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
The Neapolitan Francesco Mancini devoted his composition primarily to vocal music, as assistant and successor to Alessandro Scarlatti, but today he is primarily known for his works for recorder - one collection of twelve sonatas published in London in 1724 and 1727, and twelve sonatas for recorder and strings in a collective manuscript of such works held in Naples. The evidence of the Walsh edition (the third) is inconclusive. Though these sonatas were published at the same time as the Barsanti op. 1, Mancini was eighteen years older than Barsanti (as well as from a different part of Italy), and the sort of galant phrasing we can discern in the Barsanti is not present here. We can discern the familiar slurring of the returning note figure (usually 3+1 sixteenths), the slurred ornamental runs, the slurred descending thirds. The gigues are quite extensively slurred, but in contrast to usual earlier practice the slurs clearly include all three of the eighths in a group.
A possible point of connection with Barsanti is the passage of arsis-to-thesis semitones over the dominant pedal climax of the second movement of Sonata 4 (p. 17 in the Walsh ed.) Here there are slurs present, but to my eye it looks as if the engraver made a botch of things, since of the three slurs, are from thesis to arsis, and one from arsis to thesis. They should presumably all be one way or the other, and to my way of thinking, should run from arsis to thesis, as we saw in the Barsanti.
Articulation in Parma. Manuscript CF-V.23
The manuscript of sonatas for recorder and continuo, Parma CF-V.23, transmits a corpus of works by composers from the early eighteenth century whose names are completely unknown today, even to lovers of Baroque music. The only remotely familiar names are here are Corelli (a sonata which also survives a third lower for violin), Albinoni and Somis. The level of detail here is perhaps midway between the Loeillet prints and the Veracini manuscript, though even here it varies between different copyists. Nevertheless, although the source is not so consistently detailed as the Veracini manuscript, the ornaments fall into the same categories as mentioned above:
•The smallest rhythmic values are often slurred when they occur in pairs.
ex: opening Grave of the Corelli sonata (p. 117)
•Thirds filled in with sixteenths in a motion generally of eighths are slurred.
ex.: Minuet of anonymous sinfonia (p. 116)
•Returning-note figures in passage-work are usually slurred as such (either 3+1 or 1+3).
ex.: opening Adagio of the Albinoni sonata (p. 6)
•Returning-notes of the mordent-type are slurred on the first two notes
ex.: opening Adagio of the Albinoni sonata (p. 6)
•Runs up or down are slurred
ex. : opening Adagio of anonymous sinfonia (p. 113)
Gigues are often bereft of markings. One exception is the closing giga of the Sonata Ottava of Giuseppe Valentini (pp. 151-152), which seems to mix and match a “Lombardic” slurring (1+2), with the more usual 2+1.
What is more forward-looking, more galant about the markings for the sonatas in the Sibley manuscript? To begin with, the slurs tend to be more extensive, and perhaps less predictable than in other sources. The musical idiom has not reached the level of rococo elaboration found, for example, in the works of Giovanni Ferrandini, remarkably detailed given their early date (op. 1, 1737, op. 2, undated, both published Paris), but it is considerably more modern than the idiom of his London colleague, Handel.
The articulations here, once again, seem generally to fall in line with what can be gleaned from the other sources discussed in this series of articles. The smallest values (usually 32nds, though sometimes sixteenths) are frequently slurred. Though Quantz’s treatise goes into considerable detail about execution of double tonguing, with extensive musical examples to show its use in context, the consistency with which small values in even groups are slurred in Italian sources seems to indicate an aversion to this practice on the part of many wind players. A good example here is the Allegro (pp. 192-193) of the sonata in F for recorder and continuo, where the sixteenths in the fanfare-like motive are frequently slurred (though the copyist is not consistent in this, presumably the performer should be).
The movement towards a “Lombardic” slurring is very much present here, whether in gigas, or in three-note groups in general. Particularly interesting in this regard is the sonata in G for recorder and continuo (pp. 107-203). Exceptionally, the opening movement is a giga (though not marked thus), which would ordinarily come later, or last. This giga shows a remarkable flexibility of rhythm as expressed in the articulation, with many of the three-note groups of eighths slurred as 1+2. This is particularly expressive in the chromatic moment of measures 7-8, with the offbeat slurs up a semitone. When the music moves to moments of more stability (e.g. the sequence leading to the cadence at the double bar, mm. 11-12, or the cadence to the tonic in mm. 35-36), the slurs begin on, rather than off the beat. The slurring of the arppegiated passagework leading to the cadence on the most remote degree (E minor) is not entirely clear. It seems that it should either be 1+2 throughout, or else 1+2, 2+1. What is not possible here is consistently 2+1 (compare as well the similar passagework in the sonata in C which follows, clearly marked 1+ 2 throughout)
The slow movement combines two characteristics figures - sighing paired sixteenths, consistently slurred as such, and slurred sixteenth triplets. The latter seem more often to be slurred three together, though in some place (the third and seventh measures of the second half) the slurs might be read as 1+2. Again, what is not present is 2+1.
The concluding movement, a minuet with variations (once again, not marked) continues the trend toward 1+2 slurs. In the first variation, all but one of the triplet groups are marked thus. The third and closing variation combines this with 2+1 for arpeggios. Also notable here in terms of rhythmic displacement are the four sixteenth-note runs in the first half, where three are clearly slurred beginning on the second of six sixteenths (the second group has no slur marked).
