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Thread: Historical mandolins and cultural preferences

  1. #1
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    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:

    START:
    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...

    END

    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.

  2. #2
    Registered User Plamen Ivanov's Avatar
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    Hello!

    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!

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    But... ehm... Richard, some of us lowly pickers actually like the twang!

    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.
    It is not man who lives, but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

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    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.


    Best,

    Alex


    © Alex Timmerman.




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    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,

    Eric

    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.
    "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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    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

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    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).




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    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.

    Thanks,

    Eric

    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?
    "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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    Just an addendum,

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

    http://sammellust.tiroler-landesmuse...kte/1898b.html

    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?

    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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    Alex,

    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"

  11. #11

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    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.




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    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!!! :-)

    Thanks,

    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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    ...But the roe is my blessing to ensure your music will find fertility in the hearts of the hearers.

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    Registered User Alex Timmerman's Avatar
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    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.


    © 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!




  15. #15
    Registered User Alex Timmerman's Avatar
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    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.




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    Quote Originally Posted by (Alex @ Dec. 12 2003,21:57)
    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.




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    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.

  18. #18
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    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.


    Greetings,

    Alex




  19. #19

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    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.




  20. #20
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    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.


    Greetings,


    Alex




  21. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by (Alex @ Dec. 14 2003,04:22)
    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.

  22. #22
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    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!


    Best,

    Alex.




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    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)?

    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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    >> Richard starts this movement

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

    I'm not awake yet...

    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

  25. #25

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    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.




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