The First Volume in The Complete Works of Ercole Pasquini.
This is the first of two publications that will comprise the collected keyboard works of Ercole Pasquini. Born in Ferrara in the mid-sixteenth century and active in Rome until at least 1608, Ercole is not to be confused with Bernardo Pasquini, who lived a century later. Although a prolific composer of keyboard and other music, Bernardo appears to have been less innovative than was Ercole in his thirty or so extant works. Ercole was one of the very first composers of keyboard music that can be described as "baroque," and he seems to have provided models without which Frescobaldi, his successor as organist at Rome's Cappella Giulia, might not have written what he did.
Unlike Frescobaldi, whose toccatas, canzonas, and other compositions appeared in sumptuous engraved editions, Ercole published none of his keyboard music, which remains obscure even though nearly the complete corpus has already appeared in two previous editions. On the one hand, the pioneering transcription into modern notation by W. Richard Shindle no longer reflects current understanding of the sources or the repertory (Ercole Pasquini: Collected Keyboard Works, Corpus of Early Keyboard Music, 12 [Neuhausen-Stuttgart: American Institute of Musicology, 1966]). while on the other hand, a facsimile edition of the principal manuscripts by Alexander Silbiger is impractical for everyday use (Ravenna, Biblioteca comunale Classense, MS Classense 545, 17th Century Keyboard Music: Sources Central to the Keyboard Art of the Baroque, 12 [New York: Garland, 1987]; Rome, Biblioteca del Conservatorio di Musica Santa Cecilia, MS A/400, 17th Century Keyboard Music, 13 [New York: Garland, 1987]; and Trent, Museo provinciate d'arte, Biblioteca musicale L. Feininger, n.s., 17th Century Keyboard Music, 16 [New York: Garland, 1987]).
Anyone attempting to play from or study these previous editions is likely to be baffled by seemingly faulty if not incomprehensible musical texts. A reliable modern edition with up-to-date textual commentary would therefore be welcome. But although the present publication makes the music accessible to nonspecialists, it falls short of what is expected in a modern critical edition, and it does not always succeed in finding satisfactory readings for scores that the composer, or at least the copyists, often seem to have left not quite finished. Moreover, a serious production error makes it desirable that the edition be withdrawn and reprinted. Collections that seek comprehensive holdings of keyboard music will need to acquire this edition, but others may wish to wait to see whether the publisher will rectify the problem described below.
Although the series title describes it as containing Ercole's "complete works," it is unclear whether the new edition will extend beyond the keyboard music (a handful of vocal works are also known). The present volume 1 contains twenty-five short preludial and contrapuntal compositions (toccatas, canzonas, and ricercars). A few brief dances and several lengthy variation sets (partite) will presumably follow in a second volume. This first volume actually comprises two separate items in distinct formats, held in a paper slipcase: a bilingual Italian-English textual apparatus in upright format, and a score volume in organ (landscape) orientation. Pages in the "apparatus" volume bear roman numeration; arabic pagination is used for the scores. I have not read Fabiana Ciampi's Italian translation of the verbal matter word-for-word, but spot-checking revealed no inaccuracies.
Editing this music is not for the fainthearted. Titles and attributions in the sources are often absent or heavily abbreviated, the notation written hastily and inaccurately. An editor must make decisions about not only what pieces to include (and what to call them), but how to deal with wrong or missing notes, irregularly placed barlines, inconsistently beamed groups of small note values, and omitted rests, accidentals, and ties. As all sources contain serious errors and only a handful of pieces have concordances, every item requires some conjectural editorial emendation to yield a musically coherent text. Yet the sources contain possible clues to performance practice that are obscured by modernizing the notation (as in Shindle's edition). Consequently, this music forces the editor to take a different approach from what might be appropriate in later music that is better preserved, and whose transmission is more clearly understood.
