The mandolin in Portugal (ca. 1770-1830)

The idea to write this article started when I stumbled upon some Portuguese sources during my research into mandolin(-related) prints prior to 1820 (see Van Tichelen (2020), p. 186-187). Portugal usually does not appear in the reference works on mandolin history. However, besides my own finds in past and present, recent decades also saw some Portuguese mandolin music published by others. This article is first of all an attempt to describe all the Portuguese sources known to me – combining my own contributions with the scattered discoveries by colleagues. Secondly, and certainly as important, this article sees to the publication of some Portuguese mandolin music previously unavailable. As the research is still ongoing and inconclusive in some areas, this article should not be the final word to be written about Portuguese mandolin history. I have included some annexes at the bottom of the article (library sigla, abbreviations, bibliography).

1. Portuguese mandolin production

1.1 Neapolitan mandolin by João Vieira Da Silva (late 18th century)

Mandolin by Joao Vieira da Silva, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (Accession Number 1985.408) License purchased for use of this photograph on this blog post through Alamy.

To say that Portuguese mandolin production is a dark horse is an understatement. So far I have never seen any reference to a potential local production of mandolins. However, there is one surviving example, a stunning Neapolitan mandolin preserved in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (Accession Number 1985.408). Though there is a label, the date on it is not filled in (“Jao Vieira da Silva o fez/em Lisboa na Praci da Ale/gria. anno 17..”).

I haven’t found much about this builder – my archival research shows up a number of records under this name, but as the name is somewhat generic it could be there were multiple persons with the same name. So far none of these records seem to link them with a business as instrument builder. He also built a Portuguese guitar which survives in the Victoria & Albert Museum (Accession Number 208-1882) (same label, date also not filled in). Also exquisite in its details and ornamentation, it shows that this builder certainly had a high level of craftsmanship and I can only hope we will learn more about both him and the instruments he made. As a side note, to me it’s quite interesting to spot a possible link between Portuguese guit(t)ar and the mandolin, – as I have build a whole case around interchange of repertory with the English guit(t)ar in Great Britain (see Van Tichelen (2020), p. 182-185, 190-191). After all, at that time, both Portuguese and English “guit(t)ar” cittern types were still very close to each other – so close they are not easy to distinguish yet.

João Vieira Da Silva, Portuguese guit(t)ar, Victoria & Albert Museum Accession Number 208-1882.

2. Mandolin manuscripts

Some Portuguese mandolin music has already become available through excellent facsimile or modern editions in the past decades. All the same, there are some other important manuscripts that did not reach the attention of a wide audience yet, and some are important additions to the mandolin repertory. As usual I have included editions of sources where editions are not yet available.

2.1 Davide Perez, Variazioni per Mandolino (1773)

Front page of the facsimile edition of Davide Perez, Variazioni Per Mandolino (Ediçoes Colibri)

The first manuscript of note is by Davide Perez (1711-78), and contains 128 variations on a theme. The full title of the manuscript on its title page reads “Variazioni Per Mandolino Del Celebre David Perez Maestro Delle LL. RR. AA. La Serenissima Signora Principessa Del Brasile ed Infante di Portugallo. Lanno 1773”.

Davide Perez was a celebrated opera composer (originally taught at the Conservatorio di Santa Maria di Loreto in Naples) when appointed ‘mestre de capela’ in Lisboa in 1752. After the Lisboa earthquake in 1755 his duties changed (as the theatres were damaged) from secular to church music. He remained at the Portuguese court for the rest of his life, and part of his courtly tasks was to teach music to the royal children. This is reflected in the title of the mandolin variations manuscript – mentioning both the princess of Brazil as well as the other princesses. More information about David Perez and his importance as opera and church composer can be found through (see Dottori & Jackson (2001)).

The source is now located in Lisboa (P-Ln M.M. 6002). A facsimile edition makes this most interesting source available (Cranmer 2011 – see Edições Colibri). The edition includes a CD (with all 128 varations played by José Grossinho and critical commentary by David Cranmer). As Cranmer remarks (Cranmer 2011, p. 18 & 32), this manuscript was likely not meant for the purpose of providing a concert piece to be played from beginning to end. Yet it is an interesting item, not in the least because of the eminent composer, but also because of the direct link to the royal court.

UPDATE: Girolamo Nonnini started as violin player in the royal court orchestra in 1773. It’s likely that his presence in Portugal either started or greatly increased the mandolin fashion. Is it a coincidence that Perez writes the variation sequence in the year Nonnini starts working at the court…? Or is Nonnini in fact the person who started the interest in the mandolin in Portugal? As we don’t have enough evidence we will likely never know for sure, but it is a good lead for further investigations.

