A bundle of minor discoveries and announcements of blog posts for 2019

With the Year-end in sight, I wanted to share some minor discoveries I don’t consider important enough to warrant a separate blog post. At the same time, I can’t resist lifting some part of the veil of what is coming up in 2019.

Minor discoveries

Merchi, Sei duetti (opus 2), Paris, ? (ca. 1758)

Although I did present this at a symposium in Germany in 2013, I believe I never have discussed it on my blog. The Merchi brothers were credited in the past with two prints for mandolin: the duets opus 15 and the triosonatas opus 9. Opus 15 remains undiscovered, but opus 9 sheds some light on their situation. In the British Library, there are two version of the title page: one with a wrong opus number and without the mandolin, and one with the correct one and mentioning the mandolin. This proves that they started to include mandolin from a certain moment on in their title pages and advertisements, but not at first. The most likely explanation is that they remarketed their existing prints when the mandolin became extremely popular. At the same time, it is fair to assume these pieces were originally composed and played by the Merchi brothers on mandolin. (There are numerous accounts of mandolin, colascione, guitar and lute performances, but never on violin or pardessus. They also claimed only to be teachers of mandolin, guitar and colascione when in Paris.)

Their opus 2 print is also such an example: first printed for two violins or pardessus-de-viole, later catalogues also lists opus 2 for mandolin. Fortunately, opus 2 has been preserved. First of all, and how I came to know it, in the Länsmuséet Murberget, Härnösand in Sweden, a copy in manuscript is preserved (without shelf mark). A version of the print itself is also preserved at the National Library of France. It is even available online through Gallica:


Straube English guittar book with pieces by Gervasio

Straube’s English guittar (a type of cittern) book contains two songs by Gervasio. Most likely these were originally songs with mandolin accompaniment. Gervasio used to perform on concerts with his wife (a singer) and his books of Airs contains some songs in a very similar style. Of course, Straube’s version is adapted to fit the English guittar.

Straube, Three Sonatas […] With an Addition of two Sonatas […] Likewise a choice Collection of the most Favourite English, Scotch and Italian Songs For one and two Guittars of different Authors Properly adapted for that instrument, London, 1768, p. 43-44. (Preserved in Cambridge University College Library, Cambridge, Great Britain.)

“Cantoncina by Sgr. Gervasio” Moderato 3/4 in C major “Cosi tiranna”

“Cantoncina by Sigr. Gervasio” Moderato 6/8 in C major “Signorine Zitteline”

These are of importance because it is active proof of interchange of repertory between the English guittar and mandolin. There are quite a few other British sources who bear out the link between these two instruments.

Grétry opera prints

Though already well-known to mandolin scholars, the mandolin arias by André Ernest Modeste Grétry have a lesser known side story to them. At the end of the 18th century, it was still pretty rare for operas to get published in print. Grétry’s two operas with mandolin arias both were printed, and kept the mandolin arias. Both can be found on IMSLP:

Les amants jaloux:


Les deux avares:


Second book of country dances “by an African”

Though the first book is already well-known (Anonymous (“Composed by an African”), Minuets, Cotillons & Country Dances, London, ? (ca. 1775)), a second book seems to have gone unnoticed. This second book was also “for the Violin, Mandolin, German Flute & Harpsichord”. It is preserved at the British Library. The title is “Minuets &c &c Book 2nd”.

Date of Colizzi prints and possible link to Gervasio

I have been able to date one of the Colizzi prints. The Airs Choisis can be dated through an advertisement (‘s Gravenhaagse Courant, 22/01/1776). Likely the concerto was from around the same date (ca. 1776).

Furthermore, there are some indications as to which mandolin player might have inspired Colizzi. Several advertisements announce the presence of the Gervasio couple performing concerts in Amsterdam and Rotterdam in the 1776 and 1777 (Amsterdamse Courant, Rotterdamse Courant 1776-1777). In Amsterdam, the tickets for the concerts were sold in the shop of Hummel, who also sold the prints by Colizzi. It’s only indirect evidence, but it seems a logical explanation of the facts which have come to light.

Nonnini, Six Italian Canzonets

Several sources confirm that a certain Nonnini published a print of Italian songs. There are both French and British sources, so it is a bit uncertain whether there were a French and/or a British (re)print, and which of these might have been earlier than the other. However, when looking at the facts currently known, it might be the case only one London print was made.

Only a London print of this volume is preserved (in the Museo internazionale e biblioteca della musica di Bologna, Italy). Interesting though is that this item also has a French additional part put on top of its frontispiece. This seems to suggest the London edition was also sold in Paris, and maybe there never was a separate Paris (re)print.

Whatever the circumstances and possible editions or re-editions, another fact which needs to be considered, is the instrumentation. The English print mentions “guitar”, but that word in this context means almost surely the English guittar, a cittern type linked with the mandolin in several other prints.

Paisiello’s Barbieri di Siviglia in French print

Again an example of a French opera print, and of one with a most famous mandolin aria (Saper Bramate). Interestingly enough the translation was made by Nicolas-Étienne Framery, who also printed several mandolin pieces when he was editor of the Journal de Musique (in 1770). Framery is one of the famous advocates of Italian music (vocal as well as instrumental), which seems to once more confirm the relation between the 18th century French musical Italophiles and the mandolin.