A welcome feature of this edition absent from previous ones is the "apparatus" comprised of a preface, which contains descriptions of sources and other matter, and a textual commentary. It is good that the scores on the whole preserve the original beaming of small note values and distribution of notes between the staves. But the division of the edition into what will be four slim, separately bound parts was hardly necessary. Each illustration within the apparatus appears twice, in both Italian and English sections, as do the lists of variant readings that make up the commentary, all printed with generous amounts of blank space. The scores, too, appear in an exceedingly loose format, with many blank pages interspersed. Despite this, and despite the brevity of the individual pieces, page turns are consistently inconvenient for players. It seems, in fact, that odd and even pages were exchanged at some point in the production process.
The scores therefore need to be reissued with proper page breaks, ideally also with better musical typography to rectify occasional crowding (as on pp. 49 and 61). A new printing would also provide an opportunity for improving the table of contents of the score volume through the addition of key designations for the individual toccatas and canzonas (now identified only by titles as given in the sources); a concordance to the numbering of the pieces in Shindle s edition would also help. Some such enhanced listing of contents is essential, for the apparatus volume cites pieces only by number; to decode the numbers, one must refer to the individual scores. More substantially, the editor never explains his ordering of the pieces. In fact, he has followed Shindle in first grouping them according to modern generic categories, then by source--but in a different order, with new numbers.
One reason for the new numbering is the inclusion of several pieces not previously attributed to Ercole. Indeed, the edition opens with two short pieces that are anonymous and untitled in their unique source. Each receives the editorial title "Intonazione," which, however, no source attaches to a Pasquini attribution. The text of the first piece, moreover, contains substantive errors (tenor G in place of A near the end of m. 4; missing tie in the tenor over mm. 7-8; and a doubtful reading on the downbeat of m. 9, where the manuscript's E/G for the left hand fits the harmony better than the edition's G-minor chord, which is repeated in the source, probably in error). It is unfortunate that many readers will form their first impressions of Ercole's music from these two little pieces, whose mediocre level of invention and craft is surpassed by what follows; they would have been better placed in an appendix.
Unfortunately, the treatment of these two pieces is characteristic of the edition's approach to problems that are endemic to this repertory. Emendations, including the addition of accidentals, are hit or miss. The textual apparatus, although extensive, provides insufficient justification for decisions about such crucial issues as titles and attributions. Within individual entries of the commentary one finds assertions about "Pasquinian features" in the first (anonymous) piece (p. xlix); analytical remarks about consecutive octaves (p. liii) and a "Lydian cadence" (p. lii); and references to readings that have been "corrected editorially" because they are "illogical" (p. Iv) or "not convincing" (p. li). More neutral language would have been appropriate in the textual commentary, reserving analysis and evaluation for a separate and more substantial discussion within the preface.
It is handy that the opening section of the preface brings together all the meager biographical information available on the composer. Yet subsequent sections headed "Historical Significance," "Attributions," "Observations on Chronology," and "Performance" are too brief and too loosely argued to add much to what has been previously published on these subjects. The last of these sections does not even mention the fundamental issue of the instrument or instruments on which this music might have been played. The longest section, on "Sources," fails to provide information about handwriting, contents, and physical characteristics in any systematic manner; only three low-quality detail images of the actual manuscripts are shown, in the list of variants.
The discussion of sources relies heavily on previous scholarship, especially that of Silbiger and the magisterial 2005 dissertation by Christine Jeanneret (published as L'ceuvre en filigrane: Une elude philologique des manuscrits de musique pour clavier a Rome ail XVIIe siecle, Historiae Musicae Cultures, 116 [Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 2009]). One contribution made by the present edition is the identification of a little untitled piece (Shindle's no. 20) as a versetto based on the Kyrie Orbis factor. Not only is this a unique instance of such a composition with an attribution to Ercole, but it is also interesting for incorporating written-out ornaments in its subject such as one finds in publications by Claudio Merulo, but not those of Frescobaldi. Yet the editor fails to make clear whether he has seen any of the sources in person. Nor does he address critical questions such as whether certain attributions in the sources were added at a later date and in a foreign hand, or whether the abbreviation "de." indeed stands for "d'Ercole" (by Ercole). Three brief paragraphs on chronology (p. xliv) rely largely on superficial aspects of style.