2.2 Epifanio Loforte, Minuetti per due Mãdolini (after 1785)

Title page of Minuetti per due mãdolini by Epifanio Loforte (P-Ln M.M. 4810)

The next source of interest is the manuscript of Minuetti by Epifanio Loforte (1735-1809). It contains thirty minuets for two mandolins. Epifanio Loforte was part of the Portuguese royal chapel and known to play violin, French horn and hunting horn. Interestingly enough he is also mentioned as mestre de mandolino to Carlota Joaquina of Spain, the wife of the later king João VI of Portugal. The manuscript is preserved in Lisboa (P-Ln M.M. 4810, available online

Though the Portuguese library gives an indication of date of 1760-1790, I think we can safely assume it was created after the marriage of Carlota Joaquina and João VI in 1785.

What is more, I have been able to ascertain that Loforte at some point emigrated. In 1803, his son applies for a permit to join him:

REQUERIMENTO de Caetano Lino Loforte ao príncipe regente, solicitando ser despachado no posto de tenente para um dos regimentos de Cavalaria na América, em remuneração dos serviços do seu pai Epifânio Loforte, que foi músico da câmara real e mestre do príncipe regente.

AHU_CU_BRASIL-GERAL, cx. 35, D. 2821

However, it’s not quite clear whether this journey really ended in America (Brazil) as there is also a permit to travel to Angola:

OFÍCIO do [vice-rei do Estado do Brasil], D. Fernando José de Portugal [e Castro], ao [secretário de estado da Marinha e Ultramar], visconde de Anadia, [João Rodrigues de Sá e Melo Meneses e Souto Maior], sobre o cumprimento das ordens régias para facilitar a passagem do mestre da capela da Sé Caetano Lino Loforte para Angola.

Accessed through Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino

The minuets are hardly the most important compositions for mandolin, but apart from the music which is still quite entertaining, it again provides a direct link to the royal court.

Ava Editions has a modern edition of these minuets.

2.3 Epifanio Loforte, Duetti e dodeci Minuetti (after 1785)

Epifanio Loforte is also known for another manuscript with music for two mandolins. This source is preserved in another Lisboa library, the Biblioteca da Ajuda (P-La mus. Ms. 44-XI-21) which holds a lot of items from the former royal library. The manuscript contains of twelve minuets and six duets.

Flávio Pinho published a modern edition of this manuscript through Trekel in four volumes:

2.4 Aleixo Botelho de Ferreira, Sonatta per Mandolino Sollo e Basso (ca. 1780-1800)

Title page of Aleixo Botelho de Ferreira, Sonatta per Mandolino Sollo e Basso (P-Ln M.M. 2071)

A third manuscript which already was noted by a number of people is a sonata by Aleixo Botelho de Ferreira (fl. ca. 1790). The manuscript is preserved in Lisboa (P-Ln M.M. 2071, available online through The manuscript is dated by the library between 1780 and 1800. A modern edition is available through Ava Editions.

Little is known about the composer, but I was able to retrieve a birth certificate which might match (Socorro parish, Lisboa, 1753 – now in Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo). He seems to have been born to a family of nobility as his father Manuel António Botelho de Ferreira was listed a cavaleiro da Ordem de Cristo, and his grandfather sargento-mor cavaleiro da Ordem de Cristo.

There is one detail of note – the manuscript was at some point in the collection of Ernesto Vieira (1848-1915), as were the Tratenimenti manuscript (see 2.6), as well as two of the preserved mandolin prints (3.3 & 3.4). There is some doubt this possible link of shared previous ownership is more than coincidence, though, as Vieira was a fierce collector (more than 2000 items in P-Ln are linked to him).

A recording of this sonata is available on the CD “Les Galanteries” by ensemble Artemandolino:

I. Allegro moderato (Artemandolino, Les Galanteries)
II. Andante (Artemandolino, Les Galanteries)
III. Rondo allegro (Artemandolino, Les Galanteries)

2.5 Giuseppe Totti, Quartetto (1793)

First page of Giuseppe Totti, Quartetto (P-Ln F.C.R. 216//47)

An item which remained under the radar for quite a long while is the Quartetto by Giuseppe Totti († 1832). The manuscript dates from 1793 and is for two mandolins and two guitars (alternatively viola and guitar). It is preserved in LIsboa (P-Ln F.C.R. 216//47, available online I already published about finding this source on a previous blog article. Though Totti never reached the position of mestre de capela he did compose a lot of music for the royal chapel and followed the court when in exile in Brazil. He was awarded the position of music teacher to the royal children, with eminent predecessors like Davide Perez.

Reidar Edvardsen created a modern adaptation for two mandolins, mandola and guitar. His rendition inserts a slow movement, an adaptation from a duet for two sopranos and guitar accompaniment.

2.6 Anonymous, Tratenimenti (1780-1800)

Anonymous, Tratenimenti (P-Ln M.M. 4809//1-2), first page of mandolino primo partbook

Now onto an interesting and to my knowledge previously not known manuscript: the anonymous Tratenimenti (P-Ln M.M. 4809//1-2). Though often encountered, such a title is sometimes used to describe a bundle of music. Worth noting about this manuscript is that the duets were written for six-course instruments. It’s written as two partbooks of sixteen pages each.

