works, or Neapolitan folk songs...or any other music for that matter...if such music fell into their hands. #Maybe this wasn't Hummel's intended instrument, but I suspect Hummel was much more interested in selling copies than dictating appropriate performers, especially given the offering of violin as alternative.

A bit of a side line. #It is interesting that the standard guitar seems to have evolved from an instrument with five courses of paired strings to a brief, intermediary 5-string instrument to a 6-string instrument in much of the world. #I do think this suits homophonic music with a clear melody line very well. #Single strings would have fallen very much in line with the rising taste for a simple symmetry of contrasting musical ideas and the sonata form that came with the rise of the classical age. #However, the guitar came to be a 6-course instrument in Spain comfortably before the massive popularity of the 6-string guitar elsewhere. #It was still widely used as strummed song accompaniment there. #As a stellar example of misinformed liner notes, Volta uses the 6-course guitar as the allegedly intended instrument for Paganini's works to specify the "Chitarra Francese" on the Volta/Aonzo CD of Paganini music. #The sound is inappropriately diffuse for strictly punteado music of that era. #Grobert would be steamed!

Alex Timmerman
Dec-29-2003, 2:00pm
Hi Eugene,

Nice you are back.

I looked it up and found for the word ´provoking´ alternatives like: irritating and boring. Is that what you mean with ´provoking´?



Dec-29-2003, 3:02pm
Alex, provoke means also to encourage a response or act. Thought provoking is a common expression in English meaning to inciting 'reflection' or interest. Totally positive and I and certainly all of us wish you, Het Consort and all mandolin friends in Holland a wonderful new year!

Dec-29-2003, 3:51pm
I looked it up and found for the word ´provoking´ alternatives like: irritating and boring. Is that what you mean with ´provoking´?
You need a new English dictionary, Alex! #Like Richard says "provoking" here should have nothing but a positive connotation. #On second look, I see I typed "though" where I had intended to type "thought;" I have edited that error away. #The most appropriate definitions of provoke offered by Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language (1996, Gramercy Books, NY) would be "to incite or stimulate to action" or "to give rise to, induce, or bring about." #Thus, "thought provoking" means a thing is interesting enough to have inspired profound contemplation...as your essays always do.

...Oh, and Happy New Year too!

Alex Timmerman
Dec-29-2003, 4:16pm
Hello Richard, Eric, Eugene and others,

(First Richard and Eugene, thank you very much for the explanation of the word ´provoking´. I wasn´t sure and must say that I like this much more. Especially so because what I found was quite disturbing. And I do rather a lot of guitar talking at this ´mandolin´topic, you see, so...)

Thanks also for the nice New Year greetings! Be sure we all here wish you and all the others here a really good New Year! #

Back to mandolins.

The Beethoven issue:
(Quote) Eric: “I think I remember Tyler and Sparks giving Beethoven to the instrument in fifths... which seems consistent with at least the Kucharz connection...”

Yes, Tyler and Sparks do not give the pieces by van Beethoven a lot of explanation; they only refer to the instrument as: ´mandoline´, from which one gets the impression that it was tuned in fifth (Cremonese- or Neapolitan mandolin).

But the quarter tuned mandolino and Milanese mandolin in G can with ease be options too.

I also have played these pieces on the Roman- (Embergher) and (Calace) Neapolitan mandolin - I put emphasis on these two types because of the difference in neck width - and on finger style played double strung Mandolino and single strung Milanese mandolin.

For advanced players there are no big problems to overcome regardless on what type they perform the music.

Nevertheless I have come to the conclusion that the Milanese mandolin has most likely been the original choice by van Beethoven to write his pieces for. #

If time permits and if there is interest in it, I will go into the music and explain to you - by fingering the notes - why I believe so and why I think it can best be played finger style. (Perhaps someone here [Richard?] has them scanned in the computer; I don´t have a scanner yet, so that would be most helpfull. I than can add my fingering in red and publish relevant bits and pieces here).

On Eric´s (quote): “or do I now need to re-think Mozart too!?”
I can say that I already pointed towards this matter in my post on this topic of Dec. 19 - 2003 (19:53), saying: “even in this particular Mozart case (his Aria) originally a Cremonese mandolin was involved...” So, yes I think this would be a good thing to, do since I have come pretty near to think that it was played in Prague on a Cremonese mandolin.

As for violinists [of that time in Vienna] playing mandolin (to quote Richard): “His [van Beethoven] mandolin teacher was a violinist who also played 'mandolin' (of some sort)”, I´d like to say that this has in my opinion not so much to do with what mandolin type is involved here.

This because I see it like this: the mandolinists of the time were very much capable (like we are today...) to play more than one mandolin type. #

In Vienna perhaps even three (!), since the difference between the double strung Mandolino and the single strung Milanese mandolin (both being played finger style) isn´t that great.

Also when placed in time (I mean in chronological order) this would mean that the Viennese mandolinists first played one (or perhaps both) of the two last mentioned types and then changed to the ´new´ Cremonese mandolin that was so well popularised by a great virtuoso like Bortolazzi (and for which the only available method was published).

This isn´t such a strange idea if one compares it with what happened in the south of Italy around 1740 with the sudden rise of the Neapolitan mandolin and it´s fast spreading in France: All those Mandolino players switching over to the Neapolitan mandolin... .
And, although it was still mentioned it in the tutors written by Corrette and Fouchetti - the latter even wrote that he liked it more that the Neapolitan type -, the Mandolino in France was soon be to put aside (±1780) in favour of the mandolino Napolitano.

What also can be #concluded from this is that in France both mandolin types were played at the same time by the same people (for instance Fouchetti himself and the fact that his method is the only one that gives real playing advice for the Mandolino).
It was in those days very much the case as it is today (with Richard and Eric and myself in particular), to play several mandolin types with different tunings and their own playing techniques even more so performing on other string instruments like the violin, guitar and lute... .

On Richard´s comment (quote): “surely there were Neapolitan type instruments (or Cremonese for that matter) in Vienna as well as other parts of Europe”, I´d like to emphasize that I try with my explanations here, to reveal some of the differences in preference by cultures (our Topic).
Therefore I do not really understand the addition “for that matter” in the above sentence, because for me there is a lot of preference and difference between both types and - more important - it is the quintessence of our discussion.

Also I like to reply on Richard´s (I hope you don´t mind) next line (quote): “The very fact that Bortolazzi would complain about this instrument (Neapolitan) bespeaks that he was disturbed by its presence (omni-presence)”.

Of course it is likely that the Neapolitan mandolin was around. This is already pointed out in previous posts.

But unlike in France where, in the second half of the 18th century several tutors and a great number of music was published for the Neapolitan type, there is (yet) no real written evidence found for that type in Austria (Vienna). Neither in Art music nor in folk music. Comparing this with the high status of the Neapolitan mandolin in France, it leaves me with the thought that it likely did not play any significant role in Vienna.



Alex Timmerman ©

Dec-29-2003, 4:32pm

Ok, you need to elaborate on the Beethoven pieces. I've played them on the 6 course mandolino and do not find them particularily natural to this tuning (instrument), compared to the pieces by Hoffman or others who did write specifically for this type of mandolin. Maybe the Adagio ma non troppo, perhaps? We have another piece that should be dealt with that was published in this part of the world, the sonata of Neuling. Do you think that this should be better served on the Cremonese instrument? Why do you think that finger style was predominant on the mandolin in Vienna in the latter part of the 18th century? I see no connection with single or double course stringing that would make me think of one technique or the other. I will have a Cremonese instrument (copy built by Daniel Larson) sometime in the first quarter of the new year. I'll let you all know how it works out in practise and especially acoustically compared to it's double strung cousin.

Alex Timmerman
Dec-29-2003, 4:40pm
Oh yes, this stupid © copyright sign I was told to put in, because of the facts, thoughts and links and things I write about are mostly new or differ from what has been written by others. And because of my forthcoming book on the History of the Mandolin and it´s nomenclature.

That´s why.

Alex Timmerman
Dec-29-2003, 4:44pm
Hello Richard,

I am preparing a tremolo chapter for you and post it later this evening.

Your wonderful Hummel, Beethoven and Neuling CD is accompanying me!



Dec-29-2003, 5:26pm
Hi Alex,

Yes, I too would be interested to see your examples in the Beethoven pieces. I do have some editions of these works that I could scan but I can't vouch for their quality. If you still need scans, let me know what sections you have in mind.

One of the things that drives me crazy in pondering these questions is the rather free editorial license taken by some of the earlier modern publishers of mandolin music. I have some Hoffmann edited to look as if it were intended for the Neapolitan instrument... with no indication at all as per the original notes that were removed. Criminal!


Dec-29-2003, 5:44pm
And just to "place my cards on the table", I also must say that I find that the Beethoven pieces fit the instrument in fifths (Cremonese/Neapolitan) quite well. As a recovering violinist, virtually all of the chord shapes are typical and familiar. I also lean toward plectrum technique for this music. If you place many of these same chords on the mandolino tuning then finger-style playing is required... since notes now occasionally appear on non-adjacent strings.

Nonetheless, I remain open to new ideas!


Alex Timmerman
Dec-30-2003, 3:53am
Hi Richard and others,

Let me give a quick answer (and some other thoughts) to your post made yesterday (Dec, 29-16:32) (quote): "Maybe the Adagio ma non troppo, perhaps?"

Yes, If you read carefully what I wrote earlier, it is certainly possible that van Beethoven just composed the music and did not care so much for what particular type it was played on... .

Personally I don´t think that he got any real ´lessons´ from his friend Wenzel Krumpholz, whom he had met as early as 1795.
Krumpholz, a Viennese mandolinist (and violinist), in my opinion, only informed him about the thechniques and the possibilities of the mandolin (that is, the type for which van Beethoven wanted to compose for - "Pour la belle J. par L.v.B." [as is written on the ´Adagio ma non troppo´], meaning: the mandolin owned by Josephine Clary in Prague). And of course he would have her to play his music without much difficulties.

Perhaps not all the van Beethoven mandolin compositions are for the same mandolin type...

About the Neuling: I have found a tiny bit more on him in Viennese music circles and will look it up for you. And indeed I will have a go at his Sonata (by the way a wonderful piece!). It is of course very difficult to say anything about whether a Neapolitan or a Cremonese mandolin (both tuning in fifth and plectrum played) was used.
But the way I look at it, a Cremonese mandolin would fit with in the spirit of the Viennese age, best.

Do you know the date of the Neuling Sonata? #

Also (quote): "Why do you think that finger style was predominant on the mandolin in Vienna in the latter part of the 18th century?".

First I have recall that I was refering to the Mandolino and the Milanese mandolin.
As I wrote previously, musicians in Vienna knew the Mandolino as an instrument to be played finger style and this manner was also in vogue in the north of Italy where the Milanese mandolin originated (2nd half of that century).
It is therefore likely - seen the mostly un-damaged sound boards - between the rose and bridge and strings - of the survived Milanese mandolins build in the last(!) quarter of the 18th century (this is also the case with the Mandolinos build in the very same period) - that in Vienna plectrum style became known and accepted only after Bortolazzi settled there.

This probably took time: think only of those who were playing their pieces finger style, now having to adopt a different tuning and sufficient plectrum technique...). It is not so surprising that violinists were among the first generation to play the new (Cremonese) mandolin tuned in fifth.
And if they already liked the mandolin (perhaps they knew the Mandolino/Milanese mandolin or were taken by the performances and stunning virtuosity displayed by Bortolazzi), here was their opportunity to play it!
Being already familiar with playing on four gut strings tuned in fifth, frazing the music with down- and up strokes, trills and tremolo (these weren´t a big issue because their execution was left to the performer´s taste)
they could sit down and (almost only) practise playing with a plectrum and get used to how to hold the mandolin.

To your remark (quote): "I see no connection with single or double course stringing that would make me think of one technique or the other".

I can understand this very well! It is also not that easy to explain (and to believe), but I will nevertheless give it a try by fingering some Viennese music examples. But that´s for later.

For now, All the best,

Alex ©

PS. Fantastic! A Cremonese mandolin by Daniel. What original is he copying?

PS.2: The Edition Hladky of the van Beethoven (mandolin part) would do, if possible.

Dec-30-2003, 5:01am
The Neuling sonata was written around 1815 if my memory serves me right (no later than 1820 or earlier than 1810). I have found almost nothing on him as a composer or performing musician and it seems that he was an itinerant performer of some stature despite the paucity of information on him. I have 2 other pieces written by him for solo violin in a string quartet formation, "Polaccas or Polonaises" that are really quite virtuosic and demands advanced technique from the violinist. He was mentioned in passing by Fetis and Mayesder dedicated one of his works to his friend Vincent Neuling. That's all I know and haven't a clue when or where he was born or died nor his connection with the mandolin.

I still am not totally convinced by the predominance of fingerstyle playing, perhaps because I find it much more complicated procedure to learn on a small scale fretted instrument. I've examined (and played) the Stradivari mandolino and it appears to have had some telltale scratches on the table (quill or plectrum). The strings are very close together and with my large hand (fingers), I found it quite difficult to make a sound with fingerstyle (granted, I am a complete novice in this technique) as compared to its employ on the lute or guitar. You also see so many paintings from the 16th-17th century with people playing lutes with a sort of long quill (like the oud players), perhaps employing a combination of quill and loose finger plucking of the strings. It is for this reason that I music written by mandolinists are more revealing about the technique employed.

I agree with you about Krumholz (violinist-mandolinist) and his connection to Beethoven's works for the mandolin. I am sure he just wanted a few ideas or feedback about the possibilities of the instrument. His incentive was JC and, unfortunately for us, this didn't work out for him. This music can be played on any mandolin with requisite artistry but works better with the earlier period instruments. More important is the fortepiano than the specific breed of mandolin. The same goes for the Neuling sonata and Hummel especially. On the modern instruments, there is balance problems and the pianist is required to 'tone down' the dynamics. With the earlier period pianos, the pianist can let loose without constraint which gives a completely other feel to the music. Of course, I assume the Cremonese mandolins are tonally the equal of their double strung Neapolitan counterparts, otherwise it is a bit of the same problem faced wtih modern instruments.

I believe Daniel is making a generic build based on a couple of originals seen in person and photos and drawings found here and there. To be honest, I'm not really sure.
This one is from Milano. I don't like the idea of a fixed bridge, do you know if any exist with the strings attached at the bottom?

Alex Timmerman
Dec-30-2003, 5:52am
Ha Richard, you succeeded in going beyond message board borderies here! Haha (The image is even there when typing my reply!! One advice however here; please be careful with publishing museum instruments on the web).

Yes, I have seen this Cremonese example. It is a very fine and strong example, with enough frets (up to´g''') for the repertoire.
For your question if there are any Cremonese examples with strings attached to the bottom of the instrument, I can only say that I don´t think so. At least I haven´t found these on gut strung examples.

Please forget the Stadivari Mandolino here, this instrument has got the smallest of the smallest body design within the Mandolino family that has survived time. There is a far better second Stradivari Mandolino with four double strings that I have just mentioned in an article I wrote for the Croatioan EGTA society (European Guitar Teachers Association). It is published in their magazine ´Gitara 5´ (No2, pag.42, 2003) and a photo of that Stradivari Mandolino is also there.
Furthermore there are enough paintings and drawings, with Mandolinos on it, that show that this type was played fingerstyle. So for me the Cutler-Challen Strad Mandolino of the National Music Museum/University of South Dakota isn´t that good of an example (also not because of some scratches).

Also the paintings with plectrum played lutes and guitars (quote): "from the 16th-17th century" that you mention, I would leave out in this discussion. We have already seen that in Vienna there was a long tradition of purely finger style played plucked instruments (Lute, Mandolino, Mandora, Guitar and Milanese mandolin). A tradition that was only interupted by the Cremonese- and the Neapolitan mandolin.


Alex ©

Dec-30-2003, 8:38am
What an odd little piece. #Is the history or maker of this particular "Cremonese" mandolin known? #It looks to me like the bowl may have begun life as a 5- or 6-course mandolino that was later altered (re-necked, maybe re-topped) to suit changing tastes. #The bowl's profile and its clasp strike me as particularly mid-18th-c. Roman in style. #The neck-body joint is considerably wider than the neck ends up being. #If the fingerboard width at the joint were carried down the neck, it would be an appropriate width for an extra course or two.

My experience is a bit limited, but I'm not aware of any Cremonese mandolins that were originally built with the hitch pin and floating bridge set up of Neapolitan mandolins. #As Eric has attested, some Neapolitans were altered for single strings, but that doesn't really seem to count as a "real" Cremonese. #Tyler and Sparks state that the Cremonese mandolin actually was developed from the Milanese type: a case of convergent evolution where the wire-strung instrument split off from the mandolino lineage and some of the mandolino's descendants eventually evolved to be a bit more similar to the separate wire-strung line.

Dec-30-2003, 11:11am
Re: playing the mandolino finger-style, any evidence that this might have been done with nails, or would it have been typical to just use fingertips, a la the lute?

Dec-30-2003, 11:11am
Thanks for the photo Richard. I agree with Eugene's comments. The peg-head looks as if it was cut off (yikes!) with a new finial attached... I too would be interested in knowing more about this instrument. My (admitedly limited) survey of Cremonese mandolins leads me to believe that there is no such thing as a "typical" example. Even within one builder's output there seems to be plenty of variability in body size and shape (more later). And as we've seen, there are plenty of examples of conversions from other instrument types as well.

And Richard, I wouldn't worry too much about a fixed vs. floating bridge. I guess my modified Neapolitan would qualilfy in that department but I don't know that I would copy it! Nonetheless, when/if I restore the instrument I will likely retain the "Cremonese" setup.

I presume that intonation is your reason for wanting a floating bridge? My experience is that the intonation problems encountered with varying-diameter metal-core strings (on Neapolitan instruments) are largely absent with gut. Much of this issue with metal comes from the stiffness of the (metal) string, and the resulting effective shortening of the vibrating string length where the string bends over the bridge. With single gut strings, you can also stretch the string and compensate with the left hand to some degree as you play, much as one might adjust on the violin (only in a different direction).

Though there are certainly examples (as your photo shows) with fixed frets, I would recommend opting for gut frets if you are concerned about intonation. Gut frets allow adjustment and on-the-fly tempering as needed. You can always go to fixed frets later if you like... its harder to go the other way.

All the best,


ps - Alex, I'll try to make some LvB scans later today and I'll e-mail them to you if I'm successful.

Dec-30-2003, 2:10pm
Hi Robert,

The nails/no nails question is a canonical controversy in lute circles that never quite seems to go away. Both approaches are useful and probably justifiable. For the mandolino, looking to contemporary archlute and/or theorbo technique seems to be the right thing to do.... unfortunately, there is evidence of all kinds of things being done at the time... This issue will likely be debated by purists into the forseable future... with good examples from both sides.

For modern purposes, I think it really doesn't matter and people should do what ever is practical for their purposes and preferences. I play without nails but many lutenists far better than I have varying amounts of nail. Many who also play the classical guitar will opt for some amount of nail (my own lute/guitar duo partner would sooner cut off his hand than his nails!). Those who start with early Renaissance lute technique may tend to go the other way, particularly if they started with thumb-under technique.

Having tried virtually every combination, let me at least say that I feel strongly that nails are not *required* to get a good tone with finger-style play on the (double-coursed) mandolino (even a copy of the tiny Cutler-Challen Strad!). But that's another thread...

Frankly, we in the early mandolin community will be doing well to get finger-style music played more widely with the fingers, nails or not!

All the best,


Alex Timmerman
Dec-30-2003, 6:47pm
Hello Robert,

I agree with Eric: do whatever you like best!

Nevertheless here some guide lines based on facts:

The earliest dated Mandolinos were made in the last quarter of the 17th century.
From that period on up to well in the second half of the 18th century it was mainly played finger style with the thumb pointing outwards (and yes, there is some evidence for playing it finger style with nails).

After that time on we see two ways of playing and stringing the Mandolino. In it´s original way and played finger style with the outwards pointing thumb, and the other way; strung with a mixture of gut and metal and played with a piece of wood/bark from the cherry tree. #

Also original Mandolinos intended to be played with a quill (plectrum) were made in the last quarter of that century.

Original gutstrung finger style played Mandolinos were made well into the first decade of the 19th century. Shortly after that period the instrument fell into disuse.

There were so to speak: two models within one type at this period.


Alex #©

Alex Timmerman
Dec-30-2003, 8:03pm
Hello Eric & Eugene,

Well observed!

The original maker was Giovanni Smorzone who worked in Rome and build the instrument in 1733 as an original Mandolino.
The unknown alterator (likely not an Italian) who changed this - what must have been a - beautiful Mandolino into a Cremonese mandolin, chopped off the neck and head and put a new on. Also the soundboard in which originally a rosette would have been carved in the wood is removed. Now there are only some wooden linings around the soundhole and table... Indeed "to suit changing tastes" of the time". These alterations - done in a similar way with regard to the previously described Mandolino by Matteo Nisle - were carried out most likely in the first decade of the 19th century. #
Nevertheless, it was done with good craftsmanship resulting in a strong model of a Cremonese mandolin. If we could hear it, I think we would be very surpised by it´s sound!

As far as I know (I have examined 17 examples sofar) there are no Cremonese mandolins with 4 hitch pins and a loose bridge. #

There are indeed more Neapolitan type mandolins that were altered for single gut strings; I was forgotten this but I looked through my files and saw that I have found one in Vienna. They do perhaps not reflect the "real" Cremonese type, but show that the taste for sound of the time was pretty much in favor for single gutstrung types. #

And Eugene, I have come to quite another conclusion and do not think that the Cremonese mandolin was derived (´developed´) from the Milanese type.

I do not quite understand this line (quote): "a case of convergent evolution where the wire-strung instrument split off from the mandolino lineage and some of the mandolino's descendants eventually evolved to be a bit more similar to the separate wire-strung line". Could you explain what it is about and what it has to do with
(quote): "that the Cremonese mandolin actually was developed from the Milanese type:"?


Alex ©

Dec-30-2003, 9:35pm
It is very sad thinking of someone cutting up a Smorsone... (sniff...) placing a saw against that graceful peg-box... (sniff...) leaving a gaping hole in place of an intricate rose... (sniff...)

Alex Timmerman
Dec-31-2003, 4:42am
Yes, original Romans are exquisite; luckily there are #marvellous real Cremoneses too .

Alex Timmerman
Jan-01-2004, 1:14pm
Hello Richard and others,

You know this already, but nevertheless I´d like to point out to the people here at the board that for me your performance of the Hummel Sonata, three of the four van Beethoven works and the Neuling sonata with the accompaniment by Viviana Sofronitzki, is one of the finest recordings on period instruments there are at this moment.
You were the first to record this music in that way and it´s not only because of the refined use of tremolo (the topic here), but also because of the fine, musical and stylistic approach of all the recorded music, that I mention this CD here.

The tremolo issue...

(Part I)

I am very much in agreement with you on that subject: I already have pointed this out in a previous post here and mentioned, with the Paganini piece, the tremolo playing style in Art music at the time. #

But let´s straighten out things first here:
To quote you: “It's like the business of the tremolo. Certain mandolinists complained about its use (or abuse) which would lead me to believe that it was more common than not (especially poor execution of the technique)”.

I also read something similar as you inform us in your last sentence. But that is in connection with the French published tutor (1771) by Fouchetti in which he disapprovingly describes that the tremolo style was used by the Italian Pétacheux (street musicians). However, and unlike Fouchetti, the other French methods by Leoné, Corrette, Gervaisio and Denis show that tremolo was known and even taught at the time.
But that was in France, so let´s turn back to Vienna for this matter since there can be found such nice evidence for the use of tremolo in Art music by studying Bortolazzi´s mandolin method (1805) carefully.

Since it seems that no one really read this source carefully and/or paid much attention to, I will take as much as what is relevant for this subject from the original tutor by Bortolazzi.
Because he uses long sentences I will give a direct English translation of it.

From his Cremonese mandolin Method (1805), Section 5: #
“As very special we have to notice here that with regard to the mandolin in the compositions for the instrument semibreve and minim notes appear very seldom or not at all, because of the fact , that one can not smoothly with the ´Patacca´ or the ´Blättchen (-quill/plectrum), with what the strings are stroked, sustain that long notes, these have to be executed a bit in the manner of a trill”.

To find out what Bortolazzi means here by ´trill´ we have to move to section 21.3 where he gives information about how the ornaments have to be played on the mandolin. Interesting is that he gives the examples in general music notation as well as how these have to be executed in demisemi quavers.

In section 21.3, second paragraph, Bortolazzi points out with what attitude these extra´s to the music have to be performed: “ About the execution of the trills especially when the mandolin is concerned, one has, for a good sounding result, to execute these with precision and confidence” (quote: “Genauigkeit und Sicherheit”).

