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Thread: Mandolin sources in Yale University library

  1. #1

    Default Mandolin sources in Yale University library

    Hi all,

    Just wanted to share with you my latest blog posts about some discoveries of 18th century mandolin music at Yale University Music Library.

    First of all, a general blog post about Yale University Music library and its historical mandolin sources:
    https://www.vantichelen.name/2019/04...-introduction/
    There are some of the usual suspects, such as the Leone and Denis methods, but also lesser known but already noted volumes like Mussolini or Lapis.

    Next the first but rather minor discovery, a manuscript of educational solo music for mandolin for the courtesy of a certain Giulia Boccaccia by Matteo Fiorito (1796):
    https://www.vantichelen.name/2019/04...occaccio-1796/
    I might yet publish editions of this source later on, but had to determine what to spend my time on in terms of publishing editions and decided on the next two finds. Not that I want to discount the volume and its music, but not very captivating in terms of its musical or historical significance, especially when weighed against the next two volumes.

    A milestone of a discovery is the volume of the Six Duos by Pietro Denis from Paris in 1764, which was known from advertisements but no copy was known until I found on in Yale:
    https://www.vantichelen.name/2019/04...ro-denis-1764/
    I've included modern and urtext editions of all duets.

    A major discovery however is the big volume of six duets and and six sonatas by Constantino Palesi (Aix, 1775). Previously unknown as mandolin composer and quite a big bulk of music of high quality - so both in musical and historical perspective a surprising find:
    https://www.vantichelen.name/2019/04...o-palesi-1775/
    Again, I've included modern and urtext editions of all duets and sonatas.
    Also interesting to see that the dedicatee actually spent time in Aix-en-Provence at the time the volume was created so we're pretty sure that date and time of the volume are correct. A bit of a puzzler is the nature of the volume, as it's mainly in manuscript, but title and dedication pages are printed. Combined with the rather nice give-away package of 6 duets and 6 sonatas it seems to suggest this might have been a volume in a first stage of preparation for printing.

    Hope some of you will enjoy the music, I certainly did. Not all of the Denis duets are great, but some are well worth playing. I recommend trying out all of Palesi's music as he shows definitely better than average talent (compared to most other 18th century mandolin composers). I'm not quite convinced the sonatas can be played as duets with a second mandolin as most of the 18th century sonatas were conceived, so would recommend cello and/or harpsichord.

    If any of you can help identify any of the arias used by Palesi, that would be great. So far I've only found correspondences with opera libretti, but never with the actual music of operas from the 1770s.

    Kind regards
    Pieter

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Mandolin sources in Yale University library

    Fantastic work, as always.
    Robert A. Margo

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    Default Re: Mandolin sources in Yale University library

    My pleasure; it's fun to contribute to both our knowledge of mandolin history and add some interesting items to the repertory at the same time. Not all of my work as musicologist is this rewarding.

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    PickTown, Ohio Roger Mace's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin sources in Yale University library

    Thank you.

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    Default Re: Mandolin sources in Yale University library

    Outstanding scholarship and a wonderful contribution to the literature. I once edited some medieval choral music from the Bodleian Library, using photostats of the thousand-year-old handwritten charts. I had the help of a few modern editions and other people's scholarship, but you drew from the original: truly URTEXT! Thank you for this work.

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    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin sources in Yale University library

    This is a wonderful find -- thank you, Pieter!

    I wanted to have a go at recording some of this great volume of music, selected mainly on the grounds that it looked like I might be able to sight-read it and that it looks interesting on the page.

    The first one I have tried is Palesi's "Sonata IV" in D major. As Pieter has said, the sonatas don't appear to be mandoin duets as the second part is in bass clef. I have therefore played the sonata as a duet of a 19th century Neapolitan mandolin and a mandocello.

    1890s Umberto Ceccherini mandolin
    Suzuki MC-815 mandocello



    Thanks again, Pieter!

    Martin

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    Default Re: Mandolin sources in Yale University library

    Thanks Martin

    Nice to hear people trying out the music! Makes it feel all the more worthwhile having spent so much time on the research and editions. If you think you find any mistakes (by me or the author), let me know. Also, feel free to ask questions about performance practice of 18th century music (grace notes can be quite difficult to play).

    The Palesi pieces also carry my preference over the Denis ones. However, some movements of Denis are quite interesting to play. Style is quite different though as Denis still has some baroque influences and Palesi already is more of a mature classical style of composition. Denis tends to use the same tricks all the time, where Palesi is more creative.

    Thanks again, and have fun! Hopefully I will find time soon to prepare my next blog post and edition, as there are still some further 18th century mandolin volumes I discovered I'd like to share.