The provenance is not clear. Vieira had the manuscript in his collection (as well as the Ferreira manuscript (2.3), and the prints by Portugal and Leite (3.3 & 3.4)), but his ownership can only be claimed until the mid-19th century at earliest. Some terms in the manuscript seem a bit odd (the use of terms like “marchia”, “menuè”, and, though in another hand, “dances angloises”), which might imply a French origin – though some terms seem to contradict this (“corenta”, “contradanza”, “rondo” or “allemanda”). Unfortunately, currently we have no further leads to follow up the origins of this manuscript.

The fifty small pieces in the manuscript are clearly meant as entertainment music and it seems likely this was written for private use. The pieces seem to be bundled around the music key used:

  • D major: nrs. 1-10
    • Marchia
    • Rondo
    • Menuè
    • Corenta
    • Cansonetta Adagio
    • Contradanza
    • Allegro Assai
    • Menuè
    • Contradanza
    • Allemanda
  • Bes major: nrs. 11-18
    • Marchia
    • Allegro Assai
    • Menue
    • Inglese
    • Rondo
    • Corenta
    • Menue
    • Corenta
  • A major: nrs. 19-26
    • Marchia
    • Rondo
    • Andante
    • Allegro assai
    • Menue
    • Allegro
    • Corenta
    • Rondo
  • G major: nrs. 27-34
    • Sinfonia
    • Pastorale Adagio
    • Allegro
    • Menue
    • Contradanza
    • Allemanda
    • Corenta
    • Vals
  • Es major: nrs. 35-40
    • Cantabile
    • Rondo Allegro
    • Menue
    • Corenta
    • Rondo
    • Allegro Assai
  • F major: nrs. 41-46
    • Allegro Con Spirito
    • Andante
    • (insert of unnumbered Dances Angloises in another hand, only mandolino I)
    • Allegro
    • Contradanza
    • Allegro
    • Corenta
  • C major: nrs. 47-50
    • Concerto
    • Adagio
    • Rondo Allegro
    • Adagio / Allegro

Most of the pieces are quite small – the average amount of bars per piece is 25. There are occasionally larger pieces of music, like a “sinfonia” or “concerto” which also use more extensive composing techniques like counterpoint. Usually the pieces consist of smaller units – which often have repeat signs. The composer uses Alberti bass accompaniments as well as chords in the mandolins, and the typical florid style in thirds or sixths between the two mandolins as often encountered in 18th century mandolin music.

Though there is a substantial amount of repertory for six-course mandolin from the Austrian empire around 1800, this large an amount of duets is certainly a welcome addition. Therefore I created a modern edition of the manuscript. There is a substantial number of omissions and mistakes, so the critical commentary section is somewhat long.

2.7 Vittorio Trento, ‘L’Acampamento osia Le quattr’ore di Stazione’ Sonata con Variazioni Per Mandolino, e Piano (ca. 1822) (F.C.R. 217//3)

Four manuscripts stand tall amongst the other Portuguese sources. Though I am aware that at least some other colleagues (for example Ugo Orlandi) have already spotted them, by and large the mandolin community seems unaware. I will be talking about all of them one at a time, but there some general things to discuss first that concern all four manuscripts (2.6, 2.7, 2.8, 2.9).

UPDATE: after publishing this article, I was contacted by Patrícia Raquel, who is preparing for a master performance degree on these four pieces. I have also got in touch with her promotor, António De Sousa Vieira. I’m thrilled to learn that there are people at the Universidade de Aveiro actively researching the Portuguese mandolin sources like me, no doubt our joint forces will bear fruit.

All four are early-19th century mandolin-keyboard sonatas of high quality. They are very welcome as this particular genre is in high demand – yet there are only limited sources from this time and not all are of high quality. Outside of the Beethoven and Hummel pieces, the small sonatas by Panerai and Bolaffi, there are only a few other sources and mostly not of notable length or quality. I’m quite excited to be able to add four superb and extensive pieces.

Let’s first take a look at the background. We can establish with certainty who copied all four manuscripts: António Felizardo Porto (1796-1863). Porto’s signature is on the title page of all four manuscripts. Porto trained at the royal music seminary in Lisboa (at least since 1806) and joined the court when they left in exile following the Napoleonic wars in 1810. In 1812, he was admitted in the royal chapel, but seems to have retired in 1821 (apparently because ailments prevented him from continuing his position). Porto returned to Portugal in 1822, so quite short after the royal court moved back. He apparently fled Portugal in 1828, following the rise to power of Miguel I, seemingly to avoid persecution of his liberal views. (See Vieira Pacheco & Fernandes art. Porto, p. 2.) He only returned to Portugal together with the change of regime in 1835 to Maria II. He then had a career as professor of singing at the conservatory and impresario in Portugal and Brazil.