Then in section 21.5 he describes the tremolo as: “Die Bebung”, and explains this as follows:
“The ´Bebung´, tremolo, is actually obtained on other string-instruments by fast down- and up movements of the fingers, which suppress the string, required, on the mandolin one can only make it sound by fast downwards- and upwards alterations of the ´Patacca´, almost as done with the trill. It is for that matter notated like this:

Alex ©

Alex Timmerman
Jan-01-2004, 1:16pm
To continue:

The tremolo issue...

(Part II)

Important to observe here is that Bortolazzi refers to the fast down and up strokes of the trill as: ´almost as done with the trill´ #(“beinahe wie bei dem Triller”), ànd to what he wrote earlier in section 5 about how to deal with long semibreve and minim notes: ´these have to be executed a bit in the manner of a Trill´ (“es müsste denn etwa ein Triller geschlagen werden sollen”).

With this in mind I came to the conclusion that Bortolazzi meant that the sustain of long notes like the semibreve, minims ànd even with crotches(!) - according to his own example in his tutor - that these notes should be filled with repeating demisemi quavers and with a speed almost like as fast as with the trill. In Bortolazzi´s words: ´nearly´ and ´a bit in the manner of´ the execution of a trill ( “...beinahe wie bei dem Triller” and “etwa ein Triller geschlagen werden sollen”).

So not so much like a trill, but more as: hitting the string in the manner of a trill (Bortolazzi: “geschlagen werden sollen.”), with fast repeating demisemi quavers obtained by down- and upwards plectrum strokes of the right hand.
In fact, here for the first time in a mandolin source, in the theoretical part of Bortolazzi´s 1805 tutor, evidence is found of dividing the quaver into demisemi quavers and with it there is the first proof of what is known as the real (modern) tremolo technique. #

Conclusion: the tremolo playing style was with certainty a part of Bortolazzi´s playing technique on the (Cremonese) mandolin and in Viennese mandolin music at the time.

I hope with this, the translation and explanation of what Bortolazzi himself wrote on the subject of tremolo, that the issue of ´tremolo or not´ in this music belongs to the past and that modern performers can choose freely whatever long note ´filling´ - including tremolo - they prefer, without being criticised as being stylistic uninformed.

And free we are, to say it in Bortolazzi´s words: “these manners [techniques] now are partly written out in his music by the composer himself, or applied by the player at certain places according to his own taste”.


Alex Timmerman ©

Jan-02-2004, 10:39am
I do not quite understand this line (quote): "a case of convergent evolution where the wire-strung instrument split off from the mandolino lineage and some of the mandolino's descendants eventually evolved to be a bit more similar to the separate wire-strung line". Could you explain what it is about and what it has to do with
(quote): "that the Cremonese mandolin actually was developed from the Milanese type:"?
I'm just back in again to read your new essays, Alex. #Still very nice. #I do not have a copy of Bortolazzi's method. #I really must track one down.

On "convergent evolution," this is a term I've borrowed from my day-job vocabulary. #As an ecologist, I sometimes conceive of instrument developments as evolution in ecological terms. #Convergent evolution is when two separate lineages evolve to be more similar. #For example, the lines of small insectivorous mammals and small feathered dinosaurs. #These things weren't very similar to each other, but their descendants evolved into bats and birds respectively with similar morphologies and the ability of flight. #Thus, to use Tyler & Sparks's assertion as an example, we could think of the mandolino like those small, feathered dinosaurs and the Cremonese mandolin like birds. #In courses (here of single strings) and tuning the Cremonese has come to be more like batty Neapolitans whose lineage split from that of the mandolino at an earlier point.

While this is a convenient way to organize my thought and provides me with some amusing analogies, I have to be careful to not over apply ecological concepts to musical instruments. #Surviving musical instruments of antiquity aren't like animals in that they aren't necessarily generated through clear familial lineages. #While only horses can generate foals and there is nothing giving birth to dragons, there is nothing to stop some hypothetical luthier from experimenting and generating the chordophonic equivalent to a dragon; i.e. some musical instruments are just going to be what they are and won't be readily defined or clearly related to those things around them. #I think falling into such traps was fairly common for an earlier generation of music scholars.

Jan-02-2004, 10:49am
PS: I am considering Dan Larson for some repair work. Since we are corresponding, I asked about his recent mandolin efforts. Not only is he working on a Cremonese model, but he is working on two mandolini after Stradivari. I know, we're leaving the titled realm of late classical here, but Dan writes "I was able to see the Stradivari mandolin drawings and templates in Cremona last year, so I feel like I have a good idea of what the old guy was after with these instruments."

Jan-02-2004, 11:01am
I´d like to point out to the people here at the board that for me your [Richard's] performance of the Hummel Sonata, three of the four van Beethoven works and the Neuling sonata with the accompaniment by Viviana Sofronitzki, is one of the finest recordings on period instruments there are at this moment.
You were the first to record this music in that way and it´s not only because of the refined use of tremolo (the topic here), but also because of the fine, musical and stylistic approach of all the recorded music, that I mention this CD here.
PPS: I agree wholeheartedly. #This is always one of a small set of recordings I recommend to those interested in early mandolins.

Jan-02-2004, 11:10am
I didn't want to mention it but your ecologist/biologist background had indeed come to fore. Anyway, one problem with pursuing 'truths' or purity of a given historical style is that there were always strong differences in any period. I've mentioned Corrette and Fouchetti in their opposing opinions on the use of tremolo. There were serious differences in the bowed stringed world of the 18th and 19th centuries depending on not only geographical regions or instrumental schooling but also individual artists and their own personal tastes. Take Paganini, I've seen his bow, his strings, the bridge he used on his violin and it was quite a package of contradictions to modern ideas of what he used. Many people believe he played with a transitional or lightweight early style classical bow. It was the exact opposite, big, very modern and with a wide ribbon of hair (like a cello bow). His strings, on the other hand, were very thin for that era (compared to Baillot, Spohr, etc.). Geminiani used the vibrato as an integral part of his musical language, other Italians of that hardly ever used this. Getting back to the mandolin, Alex's comments on Bortolazzi's method were very interesting (I too do not have this method and would love to acquire a copy) and I, for one, am surprised that he embraced the tremolo with a single strung mandolin and plectrum. Why not, domra players do and I suppose it is a question for us double course players to accustom the ear and maybe speed up the tremolo.
Alex: Thanks so much for the time (something none of us have so much of beyond making our living), compliments and challenges to our evolving understanding of the historical mandolin(s).

Alex Timmerman
Jan-02-2004, 4:05pm
Hello Eugene and others,

Thank you very much for the explanation.

However, I think it is a bit to easy to write about the Neapolitan mandolin as (quote): "Neapolitans whose lineage split from that of the mandolino at an earlier point".

It is because of my research that I am more inclined to think that the Neapolitan- and the Cremonese mandolin haven´t got much more in common than only their tuning. Also, Neapolitans as being earlier developed than the Cremonese mandolin type is questionable.
In my view they both were developed independently of each other at roughly the same time.

And to make it all even more complicated, the Neapolitan makers who are credited for having created the Neapolitan mandolin type were likely not first (and/or not only) inspired by the double gut-strung Mandolino to make their metal/gut strung type.
But you´ll have to wait for the book I´m afraid...

And Richard: Please don´t speed up your tremolo (that is, in the way domra players do this!). It is very nice and full of expression as it is.

Best and thanks,


PS. For your information; since it is not available anymore, I am working on a facsimile reprint edition of the Bartholomeo Bortolazzi 1805 method. Hopefully it will be out within a month or two.

Alex Timmerman
Jan-02-2004, 6:34pm
Hello Eugene,

I see you are still up...

I don´t understand what is wroung with the guitar Sandro Volta is using. Can you explain why you think the type is wrong?



PS. And don´t forget: Paganini gave away that ´French´ Grobert guitar... ...

Jan-02-2004, 10:11pm
I have never heard chitarra Francese in reference to a 6-course guitar with courses of paired strings. #I have only heard this term used to describe single-strung guitars when they were a fairly new phenomenon, especially in southern Italy. #By no means, however, have I endeavored to collect all references to all the various names being applied to various configurations of guitar being circulated in the late 18th to early 19th c. #Mr. Volta's guitaring as accompaniment to the mandolino Genovese/Genoese is wholly adequate on the CD in question, but I'm not at all fond of the sound of the instrument in or the interpretation of the guitar solos.

The following has nothing to do with mandolins; please tune out if this offends. #That Grobert guitar also has some ties to Vuillaume's shop. #I once had the opportunity to buy a gorgeous guitar by J.B. Vuillaume at a price that even I could afford (well, with a little effort). #I passed it up because it was riddled with top cracks that needed attention. #I have kicked myself ever since.

Jan-03-2004, 8:21am
Hi, I've just read through this long "debate" with great interest. I was given some mature cherry wood with a substantial piece of seasoned bark attached. As soon as I in any way tried to cut it or shape it, it just crumbled and I got nowhere. Does anyone know of anyone who actually plays (in concert and all the rigours that go with such a thing) successfully with a cherry bark plectrum? I'd be really interested to know.
Ali Stephens

Alex Timmerman
Jan-03-2004, 9:37am
Hello Alison,

Very nice to have you here!

Seen the trouble it gives to make a quill with the bark of the cherry tree, I believe that Bortolazzi with his refering to: "...eines kleinen Blättchen Kirschbaumrinde" and "das Kirschrindenblättchen", did not really meant the (visual) bark of it, but more the peelings of the wood of the cherry tree.

Then it suddenly becomes quite easy to make a nice solid and yet flexible quill, to be used for playing a gut-strung mandolin.

Take for instance a twig undo it from it´s bark(skin) and peel the twig wood - away from you - with a (potatoe) knife. Like you peel a point to a twig. I´m sure one of the peelings (about 2 centimetres long) will be long and thick enough to make a nice cherry wood quill. #
Also a thin twig with about 1 centimetre in diameter will do fine, but then take what is left of the twig to make one.

Up to now Bortolazzi´s word "Kirschbaumrinde" has only and always been translated in English as the ´bark´ of the cherry tree...

While ´peel´ or ´rind´ are - with regard to Bortolazzi and his quill - better English translations for the German word: "Rinde".


Alex Timmerman ©

Jan-03-2004, 11:18am
Thank you again Alex, for providing Bortolazzi's actual words! This example, once again proves the importance of the availability of actual facsimile editions. It is amazing how much can get lost in translation (and then repeated!). As I've said here, I've had similar problems to those Alison mentions (welcome Alison!) with using the outer cherry bark (mine molded... then crumbled...).

I am not a native German speaker (and certainly no linguist), but I would translate "rinde" into the english "rind". For instance, we speak of "orange rind", as the outer peeling of an orange. I think the operative word here, as Alex implies, is perhaps "peeling". Bablefish translates "Kirschbaumrinde" into "cherry tree crust"... not very helpful.

Nonetheless... I can imagine that the cambium layer, or something close to it might provide a stiff but flexible plectrum. I wonder if cutting it green and letting it dry would be an effective approach?

I'm off to de-twig a cherry tree... (I cannot tell a lie)...


Alex Timmerman
Jan-03-2004, 11:30am
Hi Eric,

Yes of course, cut it fresh from the tree, let the peels dry out a bit and than file and polish it into a quill. #



Alex Timmerman
Jan-03-2004, 4:50pm
Hello again,

Before I came to my conclusions on Bortolazzi´s cherry wood quill, I looked to the translations given in several German - Dutch/Dutch - German and German - English/English - German dictionaries.

A bit more therefore on The Plectrum issue...

(Part III)

If we want to broaden our subject beyond the walls of Vienna, it is also important to notice what Fouchetti writes about the wooden quill as to be used on the gut strung Mandolino with six double strings ("La Mandoline à six cordes, en contient douze, parce qu’elles y sont doubles, comme dans la Mandoline à quatre cordes").
Especially so because Fouchetti states that the ones made of the feathers of the raven or ostriches ("...de Corbeau ou Autruches”) - for playing the metal strung Neapolitan mandolin (the ´Mandoline´) with four double strings - are: "no good in such case"!

About the wood used for the gut strung Mandolino - (the mandolin type he prefers because of it being more harmonious) - Giovanni Fouchetti writes in his French published tutor (Paris, 1771) the following (partly quoted):

"...de plume, d´une morceau d´écorce de Cerisier,...".

So again the cherry tree is the chosen material to be used on gut-strings... .
And like Bortolazzi, Fouchetti writes about the "d´écorce"; which can again be translated as a peel or rind of the cherry tree.

In this matter it is interesting also from an historical point of view to know that Fouchetti was a pupil of an other great mandolinist, Leoné de Naples, from who we know - through the fine reseach by Paul Sparks - that he had come to France already as early as 1760.

It is not unthinkable that Fouchetti, while studying the mandolin(e), also learned about the older gut strung Mandolino type, its technique and it´s history, first hand from his Italian teacher Leoni.

This, and the very fact that Fouchetti and Bortolazzi give independently, and more than 30 year apart from each other, their preference to cherry wood to play their gut strung mandolin types, gives room to the opinion that wood is likely the quill material generally used.

Anyway, with this knowledge a lot of the music from (or with ties to) the south of Italy and France originally composed for Mandolino in the 2nd half of the 18th century, can be performed either finger style or with a wooden quill.
And as said in my post of Dec. 11 2003, 19:47, if the different quill materials under discussion here are compared on gut strung types (the Mandolino, the Cremonese- and Milanese mandolin), wood stands out because of it´s solid quality and produces a much more firm, round and direct tone. While the pen of a bird feather gives a comparative thin and glazy sound when used on the same gut strings and instruments.

Perhaps, for purists, here is a challenge to perform the Mandolino music from that period and those regions, in a more authentic way.


Alex Timmerman ©

PS. When searched for the translations of the word "d´écorce" given by various dictionaires of this word (from French into English and visa versa) we see the same answers as in the Bortolazzi case. Also when the English words ´peel´ and ´peeling´ are looked up, possibilities are given that these can be translated with ‘écorce’ and ‘écorcer’.

Alex Timmerman
Jan-05-2004, 7:17pm
Hello Eugene,

Thanks for your reply.

The using of the name "chitarra Francese" in the history of the guitar is a rather confusing one and needs a bit more research.

The guitar used by Sandro Volta is a 6-string example made in 1802 by Gaetano de Grado. This luthier from whom nothing is know other than that he made plucked instruments, is likely to have family ties with another guitar maker called Antonio de Grado from Neapoli.
But I agree with you the sound of the guitar does not live up to its promise, especially the first string doesn´t sound optimal (this becomes better towards the end of the CD).

The guitar made by Grobert was given to Paganini by the Parisian violinmaker Vuillaume and Paganini when he left Paris gave the instrument in his turn to Hector Berlioz whom he admired and who - at Paganini´s request - had composed his ´Harold in Italy´ (1833/34), a symphony for viola and orchestra. #

And that is why the soundboard of the guitar is "engraved" with bot the signatures of Pagainin and Berlioz...

So don´t kick yourself to hard, they thought of these guitars as a giveaways!



Jan-05-2004, 8:11pm
Actually, Alex, I could have sworn that Sandro Volta used a guitar with 6-courses of paired strings. It's been a while since I've had that CD out. I'll check it when I'm home from the office.

Jan-08-2004, 11:03am
Well, I did pull that ol' CD off the shelves that night so long ago, and I have no idea where I got the idea that the guitar in question had six courses of paried strings. There is no such allusion in the liner notes and the instrument certainly sounds like a 6-string guitar played with the flesh of the fingertips. Hmm...

Alex Timmerman
Jan-10-2004, 7:54am
Hello all that are interested,

I´d like to inform you that I´m quite busy fingering the van Beethoven pieces as to play it finger style on a Milanese mandolin (tuned: g-b-e´-a´-d´´-g´´).

Since that takes time, I like fill the time till then with what we think of van Beethoven´s choise for the accompanying instrument.

And if there was a ´why´?

I´m interested in what you think. Any thoughts?



Photo Milanese mandolin: Alex Timmerman ©.

Jan-12-2004, 2:43pm
Hi Alex,

I don't know why LVB specified the fortepiano for his mandolin works, but I'd be interested in your views. I might speculate at the fortepiano being a likely teaching vehicle for Beethoven, and thus a convenient combination. I guess I see the Beethoven works as having a more private, rather than public intent.

I concur with Richard that period or reproduction fortepianos make all the difference to this music. To the modern ear, the sound of an appropriate early piano can be somewhat of an "acquired taste" but I increasingly find that I like modern pianos less and less for music of this period. As Richard pointed out, the pianist can bang away with all ten fingers while still blending nicely into an ensemble... even an ensemble of two!

As I've said before, I also think that what we tend to see as "accompaniment" was then intended as more of an equal role. There is certainly very effective writing for the fortepiano in Beethoven's mandolin works. Period fortepianos are more equally-matched tonally as well with a single mandolin. In this case (again, as Richard has pointed out), the sound quality produced by the fortepiano and a period mandolin have alot in common. Perhaps the intent was less for contrast, than for two similar-sounding "percussive" instrumental voices.


ps - Just an annecdote to support some points made above. I recently played a CD of early piano music (J.C. Bach) to a family member and they commented "it sounds like a mandolin". I have had the same gut-level reaction. As we look at "cultural preferences" with a historical perspective, I find this sort of revelation very interesting. If the Viennese liked the sound of a fortepiano, would they not also be likely to enjoy the sound of the mandolin?!

Jan-12-2004, 4:32pm
At the time of his visit to Praque and the period when he wrote these pieces he was at the height of his concert career as a pianist. Rival of Hummel and the old Mozartean school, Beethoven would push the vienesse fortepiano all the way into the romantic instrument favored by Liszt. He entitled the pieces for Klavier which could be translated as Keyboard and there are people who use the harpsichord with these works. However, it is much less effective and it only remains to know for sure what the ideal mandolin should be. I have an instrument similar to the one pictured by Alex. In some ways it could work but in most ways I would find myself struggling to make it work and sound convincing to myself. Perhaps the Cremonese instrument. It feels so natural to an instrument tuned in 5ths.

Alex Timmerman
Jan-12-2004, 4:56pm
Hello Eric and Richard,

Nice to see replies to my question!

Of course the Fortepiano was the vehicle for van Beethoven, and would have been the most natural choice for him and for the combination with mandolin. There were at that time already enough of these instruments around in Vienna.

The only thing however is that van Beethoven did not point out the Fortepiano as the accompanying instrument for his mandolin compositions.

Instead he specified that this - indeed equally important - role had to be played on a Cembalo!

Perhaps Maestro van Beethoven wasn´t at all looking for (to quote you): "equally-matched tonally as well with a single mandolin" and (to quote Richard and you): "the sound quality produced by the fortepiano and a period mandolin have a lot in common". # #

My idea is that van Beethoven´s intent was pretty much one of creating a clear contrast between the gut-strung mandolin and the accompanying instrument. He explicitly pointed this out by writing down the word ´Cembalo´ in all his (survived) mandolin works.

That van Beethoven was not the only one who did so is seen in nearly all the other Viennese compositions scored for mandolin with the accompaniment of a keyboard instrument. Most of these works specify the accompanying role for the Cembalo (Harpsichord).

Your confusion is probably caused by the fact that there are dozens of records and CD examples and hardly any recordings with a Cembalist playing the accompanying part of the van Beethoven works. Add this together with the usually misleading texts at the record sleeves and booklets, and there you are...



PS. it goes of course without saying that when a Fortepiano is chosen to perform this music, it sounds best when a period or replica is used. Especially when period or replica mandolins are used. But isn´t that what this topic is about.

Jan-12-2004, 5:09pm

Your wrong on this one. Beethoven uses the same term for his piano sonatas throughout his life and, for example, #I seriously doubt he meant that the Appasionata should be played on the harpsichord or cembolo. Perhaps some of the others who use the term Klavier or Cembolo or Clavecin were simply trying to sell more copies (implying backward's compatability).As for Beethoven's true intentions, he was a pure musician (did he not play his violin concerto on the piano?), music can be played skillfully on a lot of unlikely instruments. In anycase, his mind was on something else (lovely J) and probably not so concerned about finger style or how one held a quill or pick. My vote is still for the most expressive option. The single strung instrument lends itself less to a sustained singing adagio (non-tremolo, non bowed or sung). It sounds dryer even with a high speed trem. Hugo d'Alton did play the c minor on the milanese type mandolin (single strung) with flowery ornamentation that was quite impressive to me on first hearing. I looked at Beethoven's manuscript and noticed that D'Alton had basically resurrected the version or variation that Beethoven himself had sketched in and crossed out in preference to the simple and original version that we have in all printed editions. I am all for jazzing music up if it needs it to 'improve' the music but I don't think it is necessary here. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/rock.gif?

Alex Timmerman
Jan-12-2004, 5:12pm
Ha Richard!

I hadn´t seen your post when I posted mine. Therefore I am busy editing it again with my answer to you in it.



PS. I will leave that message as it is and now make a new reply on your last responce.

Alex Timmerman
Jan-12-2004, 6:12pm
Hi Richard,

I don´t think that I am that wrong at all...

The Harpsichord was ànd still is called: Das ´Cembalo´, in German speaking countries and should therefore in my honest opinion and without question be translated in English like that (Cembalo or Harpsichord).

It is, as you say with regard to his piano works (quote): "He [van Beethoven] entitled the pieces for Klavier -".

The naming of ´Klavier´ by van Beethoven to indicate his piano works stems from the German name for the piano, namely: Das ´Hammerklavier´.

So, If van Beethoven had chosen for the Klavier, I am sure he would have written that in the music, as he did as you so rightly point out in all his piano music. But he did not.

In his mandolin works he emphasized Cembalo...

More so because he must have known to what he was refering to, since his musical career had begun with lessons on the Cembalo.

The English(!) word ´Keyboard´ is the collective term for all instruments with a black and white fingerboard to be played with similar/analogous difficulties for both hands of the player. In my view therefore the word ´Keyboard´ covers instruments like: Clavichord, Spinet, Virginal, Piano, Organ etc. And of course also the Cembalo, being one of them.

I do not think that van Beethoven´s Cembalo therefore can so easily be translated into the word ´Keyboard´, and am because of that more with the (quote): people who use the harpsichord with these works".

I am afraid it has nothing to do with playing (quote): "the Appasionata should be played on the harpsichord or cembolo"...


Alex ©

PS. I do not think that this particular matter of van Beethoven´s mandolin compositions has anything to do with (quote): "Perhaps some of the others [composers] who use the term Klavier or Cembolo or Clavecin were simply trying to sell more copies (implying backward's compatability)", since they were never (intended to be) published but much more for personal and private use.
As Eric pointed out so nicely (quote): "I guess I see the Beethoven works as having a more private, rather than public intent".

A view that is also mine.

Alex Timmerman
Jan-12-2004, 6:33pm
I´d like to point out that it is not my intention the have the ´right´ and ´only way´ on my side.
It´s only to keep the discussion going and because I think it is time to know al the facts we are talking about in respect to the van Beethoven mandolin compositions.

And I am not a ´purist´ of the kind that thinks these compositions may only be performed so and so.
Not at all.
I even like it that performers choose their best way to perform music on period instruments!

But please do understand my point of view in this lively discussion. There is still a lot to come and to agree or disagree with...



Alex Timmerman
Jan-12-2004, 6:47pm
Apart from our own personal preference of today, my question still remains open: why did van Beethoven choose for the Cembalo in his mandolin works?

And if we cannot answer that guestion, let me put it this way: why did practically all the mandolinists who recorded these pieces choose for the Piano in combination with the Neapolitan mandolin (period as well as modern)?
And here I am talking about the sound character of both instruments.


PS. Hugo D'Alton played some of the van Beethoven pieces on a Lombardian mandolin (single strung). I have seen this instrument that he used for the recording you are refering to, and can say that it is very similar to yours.

Jan-12-2004, 7:09pm

I spoke about this at some length with a colleague of mine and specialist on the fortepiano. He thinks there was indeed indifference at times in the use of the word for the keyboard instrument. It is true that you rarely find the word 'clavecin' or cembolo used in Beethoven's works that include keyboard, but it did happen:

WoO36. Three Quartets for pianoforte, violin, viola and bass in E-flat, D, and C. Composed in 1785. Published Vienna, 1828. (Autograph gives 'clavecin' instead of pianoforte).

WoO 37. Trio in G, for pianoforte, flute, and bassoon. Composed in 1786. (Autograph gives 'clavicembalo' instead of pianoforte).

I have no idea why Beethoven would have opted for cembolo other than that was a safe bet as an available instrument. As you say, the music wasn't published by him (Beethoven) and was meant more as a private gift. To go one step further and say that Beethoven envisioned the music with these specific sounds, I would be less enthusiastic. As for the fact that most mandolinists play it on the neapolitan mandolin, the answer seems obvious because most mandolinists PLAY the neapolitan type mandolin. It also projects better and can sustain lyrical sections with tremolo. Now please, someone give me a demonstration of the contrary (musical kind)! I, for one, would welcome another convincing approach with these pieces, at the very least for variety's sake.

