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  1. #1
    Registered User napochan's Avatar
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    Default Italian Mazurkas Anyone?

    Hi, newbie here.

    I just inherited a Gibson A40 that belonged to my uncle. It's been somewhat neglected for many years so it's in the shop getting new tuners and strings. I've been asked to learn some Italian mazurka songs as these were standard in my uncle's repertoire.

    Well, I admit to not knowing any of these songs so I'm reaching out hoping to find leads on sheet music, tabs, recordings, etc.

    BTW, I've played mandolin for several decades but it's always been my second or third instrument. This is about to change when I get the Gibson back in playable state.

    TIA
    ...Tom
    Plays: Gibson A40 ('56), Breedlove American KF ('11)
    Says: So many instruments out there, and so little time!

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Italian Mazurkas Anyone?

    Check out all the music on the "Ballo Liscio" thread.

    There is sheet music to lots of mazurkas on that thread.

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/s...ighlight=ballo

    check links on the last page of posts.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Italian Mazurkas Anyone?

    Make sure you keep the original tuners.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  6. #4
    Registered User napochan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Italian Mazurkas Anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    Check out all the music on the "Ballo Liscio" thread.

    There is sheet music to lots of mazurkas on that thread.

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/s...ighlight=ballo

    check links on the last page of posts.
    Thank you David. It looks like I hit the jackpot! The volume of material is huge; so to not be overwhelmed, I'll have to figure out where to wade in.
    ...Tom
    Plays: Gibson A40 ('56), Breedlove American KF ('11)
    Says: So many instruments out there, and so little time!

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  8. #5
    Registered User napochan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Italian Mazurkas Anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    Make sure you keep the original tuners.
    Thanks Mike. The luthier doing the repairs told me the same thing. The tuners themselves seem to be OK - maybe a bit sticky. The bigger problem was the plastic knobs had started to fall apart.
    ...Tom
    Plays: Gibson A40 ('56), Breedlove American KF ('11)
    Says: So many instruments out there, and so little time!

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    Registered User Mandophile's Avatar
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    Default Re: Italian Mazurkas Anyone?

    start by getting a Drop Box...Yahoo or otherwise. store you music there. I can't guarantee that my Drop Box will always be available. We're coming up to 4 years since I opened it to the public. WOW! July 11, 2018. Expect a surprise! Cross your fingers!

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  11. #7

    Default Re: Italian Mazurkas Anyone?

    There is a nice Mazurka by Ferdinando de Cistofaro in the e-Book Mandolin Duos from around 1900 that you can buy at Astute music.
    https://www.astute-music.com/store/p...und_1900_.html
    It's composed for two mandolins, but the second mandolin plays a chordal accompaniment, so I arranged it for mandolin and classical guitar:

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  13. #8

    Default Re: Italian Mazurkas Anyone?

    It's easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of music in the ballo liscio thread. Here are a few titles that I know are available as sheet music AND are pretty common mazurkas and waltzes on both 78rpm recordings and LPs:

    Common Mazurkas:
    Tra Veglia E Sonno
    Flavia
    Lieto Avvenire
    Labbra Coralline
    Sogno Di Bimba
    Speranze Perdute (seems more like a waltz than a mazurka to me - either way, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, etc...)

    Common Waltzes:
    Valzer di Mezzanote
    Tesoro Mio
    Vals Fantastico
    Dolores
    Sogno d'Amore
    Maria Mari

    Less common mazurkas (but ones I like):
    La Montanara
    Aida
    Anfitride
    La Regina Della Danza
    La Farfalla
    Stella Divina

    Less common waltzes (but again, I like 'em):
    Pianto Ignoto
    Il Golfo Incanto
    Valse Patetico
    Venus

    Then there's a whole world of tarantellas, polkas and marches... and THEN there's canzoni napoletane and a whole universe of songs and recordings from all over Italy... until then, just learning one or two of the common mazurkas/waltzes above will be a good place to start.