We also have a reference to a composer in the manuscript P-Ln F.C.R. 217//3, the title page contains the words “Del célebre Maestro Trento” (see below). This matches an important composer indeed: Vittorio Trento. (I will later on argue why I believe all four manuscripts might be all composed by him.) Trento trained at the Conservatorio dei Mendicanti in Venice and at first achieved some success as composer of ballets. His efforts to establish himself as a composer of operas only reached moderate success. Besides activities as composer he also worked sometimes as maestro al cembalo or maestro concertatore. Though Trento didn’t achieve success on a large scale, hence ranking him only as a of secondary importance in his generation, he remains a moderately successful composer of large-scale works. (See also Lanza (2001).) This quality shows certainly in the manuscript we can ascribe with certainty – but also in the other three. Without any evidence to prove otherwise, I forward the motion that all four were likely composed by Trento. Trento is the only composer mentioned, and all four are written in a similar style and copied by one and the same copyist.

Important to note is that though Trento made several visits to Portugal, only one period coincides with Porto’s presence. The earliest visit (1809) is during the time when Porto was still in training and unlikely to have been active as copyist. Also, the library dates the manuscript at earliest to 1820. The next period is from 1821-3, when he acted as music director at the opera in Lisboa, and that is the only period I have so far noticed when both Trento and Porto where simultaneously in Portugal. Trento does return to Portugal later in his life, but Porto went into exile in 1828, and only returned after the death of Trento (Trento † 1834, Porto’s return is in 1835). Hence the most likely date of this and the other manuscripts is circa 1822.

Further to the evidence mentioned above, there is one other circumstantial factor which leads me to believe 1822 is the most likely date of copying the manuscripts. Before 1822, Porto was either in training or employed as a singer in the royal chapel. When he got back from Brazil in 1822, he was retired from his position at the royal chapel, and likely looking for means to supplement his small pension. It seems the most likely moment in his career to accept the task of copying manuscripts.

Let’s take a look at the first item, the sonata ‘L’Acampamento osia Le quattr’ore di Stazione’ (P-Ln F.C.R. 217//3, accessible online: The sonata is quite substantial, with 213 bars.

Title page of P-Ln F.C.R. 217//3, Vittorio Trento, “L’Acampamento osia Le quattr’ore di Stazione Sonata con Variazioni Per Mandolino e Piano Del célebre Maestro Trento Cópia da Porto”
  • Allegro Marziale (D major): 42 bars
  • Largo Affectuoso (A major): 35 bars
  • Thema (D major): 8+8 bars
  • Var 1 (D major): 8+8 bars
  • Var 2 (D major): 8+8 bars
  • Var 3 (D major): 8+8 bars
  • Var 4 (D major): 8+8 bars
  • 7 bar transition
  • La Partenza Allegro Marziale (D major): 49 bars (almost identical repeat of Allegro Marziale followed by finale passage)

The piece doesn’t use much in the way of mandolin-specific techniques, but neither does the composer write impossible things. There is a high level of technical proficiency required for the rapid scales and broken chords, and these are making it less likely this written for entertainment of an amateur. It might have been conceived for a professional player, but it is unclear who that might have been.

At the end of each section of the Trento/Porto manuscripts, I have shared my modern edition. Also included is an audio rendition from the notation software. To me, all four of the Trento/Porto pieces deserve a prominent place in the mandolin repertory and hopefully it will soon be possible to admire them on the stage.

2.8 [Vittorio Trento], Sonata con Variazioni Per Mandolino e Piano Forte (ca. 1822) (F.C.R. 546)

Title page of P-Ln F.C.R. 546, [Vittorio Trento], Sonata Con Variazioni Per Mandolino e Piano-Forte, Copiada por Porto

The second mandolin-keyboard sonata is copied by the same hand, Felizardo Porto, and as argued, likely also by Vittorio Trento (P-Ln F.C.R. 546, accessible online: This piece is the largest of the four Trento/Porto manuscripts with 233 bars and consists of three movements. The first movement follows a sonata-like form, a siciliana middle movement, and a variation sequence as its final part.

  • Allegro Moderato (C major): sonata form (reexpostion does not simply repeat the exposition but still exposes new material): 104 bars
  • Siciliana Largheto (a minor): 41 bars
  • Thema Andantino (C major): 8+8 bars
  • Var. 1: 8 + 8 bars
  • Var. 2: 8 + 8 bars
  • Var. 3: 8 + 8 bars
  • Var. 4: 8 + 15 bars (finale)

The variations are quite virtuoso in style though mandolin-specific techniques are again absent. One exception are tremolo-like repeated notes in variation 4. The overall high level of technical skill required to perform this piece in tempo gives again an impression of being written for a professional player.

UPDATE: Patrícia Raquel pointed out to me, that though listed under the name of the copyist, and with a slight misspelling, Anna Torge already recorded this sonata on her album “Mandolino e Fortepiano” with Gerald Hambitzer. Below you can find links to Spotify for this album.