Lisbon prints for mandolin

During some background research, I stumbled upon advertisements in the Gazeta de Lisboa. On 2/3/1793, the following announcement is made:

Na Real Fabrica, e Impresão de Musica no largo de Jesus se estampou ultimamente huma Sonata nova para o Mandolino, composta por João da Mata de Freitas.

Gazeta de Lisboa, 2/3/1793, 2nd supplement, p. 4

One year later, another print is announced:

Aria Il mio-Ben dell’Opera de Nina cantando pelo Caporaline, com acompanhamento de Cravo, arranjado por P.A. Marchal: e las Variações de Marlborough para Mandolino ou Flauta, com acompanhamento de Violino e Basso, as quaes obras se achão na Real Impressão de Musica de P.A. Marchal, no largo de Jesus.

Gazeta de Lisboa, 1/11/1794, 2nd supplement, p. 2

Unfortunately, both of these prints seem not have been preserved. But it is interesting to spot some prints for mandolin in Lisbon. Some manuscript sources, such as the variations by David Perez for the royal princesses, or the quartet by Totti, show some mandolin activity at the royal court. This means Lisbon can certainly be shown to have been an active center of mandolin activity at the end of the 18th century.

Early Mozart prints

Though usually not mentioned, it makes sense that the early Mozart prints around the turn of the 19th century (by Breitkopf), also included some of his mandolin music. The earliest print of Don Giovanni includes the mandolin aria, and the earliest print of songs with piano accompaniment also include one of the mandolin songs. Though this is not an important discovery, it is at least another fact to add to our knowledge of mandolin-related prints prior to 1850.

Bortolazzi’s Favorite Waltzes

A very interesting find is the volume by Bortolazzi printed during his stay in London: Bortolazzi, XII Favorite Waltzes & Trios, London, ? (ca. 1802).

This is a print made for keyboard (“piano forte”) but based on pieces “as Performed by the Author on the Mandolino Before Her Majesty & the Royal Family”. This statement of performing for the royal family and the dedication to “H.R.H. the Duchess of York” was of course part of the marketing of the print.

It is quite easy to make out the original based on the adaptation for keyboard: the right hand is obviously the mandolin part, and the left hand could usually be played easily by guitar, as was Bortolazzi’s usual instrumentation.

It is possible I will publish a modern and urtext edition in 2019.

Possible Bortolazzi variation sequence found in manuscript

In the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (shelf mark: Mus. Hs. 14973), a manuscript contains a mandolin and guitar variation sequence in what is clearly a copy of a printed original. Though the composer is not mentioned, there is only a few “usual suspects”. The most likely, based on the style used, is Bortolazzi. (von Call, Zucconi, Aichelbourg or others seem unlikely.)

It is possible I will attempt a modern and urtext edition in 2019.

Coming up in 2019

Here’s what is planned:

  • Santo Lapis, Miss Mayer. A new Guittar book in 4 Parts Viz Italian, French, English Airs, and Duets, London, 1759 (English guittar book with mandolin as alternative): update of blog post with modern and urtext editions as I have obtained publication rights
  • Les petites récréations de la campagne 1.er livre Contenant VIII Duetti (by Prota, Eterardi, Cornielli, Cantone), Paris, 1762: blog post and maybe later editions
  • Denis, Six duos, Paris, 1764: blog post and modern + urtext editions
  • Anonymous, Huittième Suite des Amusemens des Dames. Petits airs en duo, Paris, 1767: blog post, facsimile and modern + urtext editions
  • Leone, Six sonates, Paris, 1767, 2nd edition Paris, 1768: blog post and modern + urtext editions about the 2nd edition which has “Marquées des signes suivant la Nouvelle Methode” instead of the first edition version “Arrangées au mieux pour le Violon”.
  • Gervasio, Airs, Paris, ? (ca. 1768): blog post and modern + urtext editions.
  • Bürckhoffer, Sei Duetti, Paris, 1769: blog post (no edition as only one part was found)
  • Papavoine, Receuil d’airs choisis, Paris, 1770: blog post (no editions planned for now as this wasn’t originally for mandolin)
  • Palesi, Divertimenti di Mandolini, 1775: blog post and modern + urtext editions
  • Bortolazzi, XII Favorite Waltzes & Trios, London, ? (ca. 1802): see above, planned for 2019 are possible modern and urtext editions
  • Anonymous (Bortolazzi?), Variations, manuscript copy from a print: see above, planned for 2019 are possible modern and urtext editions
  • Aichelbourg, Pot-pourri concertante (opus 1), Vienna, 1812: blog post and maybe later editions.
  • The English gittern – some contemplations

As I’m currently mostly busy correcting a paper version of the presentation I delivered at the symposium “Toleranz und Intoleranz in der Musik – dargestellt am Beispiel der Zupfmusik” at Mainz University in May 2018, I will likely also put in a blog post when this article is published. The title of my presentation was “Tolerance between instrumental repertories or commercial tricks?”.