Other important questions also go unasked or receive insufficient consideration. Are the irrational rhythmic notation, irregular barlines, and inconsistent beaming of small note values in the sources always suggestions for articulation or improvisatory freedom, as seems to be the argument in the section on "Performance"? Or are these sometimes signs of uncomprehending copyists working from illegible composing scores, or of players who habitually disregarded notational details? Despite the irregular barring, this music nearly always follows a regular tactus that is one semibreve (or dotted semibreve) in length; when this pattern breaks down (as in the Toccata no. 8), could this mean that something is wrong in the source? Ties and accidentals often are displaced or missing; does this indicate that some are optional, or are irregularites of this type unintended idiosyncracies of musical texts which, unlike Frescobaldi's, were never cleaned up for engraving and publication? These issues are barely acknowledged in a brief discussion of "Editorial Policy," where we read that "the need for editorial intervention arises most commonly in the case of illegibility caused by corrosion" (p. xlvii). Although physical deterioration does affect readings in several manuscripts, tar more frequent are questions that arise due to either the composer's or a copyist's notational habits.
The commentary is not always forthcoming on these matters. All too often it substitutes equivocal analytical observations for objective reporting of readings, sometimes leading to error, as when a passage in the Toccata no. 9 described as "confused" was merely copied a step too high (lower stave, m. 10). Here an editorial emendation adds an unnecessary note in the bass, obscuring what was surely meant to be an exact imitation of the treble in the preceding measure. Nor can the edition be trusted to indicate precisely which notational features such as ties and accidentals are present in the sources, and which are editorial conjectures.
Still, even had the commentary provided information more systematically, it is in the nature of the sources and the repertory that no two players or editors would agree on every detail. The problems can be illustrated by those attending Ercole's one composition that seems to have been widely known, and which has figured in modern discussions of the history of keyboard music: the Canzona in A minor edited here as no. 21. (My use of a modern key designation is anachronistic, but the music is largely tonal.)
For this piece the edition follows James Ladewig's finding that the manuscript known as Naples 48 gives the "earliest and musically the best" text ("The Origin of Frescobaldi's Variation Canzonas," in Frescobaldi Studies, ed. Alexander Silbiger [Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1987], 266 n. 57). But the commentary does not clearly bear this out. Evidently the composer's most popular piece, the canzona is preserved in no fewer than six manuscript sources. Whether any of these was copied directly or indirectly from another is doubtful; the author offers a stemma in an article cited here; but without an accounting of conjunctive and separative variant readings, the argument is inconclusive (Paul Kenyon, "A Much Copied Canzona of Ercole Pasquini," Fonti musicali italiane 17 [20121: 7-24).
Shindle gave four versions of this piece (his nos. 16a, 16b, 16c, and 17, represented by five sources). The present edition provides a single text, in principle derived from Naples 48, which was unknown to Shindle. But this edition is in fact a collation of readings from what the editor finds to be two separate lines of transmission, at times departing from the "best and oldest" source (as in mm. 10, 18, 48, and 51, where the added bass note E is hardly "essential" as claimed, p. lvi). This procedure, although perhaps justifiable in view of the faulty texts found in all sources, is at odds with current views on critical editing, which discourage the mixing of readings from different versions of a piece.
The confounding array of readings is not unusual for this repertory. Many, including some in the "best" source, are clearly errors or arbitrary alterations by copyists that require (and receive) emendation. At least two sources give shortened versions of the piece, with different closing passages; these adaptations are almost certainly not Ercole's. Yet it remains unclear how the surviving sources relate to one another or to the composer's lost working score. The latter must, however, have contained revisions and corrections whose illegibility led to clusters of variants at certain points in the score. This implies that Ercole worked out at least some of his compositions with care, notwithstanding their improvisatory elements, and did not always take the cavalier attitude toward his texts that is betrayed by the surviving manuscript sources.