Here is the modern edition:

2.9 [Vittorio Trento], Sonata Per Mandolino e Piano Forte Con Variazioni (ca. 1822) (F.C.R. 547)

Title page of P-Ln F.C.R. 547, [Vittorio Trento], Sonata Per Mandolino e Piano-Forte, Copiada por Porto

The third installment by Trento/Porto is again preserved in Lisboa (P-Ln F.CR. 547, accessible online: This piece is only a sonata in the broadest of terms – it consists of a short prelude followed by a variation sequence.

  • Preludio (G major): 8 bars
  • Tema Allegretto (G major): 8+8 bars
  • Var. 1: 8 + 8 bars
  • Var. 2: 8 + 8 bars
  • Var. 3: 8 + 8 bars
  • Var. 4: 8 + 8 bars + Finale (14 bars)

This piece is the shortest of the four with 104 bars and only one substantial movement, but the music comes closer to being idiomatic for mandolin. Generally the same level of technical skill is required for scales and broken chords. But there are also some places where the treatment is more fitting for a mandolin or coming close to using mandolin-specific techniques. In variations 3 and 4 there are some bars which could be seen as a from of arpeggio technique and in variations 1 and 4 some repeated notes as written out tremolo.

2.10 [Vittorio Trento], Sonata Per Mandolino e Piano Forte (ca. 1822) (F.C.R. 548)

Title page of P-Ln F.C.R. 548, [Vittorio Trento], Sonata Per Mandolino e Piano-Forte, Copiada por Porto

The fourth and final sonata by Trento/Porto is back to the usual size (223 bars). Besides a first movement in sonata-form, there is very large second and final movement, a Polka. This genre became extremely popular a few decades later on (from 1840 onwards), but occasionally the style and form were used prior to that. The movement by Trento has some trademark characteristics in its rhythmical treatment. The music often returns to a basic theme, essentially making it into a rondo-like movement.

  • Andantino (A major): 93 bars (proper reexposition)
  • Allegro Polaca (A major): 130 bars

This sonata has almost no idiomatic treatment fitting the mandolin, though it is certainly possible to play the music on a mandolin.

3. Mandolin prints

The area of mandolin(-related) prints is where my interest for Portuguese sources started. When I conducted my investigations, I found advertisements of some Portuguese prints. Only a few of the prints have been preserved, but I have also listed those currently lost which are know through secondary sources. I have used colours in the titles to help establish whether the sources are lost (red) or preserved (green).

3.1 João da Mata de Freitas, Sonata nova para o Mandolino (1793) [lost]

This interesting piece is advertised in GdL but I have so far not found a preserved copy. The composer is also an enigma, so far I have not yet found any information. There is a second item advertised by the same composer (3.2).

“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.”

GdL (2/3/1793, 2nd supplement, p. 4)

3.2 João da Mata de Freitas, Sonata de dous Mandolinos (1793) [lost]

There is an advertisement of another item by the same composer as the previous item (3.1). Important to note here is the dedication to Carlota Joaquina, which links these Portuguese prints of instrumental mandolin music to the royal court.

“Na Cidade do Porto , em casa de Trausehe e Companhia, Negociantes Alemães, na rua das Flores, se acha huma Sonata de dous Mandolinos para o uso de S. A. R. a Senhora D. Carlota Joaquina, Princeza do Brazil, composta por João da Mata de Freitas. Item, huma Peça nova para Cravo  intitulada as Azeitonas novas com variaçóes, composta sobre o pregáo d’huma vendedeira de Lisboa, por Pedro Anselmo Marchal. Tambem se acha alli huma boa Collecção de Musica dos melhores Authores, o Jornal de Modinhas da Real Fabrica; e Impressão de Musica de Lisboa, para o qual se póde subscrever em todo o tempo.”

GdL, 16/3/1793, 2nd supplement, p. 4.

3.3 Marcos António [Portugal], Perdoar com condições (1793)

Marcos António [Portugal], Perdoar com condições (P-Ln M.P.P. 46//28 A), p. 5.

This item is advertised in the GdL:

“Na Real Fabricana Impressão de Musica no largo de Jesus se continúa a assignatura para o Jornal de Modinhas; e fahírão á luz os Numeros 1., 2., 3. e 4.: o Numero 2 se intitula a Doce união de Amor; e o Numero 4, Perdoar com condições, ambas com acompanhamento separado de dous mandolinos, compostas pór Marcos Antonio. Quem quizer mandar abrir ou eslampar Musica, Mappas de Geografia, Cartas maritimas, ou outras quaesquer Estampas; pode fallar com o Mestre da dita Fabrica.”

GdL, 31/8/1793, 2nd supplement, p. 4.

The composer “Marco Antonio” is Marcos Antonio Portugal, an important opera composer, though this piece predates his rise to fame. The music is a small vocal piece where two mandolins are added for accompaniment. The print is preserved in Lisboa (P-Ln M.P.P. 46//28 A, accessible online at: t was also at one point part of one and the same collection with some other sources listed here, collected by Vieira (as were 2.3, 2.6 and 3.4).