I don't think anyone would take these two works for being imagined and composed with the sound of the cembolo or harpsichord. Sure, you can play the mandolin pieces with harpsichord and with any of the mandolin variants but you cannot be so sure that this was the designed and expressed desire of LVB himself. He played the piano at the time.

Alex Timmerman
Jan-12-2004, 8:06pm
Hi Richard!

What I am aiming at is the desire of mandolinists to be heard.

Therefore I think van Beethoven pointed towards a ´tarting´ and rather metalic sounding Cembalo/Harpsichord in combination with the dry comparatively thick sound of a gut-strung mandolin (be it a Milanese or a Cremonese type).

On modern recordings the mandolinists neglect van Beethoven´s ´Cembalo´ prescription and like a Piano (either period or modern) more as their accompanying instrument. Again for the same contrasting reasons: The Piano has a much more rounder tone, while the timbre of the Neapolitan mandolin is far more thin and penetrating.

Both ways are chosen in favour (if you ask me) of the mandolin and of the mandolinst´s desire to be heard.



PS. I´ll see what I can find about these van Beethoven´s early compositions (WoO36 and his WoO 37). Van Beethoven (1770-1827) was 15/16 years old when he composed these works, so they could well have been written for the 'clavecin' and #'clavicembalo' as he pointed out himself on the music. Interestingly the Quartets (WoO36) were published after his death (Vienna, 1828) and likely indicated by the publisher as being: "Three Quartets for pianoforte, violin, viola and bass in E-flat, D, and C. Composed in 1785".

Anyway, very interesting. Thanks!

PS 2: Quote: "I don't think anyone would take these two works for being imagined and composed with the sound of the cembalo or harpsichord".

Actually Cembalo is indicated by van Beethoven on all four the surviving mandolin compositions and I - for one and for the sake of variety - would love to hear them performed on a gut-strung mandolin accompanied by a Cembalo.

Quote: "Sure, you can play the mandolin pieces with harpsichord and with any of the mandolin variants but you cannot be so sure that this was the designed and expressed desire of LVB himself".

Agreed on the "sure". Time will learn...

Quote: "He played the piano at the time".

And yet he indicated: #Cembalo...

Sleep well,


Jan-13-2004, 12:22am
Hi all,

Well... hmmm... very interesting. I must admit to being rather foggy on the various cembalo, clavicembalo, klavier, fortepiano/pianoforte naming issue. I will say only that I performed these pieces ~20 years ago in recital with a harpsichord! :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) ... and of course a historically-inappropriate mandolin :-)

Alex, as to your question of "why cembalo?", I suppose we could seek a musical answer (as you seem to be doing). Though I personally don't mind similar tonal colors for the mandolin and keyboard, contrast is a more powerful argument and you rightly state that both you and Richard are arguing for that differently... I'll leave you to it! :-) Can anyone point to elements in the keyboard score that might indicate harpsichord or fortepiano?

Since these seem to be works intended for a private setting (rather than publication), I would guess that they likely describe what was available to the intended recipient, rather than any broad instruction for later generations (us). Maybe Beethoven did in fact prefer the fortepiano... but found a harpsichord was convenient to the beautiful J. I suppose it is to much to hope for any actual inventory or instruments... though the "Archives of Prague" appear to reside in Clam-Gallas Palace today. Field trip anyone?!?


All the best,


Plamen Ivanov
Jan-13-2004, 3:36am

I think it`s not just matter of translation accordance. Behind the different names there are different instruments. When it`s about Beethoven`s mandolin and piano works I personally have met the terms "Hammerfluegel" and also "Kielfluegel", which in fact are used for different kind of instruments.

Here is some more information about the temrs: the strings of a harpsichord are not struck by a tangent as strings of a clavichord; they are plucked with a quill-containing plectrum!!! Therefore, the sound character is completely different: it is louder, and cannot be varied by touching the keys with more or less weight.

There are large and small forms of the harpsichord. The large ones are shaped like a grand piano; in German speaking countries they are often called "Kielfluegel" = "quill grand piano"! The strings are located parallel to the keys, and the right side of the case is curved because the strings of the treble are shorter. Instruments shaped like a grand piano have been played mainly in large rooms, for example churches or concert halls, in all times, from the large harpsichord till the modern concert grand piano.

Now I`m at work, but, when I come back tonight I`ll check my sheet music of Beethoven`s works. But if I remember well it was exactly "Kielfluegel" for the accomp.

I`ll check this and I could also ask some German friends.


Alex Timmerman
Jan-13-2004, 5:45am
Good morning Plamen,

Richard and I were talking about the original music in van Beethoven´s handwriting.
Nevertheless I am quite interested to hear where your (modern) van Beethoven edition was published and what it says about the music in the preface of it.



Plamen Ivanov
Jan-13-2004, 6:24am
Hello Alex,

Perhaps I have missed something, although I read carefully the topic. There`s a lot of stuff. What stays in Beethoven`s handwritings? I mean in the pieces for mandolin and piano.
I`ll check tonight the edition and will tell you.

Good luck!

Alex Timmerman
Jan-13-2004, 6:57am
Hello Eric, Richard and others,

Yes, I am searching for clues in the Viennese mandolin music and certainly in this particular matter for a musical answer.

A lot of the Viennese music for this combination that we are discussing has originally been published bearing (French!) titles like Sonata: "pour la Mandoline et Clavecin" and "pour le Clavecin et Violon ou Mandoline".

I just looked for it at the original van Beethoven pages and think I found the definitive answer in our accompaniment discussion.

It turns out that in fact van Beethoven himself gave two (!) indications for the Harpsichord as the original accompanying instrument.
In his Variations in D-Major he wrote right above the music in the French language (as was pretty much the custom at the time in Vienna) the following title :

# # # # # #"Variations pour la Mandoline et Clavecin.

# # # # # # # # #Composée par L.v. Beethoven."

And before the music part-writing he again specified (like in the other mandolin pieces) the instruments, but now in German, as:

# # # # # # # # # # #Mandoline and Cembalo.

Now, with van Beethoven´s extra indication of ´Clavecin´ in French, I feel quite comfortable and convinced that he intended all his mandolin music to be accompanied by a Harpsichord.

Many greetings,

Alex ©

PS. Yes Eric, I don´t mind either to hear similar tonal colors from a mandolin type and a chosen keyboard type. It is always nice to hear this music!

Jan-13-2004, 8:18am
Having opened up this can of worms, it seems obvious that I have a bias against the 'harpsichord' compared to other keyboard instruments. My favorite is the clavichord, followed by the pianoforte (circa 1830-90), followed by the fortepiano (1790-1830), followed by the 1890-1920's Steinway concert grand, followed by any number of great organs (all periods) and lastly by the harpsichord unless I am in the mood for mordent, short trills and an unhealthy amount of arpeggiated chords. If you rely on the printed notes and not on a free interpretation of the chords and thematic material, you are going to have much more trouble with a harpsichord than a clavichord or piano with respects to dynamic nuances.

Now, let's look at the music. Imagine the harpsichord and whatever mandolin chosen. Take the C minor Sonata (Wo0 43a). Look at the keyboard part and imagine it on the harpsichord with the same weight and volume of each set of fixed chords. Sure you can use timing and various subtle approaches with arpeggiation but the fact of the matter is that there is little one can do dynamically. If I try to use my performance with a nuanced fretted instrument (even without tremolo), it will become apparent that there will be little dynamic unity unless I play it straight and inflexible other than my use of timing and time related accents. the very end of the C minor statment (mesure 16) is so naturally played in diminuendo, why would Beethoven have written full chords in the 'cembolo' part. Good continuo players on the clavecin or harpsichord use thinning out voicing (less notes) to achieve softness. I suppose you could say that Beethoven wanted it loud at this cadence. Maybe, but it goes against the grain, especially compared to his other compostions of this nature. Perhaps in the C major sonata or the D major variations the harpsichord would be less a handicap though it would still require an inordinate amount of player adaption (mandolin and keyboard) to make it work as naturally as with a fortepiano. From what I understand of Beethoven as a player, composer and conductor, he didn't seem to be someone so much concerned about the comfort or convenience of the instrument. He might have truely intended the harpsichord at the same time hearing the music with the ears of someone attuned to pure music, with all the nuances that any great singer would exploit. Again, Beethoven occasionally used the term 'cembalo' in his later compositions which are clearly for piano so why not here. It is true that the music doesn't have many dynamic indications but it does have some and they include F, p, pp, sF, in both parts. The fact that Beethoven would have used the term consistently for the keyboard and mandolin parts doesn't in itself present additional evidence as to the sound Beethoven requested from this music.

I have the feeling that Beethoven might well have intended this music to be published and that he was interested in pursuing additional projects had Mlle Clary not been engaged to another. Did not Neuling and Hummel have their sonatas with mandoline published for Clavicembolo (o piano forte)? Surely these great works would be ill served musically by the harpsichord in place of the piano. For me, it was simply a frequent manner to sell music (advertised backwards compatiblity). #

Question for Alex: I don't have the D major variations in MS form copy. I would be interested in examining it and comparing to the Henle "urtext" that we all have.

Plamen Ivanov
Jan-13-2004, 1:03pm

Here is the preface of the Sonatina in C-dur:

Sonatine C-dur fuer Mandoline und Cembalo (Klavier)

"Ludwig van Beethoven schrieb im Jahre 1796 als Gast eines Goenners in Prag fuer dessen Tochter vier Kompositionen fuer Mandoline und Cembalo."

That sounds a little bit suspicious, because as we know they (or at least some of them) were written in Vienna. Besides In the inlay of Duilio Galfetti`s CD you can read, that The Sonatina in C-minor was with all probability composed for the Bohemian violinist and mandolin player Werner Krumpholz. So, I`m confused.

"Wenn die Wahl des Begleitinstrumentes auf das damals durch das Hammerklavier schon weitgehend verdraengt Cembalo fiel, so mag das im Vorhandensein eines solchen Instrumentes im Hause seines Gastgebers begruendet sein. Selbstverstaendlich kann zur Begleitung auch das heutige Klavier herangezogen werden, nur moege sich dann der Spieler eines zarten, die Mandoline nicht uebertoenenden Anshlages befleissigen."

This explanation for the choice of the accompanying instrument doesn`t sound very convincigly too, but anyway it`s "Mandoline und Cembalo".

The edition is: Friedrich Hoffmeister Musikverlag Leipzig

The copies of the "Adagio ma non troppo" and "Andante con Variazioni", that I have, have the parts for "Mandoline" and "Klavier (Kielfluegel)". Perhaps that is, what left these "Fluegel"-impressions in me. And unfortunately I cannot tell you the edition of these. I made the copies from the library many years ago and I copied just the sheets with the notes :-/ The next time, when I go to the library I`ll check them out.

Good luck!

Alex Timmerman
Jan-13-2004, 8:06pm
Hello Plamen,

Thank you for the info about the preface in the Hoffmeister edition. Indeed not very convincing as you say, but always interesting and good to know about.



PS. to Richard (qoute): "He might have truely intended the harpsichord at the same time hearing the music with the ears of someone attuned to pure music with all the nuances that any great singer would exploit".

Absolutely! And especially in this case... Just imagine van Beethoven day-dreaming about his lovely J(osefine); he must have heard complete symphonies in his head!

Plamen Ivanov
Jan-22-2004, 6:19am

Here is the answer of Prof. Marga Wilden-Huesgen, concerning Beethoven`s works. I asked for her permission to bring her answer to your knowledge:

“…Zu Beethoven:
In der Deutsch. National-Bibl.Berlin liegt das Adagio Es-Dur, die
Erstschrift , die anderen Werke und Reinschrift desAdagio ma non
liegen in der Narodny-Bibliothek in Prag.
Auf dem Manuskript von Variationen D-Dur steht: pour Mandoline et
vor der 1. Notenreihe steht jeweils Mandoline et Cembalo, so auch beim
Adagio .
Man kann die Werke aber auch gültig mit Klavier o.ä. spielen.
Beethoven hat alle Kompositionen 1796 in Prag fürdie Comtess Clary
geschrieben, das beweisen die Papieranalysen.
Die Werke sind alle für Neapolitanische Mandoline geschrieben. Andere
Informationen sind überholt, auch die von der früheren
Entstehungszeit in
Eine genaue Auskunft auf dem neuesten Stand der Forschung erhalten
Sie von
der Diplomarbeit von Frau Caterina Lichtenberg.
Ich wünsche Ihnen viel Erfolg und sende freundliche Grüße
Marga Wilden-Hüsgen.”

I`m always trying to be objective and to take all the oppinions in consideration. It wouldn`t be fair, if I didn`t ask her about the other oppinions – Wien, Wenzel Krumpholz, etc, so I asked her:

“> Sehr geehrte Professor Wilden-Husgen,
> Vielen Dank fur Ihre Antwort! Offensichtlich gibt es vesrhiedene
nach der Herkunft von Beethovens Werke fur Mandoline und Klavier. Mr.
Richard Walz (ein ausgezeichneter und beruhmter Mandolinespieler) behauptet, dass L.v.
insgesamt funf Kompositionen fur Mandoline geshrieben hat. Aber das
Werk ist verloren gegangen. Ausserdem
behauptet Mr. Walz, dass mindestens zwei von diesen Werken fuer den
Wenzel Krumpholz geschrieben sind. Dasselbe behauptet auch Danilo
Prefumo in
der Beilage zu Duilio Galfetti`s CD mit den Werken von Beethoven.
Dort steht
aber der Name Werner Krumpholz. Sind diese Informationen auch

It seems, that she became a little bit angry about that:

“Lieber Plamen Ivanov, das mit dem 5. Beethoven-Werk ist richtig, es
ist ein
Rondo in D-Dur, von dem nur noch Skizzen zur Mandolinenstimme
sind. Es ist nicht richtig, dass 2 Werke für Wenzel Krumpholz
wurden, es wurden alle Werke in Prag geschrieben, siehe mein Brief vom
18.1.04. Man hat lange geglaubt, dass L.v.B. Sonatine c-moll und
Es-Dur in Wien vor 1796 geschrieben hat, das ist aber nicht haltbar,
wie die
Papieranalysen bewiesen haben.
Natürlich können Sie meine Mitteilungen an andere Interessierte
weitergeben, aber machen Sie sich bitte ein genaues Bild mit der
Arbeit von
Caterina Lichtenberg und der Neuen Ausgabe von Dr. Armin Raab
"Werke für
Klavier und ein Instrument in "Kritischer Bericht zur neuen
B.V, 4 Vorwort und Seite 166-171 Henle Verlag, München 1993.
fällt es Ihnen leichter, diesem Musikwissenschaftler zu glauben.”

I excused myself. Of course, I trust her. And I`m very sorry, that she left with the wrong impression, that I don`t trust her. I just tried to be objective.
What do you think?


Alex Timmerman
Jan-22-2004, 7:34am
Hello Plamen,

Thank you for your interest and the trouble you took to ask others about this matter. However, in the answer nothing new has come to fore. #

Also categorical statements like: "Die Werke sind alle für Neapolitanische Mandoline geschrieben" , are to simplitic to my taste. Especially when no (direct) explanation is given.

As you know I have quite different ideas about this and many other matters concerning our instrument, and always advertised these with foundations of arguments.
Seen the great confusion today, I think this is a good thing - historically speaking - to understand the developments of our instrument the Mandolin.



Jan-22-2004, 7:37am
Sorry Plami but I don't know German. I would assume she hates my performance of these works and would contest my arguments. She also doesn't speak English, Italian, French or Spanish as far as I know so my one contact with her was not very communicative (I was asked to give a lecture there on Pettine and his style a few years ago). If you get a chance, please let me have it straight, I am quite curious as to her arguments.

Alex Timmerman
Jan-22-2004, 7:38am
Hay Richard,

There are no (new) arguments.

Best, Alex

PS. explanation on playing the van Beethoven finger style nearly postable! Cheers!

Plamen Ivanov
Jan-23-2004, 4:21am
Hello Mr. Walz and Alex!

Mr. Walz I`ll try to retell the most important moments from the correspondence.
I didn`t posted here my first E-mail to her, but I it was a question about Beethoven`s works concerning the things, that were discussed in this topic - the kind of the mandolin, the accompanying instrument, some more information about the history of the creating the compositions. She answered, that all of the compositions were written in Prag in 1796 for Countess Clary, which is proven from the documents analysis?! All the works are written for Neapolitan Mandolin. All other informations are obsolete, including these for the creating of the compositions in Wien.

I wasn`t satisfied with that answer, so I asked her, what about the other oppinions of people like You and Danilo Prefumo - about Wenzel (Werner) Krumpholz, about Wien and about the fifth Mandolin work.

She agreed with the fifth work. That was a Rondo in D-dur, but there are just few sketches of the mandolin part left. It`s not true, that the two of the works are written for Wenzel Krumpholz. And the argument is: "Look at my E-mail from yesterday" Strong argument, isn`t it?! The opinions, that the Sonatine c-moll und Adagio Es-Dur were written in Wien, are not durable (lasting) anymore. She recommended to look in the new edition of Dr. Armin Raab`s
"Works for piano and an Instrument" in "Critical report to the new full edition",
B.V, 4 Vorwort und Seite 166-171 Henle Verlag, Munchen 1993. "... if it`s easier for you to trust him". And also in the Diploma work of Ms. Caterina Lichtenberg.

Yes, Alex, it became a trouble to ask Prof. Marga Wilden-Husgen about Beethoven`s works.
I also cannot accept her allegation. I`m an amateur mandolin player, but I`m also a lawyer, so, that was the reason to write her my second E-mail with the hope, that she will bring more details. Instead of this she became a little bit angry and said: "Look at my previous E-mail" and "Look in ... if it`s easier for you to trust him".

Well, I`m still confused... not just about Beethoven`s works...

Mr. Walz, I think "hates" is a too strong expression. I don`t think Prof. Wilden-Husgen could hate Your interpretation of Beethoven`s works. I doubt, there is a mandolin related person, that could hate it. Just on contrary. Your interpretation of these works is shown as a perfect one. I just regret, that You didn`t included the Andante con Variazioni. What`s the story?

If we try to set us free from the emotions, what could we do further? It will be a problem for me to obtain the book, that Prof. Wilden-Husgen mentioned. Do you have any idea about it? But I can contact Caterina Lichtenberg. So I`ll let you know about the results.

Best regards,

Jan-23-2004, 5:33am
Hello Plamen,

First, I was half-joking about the 'hate' my performance of these works because of the debates on the use of tremolo (verboden since the late 70s in many parts of Europe). I gave Marga copies of this CD and the romantic one I had made and never heard from her (feedback), so I just assumed she didn't like the tremolo of the former and the italian style mandolin, pick and strings of the latter (none of her students use such equipment, at least the students I have met). Whatever differences we mandolinists might have in equipment, style and approach, she has certainly established a well organized 'school' that has produced several outstanding exponents of this brand. Getting back to the Beethoven works and why I didn't record the D major variations. It was our intention to record these pieces and there was certainly time enough (space) left on the CD. However, we had 2 days to record everything (2 sessions planned) and the recording engineer chose a small (intimate) church. The problem we had was airplane noise and road construction that usually was never a consideration (something to do with aircurrents and the unforeseen at the time the church was booked). Anyway the entire day was lost and we were only able to get in precious minutes late (very late) in the day. Besides the lost time and energy, our nerves were beginning to be frayed along with my mandolin strings. We had to decide to either skip the Neuling or the variations and that was it. In hindsight, it is just as well since I want to re-record everything (including the variations), I think there are a lot of things I would do differently now. I also would like to record them with another klavier player and experiement a bit with the other mandolin types though I am still inclined more towards the instrument tuned in 5ths and the double strings.

The edition I have with Armin Raab's preface is from 1994. I tend to agree with her about the Clary connection to the mandolin pieces (motivation for their creation) and insignificance of Krumholz other than giving a few tips on the mandolin. I don't believe he studied it other than in a most rudimentary fashion. What type of mandolin? What is this about paper analysis? The 1994 preface doesn't mention this. I haven't read or even discussed Caterina's paper so there is a bit more to be looked at. I would love to spend a month in Prague going through every book in the library, who knows maybe the missing piece has been tied into a different bundle or collection.

Alex Timmerman
Jan-23-2004, 6:23am
Hello Richard,

I am afraid that up to today (that is, as far as I came with my research) we only have van Beethoven´s music to examine.



Plamen Ivanov
Jan-23-2004, 6:30am
Thank You for the details, Mr. Walz about the CDs and Prof Wilden-Husgen! Very interesting indeed! And some more things to think about. Not responding?! I think it`s more Wilden, than Husgen ;-) Just joking. Whatever it is, You are right "Whatever differences we mandolinists might have in equipment, style and approach, she has certainly established a well organized 'school' that has produced several outstanding exponents of this brand."

Good luck!

Alex Timmerman
Jan-23-2004, 6:33am
Well, let´s #continue...

Hello all who are interested,

Playing the Mandolino and the mandolino Milanese fingerstyle.

Before examining the van Beethoven pieces I´d like to clarify my ideas of how the Mandolino and the mandolino Milanese were played when a finger-style technique is used.
The more so because today´s mandolinists have a modern ´back-ward approach´ in time on these gut-strung and similar tuned types. That is, often they possess a very skilled plectrum technique, but have no clear idea of how to play these types with the fingers of the right hand.

It is therefore essential that this gap is filled by studying these mandolin types playing with a finger style technique that is similar to what is seen on period paintings that show how these instrument being played.

Through the examination of this art-form it becomes obvious that the Mandolino and the mandolino Milanese were mainly played with the thumb, fore- and middle-finger, a technique quite similar to that used on the guitar of the time.
For using the ring-finger, practically no indications are found. Perhaps one could use this finger in chord playing when finishing a piece or in slow movements, but it may well be that this was something that was left up to the performer to decide.

The right hand position

The thumb was not held inside the hand like on the lute, but much more stretched out-wards and very similar again to that seen on the guitar (see photos).
This ´thumb out-wards´ technique was likely favoured because in this manner there is more ´room´ in the narrow space between the rose and the bridge. Also because of the angle of the hand enables the fingers to pluck the string(s) more strongly with a ´towards the palm of the hand´ direction.

The thumb should produce a sound that matches with that of the fingers. This will happen naturally because the thumb plays down-strokes, and because it is heavier build than a finger (still, listening to what sound you are producing is THE advice here). Pay also attention to the nail of the thumb. Either one plays without or with only a short nail; just enough that when playing a string, both flesh and nail will do the job. This can also be the way for stroking the strings with the fingers (nails) i and m (and a).

Be careful with placing the wrist of the right hand: it should NOT be angled in a position through which the fingers are placed in right angles with the strings. In such a position a very thin sound will be produced and one can just as well play with a quill (made of a feather pen of a bird).
To obtain a rich, thick and well projecting sound it is advised while practising to stroke each string-pair in a somewhat diagonal line and to really feel the preasure of the string-pair on your fingertip when touching it. #

The little finger may be placed at the soundboard, but this ´positioning´ of the hand can also be avoided (see photos).

Only after a certain control is gained over this particular right-hand playing style, one will start to learn the great possibilities of the instruments under discussion here.


Alex Timmerman ©

PS. for the sake of uniformity I have used the internationally accepted right hand guitar indications: the Spanish pulgar (p) for the thumb, index for the fore finger (i), medium for the middle finger (m) and - if used - appendix for the ring finger (a).

PS 2. guitarists can - to have a better understanding of what this discussion is about - put a capotasto in position III (or V) and easily tune the 5th,4th and 3rd strings of the guitar (from low to high) in: G-B-e-a-d-g.

PS 3. Please feel free to use this for your personal study.

Alex Timmerman
Jan-23-2004, 6:36am
Photos of the right- and left hand

Alex Timmerman ©

Alex Timmerman
Jan-23-2004, 6:42am
And photos of the thumb action on the 5th, 4th and 3rd string pair and myself playing the mandolino Milanese.

Alex Timmerman ©

Alex Timmerman
Jan-23-2004, 6:58am
And a few finger placing possibilities.


Alex Timmerman ©

Jan-23-2004, 10:00am
Now, now Alex... fingering charts are not what we lombardo-milanese mandolin players need, but convincing arguments that Beethoven was writing for an instrument tuned in 4ths. Of course, one can finger these pieces for the Milanese or lombard mandolins, but in my all too brief reading through of the music on the milanese mandolin, I did not feel at ease as compared to reading through Vivaldi, Arrigoni, Hoffmann to mention just a few whose writing is so clearly adapted for this tuning. Incidently, your penmanship is staggering for a musician, complimenti!

Alex Timmerman
Jan-23-2004, 4:07pm
Thanks and Hello Richard and all,

I am of course aware that you all know this Richard, but if one is interested in my point of view on these particular van Beethoven pieces, one simply has to know how I came to my belief. So that, and because almost nothing is known about the finger-style technique on these instruments I thought it was best to start completely from the beginning.

