Newly discovered pieces by Giovanni Battista Gervasio

One of the more striking discoveries last year were some music fragments by Giovanni Battista Gervasio – which to my knowledge were previously unnoticed.
The pieces consist of some minuets and barcarolles.


The manuscripts discovered are part of a special collection. The Alströmer collection was gathered by Patrik Alströmer, an important Swedish businessman and mecenas. This collection today is part of the Musik- och Teaterbiblioteket in Stockholm (Alströmer collection without further shelfmark).

Dating the manuscripts is taxing but there is one little help. The barcarolle manuscripts are clearly written in the same hand as the Gervasio pieces in the Gimo collection. Therefore it can be safe to assume we can use the same date range here (1758-1762).

Regionally these manuscripts must have originated in France, probably Paris. Most likely the Gimo collection and hence also these pieces were loaned for a while (for example via the bureau d’abonnement musical) – or perhaps copied straight away in France (those services were offered also by several firms).

As these manuscripts are part of the Alströmer collection we can assume Patrik Alströmer as one of the former owners. The full collection was passed on to the library though I have not seen a full ownership history of the collection.


There are two distinctly different manuscripts. The barcarolles folios are written in the same hand as the Gimo collection pieces of Gervasio. The other pieces (minuets) are in a different hand I haven’t recognised so far. It also doesn’t correspond to the hand of the anymous mandolin concerto I found in the same library (blog post will follow).
And there is also an instrumental piece at the end of the minuet folios which is in a third hand and may not be by Gervasio and/or for mandolin.

The barcarolles

1/ Di pena in pena

Barcarola del Sigr. Gervasio

“Di pena in pena vissi finora più bella ancora spunta per me

Le rie catene gia gia sperra i al fin trovai la libertà”

3/4 barcarolle in G major (“all°” for the last part of the piece)

2/ Vado tra selve

Barcarola del Sigr. Gervasio


“Vado tra selve chi amando Nice elle in felice di ce cosi

La sciami in pace inabbandono io nice sonno ma non per te

Io sempre nice io sempre nice ti vuo chiamar

Io sempre nice ti vuo chiamar”

3/8 Barcarolle in G major

The lyrics are in each case noted under the first voice. It might be meant as vocal pieces accompanied by mandolin. However it isn’t all that uncommon to find lyrics even in instrumental arrangements of vocal pieces so this cannot be seen as something definite. The music itself seems thought out vocally, so my opinion would be that these pieces are indeed vocal with instrumental accompaniment.

I haven’t retrieved the origins of the pieces – di pena in pena seems not linked to the Vivaldi cantate or similar, and the second piece didn’t ring any bells at all. It’s unlikely to be music composed by Gervasio so it would be interesting to further the research and retrieve its origins.

The accompaniment follows the lead voice, sometimes in unison, sometimes in parallel thirds or sixths.

The minuet folios

fol 1v: 3/4 minuet in D major for 2 two instruments (mandolin?)

fol 2r: 3/4 minuet in Bes manjor for one instrument (mandolin?)

fol 2r 3/4 minuet in Bes major for one instrument (mandolin?)

fol 2r 3/4 untitled piece in Es manjor for one instrument (mandolin?)

fol 2v 3/4 untitled piece in G major for two instruments (mandolin?)

fol 3r 3/4 minuet in D major for one instrument (mandolin?)

fol 3r 3/4 minuet in D major for one instrument (mandolin?)

fol 3v-4r untitled piece in G major for one instrument (mandolin?)

The minuets correspond with the typical minuets you would expect for the time as written for amateurs. These would have sold well in any city in Europe. The last piece in this manuscript is puzzling, it’s in another hand and is notated much more sloppy than all the rest. No composer is mentioned so this might be a later addition and not by Gervasio and/or not for mandolin. Further reaseach might try to find the origins of this piece; in my opinion this seems to be a later addition of a piece for violin. At the start of the page of this piece the start of another minuet has been crossed out.


It seems these pieces were at some point part of the same source or even collection than the Gimo pieces. Therefore there can be little doubt that these are indeed by Gervasio. Even though the copyist’ hand only corresponds in one case, the link we have should suffice to make a hard link. Alströmer certainly had more than one copyist at hand.

The pieces themselves divert from the repertory in the Gimo though – there we don’t have minuets or barcarolles. It can hence be suggested that there might have been aprint of Gervasio in these genres which must have circulated either in Italy or France. This also fits in with the fact that we only have his “opus 5” – meaning we might lack at least four other prints.

Though musically this discovery isn’t all that uplifting it’s certainly a valuable addition to our knowledge about this particular mandolin composer.