This publication comes a year after when Portugal left his home country to start on his stellar career as opera composer. The very same year of the publication of Perdoar com condições, Portugal already shows his craft with the opera Le confusioni della somiglianza (Firenze 1793, libretto by Cosimo Mazzini).

This publication is part of the Jornal de Modinhas, a print series of small vocal pieces. Originally, this print series was a partnership of Pedro Anselmo Marchal (ca. 1758-1821) and Francisco Domingos Milcent (†1797). Milcent was in Portugal to establish a printing business, and Marchal had set up a shop selling music. They put together a joint venture to start publishing music which resulted in the Jornal de Modinhas (1792-1796). After a few years, Marchal is removed from the title page (sometimes visible on existing copies), and Milcent continues the Jornal de modinhas. Marchal also still published music in Lisboa, after obtaining a royal charter in 1794 (see also 3.5 & 3.6). He left Portugal around 1797 though. For all details about Marchal, Milcent and their partnership, see Albuquerque (Albuquerque (1996), p. x-xv).

Portugal contributed some 9 pieces in the Jornal de Modinhas. A detailed analysis of the piece with mandolin accompaniment (and others) can be found in a thesis about the modinhas by Portugal (de Castro Procópio, Flávia (2019), p. 91-95).

Though the focus of this blog is on Portuguese sources, I can’t avoid talking about Portugal’s other mandolin music. In that first opera which launched his international career as opera composer, Le confusioni della somiglianza, he employs the mandolin in the aria Che bel diletto, il vivere alla moda between Costanza, Cleante and Rosignolo. Alas, as so many mandolin arias of the 1780s and 1790s, this music is quite forgotten (except, of course, for Mozart’s Deh, vieni alla finestra from Don Giovanni).

Though not directly related to the matter at hand, I think it’s interesting to note that the libretto print in 1804 mentions Giovanni Francesco Giuliani, known for his music for mandolin, as maestro direttore:

Primo Violiao [sic], e Direttore de l’Orchestra
Sig. Francesco Giuliani, all’ attual Servizio di
S.M. la Regina d’Erturia.”

Le confusioni della somiglianza, o siano, I due gobbi, 1804, p. 4. (US-Wc ML48 [S8399], online accessible:

Besides the aria in Le confusioni, Portugal used the mandolin at least once more. In some manuscripts who contain collections of opera arias, a cavatina by Portugal features the mandolin (Con la dolcezza, see B-Bc (12426) and CH-Gc R 257 (Ms. 10138)). I haven’t yet managed to identify the exact opera by Portugal. At least the facts suggest that Marcos António Portugal not only made use of the mandolin in his Portuguese mondinha, but also continued to use the instrument during his career as opera composer.

3.4 António da Silva Leite, Dialogo jocoserio, ente huma pastora e Anfrizio (1795)

António da Silva Leite, Dialogo jocoserio, ente huma pastora e Anfrizio (P-Ln M.P.P. 119//13 V.), p. 5.

So far I have not yet found an advertisement in GdL, but there is another mandolin entry in the Jornal de Modinhas. The absence of an advertisement is also why I originally missed out on this piece. My thanks go to Ugo Orlandi who pointed me towards this source.

The author is António da Silva Leite. It is again a small vocal piece with mandolin accompaniment (two mandolins). The item is preserved (P-Ln M.P.P. 119//13 V.) This item is also available online: It was also at one point part of one and the same collection with some other sources listed here, collected by Vieira (as were 2.3, 2.6 and 3.3).

António da Silva Leite (1759-1833) is also known for a number of publications for (Portuguese) guitar (for example, Estudo de Guitarra, Porto, 1796, a tutor for the Portuguese guitar) besides activities as organist, composer of religious works and also a few operas. Besides the currently mentioned modinha with mandolin accompaniment, he also published another six items in the Jornal de Modinhas. For more information about him and his music, check De Paula, art. LEITE.

3.5 Pedro Anselmo Marchal, Variações de Marlborough para Mandolino ou Flauta, com acompanhanmento de Violino e Basso (1794) [lost]

“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.”

GdL, 1/11/1794, 2nd supplement, p. 2.

This item is not preserved. Marchal seems to have also published a piano version of the same. This print seems to also have perished, alas, but there is a Portuguese manuscript which might be a copy. Without enough proof to link it to Marchal for sure, it’s no more than a possibility. The Marlborough theme and variations on it was quite a fashion in the 18th century, so the manuscript might also simply be a copy of another version. The manuscript is preserved in Lisboa (P-Ln F.C.R. Co., accessible online:

3.6 Pedro Anselmo Marchal, Duetto (1794) [lost]

There is yet one other item published by Marchal, which also wasn’t preserved. It is an interesting item, so it is regrettable we don’t have a copy. This time we even have two advertisements:

“Duetto a dous Mandolinos, ou Violinos, tirado das obras de Pleyel, e huma Aria intitulada Amor Timido, com acompanhamento de Viola, ou Cravo, composta por José Forlivesi; e a Moda nova de Hei de amar, com acampanhamento de Viola, e Cravo, do mesmo Author : achão-se em casa de Pedro Anselmo Marchal, no largo de Jesus”.