    Kind regards
    Pieter

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    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin sources in Yale University library

    Quote Originally Posted by happyfanaticsalsero View Post
    Thanks Martin

    Nice to hear people trying out the music! Makes it feel all the more worthwhile having spent so much time on the research and editions. If you think you find any mistakes (by me or the author), let me know. Also, feel free to ask questions about performance practice of 18th century music (grace notes can be quite difficult to play).
    Thanks, Pieter!

    The Palesi sonata is good fun. Without a tempo marking, I had to take a guess at an appropriate tempo, and this felt about right for the piece and my skill level. Obviously given the time since your post, this is essentially sight-read without considered rehearsal or analysis of phrasing prior to recording. I think I managed to fit in all the grace notes but some of them were indeed quite difficult to play without breaking up the flow of the phrase -- bars 19 and 25, for example. I've picked all the grace notes separately rather than playing them as left hand ornaments. I've played the ornaments in bars 20 and 30 as trills starting on the principal note, but looking at them again I wonder whether they were meant to be upper mordents. Not sure if Palesi used Baroque conventions for trill markings or just generic trills left to the performer.

    Looking forward to any other discoveries!

    Martin

  11. #9

    Default Re: Mandolin sources in Yale University library

    Hi Martin

    Tempo is unclear, only the generic terms at the beginning of the pieces sometimes gives an indication. Sonata IV however doesn't have any indication of that order. I would likely go for a slightly higher tempo on Sonata IV, but without any proof it's anybody's guess. You performed quite good for a sight reading, and no doubt would be able to match my expected tempo after some further preparation.

    Ornamentation is a quite difficult area. It's difficult to be precise as the sources and treatises are sometimes conflicting. My guide is generally: learn what you can from the sources but also try things out and apply as much common sense as possible. (Seems you have plenty of that. ) We also always need to consider today's audiences - we're usually not playing for the 18th century chamber audience and the changes in aesthetics and other expectations also influence how we play old music. (I'm not too keen on "historical practice" when it doesn't appeal an audience today.) Playing on today's instruments also poses difficulties - for example when playing grace notes (see below).

    Some sources that might be useful as a starting point regarding 18th century ornamentation:
    - Leopold Mozart's violin school - as all mandolin methods seem to imply knowledge of playing the violin. (L. Mozart, Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule, Augsburg, 1756. Translated into French and hence known in Paris at the time of the mandolin popularity by Valentin Roeser (known to have also composed some mandolin pieces) as Méthode raisonnée pour apprendre ŕ jouer du violon, Paris, 1770.)
    - The mandolin methods of the 18th century (Gervasio, Denis, Leone, Corrette). Bortolazzi is slightly too late, he already incorporates some of the 19th century interpretations of ornamentation. I won't give the full references of these as I suppose they are well-known.
    - A guitar method of the Merchi brothers has a booklet on ornamention (and the Merchi brothers were also very well-known as mandolin virtuosi) (Merchi, Traité des agremens de la Musique, Paris, 1777.)
    You could also take a look at the ornamentation treatise by Tartini - as this was also circulating in Paris at that time, and Pietro Denis actually published a (faulty) translation (as Traité des Agremens de Musique, Paris, 1771)

    Playing grace notes without using the plectrum - that's not as easy on today's instruments as on 18th century instruments. If you ever played on a period instrument or a modern one built after a preserved 18th century mandolin with the low tension strings of the time it becomes clear that this was a lot easier then than now. There are also ways to have the same effect, for example by using down and upstroke (which is always slightly softer when using an angled attack - only with a real straight plectrum you can get the same tone both ways) intelligently. For me it depends a bit on what is possible and makes sense - and what would work best for audiences today.

    Regarding the mordent sign - this was a generic sign which could mean several things - but most usually it meant a trill of some sort. Though there are differences on how to perform it (as you say, with or without plectrum for example), there seems to be consensus in the sources that this should be with the upper note, and also starting on the upper note (as opposed to 19th century treatises and modern interpretation).

    Hope to find time for the next post / editions soon; I have started work on another interesting find (of a volume long thought lost).

    Kind regards
    Pieter

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    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin sources in Yale University library

    Many thanks for the detailed and thoughtful response, Pieter. Tempo and ornamentation are always delicate subjects with the late Baroque/early Classical repertoire - I'm trying to edicate myself as to what would have been considered suitable, but as I'm playing for my own enjoyment, my main objective is to sound musical and to stay within my (limited) skill set. Historically informed performance it is not...

    Here is another quick run-through of one of the Palesi movements. This one is the Allegretto in F Major from Duetto V.