What I am trying to visualize is how the right-hand fingers work and if this style of playing is convincingly found on the basis of (chord) patterns and scale sequences that we see in the music under discussion.
To make my point strong I will explane the finger movements of the right-hand in combination with left-hand fingerings of the music.

Also the left-hand fingering of the notes is very important to make clear how the music ´fits´ an instrument; I mean as if it was written for it.

Like you I do play all these Checcerini, Arrigoni, Fontanelli, Tinazolli, Vacari and Vivaldi works composed for double strung Mandolino, but I play them with the right-hand finger technique.
As well as the Ludwig van Beethoven´s works, for which I use the single strung Milanese mandolin as you understand. And I feel extremely comfortable in playing all of them in this way.#

That instrument is also my choice for the Leonard von Call, Johann Hoffmann and etc. pieces which, on the other hand, I play with a wooden quill.



Alex Timmerman
Jan-23-2004, 6:01pm
Hello all,

Since van Beethoven´s Sonatine in C-major is not mentioned by any of you as a possibility to be played on the Milanese mandolin, I´d like to deal with that composition first.

This is in my opinion a perfect example to be played on the Milanese mandolin.

All the notes lay so to speak right under the left-hand fingers as is shown by the ciphers (in red) above the notes. No position shifts at all and perfectly written for the instrument!

When the left-hand fingering is combined with the finger style technique of the right-hand (marked in small letters underneath the notes) we will see that it works just fine. It is also important to notice that in this music there is a real structured right-hand finger-use possible. #

Especially in the chord patterns in the last 21 bars, where one is to hold the lowest note as long as the chord (tonality) needs, there are no problems at all. The note setting of the chords is a first rate example of effective right-hand finger style writting.

In fact, all the places - like the position shift (or stretch) in the very first bar, the odd fingering that is needed for the first 3 notes in the 2nd bar ànd the quite demanding chord procession at the end of the piece - that would have caused an amateur problems (like our Josefine Clary...) on the Neapolitan mandolin, do not exist when the piece is played on a Milanese mandolino.

Please have a thorough go at it.

I would be happy also if anyone can convince me in favour of any other mandolin type.


Alex Timmerman ©

Jan-23-2004, 6:53pm
The C major piece on the Neapolitan (or Cremonese) mandolin isn't a particularily complicated piece for the left hand. One little extension of the 4th finger and you have it. This is such common or routine technique for any violinist worth his salt that I can't buy the argument for the milanese (fingerstyle or plectrum) mandolin on this point. Of course, I wouldn't doubt that fingerstyle would facilitate some aspects of the note layout vis-a-vis the lefthand work but could you not extend this argument to Bela Fleck and his performance of Paganini's "moto perpetuo" on the 5 string banjo. I also don't think we can bring up J. Clary's competence on whatever mandolin she played because we just don't know. Beethoven knew and played the violin and viola. He was somewhat sensitive to what these instruments could do and might simply have extended his comfort in his writing of these mandolin pieces with this in mind (instrument tuned in fifths and routine passage work that wouldn't upset most stringed players of modest amateur status). #As for fingerstyle, I don't believe Beethoven played the guitar or was closely associated with guitarists or similar. I also doubt very much that you can project as well fingerstyle as with the plectrum (I hear Eric protesting in the background:). In anycase and before Bela Fleck starts playing jazzed up arrangements of these pieces, why not close this discussion (we're on to 10 pages now) with a recording or concert project to demonstrate every combination of mandolin and "klavier" imagineable that had existed in 1796. Eugene can find some cherry bark, Eric can grow his nails, Alex can provide us with fingerings and, and I'll look for a Jospehine Clary to inspire us all.

Alex Timmerman
Jan-23-2004, 6:58pm
Hi Richard,

The following bit of the Sonatina can very well be played on a vacuum cleaner...

Nevertheless I´ll give you the fingering here.


Alex ©

Alex Timmerman
Jan-23-2004, 7:07pm
Hello again Richard,

I hope you agree with me that if we compare these 4 #mandolin compositions by van Beethoven with his compositions of the same period in which he included a violin part, they are rather simple. Don´t they?

And yes, I could easily hold all these arguments to you or Bela Fleck (or whoever), simply because it is not a matter of if we are capable of playing these works (of course we are and on what ever instrument!), but more one to find out how close we can come to the original intent of the works. # #

Now, what about the right-hand technique?



Jan-23-2004, 7:17pm

This works but it involves a lot of open strings mixed in with stopped strings in melodic movement. I would avoid this if you want to have even phrasing. For example, measure 31 could as well be played with the 3rd finger and 4th fingers on the A string rather than jumping between strings. Same for measures 38 & 39. My own fingering of the milanese instrument is a bit more individual and influenced from neapolitan fingering (of course) but it does give me more options to maintain tonal balance in phrases. Thanks for the fingerings and especially the righthand finger strokes. I have never played guitar and won't begin now at this late stage in my career but I'll pass this on to those interested in learning fingerstyle plucking. One last question, 'what kind of vacuum cleaner do you have'. Mine only makes one indistinct load hum http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

Alex Timmerman
Jan-23-2004, 7:28pm
I look it up for you...

The 2nd page fingering are just 2 options; of course there are more. I´ll try yours. Thanks!

Sleep well. I´ll post the last 30 bars of the piece tomorrow, so you have it all complete.



It´s an Electronic Bestran and very quiet . http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

Jan-24-2004, 8:04am
I don't believe Beethoven played the guitar or was closely associated with guitarists or similar.
This is just an aside and I don't think it should really weigh much on one side or the other of this debate, but Beethoven was associated with guitarists. A publisher of many of his works, Anton Diabelli, wrote and published a great many pieces for guitar, guitar duo, and guitar in chamber ensembles. Anecdote also places one of that era's greatest guitarists as a casual freind of Beethoven; Mauro Giuliani (no, he's not any of the handful of Giuliani-s to write mandolin music) is rumored to have played cello in the first performance of Beethoven's 7th symphony out of friendship...And even farther aside, both these characters played guitars from the Staufer/Stauffer shop in Vienna. At least one of Staufer's proteges, Schertzer, is known to have made mandolins, although I don't believe any have survived.

Jan-24-2004, 10:38am
Good morning all

>> I also doubt very much that you can project as well fingerstyle
>> as with the plectrum (I hear Eric protesting in the background:).

Who me? #:-) #

I'll leave that answer for another day... I'll only say that I think there are many components to projection and that loudness is only one. #there is a fairly interesting set of articles in recent issues of "The Strad" (Sound Waves, October 2003, pp 1106-1110) that discuss projection in old Italian violins... #Its not loudness that makes a fine old Italian violin reach the folks in the cheap seats (loudness apparently only carries a short distance) but rather the components of the instrument's tone and their relationship to human hearing. #Rather than botch a summary I'll point you to the articles.

I really want to thank and recognize Alex for all of his photos and extraordinary work on the Milanese examples. #You need only see the smile on his face to know the magic of the mandolino played finger-style! #:-) #I will spend some time to visit the Milanese finger-style possiblity for Beethoven. #Let me just say briefly that I agree with Alex on right-hand finger-style technique being thumb-out. #Though this is another canonical discussion in lute circles, its rather widely accepted that lutenists too had moved to thumb-out playing, starting as early as circa 1600 (gross generalization!) including J. Dowland himself. #Thumb-out playing is certainly likely for archlute and theorbo players... who may well be our early mandolino players as well.

Though I will evaluate the Milanese mandolin (or at least tuning) for the Beethoven, I must come clean and admit that I now have my own favorite possibility. #As some of you know, I have been having an 1801 Matteo Scolari Cremonese mandolin painstakingly restored over the last year. #Well... she came home yesterday and I'm speachless. #This thing is simply unlike any mandolin that I have ever played and it presents a very attractive solution for the Beethoven. #Alex has made some of these points about single-strung gut instruments before but let me try to put them into words.

First, this instrument is *tiny*! #Its been gone for a year so I had forgotten just how tiny. #Its on the scale of the Cutler-Challen Strad mandolino and it is somewhat narrower than the Scolari pictured in Alex's book. #At first glance you wouldn't think it could project well at all..... and yet it does. #The instrument is *so* lightly-built, and the top is *so* thin, and the body is *so* shallow that it is an absolute vibrating machine. #Think about the sound that you can make with a small paper cup and a straw... same idea. # In many ways, I am reminded of the sound production of the banjo, #the top speaks if I merely touch or brush the bridge with my shirt sleeve. #Even with a light touch, I get a great "pop" with a vintage tortise-shell plectrum (the cherry is still drying!) #The entire top has only one bar. #And this is a 200+ year old top that was recently in no less than seven (!) pieces.

I only have the instrument up to a G-415 so far... as we're not sure of stringing yet (and I'm scared to death of breaking it... the bridge repair alone took several weeks). Nonetheless, my wife came into the living room last night (from the kitchen, where she was running the dishwasher) only to say "wow, that thing is sure loud". # I'm not sure its loud... but it does project!

As for Beethoven, I have a smile on my face too! #:-) #As Richard and Alex both point out, the Beethoven isn't really hard on any mandolin... #Though I wouldn't call these pieces necessarily ideomatic, I have said before that I thought the chord shapes favored the Neapolitan tuning. #If you assume the Neapolitan tuning, one of the problems with the Beethoven in my mind has always been his rather annoying and frequent use of small barres where one finger must cover two courses (four strings on a Neapolitan instrument). #These barres aren't impossible, but they seem often to require the third, or even (!) fourth finger. # On a modern high-tension mandolin, these can certainly be a pain (literally!).

This particular Cremonese mandolin, with its extremely easy action, makes these passages in the Beethoven simply trivial to play (I'll say it again, trivial). #It requires only the lightest touch to stop a string... and only a little more to stop two (or three, or four). #With its very narrow neck and only four single strings, this instrument is very violin-like to the left hand. #If you choose the violin-like left-hand position, extensions (as with the violin) are no problem. #It takes very little effort to stop a violin string, enabling extensions... likewise with this instrument.

It is very easy for me to imagine M. Clary playing a delicate little Cremonese mandolin, accompanied by LVB on the... on the.... OK... more evaluations to do... :-)

I'll try to post some photos later,


Alex Timmerman
Jan-24-2004, 11:02am
Hello Eugene and others,

Nice to see you again here!

As you point out van Beethoven circle of friends included several noted guitarists. Interesting is also that the very same guitarist you mention - Mauro Giuliani - advertised himself as: "Professore di Chitarra francese, #Violoncello,.." (Bruno Tonazzi).

That Giuliani must have known van Beethoven very soon after his arrival in Vienna in 1806, is known through research of Marco Riboni. He found that Mauro Giuliani was among Vienna´s celebrated artists including van among others van Beethoven, Hummel and Kreutzer, at a concert to honor Joseph Haydn with his 76th birthday on March 27, 1808. #

You are very right in that Giuliani joined the orchestra that premiered perform the 7th symphony (most likely as a violoncellist, although this is not known for sure) and that he did this as a kind turn without being payed for it. Others who participated in this were Meyerbeer and Moscheles. Friends who like Giuliani, voluntered were Spohr and Mayseder. Facts are known throuhg a public letter of thanks written by van Beethoven himself in the Wiener Zeitung (1813). #

Also in that same year he worked together with the guitarist/composer Joseph Küffner, composing a triumphal march to the latter´s tragic opera "Tarpeia or Hersilia".

Interesting is also the fact that van Beethoven - some years earlier - corresponded with nobody less than Therese Malfatti (the woman with whom van Beethoven was closest to be married with. And yes, indeed the daughter of his phisician Francesco Mora de Malfatti who was by the way, the person to which Hummel composed and dedicated his mandolin Sonata) about an arrangement of a song in to a work for guitar and voice of his hand. In the letter to Therese he wrote: "Herewith, admirable Therese, you will receive what I promised you... Please be so kind to give this song, transcribed for guitar, to your dear sister, Nanette", (Vienna, Spring 1810).

So van Beethoven was involved with the guitar arranging existing music for it.

Unfortunately lost till today, but nevertheless of importance because of it´s opus number, it seems that van Beethoven composed one original work for one or two violins and guitar. It was listed by one of the most important Viennese publishing houses named the “Chemische Druckerey”, as "Polonaise Op. 8" in September 1808.

Again a hint towards a more than superficial knowledge of the guitar by our Ludwig.

That he still respected and/or was on friendly terms with Giuliani after the latter had left Vienna in 1819 is seen in jet another letter written by van Beethoven in April 1820, inwhich he refers to Mauro Giuliani, as: "Giuliani ist in Rom" (Georg Schünemann).


Alex Timmerman ©

Alex Timmerman
Jan-24-2004, 11:55am
Hello again,

I just found a photo I knew I had somewhere in my archive, of a painting of a chamber-concert in the Malfatti home which gives us some more light to what keybord instrument was used at home by the Malfatti family.

On the canvas a gathering of nine people (and a dog) is shown, among which are Signore Francesco Mora de Malfatti who is standing at the back row with papers in his hand looking and listening to his daughter Nanette who is playing an early six-string Italian/austrian guitar in a standing position(!). She is situated next to her sister Therese who is playing the harpsichord.

Johann Nepomuk Hummel titled his in 1810 composed mandolin Sonata in Italian as: "Grande Sonata per il Clavicembalo o Piano Forte con accompagnamento di mandolino o violino obbligato (Op 37a) .
Through the above mentioned painting we now can assume that this was not only done for marketability reasons by him and his publischer, but that the harpsicord (clavicembalo, clavecin, cembalo) is really a nice option (and here likely the original intended one) to perform this great mandolin sonata.
At least it is most likely that it was studied/performed on these instruments at the home of Signore Francesco Mora de Malfatti to whom this mandolin Sonata was dedicated.

Imagine him being accompanied by his daughter Therese at the black (and white) keys! #


Alex Timmerman ©

Jan-24-2004, 12:47pm
Hello Alex,

This development is quite amazing. #Can you give us some more information on where the Malfatti painting now lives, and how we know that it is Malfatti?

Also, from what I've seen, casework on some early pianos can look alot like those on harpsichords. #How clear is it that this particular instrument is a harpsichord? #I'm not doubting your judgement, just trying to see through your eyes.

Any chance you can find a scanner?


ps - I would much rather the artist include a picture of S. Malfatti's mandolin than his dog!

Alex Timmerman
Jan-24-2004, 1:20pm
Hello Eric,

Very nice to here your Scolari Cremonese mandolin is back home! And thank you for your interesting reply!

Indeed, what we know - also through the wonderful research by James Tyler - is that the Mandolino was played by the archlute- and theorbo players in early large scale musical hapenings like Operas etc. I only mentioned the guitarist´s way of playing because I think this comes closest to that of the Mandolino and the Milanese mandolin. But you are quite right: Thumb-out playing is certainly likely for these instruments.

Wonderful to hear (quote): "Even with a light touch, I get a great "pop". This is exactly what I meant with a "To obtain a rich, thick and well projecting sound".

It looks like the Hummel and Bortolazzi pieces will get #new changes, but for the van Beethoven I wouldn´t be that sure. I still have several irons in the fire...

But that takes some more research and to be honest I am not sure how long that will take since it depends of others. But for the time being let´s keep this topic alive and elaborate on what ´pops´ up.



PS. The Malfatti painting is privately owned and you are right some early pianos do look like harpsichords. For me it looks like a harpsichord and I am exited about it, but I will have it examened by an expert.
Whatever the outcome is, it will bring us closer to what was happening in Viennese music circles at the time.

About scanning the photo of the painting and placing that on the internet, I must have permission of the owners first. We´ll see, and I keep you informed.

Jan-24-2004, 5:08pm
All very interesting (Eric, Alex, Eugene). First, thanks to Eugene (and Alex) for correcting me on Beethoven and the contemporary guitarists of the time. I still don't believe he gave the instrument much thought or consideration, his music and mindset was much too grandiose (symphonic) in nature and even his arsenal of pianos seemed inadequate for his musical soul. As for the nature and playability of Beethoven's writing for the mandolin (use of barred chords), this is not at all surprising for a composer who did not compose necessarily with an instrument in hand. I can give so many examples of his violin part writing that is awkward and challenging for the violinist's left hand (and bow). The real interest here is which instrument would give the most convincing performance of these pieces. I do not have a Cremonese mandolin and have never played one so I only assumed that it would be less successful than it's neapolitan cousin. After all, which instrument carried on through the course of history and why? Surely, the tendency for most players (amateurs) is to choose the easier to play option. Why play double strings when one is enough for volumes sake? The same goes with fingering considerations and the problems some players have with barred chords. For myself, I haven't found one written chord in the mandolin literature that doesn't have a reliable solution. The problem is one of left hand technical development. If you study the mandolin masters of the past, you'll find all kinds of ways to finger music on this instrument.

Alex, tell us more about this painting. Can you scan and post a copy of the photo (of the painting), enough to get an idea? Of course, if you go into any given house, you may well find a 30 or 50 yearold piano. Our piano is going on 120 years now (Pleyel). What does this tell us? Harpsichords were often painted and fine pieces of decorative furniture. Pianos were rarely given this treatment. Assuming that this painting represents the Malfatti household in 1800-1810, then the harpsichord could still have been fairly common since the fortepiano had only started to expand it's market beyond that of the professional musician. Hummel might have dedicated his sonata to Sr. Malfatti, but he wrote music that he (the composer) would have played on the fortepiano (his instrument). The mandolin or violin part is written so generically that it could be played on any capable instrument. In a sense, it doesn't even matter what Malfatti himself played (Cremonese, Neapolitan or Gibson F-5), what matters is how well, how natural and how expressively convincing the music can be played. On the modern mandolin and modern piano I feel extremely handicapped with this music. The piano must underplay and the mandolin must overplay to achieve a good balance. That Eric describes his Cremonese mandolin as projecting very well is very encouraging. I had noticed this with the Neaplitan (Vinaccia copy of 1770) instrument, this same ability to project without forcing the sound. What made me skeptical of the Cremonese and Milanes mandolin types were the contemporary descriptions that I had read about players like Bortolazzi.

Thanks to all for a most interesting discussion.

Alex Timmerman
Jan-24-2004, 6:27pm
Good evening all,

It isn´t over yet.

I agree with you Richard, unfortunately for us Ludwig was more interested in the women than he was in the (plucked) instruments they played...

And about the painting it is as I said. I have to have permission first (and who cares much - knowing now that we are ´allowed´ by: "Man kann die Werke aber auch gültig mit Klavier o.ä. spielen." to choose whatever instrument for the accompaniment on the van Beethoven mandolin compositions - what keyboard instrument is taken for the accompanying instrument in the Hummel mandolin Sonata... Sorry, just kidding - I got carried away... ) and if that is permitted I´ll post it. #

Here as promised yesterday, a bit more of the slow section of the Sonatina in C major. This is of course playable in various ways on whatever mandolin type fingerboard.


Alex ©

Alex Timmerman
Jan-24-2004, 7:22pm
The real bit that gave me all this trouble thinking that it wasn´t composed for the Neapolitan mandolin but originally written with a quarter tuned mandolin in mind ànd that the music should be played finger-style, is this last page of the Sonatina.

Here we see an excellent example of sublime writing for a mandolin tuned in fourth, exactly at the height (Ludwig - with his symphonic approach to music - would have said ´the apotheosis´) of the Sonatina.

In fact what we see here is a wonderful three part writing with a high voice, a central line and a low (bass) part that overlap eachother. None of these parts get hurt by cutting of notes caused by barres or narrow fingering patterns (as on the mandolins tuned in fifth). I have indicated the length of notes of the two outer voices in the three part writing with red bows.

Did this wonderful writing for a mandolin with a fingerboard like that of the Milanese mandolin, happen by a mere fluke? Was Ludy just lucky ´scoring´ with some help of the Gods above?

Or did van Beethoven perhaps really know for what kind of mandolin type he was composing? Something that we are always lead to believe in all those writings found on record sleeves, in CD booklets, and in all those dictionaries, both old and new ones... #

Please allow yourself to have a go at it.


Alex Timmerman ©

Jan-25-2004, 3:29am
I still don't see why this is NOT for neapolitan or cremonese mandolins just because you find a section in the piece that works out well with fingerstyle (since I don't play fingerstyle, I cannot experience what you descripe). Again, if you look at any piece by Beethoven, the violin sonatas for example, you get similar passages to this as in the C Major Sonatine all the time. Sometimes they are not 'user friendly' but with study this music can be mastered and made comfortable to play (look at the Kreutzer sonata for violin, broken chord section in 1st movement). I wouldn't look too hard at this piece in search of extra voices or parts. That passage you fingered is really a succession of chords building to the final cadence. It could have been written in any number of ways, the choice by Beethoven is well worn path used by many composers of the 18th century (perhaps not as well), the chords written out this way provide rythmic interest and a some melodic interest but not really part writing interest beyond maybe a treble-bass note interplay. In anycase, you get this all the time in violin music of this era and the violin was tuned in 5ths and played with a bow (even less chordal minded). Now, can Eric sightread the above example and tell us that this passage feels as natural to the Milanese mandolin as any work by G. Hoffmann? Do you think Beethoven would have had the time and exceptional interest to immerse himself in the intricacies of a plucked stringed instrument such as the mandolin when he never bothered to do the same with a much more common and established instrument like the violin? I believe Alex, your most convincing arguments are from the standpoint of what would have been the common mandolin of the time and to what extent it mattered or didn't. Extend this logic to the keyboard attributions of "Klavier" or even "Cembolo" and we see that musicians of the time were a lot less bothered by this than we musicologists of today, especially the music buying public.

Alex Timmerman
Jan-25-2004, 4:50am
Good morning Richard,

Well, here you touch an interesting (what isn´t?) point, that for plucked instrumentalists has always been a very important one. The subject of notation of the different voices (basses, middle- and melodie line).
Exactly in this period (± 1800) guitarists in Paris and Vienna (!) were shifting over from single voice writing (inherited from the tabulature notation) in the violin key to voice writting in the same key.
The Viennese Guitarist/composer and scholar Simon Molitor writes about this in his tutor (publisched between 1806-1810).

Van Beethoven composed these mandolin pieces in 1796 and at that time this ´voice writing´ wasn´t invented for plucked instruments yet. That is (perhaps) why we do not see this notation style in his music. He might as well wanted to write it down in a way that was normal for ´his´ Josephina or how he was told to notate it by his friend Krumpholz, the mandolinist/violinist?

But still, even if van Beethoven didn´t bother much how he notated his voices in his mandolin music, I am convinced he wanted them to be heard! Always and especially at such a climax place in the music.

And I think you do, since a couple of messages back you gave me some nice fingering advice in order to do more justice to the voice of the slow section of this particular Sonatina. I am also concerned about fingering and especially at this spot of the music where the right fingering of voices can can give us interesting clues about fingerstyle technique, how the mandoline would have been tuned and of course for maybe find out for which type of mandolin this music was originally intended for.

The works by Giovanni Hoffmann are good examples for (mostly) single melody writting with every now and than broken chord passages and ending (six notes) chords.
This style indicates a plectrum style of playing and are therefore in my opinion not the best examples to compare with the mandolin pieces of van Beethoven if one wants to find out more about fingerstyle playing on the Mandolino/Milanese mandolin.

More van Beethoven examples to come...


Alex ©

Jan-25-2004, 5:15am
Re-read my previous reply. Fingering that I suggested before had to do with melodic considerations only. The writing style of the part you illustrated is oldhat (Bach, Telemann, Vivaldi, and so many others) did this generations before with their music for the violin. It proves absolutely nothing about Beethoven's understanding of plucked string technique (fingerstyle or the business of tuning). Perhaps yes, perhaps no but the example can be explaned in other ways as effectively. We shouldn't read too much into Beethoven's intent, he wrote music that's all respecting the range of the instrument and with maybe the most rudimentary and slightest consideration for technical aspects of execution. His other instrumental music shows this time and time again. What the plucked stringed virtuosi and composers were doing then probably didn't concern him beyond that he wouldn't write the 'impossible' for these instruments. I am sure you are right about bringing out this phrasing (hint at voice part writing) but it can be done effectively by a plectrum wielding mandolinist of any sort as well.

Alex Timmerman
Jan-25-2004, 6:44am
Hello Richard and others,

Well, with (quote): "It proves absolutely nothing about Beethoven's understanding of plucked string technique (fingerstyle or the business of tuning)", #I am obviously not with you. I think it does give a very good insight in van Beethoven´s well understanding for what instrument he was composing (´proving´ something is of course another matter).

And with (quote) "perhaps yes, perhaps no but the example can be explaned in other ways as effectively", I would say:

Please do explane!

You see, I have given already so many details that point towards the popularity of gut-strung mandolin types (the Mandolino, Milanese and Cremonese mandolin) being favoured in Vienna, trying to persuade people to dig further and deeper in this matter.
And why really? There is in fact no necessity for defending at all.
I mean, why should one defend him/herself in playing these van Beethoven pieces on a Milanese mandolin? Especially when there are so many arguments to play this music that are in favour of that particular type.

