Styles of articulation in Italian woodwind sonatas of the early eighteenth century: Evidence from contemporary prints and manuscripts, with particular reference to the Sibley Sammartini Manuscript
Jean BaptisteLoeillet de Gant
Bibliography on the Loeillet family of musicians and composers has focused primarily on establishing details of biography, sorting out family members with confusingly similar names - the two cousins named Jean Baptiste, both from Ghent, one moving to London, where he was known as John Loeillet, the other to Lyons, where he was known as Jean Baptiste Loeillet “de Gant”, i.e., from Ghent.
Little ink has been spent on talking about the music, which in JBL de Gant’s case includes four dozen sonatas for recorder with continuo. These were originally published by Roger in Amsterdam with dedications to French nobility, and are very beautifully and carefully engraved, with the figures for the thoroughbass large and legible, and the sharps, flats, and naturals before (rather than over) the notes to which they apply. Grove describes his sonatas as being in the Italian style of Corelli1, but this is not quite accurate. The style is Italianate, yes, but quite far from that of Corelli - no one would ever mistake the two composers for each other.
Despite the care with which the editions were evidently prepared, the amount of assistance given the performer with decisions on articulation is quite limited, and it is difficult to generalize from what is provided. We saw that in the Corelli transcription the gigues were exhaustively supplied with slurs for the first two eighths in a group of three. For the Roger Loeillet editions this is the exception rather than the rule. It can be found in the A major sonata, op. 3, no. 11, where all such groups are provided with slurs. Similar slurs are present in the previous movement, a Siciliana, which instead of the characeristic dotted rhythm typical of the dance, is more similar to a slowed-down gigue (it is marked Affettuoso et Poco Largo). The question to be asked is why such slurs are present in all the Corelli gigues and in virtually none of Loeillet’s? Is there something about this gigue that sets it apart from the rest of the gigues in these collections? Or was the practice so well-known that it was redundant to notate it? Do all gigues require these slurs? or none?
We also find here the slurred appoggiaturas in places which would seem to call for a trill (e.g. in the closing gigue of op. 3, no. 9, where these are the only slurs, with the exception of a three slurred eights at the final cadence, or likewise in the Allegro of op. 3 no. 5). An exceptional case where the score presents both the slurred appoggiatura and the trill on the stressed note is the opening Adagio of op. 3, no. 4. Here both are present only in the first two occurrences in the treble (and in none of the three in the continuo). The remaining four present only the slur. This economizing on labor is typical for baroque scores, not only in the case of marking articulations, but also in the case of rhythmic alterations, where a pointed or dotted rhythm may be marked at the outset, with the understanding that the remaining music, though written plain, will continue in the style of the beginning. Can we extrapolate from this that slurred appogiaturas may also be trilled?
Loeillet does mark trills on occasion (using the French mark +), generally in non-cadential situations where the performer would not necessarily think to add them (for example, the Vivace of op. 3, no. 8, with fourteen trills, but not at full cadence.
Slurs elsewhere in these editions tend to be found more extensively in the slow movements, or in specifying ornamental moments, rather than in the many instances of passagework in sixteenths in the allegros. This is particularly the case for movements which are more French in character, such as the Sarabanda op. 3, no. 4, with an explicit coulée de tierce, slurred turns and sighs, and a bass line in which the dotted motion might better be rendered as notes inégales.
One of the more extensively marked movements is the opening Affettuoso et Grave of op. 3, no. 3, a Siciliana, though not named as such in the score. Here the slurs seem to be inconsistent or contradictory. The characteristic rhythm of the siciliana is present throughout (dotted eighth-sixteenth-eighth). During the first sixteen measures the first two notes of the group are slurred together, but from then on the three-note group is slurred. There is no reason from the musical context to prefer one above the other.
Perhaps the most elaborately ornamented movement in the sonatas op. 1-3 is op. 3, no. 8, which approaches most closely to a Corellian style, with graces of the sort that would usually be left to the performer. Here all groups of two or more 32nd notes are slurred, including one group of seventeen in conjunct motion.
Francesco Maria Veracini
The composer Francesco Maria Veracini was one of the most prominent and most internationally-traveled of violinists in the first half of the eighteenth century. He was born into a family of violinists in Florence in 1690 and after acquiring his training there he left in 1711 for Venice. He spent most of 1714 in London, and 1715 in Düsseldorf.
His first surviving collection of compositions is a manuscript dedicated to the Elector of Saxony, and dated July 26, 1716, in Venice. This gift seems to have been successful in securing employment in Dresden for Veracini, since he was put on the payroll there the following year, and stayed until 1722. (The manuscript even today is in the Dresden library).