    CONSTANTINO PALESI: "DIVERTIMENTI DI CAMMERA
    PER DUE MANDOLINI"
    DUETTO V - 3. Allegretto in F Major
    Aix-en-Provence, 1775
    ed. Pieter Van Tichelen


    I have played this duet on a 19th century Neapolitan mandolin, double-tracked. Again, the tempo is on the slow side for an allegretto (more of an andantino) but I wanted to get a feel for how these pieces sound beyond the printed score.

    1890s Umberto Ceccherini mandolin (x2)

    All artwork in the video is by Maurice Quentin de La Tour (1704-1788), the master of the pastel portrait.



    Martin

  14. #11

    Default Re: Mandolin sources in Yale University library

    Hi Martin

    This certainly gives a good idea of how much fun the Palesi duets are.
    Always great to hear people play music I dig up. Especially if I enjoy it myself.
    I tend to try to play all music before publishing editions and the Palesi duets were generally good fun.

    Besides the fun as a musician, I also have fun when I analyze his sometimes quirky creative ideas as a composer. For me this is one of the reasons I rank him above average.

    He tends to use a baletto or gigue as third / fourth movement, which is also the case here. Certainly it's a lively piece which builds a nice contrast to the other movements in the duet (it becomes more apparent with a slightly higher tempo but thumbs up for posting this version). His creativity as a composers shows clearly in the fact that he refrains from using a simple rondo or other forms which became more and more standardized at this time for this type of movement. The way he handles the counterpoint, themes and general buildup of the structure is quite interesting and shows good workmanship.

    Thanks again & kind regards
    Pieter

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    Default Re: Mandolin sources in Yale University library

    Wow. Sincere thanks, Pieter.

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    Default Re: Mandolin sources in Yale University library

    Fantastic work! Thank you so much for sharing these works with the world Pieter.

    Kind regards,

    Eric
    "The effect is pretty at first... It is disquieting to find that there are nineteen people in England who can play the mandolin; and I sincerely hope the number may not increase."

    - George Bernard Shaw, Times of London, December 12, 1893

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    Default Re: Mandolin sources in Yale University library

    Hello Pieter. I read your note on ornament above and am generally familiar with ornament from a violinist's perspective. In looking through your editions, I'm curious as to your interpretation for the + marks and particularly the ' marks. The former seem largely to be short trills or "turns", while the latter seem to possibly indicate locations for up-strokes?

    Given the possibility (sometimes stated in published sources) for diverse instruments to play this music (pardeussus de Viole and Musette!) Slurs, ties, and even held chords often seem open to interpretation... phrasing indications, if you will.


    I'm interested in your take since you've seen the originals.
    "The effect is pretty at first... It is disquieting to find that there are nineteen people in England who can play the mandolin; and I sincerely hope the number may not increase."

    - George Bernard Shaw, Times of London, December 12, 1893

  19. #15

    Default Re: Mandolin sources in Yale University library

    Thanks for your question, an interesting point.

    First, as a disclaimer, I need to state clearly that we don't know anything for sure. Even the treatises we have on embellishment or sections in the mandolin methods sometimes contradict each other, or don't match up with the music itself. So even though there are some indications from treatises and the musical sources, we need to be careful about stating how something should be played or not. If someone has other sources or treatises, or other insights in the music, it's quite possible they come to different conclusions. Hence my warning: we don't know for sure.
    Though I usually warn people with a disclaimer like above, this doesn't mean we can't speculate and try things out. Of course I have spotted the signs and have made up my mind about the possible interpretations.

    You appear to ask me about two things and seem to be mainly targeting the Denis duets - but I'll talk about Palesi as well. The first question is about signs which could possibly be interpreted as a trill. The first problem here is whether a trill or a tremolo is meant as both the signs mordent, "+", "t" or "tr" are sometimes used for both. Let me first of all also point out that though it's sometimes frowned upon (even by contemporary mandolin tutors such as Leone and Fouchetti), tremolo did exist in the 18th century and was used either as embellishment or to fill up long notes. However, it wasn't the tremolo we know and love that emerged in the 19th century. Most authors seem to suggest to use a "counted" tremolo (with a fixed amount of strokes on one note and not for long melodic lines of many notes), and even those authors in favour suggest to use it sparingly... Anyway, to come back to trill and tremolo: you need to judge from context what is meant. Most often the mordent sign was used for tremolo, most often the "+" sign meant a cadence trill, and "t" and "tr" are often the most troublesome to interprete.

    In the case of Palesi's duets and sonatas, we only see the occasional mordent sign, never a plus or other sign (such as "t" or "tr"). The placing of these is conveniently on the penultimate note of a phrase, which fits with cadence trills. My hypothesis is that Palesi meant these mordent signs as cadence trills. Most treatises suggest that these were played with the upper note, starting on the upper note and would on longer notes be more extensive (see all the cadence figures in Tartini and similar methods). On the mandolin all notes of the trill would normally be played with the plectrum, and not just with the left hand fingers like on the guitar (see guitar methods like Merchi's).
    Palesi sometimes writes out a counted tremolo, and the only other case where I might presume tremolo would be used is on the long notes in the melody of the arias. Alternatively you could try the suggestions of the mandolin methods for "jouer la blanche" to fill up these longer notes.