Perhaps it is time for REAL arguments to discover WHY it has always been played on mandolins tuned in fifths (metal strung Neapolitan type and nowadays on the Cremonese type)! This has been done (and just taken for granted...) from the very first time onwards when two of the van Beethoven compositions were published in 1888!

Yes, about 92 year(!) after they were composed and given to Josephine Clary.


Alex ©.

PS. This 11 page Topic is the very first time that mandolinists (members of the Mandolin Cafe Message Board) discuss openly what the possibilities at the time could have been, ànd that everybody who is interested can read this. I like this very much and am very grateful to our site-owner Scott for creating this unique possibility.

Alex Timmerman
Jan-25-2004, 7:13am
Hello again Richard,

Am I to understand in reading the bottom line in your last message(quote): "I am sure you are write about bringing out this phrasing (hint at voice part writing) but it can be done effectively by a plectrum wielding mandolinist of any sort as well." that you are talking about the mandolin tuned in fourths?



Jan-25-2004, 11:12am
Good morning all. I'm sorry but I haven't yet had a chance to (try to) sight read the passage in question finger-style on a Milanese (tuned) instrument. However, I've read the last few postings with interest. I too greatly value this kind of discussion (and this one in particular). What ever our own convictions, we should always remain open to new information, be it proof... or even opinion -- especially when the original musical intent is not specific. Too often the musical past is generalized out of modern convenience, and if we really want to expose the charm and beauty of the "mandolin" in all its variation then its very much worth going down these little alleys.

As it happens, I was reading the passage in question on the Cremonese mandolin yesterday before Alex's posting. I have to say that I was very excited since not only was this passage greatly simplified on the Cremonese instrument (single strings and narrow spacing), but the music made *more effective* as a result. The simplification in this case *enabling* some of the virtues that I think Alex is looking for in the music... and making the whole thing more plausible for the instrument in fifths (in my mind). It was much easier to hold the voices over eachother, or at least cover fingering transitions so that they were less audible. These improvements may still not meet the high standard for voicing that Alex wants, but I think they are important, nonetheless. I'll try to be more specific later.

At the same time, I understand Richard's arguments from the position of a violinist (something I used to be). The violin certain developed past a point where "simple" or "ideomatic" mattered at all in the minds of composers. Violinists are expected to play all kinds of things and multiple voicing is often implied at best due to the limitations of the single bow stroke. The easiest example that comes to mind is the imfamous many-voiced d-minor Bach Chaconne. It is certainly an effective and enjoyable piece on guitar and d-minor lute because much of the brilliance of this voicing can be brought out... but that doesn't mean it was originally intended for those instruments as a result (and yes, I've actually heard people argue that opinion!).

This discussion may seem very esoteric to some... and confusing that the three of us seem to be heading for different instruments! I was trying to explain some of this to my long-suffering wife yesterday and she gave me the "... but who cares... aren't they all mandolins?" argument. Then I got out the Cremonese mandolin for her and put it next to a late 18th-century Neapolitan instrument. They may share a tuning scheme, but these are completely different machines!

More later...


Jan-25-2004, 1:17pm
And with (quote) "perhaps yes, perhaps no but the example can be explaned in other ways as effectively", I would say:

Please do explane!
To explain so that it is clear, I would have to take the time to prepare fingering and stroke indications of the same passages you choose. It isn't a problem to play and much less so than so many other pieces for the neapolitan mandolin. Right now I have to beg off this discussion because I am way behind on so much work. It was very interesting and when we see each other again, it'll be easier to demonstrate what I mean and you can play for me your examples fingerstyle. As to your other question, I mean either the instrument tuned in 5ths of 4ths but certainly the one in 5ths.

Alex Timmerman
Jan-25-2004, 3:39pm
Hi Richard,

Well I didn´t mean so much the actual fingerings on a mandolin tuned in fifths. I know all the possibilities.

I was more thinking on why you think they are also possible and even more effective on such an instrument. And than I am only looking at the fingering of the voices in their best possible way.

Wel, it has been (and still is) indeed a very interesting discussion and sure, next time we will meet I'll demonstrate the van Beethoven pieces fingerstyle for you.

Thanks again for all your time and don´t hesitate to jump in again!



Jan-25-2004, 4:50pm
Hi Alex and Richard,

OK... I've taken a little time to play through the Beethoven pieces finger style on a (rather large) six-course mandolino, using some of Alex's fingerings where I had them. Unfortunately I have no true Milanese mandolin to try (maybe someday...) Alex and I have some small differences in preferences for fingerings on the Milanese tuning (both right and left hands) but those are not significant enough to mention (and he's probably right anyway!). My meager talents are nothing to judge by but I have a couple of thoughts:

- First, as Alex claims, some sections of this music are delightful and effective to play finger-style on the Milanese tuning. Alex rightly points to the Sonatine in C major as a fine example for this approach and the final 25 bars (or so) are very nice indeed with his fingerings! I also find lots of other little cadential moments where having an open d-string and an open (high) g-string can make for very nice ringing harmonies, dissonances, and resolutions. There are other wonderful spots in both the Adagio as well as the Andante variations that are a joy with the fingers on Milanese tuning. Not surprisingly, Variation #4 is a case in point.

- If one wants to argue for the Milanese tuning for Beethoven, I think finger-style playing is the only option. With tuning in fourths, there are many chords that don't fall naturally (!) onto adjacent courses, making plectrum play highly unlikely for this instrument. (For example A-e-c, G-e-c, etc.). In some cases strange solutions can be found but they seem unlikely in context.

- Ultimately, it is chord shapes that still leave me skeptical of an intent for the Milanese tuning. Unless the Behrend editions of these works are a complete simplification (I don' t have copies of the originals) these little three-note chord shapes just don't scream out for the Milanese tuning. Maybe this is a big coincidence, but I don't think so. Often chord shapes are a dead giveaway for intent for the tuning in fourths... In this case I don't find any chords that *require* tuning in fourths. What few chords do exist all drop equally well onto the tuning in fifths, and always conveniently onto adjacent courses, enabling them to be struck by a plectrum. These chords are all certainly *playable* on the Milanese instrument when using the fingers... they just seem more likely to be intended for the tuning in fifths.

I think its worthwhile to learn these pieces for both tunings and I will continue to play with them in my spare time to see what develops. I would personally be happy with either outcome, Milanese (RH fingers) or Cremonese (plectrum). I must admit that the wire-strung Neapolitan would probably be my last choice for this music. That choice is both a subjective judgement based on tone and what *seems* apropriate to my ears for this music as well as the evidence Alex has given about surviving gut-strung instruments in Vienna as well as the historical ties with Milan and Cremona.

All the best,


ps - Based on my admitely brief experience with a real Cremonese mandolin, it certainly seems to work well for this music. As I mentioned earlier, the small size and single strings remove many of my previous concerns. Though I play the mandolino with a guitarist/lutenist-style left hand (fingers mostly perpendicular to the strings), the violinist-style hand position (fingers more along the line of the strings) seems nicely suited to the Cremonese instrument. With this position I can easily stop two courses with the end of the finger and this position enables some of the extentions that are so handy in the C-major Sonatine.

Alex Timmerman
Jan-25-2004, 5:57pm
Great reply Eric,

Very nice that we agree more or less on gut-strung instruments in Vienna at the time.

What you say about the little three-note chord shapes that they (quote): "just don't scream out for the Milanese tuning", I would of course argue against. But even if one sticks to his own opinion, the same can be said when played these little three-note chords on a Cremonese/Neapolitan mandolin. This shows how difficult the matter under discussion here, is.

I am quite happy with your idea that it should be played fingerstyle on the Milanese mandolin. Be aware however that the plectrum playing style likely only became popular after the arrival of Bortollazi.

For mandolinists who read what we write here, I have made a practical fingering for the mandolin tuned in fifth of the bars 75 to 83, that comes near to the voice playing on a mandolin tuned in fourth.



Alex Timmerman
Jan-25-2004, 6:10pm
And see how the same bars (starting at 76) look like on the Milanese mandolin:

Alex ©

Alex Timmerman
Jan-25-2004, 6:11pm
Bars 78 and 79:

Alex ©

Alex Timmerman
Jan-25-2004, 6:13pm
Bars 80 and 81:

Alex ©

Alex Timmerman
Jan-25-2004, 6:14pm
and finally bar 82:


Alex Timmerman ©

Jan-25-2004, 10:21pm
Hi Alex,

>> #But even if one sticks to his own opinion, the same can be said
>> when played these little three-note chords on a Cremonese/
>> Neapolitan mandolin. #This shows how difficult the matter under
>> discussion here, is.

It took me a minute to catch your meaning but I think is an excellent point (if I understand you correctly). #We could make the following statement: #In all of Beethoven's mandolin music, there is nothing larger than a three-note chord. #Now, does this favor the instrument in fifths, or fourths? #Certainly four-note chords are *possible* on both the instrument in fifths played with a plectrum as well as the instrument in fourths played with the fingers. #Nonetheless, I would tend to think that three-note chords are certainly more *consistent* with p-i-m finger-style playing.

Alas, this case would certainly be easier to prove if there were some chords that weren't playable on the instrument tuned in fifths. Again, maybe it is a coincidence that these chords are all playable and that these pieces look so much like music for the instrument in fifths. # Maybe it was intentional and its just some aspect of Beethoven's genius that I don't yet understand. #Maybe there are just enough notes, not too many, nor too few #:-).

In any case, if these works do turn out to have been intended for the Milanese tuning (a concept I'm increasingly drawn to), I think it will be largely these chords that will have disguised them all these years.

All the best,


Alex Timmerman
Jan-26-2004, 4:47am
Hello Eric,

Yes, you understand correct!

If you mean plain chords with (quote): "In all of Beethoven's mandolin music, there is nothing larger than a three-note chord." I can agree, but I see broken chords (in 16th) - with four- five- and even some with six sounding notes that can all be held untill the folowing chord or melody line (see for instance the last but one bar of the Sonatina in C major in which all the six notes (on all the six strings[!] of a Milanese mandolin) can be held up to- and after the finishing chord of the composition).
That the lowest note of the broken chord (in the last but one bar) is the g on the open 6th string is fine and causes no problems to my explanation above, since the Cembalo has to accompany this broken chord in the very same bar, with two C major chords that both have a low C in the bass on count one and two. #
The tonality of these last two bars is therefore guaranteed by van Beethoven and shows again in my opinion his excellent writing for the Milanese type of the mandolin family. Also in combination with a second instrument (and this is only one ´combination´ example).

I will explain a bit more why ´voice-playing´ on finger style played mandolins is so important to me:

When music is played by a plucked instrumentalist - musicians that are always concerned about the longest note duration possible and especially of chord notes due to the simple fact that when a note is #plucked on a string, it dies out immediately after - they want it to sound as full and as long as possible.

This awarenes of short sound duration of notes on their plucked instruments is and has always been in the head of lutenists, theorbist etc. and guitarists. A habit, so to speak, inherited from lutenists with their long tradition of the finger-style technique notated in tabulature from which one had to decide oneself how long (lower) chord notes had to ring on to accompany the melody line.
It is because of this constant factor in their heads and bones that they look upon single voice notation (of chords) in the violin key in a different way (and not just lyke a series of 16th to run through).

Therefore it has always been a vital aspect of finger-style players to discouver all the possibilities to hold on notes as long as possible.

Because of this and the very fact that Mandolino and the Milanese mandolin are types that are mainly played fingerstyle and played by - and with the fingers-tyle technique similar to - lutenists, theorbist and guitarist of the period, I came to the believe that ´voice reading´ most likely is an essential part of performing the music composed for these two mandolin types.

And than an efficient#fingering of the music is most essential.

I can of course understand that this approach is different to those musicians who look at music and fraze it with a bow in mind. And here I am focussing on fingerstyle played Mandolino and Milanese mandolin and not so much on the plectrum played Cremonese- and Neapolitan mandolin. #

Anyway, I like what you write about being "drawn to" the Milanes tuning, and therefore I will write down some more thoughts I have on van Beethoven´s "Adagio ma non troppo" in E flat major. And add here (in a copple of days) some fingerings for it for the Milanese mandolin.

Best greetings,

Alex #©

PS. It is a nice coincidence that we actually play the single strung Cremonese- and Milanese mandolin. This might well be very helpfull and illuminating in the discussion that lies ahead of us.

Jan-26-2004, 9:10am
Hi Alex,

Yes, I meant plain (rather than written-out arpeggiated) chords that are only three notes. Obviously there is alot more going on in Beethoven's arpeggiated passages including those you've called out (and others).

As someone who plays both lute and violin, I certainly concur with what you say about holding note values as long as possible on plucked instruments to bring out essential harmonies (particularly with finger-style technique). This technique has certainly been a part of lute playing since the early Renaissance and essential to the lute's (and guitar's) role in allowing a single person to play complex polyphonic music on a plucked instrument.

Since learning to play finger-style on the mandolino (and lute), this technique is certainly something that I appreciate (I was a violinist first). In fact, I almost wrote a post to the effect that you and Richard were likely to approach the end of the C-major Sonatine slightly differently given your different musical backgrounds and the techniques they impose. In any case, you put this very well in showing that a lutenest/guitarist would look at notes on the written page with a different set of assumptions than a violinist might.

Nonetheless, a good violinist (or plectrum mandolinist) would be aware of the voicing and musical structure and would use different techniques to try to bring out different voices, harmonies, and progressions (emphasis, note length, dynamics, etc.) -- as you showed with your fingered example for the instrument in fifths. Ultimately, each instrument has its own set of limitations.

It is a shame that more people don't play the mandolino/Milanese mandolin with the fingers as so much of its music is clearly intended. There is certainly a learning curve, but is very much worth the trip. The examples you've provided here would have saved me considerable time over the years! :-) In the end, I seem to have ended up with a similar approach to finger-style technique on the mandolino/Milanese mandolin by trial and error... an encouraging sign.

I look forward to your thoughts on the Adagio. It is the arpeggiated section there that has bothered me perhaps more than others for the tuning in fifths. Though this passage is certainly simpler on the Cremonese instrument, its easy to see how it would be nicely facilitated by the tuning in fourths.

Proof may ultimately be ellusive but showing that Beethoven's music represents more *effective* writing for the Milanese instrument played with the fingers than the instrument in fifths (with a plectrum) is a good way to argue this point. I'm never very comfortable with arguments that composers of Beethoven's caliber wouldn't understand an instrument well enough to write effectively for it... especially with the right motivation (the Lovely J.)

Back to my day job :-(


Jan-26-2004, 10:59am
Very good, all of you with such Herculean efforts with graphics and research. I am still not convinced by the arguments beyond saying, help yourself to this music. I look forward to hearing your performances and hopefully this will be the "proof" for at least my soul. I am very comfortable with these pieces on the neapolitan instrument and have yet to experience them on the Cremonese. I've read through them on the Milanese and felt that this instrument was less adept at the passage work, then again, I used a plectrum. But whether I'll choose the Cremonese or Neapolitan or even Milanese mandolins depends, for me, on how well they express themselves in practice. One thing, for sure, it will be a novelty to play them on the non-neapolitan type mandolin, so there will be interest initially in hearing the differences. Re-reading all of the arguments, I still find that it is based on #'apriori's' and suppositons, my own included, based so much on personal background in music. I never played a guitar or lute. I've only played the mandolin and bowed stringed instruments (violin, viola, viol). I'm happy playing in fourths as well as fifths (within reason and the scale of the instrument). My main argument is that I find it hard to accept that Beethoven actually had a conception of finger (right hand) technique to the extent that it would have influenced his music. The mandolin pieces are, for the most part, simple pieces. He wrote notes, respected the range of 'mandoin' and that was that. He played the violin and certainly didn't make clever concessions of the technical kind to this instrument in his string writing.

Use a cembolo if you think it is a better vehicle for this music. Use fingerstyle if you can produce enough sound and expression to grab the listener's ear and heart and make more of the music. I would be the first to applaud such efforts. But to write off the Neapolitan instrument or the Cremonese instrument as undesirables (as well as the fortepiano), then I would simply need real proof that these instruments were not desired or acceptable or handicap the greater potential of these little gems. For the time being, the music analysis makes little sense to me because I don't see what the fuss is about the same passages played with the mandolin tuned in 5ths and played with a plectrum. Music definitely written for the Milanese mandolin (following Eric's argument) seem so evident that I have no problems accepting the fact and do prefer playing it on this instrument (Milanese), with Beethoven's pieces, I don't see the connection.

Alex Timmerman
Jan-26-2004, 11:31am
Hello Eric,

I think we have reached a nice consensus here that gives a good feeling to proceed.
As I said before: it is not about who is wrong or right; but much more how to create a better understanding of our wonderful instrument: the Mandolin, it´s music, it´s environment and its time. #

Yes, I would also like to see the Mandolino music being played in a more historic manner. Today only very, very few people are playing it fingerstyle.

A very nice example of fingerstyle playing can however be heard on a Vivaldi CD titled: " Alla Rustica". On it James Tyler and Robin Jeffrey perform Vivaldi´s double Mandolino Concerto and the beautiful Concerto in C major "con molti strumenti", in which the two Mandolinos have beautiful colouring parts.

But still, it is till now probably the only fingerstyle registration of Mandolinos being played in it´s most authentic way.
This is, by the way, why I regret it so much that Paul O´Dette - one of the greatest lutenist of our time - plays the Mandolino with a (according to Eugene: plastic) plectrum. He perhaps doesn´t know much about the history of the mandolin, but could do it right tomorrow... #.



Jan-26-2004, 12:16pm
Hi Richard,

You said Quote: "I've read through them on the Milanese and felt that this instrument was less adept at the passage work, then again, I used a plectrum."

This the crux of the argument and I think keeping the plectrum perspective is not helpful to understand these pieces for the tuning in fourths. I tried this early on with my Lombardian mandolin (played with a plectrum) and was likewise unsatisfied. Use of the right-hand fingers really is the key.

Hoffmann is readily recognizable to both you and I (as plectrum players) as being for the tuning in fourths because of chord shapes, use of open strings, chords, running single-lines, etc. Recognizing the suitability of Beethoven for the instrument in fourths requires the mandolino's traditional finger-style perspective. Once you take that perspective it becomes easy to accept that Beethoven may well have understood his chosen instrument and written effectively for it... and that his musical choices are intentional as well.

If I get some time I'll add my fingerings for Variation #4 from Beethoven's Andante and variations (unless Alex beats me to it!). This movement is positively transformed on the tuning in fourths played with the fingers. And yes, it was basically site-readable... even on my large six-course mandolino.

Alex, with regard to the following:

>> This is, by the way, why I regret it so much
>> that Paul O´Dette - one of the greatest
>> lutenist of our time - plays the Mandolino
>> with a plectrum. He probably could do it right
>> tomorrow...

He certainly could... and can... and has. I was fortunate to have a lesson with Paul a couple summers ago... I chose to have my lesson on the mandolino played finger-style... much fun. In fact, I'd like to call your attention to a very good illustration of plectrum vs. finger-style play on the mandolino by Paul. Ignore the earlier Vivaldi album, instead, get a copy of "Caprito" by Tragicomedia. On this album, Paul plays both one of the Scarlatti sonatas (K.89) as well as the fine e-minor Arrigoni sonata.

Upon a fist listen, I found the Scarlatti somewhat tiresome... while I really liked the Arrigoni... I'm fond of both pieces so this confused me greatly. Upon further scrutiny the answer became clear. Paul plays the Scarlatti with a plectrum but the Arrigoni is clearly played with the fingers! I'll leave you to your own impressions but I found the finger-style approach to be much more effective on the mandolino... while I found the plectrum piece to be thin and having the same attack on each note eventually wore on my nerves.

All the best,


Alex Timmerman
Jan-26-2004, 12:31pm
And hello to you Richard,

I am afraid that playing the van Beethoven compositions will not be enough "proof" for you. It is like Giovanni Fouchetti wrote in his French tutor (Paris 1771) stating that (free translation): "that all this mandolin music can be played on the Mandolino as well as on the (Neapolitan) Mandoline".

So to: ´writing off the Neapolitan- (or the Cremonese) mandolins as undesirables, as well as the fortepiano as the accompanying instruments´, I would say: why; no way! There could well have been one or two around.

Anyway, through this all I am encouraged very much to find ´hard´ evidence.
And I promise that you´ll be the first to know when I have found a painting showing Josephine with her mandolin, or a letter in which she complains to Ludwig that the fifth (or sixth) string on her mandolin had broken, so she wasn´t able to practise his pieces, or - even better - when I have found her mandolin (wasn´t it: seek and thou shall find...).

Many greetings,


Alex Timmerman
Jan-26-2004, 12:44pm

How exiting!

I didn´t know this record by Paul O´Dette. Its I think not available in Europe´(at least I missed it), but now I know it is there, I just must find a copy!

What you say (quote): "I'll leave you to your own impressions but I found the finger-style approach to be much more effective on the mandolino... while I found the plectrum piece to be thin and having the same attack on each note eventually wore on my nerves.", is exactly what I experienced playing both techniques myself.

Thanks again for bringing the Paul O´Dette album under my attention.

Yes, let´s both make fingerings on the Beethoven variations and compare them. Fun!



Jan-26-2004, 2:43pm
Paul needs lessons with the quill (or pick), my rates are reasonable http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif. I need lessons with the fingerstyle but I'm not going to go that route in this lifetime... enough is enough (too many trades). I suggest we play the double concerto together (one with quill or plectrum, the other with his fingers), it might be amusing. Tell me Alex (Eric), what went wrong with fingerstyle mandolino playing? Why was it abandonned? The guitar (fingerstyle) carried on and flourished, the mandolin would flourish again but in the hands of virtuosi petacci (plectrum wielding neapolitan players). The banjo would even see it's day (both fingerstyle and plectrum) in classical music. The lombard mandolin, of course survived until the early decade of the 20th century, but our notion of mandolin has been cemented with a double strung instrument tuned in fifths. I would expect that you would say because the concert halls are bigger, hmmmm??? Or the intimate house music went out of favor (surely not until the dawn of the gramophone era) and this would not explain why the guitar survived. Why are there so many paintings of the late 18th early 19th century depicting neapolitan mandolins rather than, as Alex suggests, the more common Milanese mandolin? Do find Clary's mandolin, and Kurcholz's (sp?) as well. Find Malfatti's mandolin and documents that give us belief that he was even a capable player. Right now my interest is in the Cremonese mandolin, for once an instrument that will be very quick and easy to string and tune (compared to the mixed wire/gut strings of the 18th century neapolitan. I only hope the sound is not too like a soprano guitar or too dry in sound.

Jan-26-2004, 6:22pm
Hi Richard,

I'm sorry, I don't buy the argument that just because finger-style mandolino playing didn't survive the 19th century, it isn't worth persuing. I don't think anything "went wrong"...things change... simple as that.

>> The lombard mandolin, of course survived
>> until the early decade of the 20th century,
>> but our notion of mandolin has been cemented
>> with a double strung instrument tuned in fifths.

True enough... and I think this state of affairs is unfortunate and does a great disservice to our understanding the history of the mandolin. I suppose the victors (or survivors) always write the history. The finger-played mandolin went the same way as the lute, the straight-necked gut-strung violin, the one-holed wooden flute, and the wooden-framed piano. Shall we just pretend that they didn't exist and play their music on accordians? :-)

I'm joking, and I know you well enough to know that this is not your view. But seriously, I don't see any reason to ignore the finger-style mandolino/Milanese mandolin just because the Neapolitan tuning and plectrum play eventually became more prevalent. I have personally found finger-style playing on the mandolino to be deeply satisfying because I feel it has brought me closer to the intent of various composers -- both tonally, and ideomatically. I also play with a plectrum when it seems appropriate for the music and I enjoy that approach as well. We all have to make choices for our available time... I will likely never develop my plectrum technique suffiently to play Calace with satisfaction.... so be it.

I too would like to see Alex find hard proof for this theory (as would he!). Nonetheless, I now find his arguments quite compelling (as you may remember, I once had thoughts along this line as well). The more I look at Beethoven's mandolin music, the more supporting examples I find. These don't look like coincidences to me... or isolated phrases, but an entire, consistent approach to the music that is very effective. Unlike the notion that Beethoven simply wrote simple notes in the appropriate mandolin range, I see real understanding and intent for a specific instrument and technique here. I too love the Neapolitan instrument but I don't think we should automatically use it as a default answer without proof of its own.

I just this morning read through the simple little theme from the Andante and Variations... it works out just beautifully with finger-style technique on the instrument in fourths. Yes, its is very simple piece (put your vacuum cleaner down!), but there are also lots of places where the notes (and the chord progressions that underly them) ring on and reinforce eachother nicely on the tuning in fourths. Fingered correctly, (as Alex intimated in other pieces) these chords define, support, and complete the notes of the melody, and the result is resonant and lovely, and a delight to play. The variations too seem to just drop onto the instrument in a very satisfying way.

When I get some more time I'll try to post more specifically about what I'm seeing... but Alex's examples already do this quite well.