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Italian Mazurkas Anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by frankie View Post


    Tra Veglia E Sonno

    Speranze Perdute (seems more like a waltz than a mazurka to me - either way, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, etc...)

    Tesoro Mio

    Sogno d'Amore
    Maria Mari

    La Farfalla

    Il Golfo Incanto
    Great advice here.

    The tunes above are particular faves of mine.

    Sheri and I played Tra Veglia E Sonno, Speranze Perdute, Maria Mari, and Il Golfo Incanto last Sunday, along with many other tunes. Great fun!

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    Default Re: Italian Mazurkas Anyone?

    There are so many good ones! I like mixing what I find in the sheet music with what I find in recordings - that's a whole OTHER world, really. My latest obsession is the polka Diavoletta by the Sestetto di Varieta... it's a six-piiece band (hence the name!), but I did a transcription of it for the little quartetto I play with. The transcription itself needs a little more work, but it's shaping up, and it'll be fun if we can get it up to speed!

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  19. #11
    Registered User Mandophile's Avatar
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    Default Re: Italian Mazurkas Anyone?

    Not all mazurkas are created equal. Discriminate! Choose the best but more importantly, choose a mazurka that complements the level of ability and what you are willing to invest into learning it. There are plenty of truly mediocre mazurkas that are forgettable. Get to know the composer. Examine the melodic line for technical requirements and of course, the beauty of the motifs and how they enjoy interplay, variation, and nuance. as mentioned by Frankie, Diavoletta is tops in my book but not everyone should attempt it. Without getting into a naming game that might demote and/or elevate certain composers. I'd be very interested in hearing from any and all mandolinists as to how they determined the 'perfect match'. Again, it's about your technical preparation to tackle mazurkas. It's not for everyone and if you chose to learn one but don't respect the 'tempo giuste", well, you should avoid entering that door until you are fully prepared.

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  21. #12

    Default Re: Italian Mazurkas Anyone?

    I have to confess that I'm less attuned to composers than I am to what a player brings to the table. Tra Veglia E Sonno is an example of a mazurka that I think is a reasonable starting point for someone new to the music... it's certainly got the right 'sound' and has a controlled amount of rhythmic subdivision. Even so, the tune takes on a remarkably different character in the hands of Nullo Romani (violinist) as compared to Giovanni Vicari - Romani's is kind of dramatic and emotional... taken at a slower tempo overall. Vicari's recording is taken at a much faster clip, and he makes absolutely sure from the first note that you know he's the boss and whatever you THINK you know about that tune, he'll show you something you DON'T know.

    I'm sure that Tra Veglia E Sonno could be played in a forgettable way (I'm reasonably certain I can manage it, anyway), but both Romani's and Vicari's approaches are interesting and viable, even though the tempos and attack are wildly different. Listening to the music played is, to me, of really critical importance. I love having access to the sheet music (thank you so much for that, Sheri!), but without the clear example of older recordings, I'd definitely feel lost.

    Speaking of Diavoletta... I'm not recommending for the OP... just bringing it up out of my own geekery... I have to say, those guys are top notch players but they're kind of winging it in a good way - tight but loose!

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  23. #13
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Italian Mazurkas Anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by frankie View Post
    I have to confess that I'm less attuned to composers than I am to what a player brings to the table. Tra Veglia E Sonno is an example of a mazurka that I think is a reasonable starting point for someone new to the music... it's certainly got the right 'sound' and has a controlled amount of rhythmic subdivision.

    ........ but without the clear example of older recordings, I'd definitely feel lost.
    In this style, the player can only do so much with a piece of music - it ain't jazz, where the player can really be the composer in a sense - and thus the original composer of these Italian masterpieces is important.

    As Sheri said, all of these pieces are not of the same quality. Some are wonderful all the way through, many have great sections but perhaps one section with more average or cliche material, and some are the bottom of the class, but still may have charm depending on the tune.

    Now, the player has to take the piece and make it live, but it's hard to make a lesser tune be as good as one of the top-shelf pieces of music.

    BTW, nice avatar.