The returning-note slurring we have seen elsewhere, and which seems to be taken for granted in articulating passagework, is present in these sonatas as well (a festival of this can be found in the opening Allegro of the Sonata in F for recorder and continuo, pp. 150-151). But here we also see a rhythmically displaced slurring of the sort which seems to be characteristic in this source, a group of three descending slurred eights (see a similar passage in the opening Allegro of the Sonata in F for recorder and continuo, pp. 182-183).
What is the commonality here? What seems to be present is a desire on the part of the performer to enliven music which depends on motoric and regular rhythms with articulations which, one might say, cut across the grain, or to think of it another way, enliven the offbeat or backbeat.
The sources for Italian music examined in this series, dating from a span of about forty years, show a consistency of approach towards a variety of details in articulation. Earlier sources transmit a score which is often “cleaner”, perhaps easier to read, less cluttered with details about matters about which the performer might be expected to have his or her own opinion. This does not mean that those details were not present in the performance, anymore than the frequent omission of figures for the bass in manuscript sources (as opposed to printed editions) meant that there were no harmonies realized. The lack of an articulation should never mean that the performer should be inhibited from adding his own. Quite the contrary - it leaves him the freedom to articulate according to his taste.
The evidence of the sources examined does seem to indicate that tastes in these matters changed over the first half of the eighteenth century, with slurring increasingly going “against the grain”, beginning on weak rather than strong beats (as in the shift from 2+1 to 1+2 slurring in gigues), or slurring from weak to strong beats (as in the case of semitones resolving upward). What the evidence does not support is interpretations devoid of a variety of articulation patterns, something that often tempts the modern performer when confronted with a naked succession of sixteenths in perpetual motion, as for example in the Allemande and Corrent of the Bach A minor Partita. Choices must be made about how to slur and group these sixteenths, but the choices should be based on an informed knowledge of practice in the historical context.
Works by Giuseppe Sammartini:
Manuscript collection of sonatas for treble instrument (oboe, violin, flute, recorder) with continuo at the Sibley Music Library, accession no.: 406133. Accesible as pdf at http://hdl.handle.net/1802/1523
Sammartini, Giuseppe. Sonate a solo et a due flauti traversi con loro basso: opera prima. Dedicata al Altezza Reale di Federico Principe de Vallia et Elettorale di Brunsvik Di Giuseppe San Martini Milanese. London: Printed for the Author .
Facsimile edition: Firenze : Studio per edizioni scelte, 1994.
Sammartini, Giuseppe. XII Sonate a Flauto Traversiere Solo con il Basso. Opera Seconda di Giuseppe San Martini Milanese. Amsterdam: Chez Michel Charles Le Cene. No. 584. [173-?]
Facsimile edition: Firenze : Studio per edizioni scelte, 1994.
Other contemporary sources cited:
Barsanti, Francesco. Sonate a Flauto, o Violino Solo con Basso, per Violone, o Cembalo. Dedicate all’Eccellenza di My Lord Riccardo Conte di Burlington........Da Francesco Barsanti. [London: The author, 1724].
Facsimile edition: Firenze : Studio per edizioni scelte, 1992.
Corelli, Arcangelo. Six Solos for a Flute and a Bass by Archangelo Corelli Being the second part of his Fifth Opera.....The whole exactly Transpos’d and made fitt for a Flute and a Bass with the aprobation of severall Eminent Masters. London: I. Walsh, .
Facsimile edition: Courlay, France : Éditions J.M. Fuzeau ; c1998.
Ferrandini, Giovanni. VI Sonate a Flauto Traversiere o Oboé, o Violino (&) Basso Continuo del Signor Giovanni Ferrandini, Opera Seconda, Libro Secondo. Paris: Boivin....Le Clerc. [circa 1740].
Facsimile edition: Firenze : Studio per edizioni scelte, 1986.
L’Oeillet de Gant, Jean Baptiste, XII Sonates à une Flute & Basse Continue, Premier Ouvrage. Amsterdam: Estienne Roger. .
L’Oeillet de Gant, Jean Baptiste, XII Sonates à une Flute & Basse Continue, Second Ouvrage. Amsterdam: Estienne Roger. No. 346. .
L’Oeillet de Gant, Jean Baptiste, XII Sonates à une Flute & Basse Continue, Troisiéme Ouvrage. Amsterdam: Estienne Roger, .
The previous three editions published in a facsmile edition: Genève : Minkoff, 1985.
Mancini, Francesco. XII Solos for a Flute with a Thorough Bass for the Harpsichord or Bass Violin Compos’d by Sigr. Francesco Mancini. London: Walsh, [172-?].
Veracinji, Francesco Maria. Sonate a Violino, o Flauto Solo, e Basso Dedicate All’Altezza Reale del Serenissimo Pincipe Elettorale di Sassonia. Da Francesco Maria Veracini Fiorentino. MS, Sächsische Landesbibliothek, Dresden.
Facsimile edition: Firenze : Studio per edizioni scelte, 1990.
Sinfonie di Varij Autori. [Arcangelo Corelli, Domenico Maria Dreyer, Domenico Sarri, Filippo Rosa, Giacomo Ferronati, Giovanni Antonio Canuti, Giovanni Battista Somis, Giuseppe Valentini, Paolo Bottigoni, Pietro Pellegrini, Quirino Colombani, Tommaso Albinoni, Anonymous). MS. Biblioteca palatina di Parma. Manuscript CF-V.23 Parma
Facsimile edition: Firenze : Studio per edizioni scelte, 1982.