GdL, 27/9/1794, 2nd supplement, p. 2.

Sahírão a luz: A segadilha da Cousa Rara com acompanhamento de Cravo, e a mesma com variações para Piano-forte, compotas por Pedro Anselmo Marchal – Hum dueto para dous Mandolinos ou Violinos, tirado das Obras de Pleyel – Huma Aria, intitulada Amor Timido, com acompanhamento de Viola, ou Cravo, composapor José Forlivesi – As Modas novas, Hei de amar, com acompanhamento de Viola e Cravo, do mesmo Author: Es Ingrata por costume, composta por Venancio Aloisi: Corra va-se embóra, composta por Manoel Telles – Como tambem seis Rondós para Cravo com acompanhamento de Flauta, compostos por Pedro Anselmo Marchal: vendem-se as ditas obras na Real Impressão de Musica no largo de Jesus.”

CME, 14/10/1794, nr. 41, p. 328.

4. Musicians

Alas, there are not much Portuguese sources which list mandolin players. In lots of other cities, late 18th-century mandolin professionals employed techniques like advertising concerts, publications and as a teacher. So far I have only been able to trace few such occurrences in Portugal.

4.1 Girolamo Nonnini

UPDATE: Thanks to Ugo Orlandi, I have now traced another mandolin player in Lisbon. He shared the insight that Nonnini was active in Portugal, and sure enough, I have even found an advertisement of a concert.

Hoje y do corrente mez se a de fazer hum concerto vocal e instrumental na Casa da Assemblea nova om beneficio das amigas Administradoras da Casa da Assemblea da Nações, no qual cantaraõ A. Férracuti, L. Bertucci, e D. Caporalini: e tocaráõa solo X. Pietragrua no rebecão, e J. Nonnini no mandolino.”

GdL 1794, nr. 53 (3/1/1794), p. 6.

I have also found some literature confirming Nonnini was active at the Portuguese royal court orchestra as violin player from 1773-1795 (see de Brito & Cymbron (2008), p. 465). Nonnini might well be part of the reason there was a sudden interest in the mandolin at the Portuguese royal court. Nonnini had a leave of absence during 1783-1787, during which he travelled to Naples, Paris, London (likely the occasion for the publication of his Six Italian Canzonets), Trieste and Madrid, afterwards returning to Lisboa.

Besides the usual traces in royal archives about payments (listed under the name “Jeronimo Nonnini”), Nonnini also shows up for less honourable reasons (being arrested in 1775 for fighting with his colleague Francisco Xavier de Figueiredo, and he was put in jail for some time in 1776). As mentioned above, it’s quite a coincidence that the first mandolin source (the Davide Perez variations) were created in the very year Nonnini started playing violin in the court orchestra.

4.2 Caetano de Cola

This is rather obscure – so far I have not found any further information about Caetano de Cola.

Caetano de Cola, Professor de Guitarra Franceza e Mandolino se propõe a dar lições: assiste na travessa das Mercês N.° 32.

GdL 1820, nr. 41, p. 4.

5 Written sources

5.1 Rodrigo Ferreira da Costa, Principios de musica, ou Exposição methodica das doutrinas da sua composição e execução (1820)

This source is a print by Rodrigo Ferreira da Costa (1776-1825), a lawyer and mathematician who also published a music tutor in two volumes (1820-1824). In the course of this theoretical treatise, he mentions the mandolin twice:

6. Practica-se a Musica nos instrumentos de diversa grandeza e  construcção, que o Engenho humano no decurso dos seculos tem inventado e aperfeiçoado. Distinguimos quatro classes de instrumentos musicos. I.a A dos polycordes, que comprehende duas ordens: os de tecla, como Orgão, Piano-forte, Cravo, &c.: e os ungulares, como Harpa, Psalterio, &c. II.a A dos instrumentos de braço, que tambem abraça duas ordens: os de arco, como Rebeça, Violeta, Rebecão pequeno e grande: e os ungulares, como Viola, Guitarra, Mandolino. III.a A dos instrumentos de sopro, que igualmente tem duas ordens: os digitaes, como Flauta, Clarineta, Oboé, Corne, Fagote, Serpentão, &c.: e os labiaes, como Clarim, Trompa, Trombão, &c. IV. a A dos instrumentos de percussão e estrondo, como Tambor, Tymbales, Pratos, Campainhas, &c. A Voz humana he o instrumento do canto loquaz e da declamação, o mais natural, antigo e geral, e um dos difficeis na afinação (II).

Rodrigo Ferreira da Costa, Principios de musica, p. 47.