    In Denis' case, the plus sign seems to indicate the proper cadence trill (when placed on the penultimate note of a phrase) but also short trills (sometimes even on notes within fast passagework). There are no real mordent signs or other trill signs ("t" or "tr") but for one exception. In the first duet we sometimes see an extended version of the mordent above a group of notes which also all carry either staccato or staccatissimo signs. Most often these groups of notes are repeated notes, so my assumption is that Denis used the staccato signs for the violin and the extended mordent sign to the mandolin players for a counted tremolo. (He sometimes also indicates an alternative for violin versus mandolin, as well as alternatives for the musette/vielle in duets V & VI.) The other duets don't always follow the convention of the extended mordent as well as staccati signs in similar passages, but often the staccato/-issmo signs are there, and sometimes they are accompanied by a bow. I read this as a shortcut or forgetfulness by the engraver as it would make most sense to use the same notation everywhere.
    This interpretation corresponds with Denis' mandolin method which was published later on, where he used mordents for tremolo and + signs for cadence trills.

    The other question you raised is about the staccatissimo sign (') which is often encountered in mandolin music. Both Palesi and Denis use it (and Palesi is exclusive to mandolin though Denis also targets violin/pardessu), but not always consequently as staccatissimo signs, sometimes the same passages are also in normal staccato signs (.). The interpretation of these signs is a bit more difficult as there are several possibilities. Let's first take a look at in which kind of context Palesi and Denis use the staccatissimo sign.
    First, Palesi uses it in passages where notes are interspersed by rests.
    Secondly, Palesi and Denis use them on repeated notes.
    Thirdly, Palesi and Denis use them in combination with a bow, often in a group of notes with the first staccatissimo and the rest tied with a bow.
    A fourth case in Denis is the use of staccato or staccatissimo signs on consequtive notes (often passagework in scales, sometimes with some repeated notes in between).

    Let's now list some possible ways to read a staccatissimo sign based on both the treatises and some common sense.
    A first and often quoted use from the mandolin methods is the up stroke. This is found in Gervasio, Denis and Fouchetti.
    The second use of a staccato/staccatissimo would be to shorten the note's length and play it short instead of legato.
    A third use is to help with phrasing, by stressing a note (almost as an emphasis, maybe even some sort of an accent)
    A possible fourth case would be to indicate some kind of embellishment.
    A possible fifth use is an indication of tremolo (which in a way is a kind of embellishment of course).

    If I compare the possible interpretations with the cases at hand, I come to the following conclusion:
    1/ in the case with the rests I can rule out up strokes (don't make musical sense). They could be any of the other three possibilities (short, accent or embellishment).
    2/ in the case of the repeated notes, up strokes are again ruled out. Playing them "short" doesn't make sense, and neither does any embellishment on these. Remaining item is the "phrasing" (accent) or tremolo.
    3/ in the case of the combination with a bow, you might think this would correspond to the often found case in the mandolin methods where the staccatissimo is the up stroke and the bow is the arpeggio down stroke on adjacent strings. I can rule out this possibility as there are many examples where this is not the case. Up strokes aren't ruled out everywhere in this case, but don't make sense all the time neither. Playing the staccatissimo short also doesn't feel right. This leaves again the "accent" phrasing or embellishment. The most logical to me is to set the first note of the group "apart" (whether by accent or some kind of embellishment) and then to tie the rest of the group together (maybe by playing them in one plectrum stroke if possible).
    4/ The use on consecutive notes (passagework in scales as well together with repeated noted) again rules out up stroke and short playing.

    In conclusion, I can only see that both in Denis and Palesi the use of staccatissimo is likely down to some kind of phrasing rather than up stroke. It might be some kind of embellishment but this seems unlikely. I for my part play them either as accents or use some way to put these notes apart from the rest.

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    Default Re: Mandolin sources in Yale University library

    Thank you Pieter for the very thoughtful and detailed response. There is a lot to tease out here, and I need to spend more time with the music. I'm personally very comfortable with your interpretation of more general phrasing rather than specific ornament.

    I especially like your description of "counted tremolo".

    Thank you again for your response, and for your very professional work on these pieces.

    Best,

    Eric
    "The effect is pretty at first... It is disquieting to find that there are nineteen people in England who can play the mandolin; and I sincerely hope the number may not increase."

    - George Bernard Shaw, Times of London, December 12, 1893

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