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    Registered User Mandophile's Avatar
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    Default Re: Italian Mazurkas Anyone?

    Studio recordings are inherently flawed due to technology in the 1920a-1930s etc, especially live recordings or transferring a recording. I don't trust many recordings to provide an accurate assessment of the tempo taken by the musicians. Other factors influence true velocity: the key, just to begin with. Playing "Tra Veglia" in g minor/major is easy peasy at 120 but try playing Canoro's "La Schiava Turca" mazurka and you've entered the holy of holies. much more demanding! Attanasio's mazurka "La Bella Siciliana" and the "Pioggio di Rose" when played at the 120+ MM are only for the more experienced mandolinist. Knowing your positions, respecting the triplets, and rendering a nuanced phrase can all contribute to an above average performance. Best to you!

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Italian Mazurkas Anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandophile View Post
    but try playing Canoro's "La Schiava Turca" mazurka and you've entered the holy of holies. much more demanding! Attanasio's mazurka "La Bella Siciliana" and the "Pioggio di Rose" when played at the 120+ MM are only for the more experienced mandolinist. !
    Now you have me practicing all of those tunes!

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    Default Re: Italian Mazurkas Anyone?

    Thanks on the avatar - the trinacria!

    I certainly agree that it's not jazz, but it's also not exactly classical music either. When you listen to recordings of these tunes - particularly recordings on 78s - the players are clearly not constrained by published versions. Informed by - certainly. I'm not trying to say that composers are unimportant - they clearly are - just that players certainly bring a lot to a tune as well. Vicari playing Tra Veglia E Sonno is definitely NOT jazz... but it's also certainly something else. Of course, that's also a reflection of his prowess and virtuosity - that kind of playing is barely human!

    I'm not totally sure why the insistence on pointing out that some tunes might not rise to the standard of being 'excellent'. I'm sure that's true and I don't deny it.. It's also true that there a quite a few 'interesting' transcription errors in the sheet music, too. Fun is fun, and you won't know which ones you like until you either read through them or get a chance to hear them. I also think it's possible for a player to hear and articulate something in a tune that I did not hear at all, even though I heard/read the same notes. For that, I think I'd be grateful.

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  31. #17

    Default Re: Italian Mazurkas Anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandophile View Post
    Studio recordings are inherently flawed due to technology in the 1920a-1930s etc, especially live recordings or transferring a recording. I don't trust many recordings to provide an accurate assessment of the tempo taken by the musicians.
    There's more to those recordings than just an accurate assessment of tempo, though - they embody a range of musical sensibilities that are just kind of lost on the page. I'm also including songs as well - there's more to Italian music than dance tunes, after all. There is a lot to learn from those recordings, and identifying the appropriate speed for a recording, while ultimately subjective, is also not impossible.

    On the technical aspects of mastering positions and rhythmic subdivision, particularly up to tempo, of course I agree - that's all immensely challenging and worthy of all the effort one can put into it.

    Best to you, too!

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  33. #18
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Italian Mazurkas Anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by frankie View Post

    I certainly agree that it's not jazz, but it's also not exactly classical music either. When you listen to recordings of these tunes - particularly recordings on 78s - the players are clearly not constrained by published versions. Informed by - certainly.
    "not exactly classical music either."

    I am not sure I agree - actually the Ballo Liscio music for 2 mandolins and guitar is very much a form of light classical music.

    The form of the tunes is mostly a version of Da Capo aria form - AABBA CC etc, with the sections having various key relationships.

    As for not being strictly bound by the sheet music, that's very much the way music was played before Beethoven and his instructions to play the music as it was written, and not to add any variations or ornaments.

    However, to my ear, the recorded performances did not stray too far from the printed sources - but they did put a personal stamp on each tune.

    Also, to play many of the tunes one needs chops closer to classical mandolin than to any other form of mandolin playing.

    Quote Originally Posted by frankie View Post
    I'm not totally sure why the insistence on pointing out that some tunes might not rise to the standard of being 'excellent'. I'm sure that's true and I don't deny it.. It's also true that there a quite a few 'interesting' transcription errors in the sheet music, too...