Actually, a relatively coherent text for this canzona appears in two copies now included in the manuscript anthology known as Chigi 206, which originated in the circle around Frescobaldi. Kenyon, following earlier scholars, attributes the fragmentary character of the first copy (his "Chigi A") to the loss of one or two pages. But the reality may have been more complicated than that, for the fragmentary first copy begins exactly where the second copy ("Chigi B") starts a new page (m. 22 in this edition). "Chigi B" gives only the first section of the piece, with a unique ending that might have originated in the Frescobaldi circle. This shortened copy of the piece might have been intended to replace the first one, which ends with a garbled version of the closing passage.
Chigi 206 thus provides evidence for purposeful editing of Ercole's works by later musicians in Rome. Something similar may have occurred in the Canzona in F major which follows in the edition (no. 22). Although Chigi 206 again preserves only a fragment, another copy shifts suddenly, after a page turn (m. 36 in the edition), from a sort of stretto fugue to a conclusion in toccata style. Here, incidentally, all three closing measures surely comprise a decorated plagal cadence; the editor's emendation of a D-minor chord in m. 41 to a chord of B-flat major should probably extend back to m. 39.
Is it possible that Ercole did not write out the endings of such pieces, leaving it up to the performer to improvise a close? Or were such endings considered mutable, like the cadenza in an eighteenth-century aria or concerto? If so, could this explain the absence of an ending in the sole source of the Durezze, no. 13, completed by the editor in passable period style? Another piece, the Toccata no. 4, also receives an editorial conclusion, but there is no reason to think that this work is incomplete in the manuscript, save for an error of d for c# in the final chord, which should probably read [A.sub.1]/E/A (left hand), A/c# (right hand); damage in the manuscript precludes a certain reading of the preceding figure, but the latter was not necessarily meant to be a conventional cadential groppoas assumed in the edition.
Given the nature of the sources, exactly what the composer wrote in any of these pieces is unrecoverable. The present edition of the Canzona no. 21 is musically more coherent than any of Shindle's more literal transcriptions. It still presents problems, including probable errors involving accidentals in several passages. But the new edition succeeds in demonstrating what made this simple yet elegant canzona attractive to players into the eighteenth century.
Producing a satisfactory text for the Canzona no. 21 is relatively simple in view of its multiple sources. Other pieces, such as the unica nos. 8 and 9 (both toccatas), pose greater challenges; nothing short of recomposition could eliminate all the questions that they raise. This makes it difficult to evaluate the music itself. The toccatas nos. 8 (in G major) and 10 (in G minor) constitute intense but concise virtuoso monologues--keyboard equivalents of the florid solo madrigals that another Ferrara organist, Luzzaschi, published in 1601. But it is difficult to know what to make of the very plain "f[ug]a" or "f[antasi]a" (probably not "toccata") no. 6; could it be an intabulation? Also puzzling are the two durezze, which lack the imaginative chromaticism and dissonance treatment of later elevation toccatas. The little Canzona in F, no. 18, seems to end prematurely, whether or not one adds a sign indicating a return to the initial duple meter for the brief coda (m. 19). The G-minor Canzona no. 19 is a more ambitious treatment of the same subject as no. 21, yet a pause after the initial statement of the theme stops the piece in its tracks. It thereafter alternates uneasily between movement predominantly in quarters and in smaller values; some passages make little sense (e.g., mm. 28-31).
The music that can be expected to appear in volume 2 includes Ercole's longest and most substantial works: his variations on several traditional ostinato basses. The most important keyboard partite before Frescobaldi's, these must have served as models for the latter, yet their sources contain problems that are even more intractable than those noted above. These compositions will require imaginative but scrupulous editing if a coherent, reliable text is to be achieved (I offered some suggestions in "Some Problems of Text, Attribution, and Performance in Early Italian Baroque Keyboard Music," Journal of Seventeenth-Century Musk4, no. 1 , http://sscm-jscm.org/v4/nol/schulenberg.html [accessed 20 November 2016]; not cited in the present publication). The textual apparatus for volume 2 might also provide further discussion of the issues mentioned above. Certainly this remarkable music deserves better treatment than it has received; otherwise players will continue to set it aside for less challenging and less rewarding repertory.
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|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2017|
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