149. Destinárão-se determinadas claves para as musicas das diversas vozes e instrumentos, segundo a elevação dos seus sons no teclado geral. A clave de G (a mais aguda) pertence aos instrumentos agudos, como Rebeca, Mandolino, Flauta, Oboé, Flautim, Clarim, e modernamente á voz de Tiple.

Rodrigo Ferreira da Costa, Principios de musica, p. 141.

5.2 Obras poeticas de D. Leonor d’Almeida Portugal Lorena e Lencastre, marqueza d’Alorna, condessa d’Assumar, e d’Oeynhausen, conhecida entre os poetas portuguezes pelo nome de Alcipe (1844)

This is a posthumous print of works by Leonor d’Almeida Portugal Lorena e Lencastre (1750-1839). The mandolin is mentioned once:

Segundo Levita.

Vós, tocadores famosos
Da guitarra e mandolino;
Vós, peritos no violino,
Vinde á festa figurar:
Com rusticos instrumentos
Atroai os arredores;
Vinde do campo, ó Pastores,
Vinde o prazer augmentar.

Obras poeticas de D. Leonor d’Almeida Portugal Lorena e Lencastre, p. 508-509.

6. Conclusions

Only a few decades ago, mandolin history and Portugal didn’t seem a great match. In the meantime, several sources have turned up which seem to suggest the Portuguese royal family not only were patrons to the mandolin but likely played the instrument as well. The peak of interest seems to be around 1770-1790. Musical sources in manuscript are supplemented by a number of other types of sources – like local mandolin production, an advertisement of a mandolin teacher, as well as references in a theoretical music treatise and in a poem. The musical sources also start to include prints as of the 1790s, reflecting an even more mature interest in the mandolin. Even after the turbulences of the Napoleonic wars, the mandolin still shows up in Portugal, with the highlight of four excellent mandolin-keyboard sonatas (likely composed) by Vittorio Trento around 1822. I hope that this article will help forward the investigations into early Portuguese mandolin history and spreading the knowledge mandolin scholars gained in the past decades.

7. Bibliography

  • Albuquerque, João Durães, Jornal de Modinhas, Ediçao Facsimilada, Lisboa, 1996.
  • de Brito, Manuel Carlos & Cymbron, Luísa (2008), Opera Orchestras in the 18th and 19th Centuries in Lisbon and Oporto, in The Opera Orchestra in 18th- and 19th- Century Europe, I: The Orchestra in Society, vol. 2, Berlin, 2008, p. 441-475.
  • Cranmer, David (2011), David Perez. Variazioni Per Mandolino. Edição Fac-similada e CD (Edições Musicais do CESEM, 2), Lisboa.
  • de Castro Procópio, Flávia, As modinhas de Marcos Portugal publicadas entre 1792 e 1801: Fundamentos para a interpretação com base na análise retórico-musical, figuras de linguagem, schematas e tópicas, unpublished master’s degree thesis, Manaus, 2019.
  • De Paula, Rodrigo T., art. LEITE, António da Silva, online at (last referenced at 27/04/2021).
  • Dottori, Mauricio & Jackson, Paul J. (2001) art. Perez, David, online through at (last referenced at 27/04/2021).
  • Lanza, Andrea (2001): art. Trento, Vittorio, online through at (last referenced at 27/04/2021).
  • Van Tichelen, Pieter (2020): art. Tolerance between instrumental repertories or commercial tricks? Mandolin-related prints until the early 19th century, in Phoibos, nr. 18, p. 153-214.
  • Vieira Pacheco, Alberto José & Fernandes, Cristina, art. PORTO, António Felizardo, online at (last referenced at 27/04/2021).
  • Vieira Pacheco, Alberto José & Fernandes, Cristina, art. TOTTI, Giuseppe di Foiano, online at (last referenced at 27/04/2021).

8 Abbreviations

8.1 Library sigla

  • P-Ln: Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal, Lisboa
  • P-La: Biblioteca do Palácio Nacional da Ajuda, Lisboa
  • B-Bc: Conservatoire royal de Bruxelles, Bibliothèque – Koninklijk Conservatorium Brussel, Bibliotheek, Bruxelles; Brussel
  • CH-Gc: Conservatoire de Musique, Bibliothèque, Genève
  • US-Wc: The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

8.2 Journals consulted

  • GdL: Gazeta de Lisboa
  • CME: Correio mercantil e economico de Portugal


A huge thank you to the Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal in Lisboa. Their immediate and heartfelt approval of my editions of the Tratentimenti and Trento/Porto manuscripts were quite motivating. Their support towards the Public Sector Information Directive also means a lot of their invaluable sources are available online which made my research a lot easier.

As ever, my thanks go towards my wife Kathelijn Van Oers and children Jonathan Van Tichelen and Nicolas Van Tichelen, who have to bear with me during long periods of research and writing articles.

Special thanks to Ugo Orlandi for pointing out the Silva da Leite print and his support and dialogue about some of the other sources.