One might wonder why a young violinist would produce a volume of sonatas to show off his talents that would also be appropriate for the recorder (prominently mentioned on the title page). Was there perhaps a connection here with his stay in London in 1714? Did Veracini produce these with an eye to finding an English patron, but without success? The English seem to have been the most devoted to the recorder at the time - Mancini and Barsanti also produced sonatas for the English market intended for recorder or violin.
In comparison to the paucity of articulations marked in the Loeillet prints, or indeed the moderate markings found in the Parma manuscript of recorder sonatas, the dozen sonatas in this manuscript set are brimming with articulation markings. Why should there be so many markings? Is there a didactic purpose here? Most of these can be sorted into familiar categories.
•The smallest rhythmic values are always slurred when they occur in pairs.
•Thirds filled in with sixteenths in a motion generally of eights are slurred.
•Returning-note figures in passage-work are usually slurred as such (generally 3+1).
•Returning-notes of the mordent-type are slurred on the first two notes (e.g. the opening of sonata no. 8)
•Runs up or down are slurred.
•Descending thirds are slurred.
•Gigues with groups of three eights are slurred 2+1 (e.g. sonata 5, sonata 8).
What seems exceptional here are longer slurs, over larger groups of notes and varying rhythmic values. Some examples:
•the opening of the second movement of sonata 2 (Allegro), slurring an ascending figure of eighth-2 sixteenths-eight;
•the Largo of sonata 5, slurring over sixteenth-2 thirty-seconds-sixteenth-2 thirty-seconds;
•slurs over groups of four or six sixteenths;
•slurs over groups of six eighths in gigues.
All in all, the evidence of this manuscript is much more extensive than any other examined so far.
Barsanti’s first published collection of sonatas was that for the recorder and continuo (though described as for the recorder or violin on the title page), issued by the composer himself and printed and sold by the noted recorder maker Bressan. It was first published in 1724, and reissued in 1727 and 17382. He first arrived in England in 1714, and seems to have spent all of the rest of his long career there, with the exception of eight years in Scotland.
In his op. 1 (not labeled as such, but its successor is called op. 2), we find some aspects of articulation that are congruent with what we see in the Sibley Sammartini MS. In some details, of course, Barsanti’s print reflects practice we have seen in other sources - slurs over the smallest values (usually 32nds), trills over appogiaturas, slurred descending runs (e.g., the Adagio of Sonata 2, though only in the second of three such runs is the slur present). There are still many passages where slurring must have been used, but is not indicated by the print.
Nevertheless, Barsanti does sometimes give assistance in how to phrase the passagework, for example, in the running eighths (consistently slurred 1+3) of the second movement of Sonata 1. The bass line is generally lacking in noted slurs of this sort, but their omission does not mean that that the continuo would not have followed the treble’s lead in this matter, simply that the custom of noting every detail of articulation had not yet taken holld (such slurs are finally present as a sort of afterthough at the end of the last statement in the bass). This sort of grouping, what we might think of as “Lombardic”, having a tendency to emphasize what should be a weak beat, seems to be modern, forward-looking, and it is found extensively in the Sibley MS.
Barsanti only includes one giga (simply labeled as Allegro Assai, the final movement of sonata 1), and two sicilianas among the movements of these six sonatas, but the “Lombardic” approach to slurring is present here as well. Instead of finding groups of three eights slurred 2+1 (as we have seen earlier), the groupings is consistently 1+2. The print is extremely consistent on this point, and the only apparent deviation, at the final cadence of the first of the two parts, must certainly be an error on the part of the engraver, since the analogous passage at the end of the second part has the expected 1+2.
A final congruency with practice in the Sibley MS is the presence of slurs for melodic motion up a semitone from a weak to strong beat, that is, from arsis to thesis. Various examples of this can be cited from this collection - the fifth and sixth bars of the second section of the previously mentioned Allegro Assai, m. 10 and mm. 15-16 of the Adagio of Sonata 2, with seven or eight such slurs in a row Once again, this has the effect of setting the articulation at odds with the natural stress of the meter, giving the music a piquancy and spice.
Part 3 follows next month - Francesco Mancini
1.Skempton, Alec, Robinston, Ludy: 'Jean Baptiste Loeillet (ii) [‘Loeillet de Gant’]', Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed [21 March 2006]), http://www.grovemusic.com
2. C. Humphries and W.C. Smith, A Bibliography of the Musical Works published by the firm of John Walsh, 1721-1766, London, 1968, apud Barsanti, [VI] Sonate a flauto o violino solo e basso, Firenze: SPES, 1992, introduction.