Historical mandolin sources at Yale University library (4/4): Divertimenti by Constantino Palesi (1775)


For once my new find is not an item thought lost which I discovered by a focused search. This time I caught hold of it by going through library catalogues and finding an item unknown to me. Coincidentally, the item was found in the same library as where I found the missing Six Duos by Pietro Denis. The volume is preserved in Yale University Library (Misc. Ms. 491). Yale bought the item from Colin Coleman with income from the Friedman fund.

Description of the source

As this volume of mandolin music was previously unknown, there is a lot of information to be looked at. Let’s first describe the volume itself. It’s quite a substantial collection of music as it entails no less than 53 pages (and quite a lot of music on it). As usual the paper is a slightly bigger size than the A4 or letter formats in use today.

The music pages are all in manuscript. The title and dedication pages are printed, a combination not often found. There are some typos in the title page which seem to suggest that the person typesetting wasn’t familiar with the language or subject and that this wasn’t proofread. It may also be a later addition or replacement of an earlier manuscript version, but from looking at the volume it seems to match the paper type quite well, and was likely originally bound together with the manuscript music.

Title page


Composte Per



The title page seems to indicate that the volume was composed by a certain Constantino Palesi, originally from Rome. This person so far is not known as a composer. Preliminary investigations have failed to find an archive listing him but not all archives are correct or preserved. (And as we’re prior to Napoleon, it’s parochial archives for events such as birth etc.)

The volume is placed in Aix (en-Provence) and dated 1775. I have found no conflicting facts, rather the opposite: the dedicatee indeed was in Aix in 1774-1775. More about that after the dedication page.

Dedication page


Godono gli vomini nel lasciare la memoria del loro
progresso in ogni genere, ma io godo molto più la-
sciando con questamia armonia la memoria dè segni
di benevolenza dell’E. V., e di mia riconoscenza.

Di V. E.

Umi.mo Dmo, & Obbl.mo Serv.re
Romano, Maestro di Musica.

The dedicatee’s name and title (or rather of his father) is full of typos. The person in question is Algernon Percy (1750-1830), the son of the Duke of Northumberland. He was elected as MP for Northumberland from 1774 on. Lord Algernon became a Peer by inheriting the barony of Lovaine from his father in 1786 and left the Commons from that point. However, prior to the start of his political career he seems to have suffered from some illness and was sent to the south of France on doctor’s orders. He seems to have spent at least some time from 1773 in the south of France on. Even during the elections in 1774 he remained in the South of France and had to apply for election in writing and let his father manage the campaign. An interesting anecdote is that he met his later wife during this trip abroad (Susan Isabella Burrell), who was travelling alongside her father. Shortly afterwards, in 1775, they married.

Musical content

As announced on the title page, there are duets, aria’s and sonatas. However, the aria’s seem to be interspersed into the duets (not uncommon in mandolin duets). So in fact, there are six duets containing arias in themselves, followed by six single-movement sonatas.

The style is rather fashionable and I’m expecting these will be enjoyed by other mandolin players as much as I enjoyed them. Though not for beginners, the duets can be mastered by most advanced players. The sonatas are a bit more taxing but are lots of fun as well.

  • Duetto I
    • 2/4 in D major, Overtura. Allegretto Bizzarro 1/8+41:||:42:||:
    • 2/4 in G major, Allegro 1/8+38+3/8:||:1/8+45:||
    • 3/4 in C major, Cantabile Aria Pensa serbarmi ò Cara 79:||:
    • 3/8 in G major, Presto 1/8+67+3/8:||:
  • Duet II
    • 2/4 in C major, Grazioso 1/8+ 34+3/8:||:1/8+39+3/8:||:
    • 2/4 in F major, Cantabile. Aria Se Perde Liù signivole, La sua Fedel Campagnia 1/8+35+3/8:||:1/8+38+3/8:||:
    • 6/8 in C major, Presto 3/8+33+3/8:||:3/8+36+3/8:||:
  • Duet III
    • 2/4 in F major, Allegretto 38:||:47:||:
    • 2/4 in Bes major Larghetto. Vrania, e dove sei 1/8+11+3/8:||:1/8+18+3/8:||:
    • 3/4 in Bes major Allegretto. Ah, non sperargia mai 33:||:32:||:
    • 6/8 in F major, Presto. Il Parnasso, Ballo 1/8+40+7/8:||:1/8+57:||:
  • Duet IV
    • C in D major, Spiritoso 1/8+35+7/8:||:1/8+36+7/8:||:
    • 2/4 in A major, Larghetto Cantabile. Aria Deh tacete il vostro affanno 39:||:1/8+56:||:
    • 3/8 in D major, Presto 70:||:113:||:
  • Duet V
    • C in F major, Allegro 1/8+28+7/8:||:1/8+48:||:
    • C in C major, Andantino. Aria Se più Felice Oggetto 38:||:53:||:
    • 6/8 in F major, Allegretto 3/8+87+3/8:||:
  • Duet VI
    • C in C major, Allegro 27:||:29:||:
    • 2/4 in F major, Andantino. Duetto Vieni mio ben tra i fiori 45||
    • 6/8 in d minor, Allegro 47:||:
    • 2/4 in C major, Bizzarro 37:||:62:||:
  • Sonata I
    • 2/4 G major, Allegretto 33:||:41:||:
  • Sonata II
    • C C major, [No name] 1/8+27+7/8:||:1/8+33+7/8:||:
  • Sonata III
    • 2/4 A major, Allegro 1/8+62+3/8:||:1/8+65+3/8:||:
  • Sonata IV
    • 2/4 D major, [No name] 1/8+33+3/8:||:1/8+41+3/8:||:
  • Sonata V
    • C G major, Allegro 1/8+13+7/8:||:1/8+20+7/8:||:
  • Sonata VI
    • C D major, Allegro 1/4+41+7/8||


Again I have created editions of this work, available for free. Please note that my research and creating of these editions costs time, money and effort so if you like my work, donations are appreciated. Below you can find links towards the Urtext and modern editions of all duets (containing the aria’s as in the original) and sonatas.