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The Manuscript Sources of Seventeenth-Century Italian Lute Music.

Rarely does a reference work of this importance and usefulness appear. Victor Coelho's book is much more than a bibliography of lute sources; it is an invaluable tool for research in many areas: dance music, social history, manuscript transmission, accompaniment and continuo realization of Italian monody, changing tastes and trends in Italian composition for lute, the transmission of popular music, the music of the Commedia dell'Arte, and most important, the history of seventeenth-century instrumental music. As Coelho states in the introduction, if such a history is to be written, "the contributions of this large lute repertory in manuscript must be evaluated" (p. 6).

The book deals with fifty-two main manuscripts in detail, and, more briefly, with several others. Together, these sources comprise at least two thousand pieces of music for lute, archlute, and theorbo (chitarrone) only. Part 1 consists of three chapters, the first, "Lutenists and Their Manuscripts: Source Types, Formats, Uses," is a general survey and ordering of the material, focusing on the individuals who compiled and might have used the manuscripts. Its format provides a valuable guide for evaluating similar manuscripts, such as those for guitar, cit-tern, and mandolino - instruments whose Italian repertory is similar to and often concordant with the lute sources, and whose combined volume is as large as that of the lute in this period. This format should serve as a model for the writers who eventually will produce similar reference works on these nonlute sources.

Chapter 2 ("Notation and Instruments"), though brief, is an excellent survey of the most up-to-date information on tablature, the various characteristics of the lute-types and their tunings, while chapter 3 ("The Manuscript Repertory"), surveys the forms and types of music found in the sources. Coelho includes a discussion of the various ways in which vocal music is handled in the manuscripts, and also provides a carefully produced table of the regional origins of these sources.

Part 2, "Description and History of the Manuscripts," offers detailed bibliographic descriptions, concordances, and historical data, and gives follow-up listings of secondary literature for each source. It is packed with an exceptionally wide range of information rarely found elsewhere, including the social contacts and professional connections of the composers.

In part 3, "Thematic Inventory of the Manuscripts," the largest section of the book, Coelho provides each individual piece from each source with a tablature incipit, a transcription of the incipit into keyboard-style staff notation, and a list of other lute concordances. The transcription into staff notation is one of the most important features of the inventory, because it renders this repertory accessible to researchers in nonlute areas, who may not play the lute or read tablature. This approach to thematic inventory represents the best of current practice. I must, however, voice one small objection concerning these transcriptions. Despite the "global parameters" (p. 174) of his computer-generated transcriptions, which Coelho refers to in his editorial policy, he has halved the note values for all the galliards. The metric (and tactus) units for Italian (and non-Italian) galliards, to judge by contemporary music, theory and dance sources, is normally three half-notes per "bar." Coelho's reduction by half makes all triple time pieces appear as if in 3/4 meter. Thus all of the galliards in the repertory are made to look like correnti, for which 3/4, if not 6/4, meter is common. This distortion of the material makes the search for concordances and cognates, especially in non-tablature sources, more time-consuming due to the lack of a clear visual distinction between pieces in triple meter.

There are some instances in which Coelho might have considered broadening his rule of only giving lute concordances. In his discussion of sources, he notes that numerous pieces by Santino Garsi da Parma (1542-1604) continued to appear in manuscripts long after Garsi's death, and remained very popular. In dealing with such an important lutenist in the inventory, looking beyond the tablatures would have revealed that the lute tablature, "Gagliarda dele cinque mentite," about which Coelho makes no comment, was actually one of Garsi's more well-known and widespread pieces. The Garsi identification comes from a printed book of four-part string music by Gasparo Zanetti (Il Scolaro [Milan: 1645]; modern edition: James Tyler, ed. 2 vols. [London: London Pro Musica Edition, 1984]), where it appears under the title, "La Lisfeltina di Santino." It also appears in other sixteenth-century lute manuscripts both without title and under the title, "La ne mente per la gola." Zanetti's Il Scolaro also contains two of Garsi's other pieces, "Lanfredina" [Manfredina] and "La Muzza" [La Mutia, La Corambona], which are found in many sixteenth-century lute books, in addition to the manuscript sources described by Coelho.

A broadening of the rules also might have been applied to such popular pieces in the inventory as the one entitled, "Ballo da Colla" (p. 612). Coelho provides neither commentary nor concordances for this item, but in the commentary to the Zanetti edition, it is revealed that the piece was popular throughout Europe, appearing as "More Palatino," "En revenant de St. Nicolas," and "Poi che noi rimena," to name a few of its titles, and is found in many lute, keyboard, mandore, and vocal sources. This is not to imply that Coelho should have aimed for the impossible goal of total comprehensiveness; it is only to suggest that in such obvious instances concordances beyond those in tablature and in manuscript certainly would have been useful, and might have been in order.

It is surprising that in a work of this magnitude there are so few flaws. In making some random checks with the sources inventoried, I found a high level of accuracy, with the exception of only one manuscript: Brussels (B:Bc) 16.663. On fol. 6, piece number four is only four to six bars long, and another piece, untitled and in a different key, begins on the same folio. The incipit given by Coelho as 5/6v is, in fact, the last few bars of the new piece. Following this piece on fol. 6v is an untitled "Ruggiero" in F, an untitled piece starting in G minor, and another untitled "Ruggiero" in C major. On fol. 11, there is another untitled piece following Coelho's 11/11. In all, there are twenty-six, not twenty-two pieces.

This book should be on the shelves of every music reference library in the world, and, if at all possible (given its costliness), in the personal libraries of every lutenist and scholar of Italian Baroque music.

JAMES TYLER University of Southern California
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Author:Tyler, James
Publication:Notes
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1996
Words:1084
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