    Maybe because just last Sunday while practicing Sheri and I were discussing tunes and had commented about the relative quality of certain songs and the various composers and arrangers.

    Anyway, the whole point is to help the OP learn some Italian mazurkas and other music.

  34. #19
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Italian Mazurkas Anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by frankie View Post

    On the technical aspects of mastering positions and rhythmic subdivision, particularly up to tempo, of course I agree - that's all immensely challenging and worthy of all the effort one can put into it.
    This is something very useful for any mandolinist - to be familiar with your positions up the neck. Although large parts of the Ballo Liscio music can be played in first position, many passages require use of upper positions and there's no getting away from it to play the music.

    Study of the classic method books by Calace and Munier cover all of this.

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    Registered User Mandophile's Avatar
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    Default Re: Italian Mazurkas Anyone?

    Dave's comment: "I am not sure I agree - actually the Ballo Liscio music for 2 mandolins and guitar is very much a form of light classical music."

    Yes! to Dave's 'light classical.' As I've often said, the dances are "on the cusp"--participating in two worlds with a bouquet of musical difficulties for various abilities--some very challenging, others not so. That's what makes it tricky. After you've examined the harmonic progressions (learned by studying the guitar part!); familiarized and nailed all minor (harmonic & melodic) and major keys, learned correct position to conquer the 'peaks'; executed any of the (sometimes written, sometimes NOT) appogiaturas, acciaccaturas (grace notes) and other ornamentations that shout "I'm Italian," and after you've conquered 2-3 octave scales and built a solid reliable fingering, well, you're ready to play the best dances at the tempo giusto. Otherwise, you're stuck with the generic Emil Waldteufel stuff but it ain't Italian!

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  37. #21
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Italian Mazurkas Anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandophile View Post
    That's what makes it tricky. After you've examined the harmonic progressions (learned by studying the guitar part!); familiarized and nailed all minor (harmonic & melodic) and major keys, learned correct position to conquer the 'peaks'; executed any of the (sometimes written, sometimes NOT) appogiaturas, acciaccaturas (grace notes) and other ornamentations that shout "I'm Italian," :
    Not to mention a fast, controlled, able-to-crescendo-and-decrescendo, bright Italian style tremolo executed with a pointed Neapolitan (OK, or Roman) pick.

    No tremolo, not Italian.

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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Italian Mazurkas Anyone?

    Thanks, Sher and David (e Frankie) for the enthusiastic discussion.

    Is anyone dancing to this music again out y'all's way?

    Mick
    Ever tried, ever failed? No matter. Try again, fail again. Fail better.--Samuel Beckett
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  41. #23
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Italian Mazurkas Anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
    Thanks, Sher and David (e Frankie) for the enthusiastic discussion.

    Is anyone dancing to this music again out y'all's way?

    Mick
    When Sheri and I played last Sunday there were a couple people casually dancing, but honestly I have not played much Ballo Liscio for dance audiences, mostly cafe/restaurant/listening audiences.

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    Registered User Mandophile's Avatar
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    Default Re: Italian Mazurkas Anyone?

    Monroe Hall in Santa Rosa has lots of folk dancing classes but tends to emphasize Scottish, Country, Reel type. When David and I performed together last Sunday, one dancer by herself. Unfortunately, no couples dancing. No one teaches how to properly execute a mazurka or even a polka. Although now that I think of it, the 'polka' tent at the Cotati Accordion Festival does cater to the waltz, polka, mazurka, and Latin rhythms, too. Great fun!
    In the City, the Verdi Hall and the Slovenian Hall might still have some evenings with these dances but it's pretty rare.
    Let's face it: this is museum music!

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  45. #25
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Italian Mazurkas Anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandophile View Post
    Let's face it: this is museum music!
    Yes, to a large extent - but it comes alive in any era.

    I need to check with all the dance teachers this year at Lark Camp and see if there is interest in a dance to some Ballo Liscio.

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