Any other views out there? Anyone else listening?


Alex Timmerman
Jan-26-2004, 6:34pm
Hello Richard and others of course(!),

The Fingerstyle technique on the Mandolino and Milanese mandolin in Vienna and why was it abandonned

This playing technique for gut-strung mandolins tuned in fourth disappeared in Vienna in more or less the same way, only at a somewhat later time in history - quite similar to the Mandolino with it´s finger-style of playing had undergone elsewhere in Europe (for instance - in chronological order - in Rome Neapoli, Marseille and Paris). That instrument had in those parts of Europe to accept the rise of the mandolino Romano and the Mandolino Napolitano, both types strung with a mixture of double gut and metal strings that were played with a feather quill.

Very soon after the development of these two ´new´ types (around 1740) we see that the ´old style´ Mandolino players modified their instruments stringing them with metal strings and playing this old type with a quill, trying to compete with the ´new style´ quill players.

In Vienna, this happened also. But here we have already seen that - as I have explaned more detailed earlier on in this topic - the finger-style played Mandolino had a longer history as well as that gut-strung instruments were favoured best in music circles in Vienna (and Prague). Also the modification from double to single gut-strings has come to fore in my explanations, so I take it that my opinion with regard what took place in Vienna, is known in this matter.

So in Vienna, mandolinists were playing either a double strung Mandolino or the, for them, ´new´ single strung north-Italian Milanese type. This single strung instrument was probably only known there from the last quarter of the 18th century onwards. Both types however were up to the last years of that century, played finger-style.

It is my firm belief that this manner of playing disappeared gradually, yet fast, after the arrival and triumphs of the one virtuoso ever settled in Vienna: the #Brescian mandolinst and composer, Bartholomeo Bortolazzi. Most likely because he was from the north of Italy where gut was the favoured material to string plucked instruments with, he prefered gut strings on his mandolin more also, ranning metal strings completely into the ground in his method. An interesting fact in this discussion, I would say.

He played his single entirely gut-strung Cremonese mandolin with a quill made - as I have explained here - of a piece of cherry wood, and became widely known as THE mandolin virtuoso. So much so that already very soon after he resided in Vienna he was honoured with a Mandolin Concerto dedicated[!] to him by nobody less that Johann Nepomuk Hummel, who himself was at that time already a well-known pianist and composer.

Bortolazzi must also have been greatly respected as a mandolin teacher, even so much that he got the opportunity to publish his method - a tutor in the German language! - through a well established publising house. This on itself gives reasons enough to belief that he was very popular and must have had quite a number of students/followers.

It is obvious, that around 1800 plectrum technique on the #Milanese mandolin (Mandolino) was practised, something that becomes clear even more because of published mandolin music for this type, after 1805 (the year that Bortolazzi´s method was available in Vienna).

This ´new´ way of playing a mandolin with a (wooden) quill was adopted quickly because it was likely seen as ´easy´ - as it is looked upon still today - to learn (especially for beginners); one quill and only down- and up strokes.

Comparitive much easier to understand, than catching on with a well balanced fingerstyle technique that advertises ´voice´playing´ with a thumb and two- perhaps three fingers to play with. A technique also for which no method was available and only to be learned via oral tradition (not one method found(yet).
Whereas for the Cremonese mandolin, there was the Bortolazzi tutor! And this great maestro was of course their great example, being in their mids!#

Interesting is however that through the survived and published music we also know that not all Viennese mandolinsts shifted over to play Bortolazzi´s Cremonese type.

What they (Hoffmann, de Call etc.) and their pupils did take over from Bortolazzi is his playing style. That is why we see in their compositions so much scale passages, broken chords on adjoining strings and plain chords that can be simply played by giving the (six) strings one big stroke with a quill.

I think that after 1815 the Milanese mandolin fell into a decline (that is, in Vienna) and that it´s role in music circles was taken over by the Cremonese mandolin. Proof that the Cremonese mandolin stayed popular (or perhaps better said: was still played) and was composed for after Bortolazzi had left Vienna touring Europe, I found in surviving Cremonese examples build in the late twenties and fourties of the 19th century by Viennese makers!

So Richard, you can see in Bartholomeo Bortolazzi a kind of modern Andrés Segovia...


Alex Timmerman ©

PS. Please leave out in this discussion the Lombardian mandolin.
This name was not known at the time. The mandolin type with that name - which it was given by it´s makers to distinguish it from the Milanese mandolin - was not yet developed. This would take another 75 years!

PS II. Do I read well and notice a shift towards 4 single gut-strings, Richard?

# http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif #Great!

Jan-27-2004, 3:10am
No shift yet, all of my viollins (baroque through modern) are strung in plain gut (always have been, always will be) but I am involved more in other musics at this time and still do not have a Cremonese mandolin. Alex, your explanation of Bortolazzi's influence is quite strong, at least in what little reports we have of this instrument. There is, of course, the violinist/mandolinist Vincent Neuling who remains a mystery (active in Vienna and the Germanic countries). There are all those classic and early romantic period paintings favoring the neapolitan (these instruments must have been put in cereal boxes) that neither of you (Eric, Alex) seem to address. I agree with Eric that because an instrument goes out of favor has nothing to do with it's worth, my point in the previous post was to present questions (remember, I'm the devil's advocate here) that have to do with unexplained facts or inadequately explained. Let me now give you my own reason about the demise of the fingerstyled mandolino. I think it was because of the 'guitar'. It's always because of the 'guitar'. It had a greater range and more musical independance. It had many less strings to change and deal with (than the lute) and was probably easier to construct and maintain (you still see gobs of early 19th century guitars in musical antique shops, not so with the mandolin until the late 19th century). They also had a few more active virtuosi promoting this instrument. It was an instrument that could easily accompany voice or other melodic instruments and not compete with other melodic instruments. Bortolazzi didn't have a chance. Unfortunately, his music is not particularily interesting and this too didn't help maintain the profile of the Cremonese mandolin either. It wasn't so much fingerstyle or plectra (though Alex presents a good reasoning why the plectrum might have survived longer on these instruments), it was more to do with being out of place as a diva and not substantial enough in the bass register to be an accompanying instrument. It took the likes of Bertucci, Munier, Calace, Abt, Ranieri, Pettine and others to challenge the bigtime instruments on their own terrain (prima voce). They succeeded to a limited extent in the realm of classical music but not really made the lasting impact for the same reasons as in the past. The instrument lost it's parlor status to the guitar, and couldn't compete with the contemporary acoustic instruments on a symphonic scale.

I still do not and probably never will see what you see in Beethoven's music as being 'definitely and clearly' for an instrument tuned in 4ths. Being able to sustain odd notes, bring out inner voices (true voices or pseudo-voicings) is possible (on neapolitan/cremonese mandolins) with good technique. The problem I see so much with neapolitan mandolin players is that they lift their fingers all the time and, for this reason, have trouble sustaining notes in broken chords (if it is desirable to sustain). Remember from the violin, we do not always play arpeggio or barriloggi passages with sustain. If players learned how to keep their fingers down (more chordal) and spend some serious time with Aubrey Stauffer's or V. Abt's chordal pieces, you would be amazed how much more adept at these passages one can become with an instrument tuned in 5ths. Beethoven, Schubert and other 'pure' composers have never seemed to me decidedly 'instrument friendly'. They heard sounds in their heads and wrote it down and it was up to the players to figure out how to play it. You see this all the time if you compare their music with that of instrumental virtuosi who write with decided care for fingerings, bowings or plucked strokes (fingerstyle or pick). What can I say more. I could probably take passages from the Kreutzer sonata and finger them, add pick or finger strokes and say that Beethoven really intended this music for the mandolino or piccolo baritoyn or whatever. I am not disputting that Clary and the Prague mando scene played on single strung mandolino (milanese) type mandolins and that was how Beethoven might have heard this music played once (if he ever heard this music played) but these are all hypothetical questions that probably will never be answered.

Sorry Alex about using the term Lombard. I was actually referring to a Lombard mandolin, my A. Monzino from about 1890. I use to call it a Milanese (since it was made in Milan), it is the only single strung mandolin type I have tuned in 4ths. It sounds good (sort of guitar like) but you wouldn't want to use tremolo on it (sounds like a woodpecker playing a felt covered marimba).

Alex Timmerman
Jan-27-2004, 3:56am
Good morning Richard,

Yes, the mandolin in Vienna had a hard time in competing with the guitar, even if it had really started rivalry.
Anyway, it would have lost the battle and not so much because the prim-guitar was a better alternative for accompanying voice (which it probably is anyway), but more so, since the terz-guitar (one minor terz above the prim-guitar) had, in exactly Bortolazzi´s period(!), become very popular.
Especially in pure instrumental music and - even worse for our beloved instrument - in the combination where we like the Cremonese and Milanese mandolin best: in combination with Cembalo and/or Pianoforte (and to a lesser extend in combination with prim guitar).

The terz-guitar was especially loved in Vienna where would remain popular until the 1850s!

But this all had nothing to do with the manner of how the mandolins were played in Vienna. Either finger-style or plectrum style. In fact it would have been in favour of the Milanese mandolin and popularised the finger-stile technique!

It had to do with the decline of the mandolin´s popularity in general.


Alex ©

PS. I knew you were refering to your Lombardian Monzino mandolin. But you know me; I like to keep the different types apart from eachother, so I felt I had to respond.

Please go on - or start - on that instrument studying my fingerings for the left-hand and look every now and then to my right-hand indications in the van Beethoven. Perhaps don´t tremolo... # # # and than... # # # ## # maybe... # # # # # # # # it´s only one stap away... # # #only practise it finger-style on a Sunday morning...

Since the trenght of teaching lays in repeating: p = thumb, i - index, m - middle finger.

Have fun.

Jan-27-2004, 4:35am
Alex, it sounds absolutely ridiculous in my hands (fingerstyle), I have large fingers and it will never happen on the mandolino. This is for you and Eric and others of this persuasion or handset. I'll use a plectrum and make the most of it. Anyway, as far as Beethoven goes, I also don't hear this music so much specifically instrumental. When I look at the notes (without instrument), I really don't imagine a specific instrument or even an instrument producing a certain flavor of sound. For me, it comes closest with the equipment we used for the recording, but maybe the Cremonese at some future date. Again, my complaint of the neapolitan Vinaccia instrument is that it is tiring to tune and keep in tune compared to the milanese instrument of the same period. The headstock/peg system was really quite inferior to the mechanical tuners or a system with an open two sided peg support.

Alex Timmerman
Jan-27-2004, 6:05am
In that case Richard, I think you´ll be surprised about the left-hand possibilities on the single gut-strings of the Cremonese mandolin (or of a milanese type) and it´s volume.
It has of course still pegs to tune with, but since it´s headstock is of the scroll-type with pegs lateral placed - similar to that of the violin - it will give even less problems.

It think would also be great to hear the Hummel and Neuling Sonatas etc. etc. on such a type in your hands!



Jan-27-2004, 10:36am
Hi Richard,

Appologies if I misunderstood the tone and direction of your earlier post (it would be much easier if we could all just get together over a few beers rather than this infernal typing).

The key question here is what instrument does the evidence support specifically in late 18th-century Vienna. Alex has suggested lots of circumstantial evidence for the single-strung gut types (back where this discussion started) along with the flow of musicians between northern Italy and Vienna and I'm certainly in no position to refute or confirm these arguments one way or the other.

I agree with your assertion that the guitar eventually became *the* finger-style instrument and Alex's point about terz guitars is a good one too. As you point out, this is where the last thing that resembled a lute finally died as well (mandora)... for art music at least... after over 300 years of lute history. I like your statement quote: "its always the guitar!" LOL! Just remember... the violin has blood on its hands too... it killed off the entire viol family (news at 11 :-)).

I'm not saying that finger-style is an easy conversion for those of us who grew up with a plectrum or a bow in our hands... I just really enjoy it personally because of what it can bring to the music. You do have the right instrument for large hands, however, in the form of your Larson (Lambert) instrument.

>> Again, my complaint of the neapolitan Vinaccia
>> instrument is that it is tiring to tune and keep
>> in tune compared to the milanese [and Cremonese]
>> instrument of the same period. The headstock/peg
>> system was really quite inferior to the mechanical
>> tuners or a system with an open two sided peg support.

Another good explanation for the eventual move to single gut strings eh? :-)

All the best,


Jan-27-2004, 12:56pm
"it would be much easier if we could all just get together over a few beers rather than this infernal typing."

Happily you DON´T get together over a few beers but have to rely on the infernal typing! So that we others can follow this interesting conversation!

;-) Arto

Jan-27-2004, 2:45pm
Hi all,

I'd just like to take this opportunity to wish Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart a happy 248th birthday... where ever he is. Slap some Mozart on the CD player today (or play some on your mandolin) to celebrate and get in touch with historical Viennese cultural preferences!

In the immortal words of Tom Lehrer:
"By the time Mozart was my age... he'd been dead for ten years"

That kinda puts it all in perspective for me...


Alex Timmerman
Jan-28-2004, 6:22am
Hello all,

While celebrating Mozart by listening to some of his wonderful violin concertos I fingered van Beethoven´s chord passage in his Adagio in E flatt Major for Mandolin and Harpsichord (Cembalo).

Because it can be played convincingly on any mandolin type I left out the single line melody writing of this piece.
I just have to point out however, that this part of the music lies also absolutely perfect on the Milanese fingerboard - as is the case with the one movement Sonatine in C-minor (Adagio) that has no chord passages, which I therefore also do not need to show here.

However, the chords that van Beethoven put down in the Adagio in bar 50 to 58 show again his understanding of the instrument he was writing for and an excellent example for (voice) writting for a mandolin tuned in fourths played with the fingerstyle technique.

So, here is the chord passage fingered for the Milanese mandolin. #


Alex ©

Jan-28-2004, 7:43am
Alex, I think Beethoven would say, "Oh, I understood what?" That passage is delicious on my neapolitan mandolin too and conforms to normal passage work for this and other instruments tuned in fifths. I would never say that Beethoven himself did this expressly for some deep undertstanding of the technical devices of these instruments (as if he fooled around writing this music with a neapolitan or milanese mandolin in a learned hand). The three composers that I know personally and who wrote pieces for me (mandolin and violin) did not play these instruments or bother to ask technical questions other than concerning the range and possibly tuning. The tuning would be of importance for chordal (not broken) purposes and we often react to the outlay or voicing of the chords as a dead give away about what instrument was intended. Even there I can show you examples of Locatelli (Art of the Violin, caprice "Il laborinto") and Paganini (for violin) where the chords seem totally bizarre or almost unplayable (like maybe the violin should have a 5th string) yet it is music written for the violin (fortunately for this instrument, there isn't much confusion what violin means). I am happy though that the music is comfortable to play on instruments tuned in 4ths (fingerstyle) as well as those tuned in 5ths (plectrum or bow).

Jan-28-2004, 10:10am
Thanks very much Alex for this. I would only offer a couple of small changes to your left hand fingerings in a couple of spots:

- In the second half of bar-4, I would use perhaps 2-1-4 on d, b-flat, a-flat and then 3-1-4 on e-flat, b-flat, g.

- and instead of the barre in the first half of measure 6 I might use 1-2-4 on the c, g, and e-flat respectively.

Both of these changes are doable, even on my large 6-course mandolino and This keeps the upper two notes on adjacent strings which seems more natural and consistent since it keeps the string spacing the same for the right hand.

Also, though it might be interesting to vary fingering (which may be why you did it), I would likely just keep bars 7 and 8 with the same fingering since the notes don't change.

OK... I finally have the Andante marked up... let see if I can figure out how to make the message board work...


Jan-28-2004, 10:19am
Hi Richard,

In this case I think I have to go with the instrument in fourths. While this (decidely "delicious") passage is certainly playable on the tuning in fifths, I have always had my doubts. Yes, it is playable, but it requires jumping from third (maybe second) position to half-position, then back to an uncomfortable two-string third-finger barre with the fourth finger thrown in for good measure (c, g, e-flat). It take practice and good technique to make these transitions smooth. Perhaps your larger hands give you and advantage here where my stubby little fingers leave me wanting.

This is one of the spots that I found *much* easier on the Cremonese instrument due to the single strings and close spacing. Nonetheless, I find it much more *convincing* on the tuning in fourths... even after only a couple quick read-throughs.


Jan-28-2004, 10:48am
OK, here is my marked up version of the Andante (from the Andante and Variations). I chose this particular piece for a couple of reasons. First, its very simple. Second, I have always found this little piece unrewarding and trivial, both to listen to as well as to play (on the tuning in fifths).

In short, I now find this piece wonderful and charming. I will try to explain why:

- I chose a fingering with lots of open strings and lots of arpeggiations that cross from string to string. This approach is very effective on the mandolino/Milanese tuning since individual notes continue to ring on. This approach is a key aspect to "projection" with finger-style technique for this instrument.

- Notice how the identical dotted figures at the end of the first full bar and the end of the third full bar get *exactly* the same fingering, just on different courses (around a, and d'). The "+" sign here indicates a left-hand (first-finger) pull-off for the a, and d' respectively.... very easy to do, and it seems to fit the music nicely

- Most of the little turns and graces, and many of the critical dotted rythms work out nicely so that they ring across two strings... very effective, and again, very good for projection.

- In some cases I chose to finger notes on lower strings (usually an "a" with the fourth finger) rather than play higher open strings where there were opportunities for arpeggiation. This avoids pre-mature damping and lets all of the tones ring on nicely.

- As with Alex's other multi-voiced examples, bar-7 is a gem. I've scribbled on it here.. hopefully you can see what is going on. The ability to let each voice ring on independently changes this passage completely for me.

Yes, this is a simple example. But I would argue that even here a strong case can be made for the tuning in fourths. If this music turns out to be written for this tuning, it is indeed an example of very effective (not just easy) writing for the mandolino/Milanese mandolin and played with the right-hand fingers.

I'm out of time for now... I have Variation 4 marked up and I can post that too if there's interest...


Jan-28-2004, 11:57am
Sorry Eric that you have trouble with this passage, you should have persisted a bit longer with studying it. I don't use any stretches, so my big hand has no advantage being able to finger these chords. What Beethoven writes is really quite simple compared to the demands of Bach in his sonatas and partitas, Locatelli, Tartini and so many violin oriented composers. I don't find the double strings an issue either in this case but my mandolin is very well set up so perhaps this might be your cause of discomfort. Then again, you play so many different instruments, the milanese with 2 extra strings to provide more open string options would be tempting to facilitate playing notes in general. #With this example from the e-flat adagio ma non troppo, the broken chord section is perfect for a 3 note #glilde stroke in every chord, like a bow slur or conforms to so many other similar passages in the string literature written by Beethoven. The 1st to 3rd position shift isn't that difficult and I am sure you must be exaggerating your complaints. I have somewhat individual fingerings for the half position chords but I actually like very much the shift with barred C-G (g and d strings) in the 3rd position and return to first position. If done as legato as possible, it creates a nice expressive effect.

I still do not see 'proof' for the milanese mandolin when looking at Beethoven's composing process, his intentions or even what instrument might have tasted these pieces first. I understand all of the arguments, but will it stand in court? http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif Hello Plami, you out there?

Jan-28-2004, 12:40pm
Hi Richard,

>> Sorry Eric that you have trouble with this passage,
>> you should have persisted a bit longer with studying it.

Thanks for that advice. I said earlier, that the passage in question (from the Adagio) is playable on the instrument tuned in fifths but that it required practice to make it smooth... and I have always had my doubts about it. I'm glad this comes naturally for you. In response I guess I would suggest that perhaps you should persist with finger-style technique on the mandolino! :-)

I have agreed with you that many of the figures (and chords) in the Beethoven *appear* violin-like on the printed page, and are thus playable on mandolins tuned in fifths. I just wonder if this *appearance* has caused the mandolin community to miss the opportunity to explore other historically-justifiable and attractive options.

I don't think anyone here has claimed hard proof for the tuning in fourths. However, the requisite proof for the instrument in fifths is also missing. I for one am more and more convinced of intent for the tuning in fourths, played with the fingers. You are, of course, entitled to your own opinion.


ps - I re-read your last note and I agree with most of what you say about glide-strokes, shifts from third to first positions, etc. I'll only point out that Alex's fingerings for this passage on the Milanese instrument require no shifts whatsoever.

Alex Timmerman
Jan-28-2004, 2:40pm
Hello Eric,

Just back from the music academy , will have coffee first and than go through your fingering ideas on mine of the Adagio.

Till later,


Jan-28-2004, 3:14pm
Ah Eric, but I like shifts... they are the heart of portamento. #I wish I had one more life available to pursue fingerstyle but this is impossible given that I hardly have time now to practice my bread and butter instruments. I will get involved with the Cremonese mandolin and continue the milanese alla "Hoffmann". #The whole reason I've pursued this topic with you and Alex is not to disuade you (others) from playing Beethoven's pieces on the instrument tuned in fourths with fingertip plucking but to challenge your bias based on the written notes (music) themselves. It isn't difficult at all to put comfortable fingerings in for the milanese mandolin, again... you have 6 strings to choose from. However, to shift or not to shift is not just an equation of which solution is the easiest (for players to avoid shifting). #Beethoven was not someone who would have been happy with being tied to a tabulature approach to any instrument. He never looked for the easy way out in any other piece so why would he suddently be so concerned about the particular 'playability' for the milanese mandolin (assuming that they were the only mandolins used in Prague or Vienna). This argument (the predominance of milanese mandolins) would be the only one that I would warm too and which I would like to know more about. The musical analysis is of limited interest to the argument of which instrument Beethoven intended and even which instrument would best serve this music (much too subjective to even begin to discuss). I am sure if one where to do some sort of statistical analysis of Beethoven's compositions up until that point (1796), you would find nothing to support one mandolin over another over another instrument (like the violin or another keyboard). The only thing one can remark is that these pieces are written with respect to the range employed by either type of mandolin. The rest are just a marvelous bouquet of notes that allow for a wide range of interpretations (and instruments).

Alex Timmerman
Jan-28-2004, 4:18pm
Hello again,

Eric, I like your fingering of the second half of bar-4, using 2-1-4 on d, b-flat, a-flat and of the following bar, the 3-1-4 on e-flat, b-flat, g. Especially because of the idea behind it; to have the right-hand fingers as long as possible playing on adjacent strings. Very nice and good thinking!

I made my choice of fingering of these bars because of my concerne of the quality of sound which is better (more sustain) on the first string of course. But yours work great as well! I very much like this possibility you gave to avoid the barre in measure 6, thanks!

In measure 7, I start off with an open 6th string and have enough time to place 2 on d and than 1 the b note. For me this works very nice on my tiny original Milanese, while if I have to place 4 before the 3rd fret right after finger 2 and 1 in measure 6 it all does feel a bit pressed and to tight up. But I do see your point because it enables the un-occupied finger 3 to fall down in measure 7 on the d note through which the (your) fingering stays the same in measure 7 and 8.

There was also a 2nd reason why I fingered measure 7 with 2 and 1 (pivoting from 3) and than changing to 3 and 2: changing a pattern means ´take care/watch out´-. Here van Beethoven changes the pattern of chord notes (low-middle-high-middle-low-middle) changes in: low-middle-high-middle-middle-high through which also the right-hand finger movement is interrupted.
For 10 bars it had been p-i-m-i-p-i and now the pattern switches over to p-i-m-i-p-m. Therefore I keep the right-hand movement going on as long as possible and am able to concentrate (more) on the (sudden) changings in the notes and right-hand fingers.

I like this brain activity while studying a piece, but am well aware that this is quite a personal approach. And of course this is not a difficult fast piece, but even than I like to work it out in this way.
Also I like your finger possiblity explanations and because fingerings are essential (and not only here in the van Beethoven discussion) I just thought to give you a thorough explanation of the way I think and deal with fingerings.

Many greetings,


Jan-28-2004, 4:55pm
Hi Richard,

>> The whole reason I've pursued this topic with you and
>> Alex is not to disuade you (others) from playing
>> Beethoven's pieces on the instrument tuned
>> in fourths with fingertip plucking

Nor is it my intent to disuade you from the (clearly majority opinion) to play them on the Neapolitan instrument

>> but to challenge your bias based on the written notes
>> (music) themselves.

OK, I agree. I will grant you that finding musical "evidence" is a path fraught with danger and too easily corrupted by one's own biases, techniques or ignorance of the same. A case built solely on musical notes would be hard to defend. This is why I (like you, I think) find Alex's circumstantial evidence to be some of the most compelling points made in this discussion, both his descriptions of surviving instruments as well as geographical ties with northern (rather than southern) Italy. If we accept this circumstantial evidence and are to draw conclusions from it, everthing else must fit together and thus the musical case must be explored. There is no point, for instance, in persuing a Milanese approach for Leone's music... as there is no circumstantial case to be made.

On the other hand, the written notes (and the music we derive from them) are ultimately what this is all about and we shouldn't just ignore interesting things that we find if they fit the circumstances. We can make suppositions based on what Beethoven or other violin composers did in other pieces but in these written notes we have Beethoven's own word on the mandolin (and we're very lucky to have it). We are left to make what we can of this evidence, non-specific as it may be. I'm very uncomfortable with the idea that Beethoven simply wrote notes without a care for what instrument they were played on.

>> He never looked for the easy way out in any other
>> piece so why would he suddently be so concerned about
>> the particular 'playability' for the
>> milanese mandolin (assuming that they were the only
>> mandolins used in Prague or Vienna).

If you're suggesting that Beethoven would likely be uncompromising in the music he wrote for M. Clary and without care for the specific intended instrument (or player), then I suppose our opinions do differ. Writing for a virtoso is one thing but this strikes me as a poor strategy as a composer, or especially as the suitor of the intended recipient (as we presume was the case). And I'm not arguing for ease necessarily... I'm arguing for effective use of the instrument... Even assuming the Milanese instrument there are still hard/difficult passages... but in my opinion they are rewarded by the effectiveness I see elsewhere in the music. This is also your point for the Neapolitan instrument, I believe.

I am certainly not without bias, I was a violinist first and my first exposure to playing and performing these pieces was over 20 years ago on the Neapolitan instrument. As recently as a few weeks ago as I was still able to convince myself that these works were intended for the tuning in fifths based on the superficial appearance of chord shapes. It is my bias as a violinist and a player of the tuning in fifths that is stronger... something I am now trying to see past.


Alex Timmerman
Jan-28-2004, 6:34pm
Hello Eric,

As for your finger-style quarter tuned mandolin version of the Andante and Variations I am of course with you. I only don´t use open strings so often as you do. This because my Milanese mandolin is entirely strung with gut and vibrato (yet another advantage over metal strung types) on it in the melody-line is just fantastic!

At the moment I am studying the Andante and Variations to choose which of the left- and right-hand fingerings I have made, work best. But already now I feel that the notes fall best on the Milanese mandolin. #

That it fits this type so well is of course no coincidence at all!

So, let the other party for once come up with why they play it on mandolins tuned in fifths!

And hopefully with something else than that "these mandolins are louder and/or project better" etc. etc.

If no proof, it´ll better be real arguments!



Jan-28-2004, 6:53pm
i haven't read through the 14 pages devoted to the subject of historical mandolins but i'd like to know if there's anyone else out there who views the charango as a medieval instrument that's finally (sob!) come home to europe after a protracted (500-years or so) leave of absence in the new world.

Jan-28-2004, 7:15pm
I just got together with my duo partner (a guitarist) and we read through some things.

- Leonard von Call - Hmmm... easy but not effective!
- Giovanni Hoffman - A little harder.. but much better music
- LVB - Ahh!!

Blatant opinions of course, but Beethoven is indeed something special.


Alex Timmerman
Jan-28-2004, 7:17pm
Eric, if only I had a vocabulary and writting ease in English of your standard!

Hello Richard,

I have no ´bias´ at all in the sence that I know best on which Mandolin type these works can be played best.

What I do know about the mandolin and it´s history is based on my research over the last 25 years.
I also know that I look to things concerning the mandolin in practically all possible ways and angles. Often these are views that are never even seen and never investigated before, views also that when examined reveal unknown aspects on several matters concerning the mandolin.
That I am able to do so - as one of very view - is because I found yet an other key to the hidden sides of the history of our instrument, namely: the surviving instruments of the past.

The knowledge, gained through finding and examining plucked instruments in musical instrument collections - both public and private all over Europe - combined with #background information on cultural and historical facts of a particular period and place, have given me more insight in the devellopment of the mandolin.

And sometimes this, when shared with for instance you and the people of this wonderful board, brings us closer - like in the van Beethoven mandolin music - to at least a more true and authentic approach of a matter than there was before.

That´s what I like!

So really, no ´bias´.
See my writing as a kind of counterweight to all those who were - and still are - spreading falsehoods for facts...



Jan-28-2004, 7:32pm

Your written English is fine. That you are carrying on a discussion of this nature in a non-native language speaks highly in your favor. I am always impressed with Europeans' (and others) language abilities when compared with the small number of Americans that speak multiple languages. In any case, I have certainly never had trouble understanding your meaning, and that is what important.


Alex Timmerman
Jan-28-2004, 7:42pm
Hi Eric,

Thanks, and good to know!

By the way do you have the Sonate concertante in C-Major Op. 108 for mandolin and guitar by Leonard de Call? That´s some single line writing!

If not I´ll send you a copy!



Jan-28-2004, 8:25pm
Hi Alex,

Yes, it was exactly the Sonata Concertante in C-Dur (Op. 108) that we were playing tonight. It is indeed very simple stuff and works well with a plectrum (even on my Lombard mandolin). My duo partner loves the simple guitar part too! :-) I have the "Klassische Mandoline" edition edited by Wilhelm Krumbach. There are only a few chords... and only a few final six-note chords, but at least Herr Krumbach left them in!

I remember hearing some other nice von Call music for mandolin and guitar that I don't have... I'll have to go look it up.


Jan-29-2004, 12:43am
Alex (Eric),

I swore that I would not get dragged into and beyond the 13th page in this discussion because it's going around in circles. Re-read what I've written, those are my arguments. I have read all of yours and know well how sincere you are genuinely interested and knowledgable about plucked stringed instruments. I really have nothing more to add but I believe there were several questions I raised that you have missed or choose to ignore (you'll have to go way back). I have no proof, then again I don't see anyone having any real proof. Anyway, opinions are like elbows, everyone has a couple of them. I really see no point in spending hours copying this music and adding fingerings and pick strokes that I have used or might use to illustrate how wonderfully perfect Beethoven wrote for the neapolitan or cremonese mandolins (tuned in 5ths). I have played these pieces many times and never did I have any reservations about the writing for this instrument. I've tried a few times to play them on the milanese (long time ago and just recently) and there I had serious reservations (primarily left hand). Go figure, we three are experiencing much different things with this music. Well, you could say it is because I've always played them on the neapolitan. This should apply to the well known Vivaldi concerti as well but, in my case, it is the opposite. I find the Vivaldi totally more natural on the instrument tuned in 4ths. Go with your convictions and my apologies for not agreeing with either you or Eric, I remain unconvinced for the reasons that I have stated before.

Alex Timmerman
Jan-29-2004, 4:12am
Good morning Richard,

It is a pitty that you have no time to fiddle around a bit with your right hand fingers on your Mandolino. I am sure you would understand my points (better). Well, one last tip: for a better grip on the strings perhaps string your big Larson Mandolino with only six strings. That´s what they did at the time in Vienna!

As for Eric and me, I don´t think the two of us are (quote): "experiencing much different things with this music". In fact we agree on the essence of the matter, and only share possible fingerings.

Eric was at first sceptical - probably because of Galfetti´s Cremonese playing, and perhaps even more so because his own Cremonese had arrived after restoration - ready to play and van Beethoven´s music seemed to run so well on it #- yet he could put that aside and work his way through the new fingerings for the instrument tuned in fourths etc.
What I understood is that a lot of the more ´problematic´ passages in the pieces wore solved and that he became more and more convinced that the music suited the mandolin in fourth best.

I don´t think I forgot any of your questions to answer.

As for the paintings that you mention with a Neapolitan mandolin on it, I thought I was clear enough, but I can say this straight away: I have found NO such paintings or drawings by artists who lived in Vienna and surroundings made in the period we are talking about (1775-1840). Did you find any? And you bet I am looking for mandolins on paintings!

I did however find paintings with Mandolinos and Milanese mandolins depicted on it...

But if I did leave any questions un-answered, please point them out again. It is enough to block the date of your post and the time you posted them.

Remember you started this Topic titled: "Historical mandolins and cultural preferences" . And we are only just starting to discuss the ´Classical´ part of your sub-title: ´Classical, Medieval and Renaissance´...

It´ coffee time # # #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/coffee.gif #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/coffee.gif

Many greetings,


PS. If you don´t like to go beyond page 13, we can of course start a new topic. There is still so much to unravel...

Jan-29-2004, 6:44am
Correction: I read these pieces on the single 6 string Monzino. Second, I find absolutely no problems at all, in fact, I find the music exceptionally natural on the 4 course instrument tuned in 5ths. With the Monzino and these pieces it is anything but convivial to me. You are a guitarist and lutenist, that automatically gives you a different perspective. I am not and I don't believe Beethoven was either. As for paintings, I have only reacted to what I have seen in galleries on a casual basis or in book illustrations of the late 18th and early 19th century. No more, no less. Third, I retire from the debate, it was interesting but has kept me from my work. As I said before, fingerstyle is for you and others who enjoy playing this way and have the time or formation for this technique. I will not be the one to perform these pieces on a 6 course mandolino fingerstyle and I am sure Beethoven wouldn't be upset too much either.

Alex Timmerman
Jan-29-2004, 7:21am
Hello again Richard,

It has indeed been great debating with you! And I thank you for that. Especially since there are not many recording mandolinist who would do this (for obvious reasons). I really appreciate it and many of the board members (and others) here, I think.

Please join in again if you feel it´s necessary.

Warm regards,


Jan-29-2004, 9:39am
Hi Richard,

I too thank you for the exchange. Even if we have not all come to the same conclusion, it was a valuable and fun experience for me. As I've attempted to say, I really *do* see much of what you have been saying (WRT to the Neapolitan tuning) as a valid perspective, and I certainly respect your opinions (and performances and recordings). I just have to explore this particular alternative to the end to satisfy myself. I may yet change my mind (again)... who knows.

And you're right, life is short and I play too many instruments. I am not a professional so I have the luxury of playing many things badly. What you said about "not having another life to persue finger-style" made sense to me. Having entered mid-life myself, I certainly respect your desire and need to focus. Too many mandos to explore and not enough time eh?

All the best,


ps - By the way, I just happened to try some of the Beethoven on my Lombard instrument yesterday with my duo partner and I agree that this instrument is less satisfying to play finger-style. With its heavier construction and close string spacing, my Lombard at least (an Albertini) is certainly better suited for plectrum play (for which it was clealy designed). From what I've seen, a real "Milanese mandolin" would be much lighter in construction... more like a contemporary mandolino.

Jan-29-2004, 9:20pm
Hi Alex,

As you know, I don't actually have a Milanese mandolin. So... I decided to take you up on your suggestion and I pulled the second strings off of my six-course Larson/Lambert mandolino just for fun. It looks a little silly now but the result actually works quite well for finger-style play. Even though this is not a small instrument, the extra space between the strings is certainly welcome.

As expected, the single string gives a different feel under the fingers and a different tone... one that I quite enjoy. Its no surprise but the Beethoven bits that I have tried are greatly facilitated with this change.


Alex Timmerman
Jan-30-2004, 6:56pm
Hello Eric and others,

Yes, it looks strange but can be, as you already notiched, very useful in studying the finger style technique. Also the sound of it, now it is being played with single strings, is (although somewhat thinner) more near the quality of a Milanese mandolin.

An original Milanese mandolin trung with gut strings sounds very direct and ´bell´-like, a bit simmilar to the sound of a harp in it´s high register.

I talked today to Sebastian Nuñez, the luthier who made my Mandolino (6x2 model, after an original example by Ambrogio Maraffi, ±1735) about what strings and thicknesses are best to use on the Milanese type.
We came to the conclusion to experiment with the thicknesses and that it´s probably best to take silver wound on silk, for the 6th and 5th string and for the rest scheep/lamp gut. What do you think?

At the moment my Milanese is strung entirely with gut strings and that is fine, although the 6th could be more ringing. But that it is somewhat ´floppy´ is likely due to it´s age (I haven´t the faintest idea how old the strings are; they have always been on).

Another thing that makes these single gut-strung types (Milaneses and Cremonese) so interesting is the fact that they project so well! It could well be because they are extremely light in weight.

You have mentioned that your Cremonese was weighing almost nothing and that you could feel the vibrations of the wood while playing. Well this is the same with the Milanese mandolin.

So I will weigh it and have a talk with maestro Nuñez about that to. I am interested to know the weight of your Cremonese also (the others at the board will now probably really think that I´m ready to be certified...).

Another fact is that direct, straigt forward projection without much overtones is found best in instruments with an undeep oval shaped belly. Exactly that is what these two mandolin types are designed with. #

A lot to investigate and to copy perhaps!

For now best regards,


Jan-30-2004, 7:51pm
Hi Alex,

>> An original Milanese mandolin strung with gut strings
>> sounds very direct and ´bell´-like a bit simmilar to
>> the sound of a harp in it´s high register.

Yes... "direct" is a good description... I strive for this sound on double-strung mandolinos as well... but its certainly easier to obtain with single strings... Indeed, I hear lots of fundamental and this seems to contribute greatly to projection as you say.

Speaking of harps, I have to tell you a story. I was exploring finger-style technique on my Strad-copy mandolino at an LSA summer seminar several years ago. I got a knock on my dorm-room door while I was practicing one day... it was Andrew Lawrence King (the early harp virtuoso) and he was very confused when I opened the door... From the sounds outside, he thought he had found another harp student... but he could find no harp in my room.

And yes, I'll happily weigh the Scolari this weekend.


Feb-04-2004, 5:00pm
I haven't read through the entire file on this subject, so possibly this topic has been touched upon, but I wonder if any of the major participants on this thread might wish to comment on the relative merits of the different historical reproductions of mandolino's/baroque mandolings that are currently being made (eg. a Larsen). I am thinking of ordering one and would like to accumulate useful information.

Alex Timmerman
Feb-04-2004, 5:22pm
Hello Margora/Robert,

Yes, great idea that would make sence best as a separate Topic on which I would certainly reply.



Alex Timmerman
Feb-07-2004, 6:41pm

Here is the 1st variation on the ´Andante con Variazioni´ of the "Variations pour la Mandoline et Clavecin" #by Ludwig van Beethoven. At first sight one thinks probably that this just has to be composed for a mandolin tuned in fifth. Especially because of it´s ´open´ key of D major, in which open strings like the d and a can ring on.

But a second look learns that this aspect is even more the case with an instrument tuned in fourth. #

By fingering it for the left- and right hand (finger-style technique) - and by trying several possibilities - I have become quite convinced again that van Beethoven´s music has been composed for the Mandolino/Milanese mandolin. In fact it turned out to be a wonderful example for fingerstyle playing.

Most interesting of the shown fingering here is that - ecxept for the scale passages of course - every triplet group (of three 16th) resembles a chord that can ring on. Playing it in this way gives a completely different sound quality and flow of the music.
Quite surprisingly so, especially when this variation is compared with the rather short ´staccato´ playing when it is performed on a mandolin tuned in fifth.


Alex ©

1st variation on the ´Andante con Variazioni´:

Feb-09-2004, 9:50pm
Hi Alex,

Thank you once again for taking the time to contribute your fingerings. I have personally found this variation to be more challenging than the rest of the Beethoven, but like Alex, I also find it very rewarding on the Milanese tuning played finger-style. This variation makes a great etude and I have learned some good technique from playing it.

Alex and I have corresponded privately on both right and left hand fingerings for this movement. I do some things differently but I agree with his overall approach. Its a bit ironic (given that I used to use more thumb in my mandolino playing) but I tend to now use more i-p-i-p than Alex indicates (though I understand why me makes the choices that he does and I'm evaluating them). Also, in some cases where he uses i-p-i-p, I now use p-i-m.... Go figure. I also seem to change my mind daily about fingerings... and my instrument is somewhat larger (both in mensure and neck width) than an ideal Milanese mandolin would have been.

In any case, this piece is indeed wonderfully different on the Milanese instrument played finger-style. As Alex mentions, the ability for notes to ring on in the arpeggiated passages lends a very elegant (harp-like) quality.

>> At first sight one thinks probably that
>> this just has to be composed for a mandolin
>> tuned in fifth.

Indeed, and like the other examples, a close examination shows it to be particularly well-suited and effective on the Milanese instrument.


Feb-09-2004, 11:38pm
I was doing some random searches on the net and I found an interesting Beethoven reference. #Not to drop names, but guess who else attributes Beethoven to the Milanese instrument.... none other than David Grisman!


(The text of the page seems somewhat garbled, however)

Interestingly he claims that Hugo D'Alton recorded the C-major Sonatine on the Milanese tuning (Saga 5350). Anyone happen to have that recording?


Feb-10-2004, 2:33am
Eric, I understood that he played the C major on the Embergher and only the C minor on the Milanese type instrument. If he did play it on the Milanese, he must have used metal strings and a hard pick since that's the sound produced. I'll bring my copy of this recording when we meet up later this month. He also opts for an ornamented version that Beethoven had crossed out of his manuscript (c minor adagio). I was impressed initially by the c minor because it was fun to hear the variations once, but I found it didn't wear well after a few of these turns (the elaborations) and I think this is the problem that Beethoven anticipated. Less is more.

Incidently, the D major variations play or ring very well on the neapolitan or instrument tuned in fifths. Like an improved harp http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif!

P.S. For Bortolazzi and Cremonese mandolin fans, I've finally managed to get a copy of the Duo Concertante (for violin or mandoline and Spanish guitar). It appears to be an English publication from the late 18th or first decade of 19th centuries. Missing title page and source, at least I have the music.

Feb-10-2004, 12:56pm
Grisman's assertion is intriguing. However, I put a little less weight on it than the assertions made by the debate underway here. He cites no evidence for the Milanese instrument beyond that Hugo D'Alton used it, and I suspect that's where his evidence ends. In some of Grisman's other writings, he gives the impression that all non-F5 mandolins are primitive ancestors to "real" mandolins; a notion that doesn't sit well with me or, I suspect, with most readers here.

While I appreciate Bortolazzi's reputation as a virtuoso, I think the greatest contribution he made to mandolin was in inspiring Hummel to write for the instrument. I find his endless sets of variations, with accompaniments completely devoid of rhythmic interst, to be nothing short of tiresome. Still, I am intrigued by the idea of the Duo Concertante. Any chance of seeing this music? Are you hoping to work up an edition for publication, Richard? I find the use of the term "Spanish" guitar a little odd from that date. I suppose the 6-string guitar did come to be known as "Spanish" in England as built by Panormo and his heirs, proteges, and emulators a little later.

Feb-10-2004, 1:12pm

This piece is much better than his variations, almost to the point that I think it might be by someone else. Bortolazzi wrote a number of songs as well with accompaniment of Spanish guitar and apparently some pieces for Spanish guitar and piano (this is what I pulled off internet research). All very intriquing and I couldn't agree with you more on the theme and variation piece. His sonata with pianoforte (not harpsichord) is pretty good and enjoyable to play and listen though lightweight. My intention is to prepare an edition which Ugo Orlandi will develop and have in print through an Italian publisher. I believe this is appropriate.

Alex Timmerman
Feb-11-2004, 3:44pm

The term ´Spanish Guitar´ was already ´in use´ just before 1800 in England (London) to make a distinction between this relatively ´new´ plucked instrument strung with six gutstrings and the, at the time, highly popular metal strung and chordal tuned ´English guitar´.
Around 1820 Louis Panormo set up his atelier in Bloomsbury and - clever as he was as a business man - ´confiscated´ the term for his sole use on his guitar labels.

Louis Panormo claimed by doing so that he was the only maker outside of Spain to make guitars in the Spanish style (see image).


Alex Timmerman
Feb-17-2004, 4:31am
Hello everybody,

As we were informed a while ago about German research about what kind of mandolin van Beethoven wrote his music for (reply on page 5 of this Topic, quote: "Die Werke sind alle für Neapolitanische Mandoline geschrieben"), and also the German quotation - as a kind of extra evidence - to the new Henle Verlag edition (Neuen Ausgabe von Dr. Armin Raab "Werke für Klavier und ein Instrument in "Kritischer Bericht zur neuen Gesamtausgabe", B.V, 4 Vorwort und Seite 166-171 #Henle Verlag, München 1993), I think some new info to you is at it´s place here.

Especially since (in the topic reply) no explanation at all was given for the supposition that the Neapolitan mandolin was meant, I took the trouble - curious as I am to find out more- and perhaps new developments in this case - and bought the latest edition of the work mentioned above.

A cople of days ago I received it and the very first thing of course was reading it from A to Z.
Very good research indeed, especially excellent into the piano parts of the works under discussion here.
As for the mandolin in the preface or pages 166-171 of this new "Gesamtausgabe" (1993), I found unfortunately no explanation in the text for the word ´Mandoline´ whatsoever.

In the preface of the Performers Edition (only the music that goes with the ´Gesamtausgabe´ 1993) of the van Beethoven ´Werke für Mandoline und Klavier - Urtext, Dr. Armin Raab, G. Henle Verlag (1994), I found these two lines on mandolin (quotation of the original English text, page III):
"Beethoven wrote these pieces for an instrument tuned to g-d'-a'-e''. Since he avoided figures idiomatic to the mandolin these works may be played on a violin without further ado".

And that´s all.

I think researching this interesting matter is still a good thing to be busy with.



Plamen Ivanov
Feb-17-2004, 7:36am
Hello Alex,

http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/sad.gif I hope the rest of the book is interesting enough to account for the expenses, that you made. Because this information concerning Beethoven and the mandolin is frustrating. I expected more. Caterina Lichtenberg`s work is already in the post, travelling to me. I`m sure there will be more satisfying information.

Talk soon,

Alex Timmerman
Feb-18-2004, 2:20pm
Hello Plamen,

Yes, let´s hope so!



Alex Timmerman
Feb-28-2004, 6:05pm

Just to keep you updated, I thought it would be nice to show the fourth variation of the "Variations pour la Mandoline et Clavecin" by Ludwig van Beethoven.

By fingering it for the left- and right hand and by trying out several possibilities - I choose the following possibility for the Mandolino/Milanese mandolin. Again a wonderful example for fingerstyle playing.

There are of course more ways, for instance with more open strings, but his one runs just fine.

Have fun,

Alex ©

4th variation on the ´Andante con Variazioni´:

Mar-03-2004, 4:14pm
Hello Alex... and anyone else that is still listening.

My fingerings for Variation IV are similar to yours but for a few exceptions. I've taken the liberty of adding the differences to the version you provided (in black), I hope you don't mind.

Asside from the usual 2/3 and 3/4 differences that you and I usually have (due, probably to my rather large, improvised instrument), there are a couple other differences, some fairly minor:

- Starting in measure 1 in the higher position lets the hand just stay still later.
- In measure four I stay in the higher position as well rather than moving down. I rather like this solution as it lets the left hand stay still and the right hand has the consistent string spacing again with the two upper notes on adjacent strings throughout. This was a bit of a stretch initially on my (long) instrument but its easy for me now.
- In measure 12 I replace 2 with 1 on the 'a' and then shift up one fret in measure 13.
- I do a little bar in measure 16... though I can go either way on this one.

Anyway, I agree completely that this is a delightful movement on the Milanese tuning played finger-style.

All the best,


Plamen Ivanov
Mar-07-2004, 9:24am

# # # #I`ll try to make a short resume of Caterina Lichtenberg`s work about Beethoven. First of all I would like to share with you my great pleasure of communicating with her - she is a very kind and intelligent person. This should have something to do with her Bulgarian origin #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

# # # #So, the work consist of 6 parts. The first one refers to Beethoven`s travel to Prague and his stay there in the beginning of 1796. There are few undisputed evidences about that - a letter to his brother Nicolaus Johann, the dedication to Comtess Clary in the air "Ah perfido", a ticket to his performance in Prague.

# # # #The second chapter is about the people around Beethoven during this period. It was Karl Lichnowsky, who introduced Beethoven to the Prague aristocracy. Beethoven met people like Countess Clary-Aldringen, which inspired him to write the pieces for mandolin and fortepiano; Josephine Duschek - a popular singer from that period, which performed the air "Ah perfido" for the first time. She was a student of Franz Xaver Duschek, who has also written pieces for mandolin. In the same sketch-book with the air "Ah perfido" dedicated to Countess Clary there are also sketches to the mandolin compositions. Two names more from the people, that were around Beethoven during his stay in Prague - Antonin Sindelar und Agathe Ulrich.

# # # #The third chapter concentrates on Josephine Clary`s person and the family Clam-Gallas. Back to the air "Ah perfido" - on the first page: "Une grande Scene mise en Musique par L.v. Beethoven a Prague 1796"; on the third page: "Recitativo e Aria composta e dedicata alla Signora di Clari di L.v. Beethoven". On the same page of the sketch-book there are sketches to the mandolin compositions first of all the themes of the C-dur Allegro. On the second edition (version) of Adagio ma non troppo the dedication is: "pour la bell J (Josepha) par L.v. Beethoven. It`s about Josephine Clary. She was popular in Prague not just with her beauty and singing abilities, but also with her mandolin playing. According to Wilhelm Krumbach Clary`s mandolin teacher was Johan Baptist Kucharz-concert master of the Prague Oper, who played the mandolin part by the premiere of Mozart`s "Don Giovanni" in Prague 1787. Most probably Beethoven was inspired to write mandolin pieces not just because of Clary`s beauty, but also because of her mandolin playing abilities. In 18. c. was the mandolin beloved instrument among the noble quarters. The mandolin had a lot of upholder in the Vienna cultur area at the end of the 18. and in the beginning of 19. century. Significant are the compositions for mandolin from J.N. Hummel, Leopold Anton Kozeluch, Mozart and others. But the mandolin was also popular in the Prague cultur area and composers like Georg Druschetzky, Franz Xaver Duschek und Johann Baptist Vanhal has written pieces for mandolin. In the estate of the family Clam-Gallas were found works for mandolin by Barbella, Gabriele Leone and Gervasio (which could give us an idea about J. Clary playing manner). Both-Gabriele Leone and Gervasio published in Paris school books (methods) for mandolin. (Some of you guys probably know more about this books and can tell about the type of the mandolin, that they were written for, I know just that they both come from Neapol. That`s a far connection with the type of the mandolin, but...) Another interesting fact - in the time, when the Beethoven`s works were written, in Prague had lived and worked the master instrument maker Karl Hellmer and his son. Their instruments were very splendid ornamented and had an excellent sound. These instruments are considered as some of the most important instruments of that time. (Caterina Lichtenberg don`t mention about the type of these mandolins. I haven`t heard about them too. Your turn again, fellows! It`s just my supposition, that if they were not a Neapolitan type, Caterina would have mentioned this. You know also, that she performs Beethoven`s works on Neapolitan mandolin made in Innsbruck by Johan Georg Psenner in 1775. Obviously the type of the mandolin is out of question for her.) Of course, it`s hard to be proved, if Countess Clary played a mandolin made from Karl Hellmer or his son.

# # # #The fourth chapter is about the already known and discussed two works and the discovery of Dr. Arthur Chitz - other versions of the first two and another three works for mandolin and fortepiano. One of them unfortunately lost again. The five works were included in the so called "Kopistenabschrift", (which is hard for me to translate exactly in English, but anyway it`s about a copy of the works, where they were all gathered together). There were made serious attempts for finding this copy, but in vain. If there is still chance to get any information about it, that should be Dr. Arthur Chitz` daughter, that lives in US, but her location is unknown (note that Caterina Lichtenberg`s work is written 1994. I hope Arthur Chitz` daughter is still in good health condition, but...) #
# # # #In the same chapter there are also thoughts about the place, where the pieces were created. Caterina Lichtenberg starts with the understanding of the music theory, till this moment, that the Sonatina c-moll and Adagio Es-dur (1. version) were written in Vienna and the Sonatina c-dur and Andante con variazioni and Adagio (2. version) were written in Prague. After that Caterina Lichtenberg refers to Douglas Porter Jihnson`s Dissertation "Beethoven`s early sketches in the Fischhof Miscellany", where he makes paper analysis of the sheets and determines, that the sketches for the four mandolin pieces are written on Prague paper. The consistency of the paper shows, that such paper could be obtained by Beethoven only after his arriving in Prague and not earlier (in Vienna). This fact denies also the possibility, that the Sonatina c-moll (WoO 43 a+b) was dedicated to Wenzel (Vaclav) Krumpholz, who was Beethoven`s friend and an excellent mandolin player.
# # # #The same chapter extends to the question of the accompanying instrument. It`s the cembalo by all of the works, but the dynamic indications in the second version of the Adagio show, that it`s meant the Hammerklavier and not the cembalo.

# # # #The fifth part of the work tells us more details about every of the compositions (including the fifth work) for mandolin and also some common characteristics. Full description of the originals (after Dr. Armin Raab`s research), inetersting comparisons between the different versions of the works, copies of different editions, etc.

# # # #The last sixth chapter lists all the editions of the Beethoven`s works.

# # # #Of course, this is just a summary, that can give you a rough idea about the work. I tried to point to some of the disputed moments. The entire book consists of 114 pages.

# # # #Caterina Lichtenberg was just 25 years old, when she wrote this work about Beethoven and I think, she did a great job!

# # # #Nothwitstanding my outstanding positive atittude to Caterina Lichtenberg, I won`t hesitate to ask her some "inconvenient" questions concerning things, that doesn`t sound very convincingly. So, I expect your reactions and comments.

Best regards,

Alex Timmerman
Mar-07-2004, 6:58pm
Hello Plamen,

Thank you very much for all your work and time. It´s really appreciated!

From what you write Caterina´s dissertation does unfortunately not give me any new clues or leads.

Things are still as follows; up to today unfortunately no direct evidence is found for what mandolin type(s) were used by Josephine de Clary (the later Countess Clam-Gallas), her teacher Johann Baptist Kucharz, nor to Ludwig van Beethoven and his dear friend the violinist/mandolinist Wenzel Krumpholz.

I have found several mandolins of the Neapolitan type build by Carolus (Karl) Hellmer from Prague, some of which even pre-date van Beethoven´s mandolin compositions. But as I pointed out in earlier posts here, there is no evidence at all for the Neapolitan mandolin as the instrument intended by van Beethoven for his mandolin works.

It is nice of course that we know that in the library of the Clam-Gallas family works for mandolin composed by Barbella, Leone and Gervasio, are found. It says something about how fast Italian music - which was very much in demand at the time(!) - found its way from France to elsewhere in Europe, but not about how it was played or what mandolin type was preferred (in Prague or Vienna). Or, to be more precise, what mandolin type Josephine played and if she played it finger style or not.
Neither do these particular works give any ideas to when they came in the possession of Josephine de Clary. Remember, when van Beethoven wrote his pieces for Josephine she was only 19 years old. Like the rest of the music (to which is referred in Caterina´s thesis), these particular “Neapolitan” works could easily and perhaps more likely be obtained at a much later time in Josephine´s live (or that of some other member of the Clam-Gallas family). #

As for the Neapolitan mandolins by Prague luthier Carolus Hellmer I can say that they are (to my taste and eyes) indeed excellent instruments and very beautiful; but not because they are (quote): “very splendid ornamented”. In fact those that survived time are, apart from some linings around the sound hole and sound table, strikingly undecorated and of the plainest quality.

Although no connection between Hellmer and Josephine (and all the above mentioned people) is found so far, and contrary to the preference for the sound of gut strung mandolins in that area, it is not inconceivable that after 1796 (read: after 1800) Josephine could have taken up the metal strung Neapolitan mandolin. And than perhaps even one made by Hellmer. Who shall say?

So we are still left only with the music. And that lies in my opinion excellent on the gut strung Milanese mandolin.

A last remark to the question of the accompanying instrument. The dynamic indications in the second version of the Adagio ma non troppo (WoO 43b) show only that this particular van Beethoven piece could also be played on a Hammerklavier. Yet he indicated the accompanying instrument in this second and ´cleaned´ version again with “Cembalo”. Perhaps Josephine had a special preference for that instrument in combination with her mandolin?


Alex ©

Mar-08-2004, 6:03am
alex - i'll be reading (studying) this chain for a long time but could you tell me where you got your stunningly beautiful instrument?

covetously yours - bill

Mar-08-2004, 10:30am
Thank you, Plamen! #This was very enjoyable. #Of Leone, I will say his advanced music was built around the Neapolitan instrument, and I don't think it would be very convincing on a different mandolin type. #Leone loved devices like "split strings" where a fretted note is often harmonized with an open string on the same course, swept arpeggios that seem best suited to fifths and the open strings of the Neapolitan mandolin, and frequent harmony that makes more sense (to me, at least) on a low g in octaves. #This, of course, doesn't mean performers in Prague couldn't have interpreted these works on a different mandolin type...or that they only would have favored one type of mandolin.

Plamen Ivanov
Mar-09-2004, 5:55am
Thank you, Alex and Eugene, for your response! No need to thank me. It`s Caterina Lichtenebrg, that did the job. I did nothing.
I`m going to ask her about more information or sharing thoughts about the type of the mandolin.
Here is my opinion. Yes, there are not direct evidences about the mandolin type, that J. Clary has played and even less about what kind of mandolin had Beethoven in his mind, although for me there is connection between both things. But there`s something, that we call inner conviction. That is not sixth sense. Just on contrary - it`s based on some known facts, although they are not direct evidences or not direct connected with the object of exploration. We speak for valid supposition. These are juridical terms and I`m not even sure, if I translate them right in English. Anyway, for me the more probable type should be the Neapolitan type of mandolin. This is in connection with the known facts and my opinion, that the pieces seem to be very suiatble to be performed on Neapolitan mandolin. About composer`s relation to his works, regarding the reflection of the instrument`s specifics in the piece and the possible variants, I agree absolutely with Mr. Walz` opinion shared in this topic. I also like the examples, that he gives. Once again, that`s just my amateur opinion.


Alex Timmerman
Mar-10-2004, 5:56pm
Hello Billkilpatrick,

I found this wonderful Mandolino Milanese at an auction in Amsterdam more that 15 years ago.
During the viewing hours I could give it a thouruogh look and there was nothing that disturbed me. The instrument was in playing condition. You can probably imagine that once her lot-number came near, my heart was beating in my chest and understand that I felt mighty lucky that I had her in my last bid!

Since then I still feel very fortunate to take care of her.



PS. talking about tunings:
The four double gut-strung Mandolino (the earliest model of that type (±1640) and Mother of all mandolins) is tuned in fourth, from the lowest to highest string-pair this results in: e'e'-a'a'-d"d"-g"g".

The Roman/Neapolitan mandolin (and other more modern types like the (flat) American or modern German boooowwwl-back mandolins) are tuned in fifth, from the lowest to highest string-pair: gg-d'd'-a'a'-e"e".

The same letters, only the other way around.

This coincidence was also mis-interpreted, in one of the earliest music sources with tabulatures for the Mandolino, by an Englisch scholar in an article about the Mandolin, some 10 or more years ago.
Unfortunately it is through this writing that there are still people who believe that the Mandolino first (early 17th century) was tuned in fifth - like a modern mandolin - than changed into the quarter tuning on five double strings, kept it while a sixth string was added (a third below the fifth string pair) and than - with the birth of the double metal-strung Roman/Neapolitan mandolin (±1740) - changed back to it´s tuning in fifth! How things can go...

Alex Timmerman
Apr-05-2004, 6:45pm

Since this Topic is about to be removed from the message board due to no replies, I thought it could be a good idea to save it a bit longer by sharing with you how one can also look at van Beethoven´s choise for the accompanying instrument in his mandolin compositions.

It is also my intention - as a kind of counterweight to bias against new and well-founded ideas in this matter - to give some objections to Plami´s (and Caterina´s) rather definite statement (quote): "The same [fourth] chapter extends to the question of the accompanying instrument. It`s the cembalo by all of the works, but the dynamic indications in the second version of the Adagio show, that it`s meant the Hammerklavier and not the cembalo".

The other way of looking to this subject is done by giving Viennese chamber music - composed just before and around 1800 - in which a harpsichord is involved, a closer look.

It than becomes clear that dynamic signs like p (piano) and f (forte) etcetera written down in music for harpsichord (Cembalo), was much more practised than is known or believed.

A good example is found in the Divertimento composed for ´Clavicembalo, Viola et Basso´ by the composer Johann Baptist Wanhall who coincedently also wrote several mandolin and guitar compositions in chamber music setting.
At the opening of his Divertimento he starts of with a big f in all three instruments (see illustration).

Why Wanhall indicated a forte at this place will probably never be understood well, since nowadays we tend to think (and asume) that no dynamic expressions are heard while playing an harpsichord. About wether at the time the idea of ´no dynamics possible´ on harpsichords had already established itself in the heads of the musicians, we will unfortunately never get an answer.

Nevertheless we are stuck with dynamic signs in harpsichord music that are seen as very important (also as proof) while the composers indication in the very same music about what instrument is to be used is seen as insignificant.

There is of course also the possibility that these p and f signs are to be taken as a kind of body language for the performing musicians to express the musical emotion in a more visual way to their listeners. At least it could help the harpsichord player to make his instrument ´heard´ more. Not that I want to emphasise this possibility but it could perhaps be a thought... ?

Wanhall (also Vanhall) was born Nechanice, Bohemia in 1739 and came in 1760 to Vienna where he worked with Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf. Like so many artists of his time he travelled to Italy (1769), and stayed in Florence, Venece and Rome for longer and shorter periods. In 1780 he returned to Vienna where was friends with Haydn, Mozart and Pleyel. Wanhall was quite a prolific composer writting lots of chamber music, concertos and operas. Often in which wind instruments have a key role to play.
Like Haydn - in his later live - Wanhall earned his money as one of the very first independent musicians; living from his art, by selling his music and teaching. He died in 1813 in Vienna.


Alex ©

Apr-05-2004, 10:17pm
Hello Alex,

I am no expert on early keyboard instruments but "clavicembalo" makes me think of what we call a clavichord today. With its strings struck by brass tangents (rather than plucked with a plectrum), the clavichord should certainly be capable of some dynamic range (within the limitations of a fairly intimate setting).

Beethoven is also known to have owned a clavichord so he would at least be familiar with the instrument. Richard proposed this possible solution when we discussed these pieces during a recent visit.

Would a clavichord also have been possibly referred to as a cembalo? Would clavicembalo mean clavichord, or cembalo or possibly that either would suffice?


Apr-05-2004, 10:21pm
Also, my family's very simple harpsichord has a damping mechanism that slides felt pads against the strings at the pull of the lever. Though this changes tone color a bit, this certainly makes it possible to play "loud" and "soft" on the harsichord.


Alex Timmerman
May-02-2004, 3:35pm
Good morning Eric,

The Clavichord would indeed be a good alternative and nice possibility to perform the Baroque music with for mandolin accompanied by some kind of an unspecified (figured) "Basso".
I know the combination quite well since I used to play the lute together with a colleague of mine on the Clavichord. A really great ´small´ instrument! And besides the possibilities of playing piano and forte well on it, the only keyboard instrument (amplified instruments excluded) on which a vibrato (like on bowed- and plucked instruments) is possible.

But in the Divertimento example by Wanhall surely the Harpsichord was meant by the name ´Clavicembalo´. And that seems likely to me not only because in this Wanhall composition it had to ´compete´ with the Viola and a Basso, but also since it was quite fasionable in that time to write down at the cover and in the music of the compositions it´s title and instruments in the Italian language.

To those who are not that familiar with the keyboard instruments we are talking about, I like to point out the following:

The name Clavicembalo is joint together from ´clavis´ meaning keys and ´cymbal´ as that was the old European term for the dulcimer. The Clavicembalo (Italian for Harpsichord) differs from other keyboard instruments because of the way it´s strings are set in motion: they are plucked by means of small quill on each key.

The difference between a Clavicembalo and a Clavichord is that the latter instrument sets it´s strings in vibration by brass tangents which are inserted in the end of the arm of the keys instead of plucked by a quill as seen in the Clavicembalo or like with the a Hammerklavier (Piano forte) through a hammer that falls back immediately after it has hit a string.

The brass tangents of the Clavichord, after hitting the strings, do not fall back in the rest situation, they keep contact with the string as long as the player keeps his/her finger pressed at the key. This is why the sound can be regulated. So it all depends on how hard the key tanglet is hit by the fingers to require a louder and softer sound. Vibrato is possible by little up and down movements of the finger on the key. #
When a key is released, the sound of the string is dampened by a cloth behind the line of the tangents. That is why it´s sound is so soft and charming.

The name for the Harpsichord is found in other countries as Clavecin (Fr), Clavicymbel, Kiel-Flugel (Ger), Arpicordo, Cembalo, Clavicembalo, Gravecembalo (Ital) and I have underlined those that are of interest here for our subject.
In all instruments of the Harpsichord family the strings (instead of being struck by tangents as in the clavichord, or by hammers as in the pianoforte) are plucked by a quill that is placed in the centre of the tongue of a jack or placed upright on the back end of the key-lever. When hitting a key the jack is thrown up and passes the crow-quill catching the string to sound.

So, as far as I am concerned we are still dealing with the Harpsichord as the accompanying instrument in the mandolin compositions by Ludwig van Beethoven.



PS. Interesting that you mention the damping mechanism of your families Harpsichord (quote): "Though this changes tone color a bit, this certainly makes it possible to play "loud" and "soft" on the harsichord". This mechanism was known at the time and is known (to me) as the ´lute´ or ´harp´ register on the Harpsichord. Of course this can be used to great effect in the van Beethoven mandolin pieces.

May-04-2004, 11:17am
... and W/Vanhall also has a lovely —and difficult to play!— Concerto for Double Bass, not to mention several chamber works with double bass, that echo the charming aura of the Central European Vorklassik. Lovely, lovely music...

P.S. Back to work! (Alex, you know what I mean http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

Alex Timmerman
May-04-2004, 11:54am
Oh Victor,

That´s a nice thought...

Maybe I should arrange that for you to play with Het CONSORT when we come over to New York! (wishful thinking of course, haha http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif)



May-04-2004, 12:33pm
Not so wishful, Alex. (Well, the part about the bass concerto, yes— that IS wishful, perhaps too much so.)

But, on the other hand: In my work in arts management, we (vis a vis my employer) produce 100-120 concerts a year. I can envision some day when you bring Het Consort on an American tour and, of course, make one stop on our series in New York.

Obviously, you would need several other engagements, since we (or any other, single presenter/producer) cannot possibly afford to pay for all your airfares, accommodations, etc., etc. Still, perhaps with some help from the Dutch Consulate, KLM, Shell Petroleum... who knows? http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

Jim Garber
May-04-2004, 12:36pm
Maybe I should arrange that for you to play with Het CONSORT when we come over to New York! (wishful thinking of course, haha http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif)
Wishful thinking, Alex? Let us know when and we will make the arrangements.


Jim Garber
May-04-2004, 12:38pm
Once again... Victor and I are simultaneous in our thoughts and postings! Perhaps yet another reason we need to play those duets.

One day, maybe even sooner than Het Consort comes here?


Alex Timmerman
May-04-2004, 1:45pm
Well, it would be really something to look forward to!

Perhaps we could make something special out of it in the sence of - what already more people here at the board have expressed having an interest in - a kind of meeting of us all for some days or so.

Of course with concerts, lectures, a nice exhibition of the bowlback mandolin displaying it´s true History etc. etc.


It even fits to our Topic here of Cultural and Historic preferences http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif !

Don´t these things start with dreaming...



PS. perhaps somewhere in 2005?

Bob A
May-04-2004, 3:21pm
Speaking of dreaming, I have a lottery ticket worth 170 million in my pocket (if it wins!). Needless to say, there'll be a lot of mandolin promotion coming along when my ship comes in. Also it will pay for the big mandolin book. And a meeting of the full board.

Or not. But it's only 50 million to one odds. Worth a couple of dollars, just for a few days' worth of daydreams.

Plamen Ivanov
May-10-2004, 4:57am
2005? OK! Having some experience in organizing fairs, seminars, etc. i think it`s better to start preparing this meeting earlier. May be it will be good to open a new topic, especially for that purpose. What do you think?

Good luck!

Alex Timmerman
Jul-05-2004, 3:29pm

I couldn´t resist visualizing this drawing for you all. It does have some resemblance to the famous Ludwig van Beethoven painting by Joseph Carl Stieler (http://www.lvbeethoven.com/Portraits/GalleryPortraits_JosephKarlStieler.html), I would say.

If it is our Louis, he sure looks more happy than on most of his other portrets. But that is ofcourse due to the mandolin he is holding and composing for.



Photo and drawing: Copyright 2004 by Alex Timmerman ©

Plamen Ivanov
Jul-06-2004, 1:35am
Hello Alex,

That`s already a knock-out argument for your "gut strung Milanese mandolin" assumption! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif What`s next - a Beethoven statue with a Milanese mandolin in the centre of Zwolle?! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif

Just joking, my friend! Hope you are not angry about that. But I think the picture is a little bit misleading though. I respect the drawing abilities very much, because I`m a terrible painter.

Good luck!

Alex Timmerman
Jul-07-2004, 4:50am
Hello Plami,

Well that´s a good idea!

But no, the place for such a statue would not quite be at it´s place in Zwolle.

I think Prague would be absolute great and one in front of the house at 285 Lazenska Street, where van Beethoven stayed in 1796 and composed his mandolin pieces.

Or, if that proves to be impossible, perhaps Vienna would be nice! A statue in at the Währinger Street in front of the Palais Clam Gallas (now the French Cultural Institute). Wow!!!


Alex #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Plamen Ivanov
Jul-07-2004, 5:03am

You will have the chance to discuss the Beethoven matter in person with some of the biggest mandolin people in October, including Prof. Wilden-Husgen and Caterina Lichtenberg, right? Please, send them my regards!

Greetings to you and to the "Consort"! Still enjoy the CDs very much! And in your book there were two unknown words even for a Professor in Flamish philology! I guess these are some specific mandolin terms. He was impressed from the book itself as well!


Jul-08-2004, 9:41am
Ah Alex, your artistic talents are truly amazing. I have to say that I rather like this view of Beethoven... though I'd really like to get a look at the inch-thick book of mandolin music that rests under his left elbow in your drawing! :-)

I have been exploring Beethoven's mandolin music (and that of Mozart) on the instruments in fourths (on a 5-course double-strung mandolino, and a 6-course single-strung Milanese mandolino) both played with the right-hand fingers. I have to say that I still find it a very compelling solution, and one that I personally favor over the plectrum-played instruments in fifths for a variety of reasons.

The Mozart songs (Die Zufriedenheit and Komm Liebe Zither) are simply wonderful to play on the 5-course mandolino played with the fingers. The Don Giovanni Aria (Deh viene alla finestra), with its theme that moves in intervals of a fourth, seems custom-made for a six-course mandolino (also played with the fingers). This piece fits the mandolino tuning beautifully with each separate exposition of the theme starting on an open string, allowing for wonderful consistency of tone.

Early in this discussion, I decided that I really wanted to try these pieces on a realistic Milanese mandolin. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any modern luthiers building historically-accurate copies of Milanese mandolins. As luck would have it, our own Alex Timmerman graciously allowed his own original Milanese mandolin to be closely copied by the luthier Sebastian Nunez. Though I've only had it a few weeks, this instrument seems a great success and I owe Alex a great debt of gratitude for letting this copy come into being.

Here is a photo of the original and the copy in Sebastian's shop. I can post additional photos of the construction if people are interested.


Alex Timmerman
Jul-11-2004, 4:12pm
Hello Eric,

Here I am very happy to quote you:
The Mozart songs (Die Zufriedenheit and Komm Liebe Zither) are simply wonderful to play on the 5-course mandolino played with the fingers. The Don Giovanni Aria (Deh viene alla finestra), with its theme that moves in intervals of a fourth, seems custom-made for a six-course mandolino (also played with the fingers). #This piece fits the mandolino tuning beautifully with each separate exposition of the theme starting on an open string, allowing for wonderful consistency of tone.

In fact that is how I play them nowadays: fingerstyle and on a gut-strung Mandolino.

There are - like is the case with the van Beethoven mandolin music - again more reasons that point towards the gutstrung Mandolino as the favoured mandolin type for Mozart´s mandolin music than there are in favour for the Neapolitan mandolin. If you are interested, I´ll post my Mandolino fingerings (left ànd right hand) of all the Mozart mandolin works for you.

Georgious new Milanese mandolino you have! The looks of it is very nice and - as I played it right after it was finished at Sebastian Nunez´ in Utrecht, the sound is absolutely wonderful! Very ´open´ and well projecting!
And that was already the case with nylon strings...

Knowing that you like gut strings far better on these instruments, you probably have changed the strings for gut now, so I wondered how it sounds now?

I am really happy that you wanted a close copy of one of the very view known originals of this Mandolin type and that you choose to copy mine. Isn´t one of the reasons of ´saving´ all these wonderful instruments that makers can copy them?
And even more exited that you ´feel´ the possibilities of the music and this particular mandolin type so well.

Many greetings,


Jul-11-2004, 5:58pm
Hi Alex,

Yes, I put gut strings on immediately... (plain gut for the first through fourth courses, Dan Larson's "gimped" pistoy's for the fifth and sixth courses). For some reason, though I don't mind synthetic strings on my lute, I just can't tollerate them on the mandolinos. The sound quality that gut produces is simply essential on these smaller, higher-tension instruments. Now... if I could only find a .40mm gut chanterelle that would survive longer than a couple days... On the plus side... I'm getting very fast at string changes! :-)... Fortunately, gut comes up to pitch very quickly when compared to nylon.

This Milanese instrument is lightly-built and projects very well (as you note). I do use nails now, but I keep mine trimmed fairly short. With this approach, I get a good clean "pop" from this instrument. This is the same quality I found on my original (restored) Cremonese mandolin and I think its an essential contributor to tone production on mandolinos.

Feel free to contribute your fingerings if you like as it is always interesting to see how someone else approaches a given piece of music. For myself, I found the Mozart pieces very straight-forward and natural on the mandolinos in fourths... and *very* fun to play with the fingers!