F. V. Gelli’s Marcia, Andante sostenuto & Rondo for mandolin(s) and guitar(s) in La Lyre d’Orphée (Vienna, 1811)

My latest discovery are Marcia, Andante sostenuto and Rondo for trio of mandolin(s) and guitar(s). The pieces were written by F. V. Gelli, a known author of music for guitar, and though in a slightly old-fashioned style, fitting salon music of early 19th-century Vienna.


The music has been preserved in at least two libraries. The first library, where I originally spotted the item, is the Národní Muzeum in Prague (shelfmark Kinsky P 138). I have since also seen it at the library of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna (shelfmark VI 15244 /1 (Q 6586)). Covid-19 meant I had to postpone my research into this item for 2 years. But all’s well that ends well.

Context of the print

In the late 18th century, vocal music was still considered to be more important, and most concerts had performances of both vocal and instrumental pieces. Often, instrumental music also still links to vocal music. For example, variation sequences were often based on a vocal theme, and there are plenty of mandolin arias in operas from the 1780s and 1790s. Many of the mandolin virtuosi in the late 18th and early 19th century performed in theatres that were mainly playing operas, sometimes playing in between the acts. Another interesting point is that Gabriele Leone published a cantata, and a small song by his hand has also survived. He also famously had a go at becoming an opera impresario working for Felice Giardini. Some of the mandolin players such as Gervasio and Vimercati were married to singers. This helps to explain why vocal music was found together with instrumental music in La Lyre d’Orphée.

In the early decades of the 19th century, the parlour guitar became very popular in Vienna. Thousands of guitar volumes were printed. The mandolin followed in its wake. The mandolin-guitar duet is most often found in the mandolin prints in Vienna and Leipzig in the 1800s and 1810s. Most common are variations (Zucconi, Bortolazzi, von Call, Aichelbourg), one is a potpourri (a suite of several popular themes, Aichelbourg’s op. 1). Another type of print often found in guitar prints are inspired by country dances such as the waltz or ländler. This only survives in the print of Bortolazzi in London (arranged for keyboard, XII Favorite Waltzes & Trios For the Piano Forte As Performed by the Author on the Mandolino).

Less found are sonatas, such as von Call’s op. 108, and the notturno, such as Aichelbourg’s op. 3. There are also a few keyboard sonatas, already seen in the prints in Florence in the 1790s (Panerai, Bolaffi) and Beethoven’s pieces as well as a few prints (Bortolazzi, Hummel, Neuling).

The periodical

The mandolin and guitar music is part of a series published by “J. G. Liverati” and “F. V. Gelli” as announced on the title page. The mandolin music is found in number 2 from the series, plate number 694 (printed at the Bureau d’Industrie in Vienna). Each part of the series has the same title page but has the volume number filled in by hand:

La Lyre d’Orphée, vol. 2, Prague, Národní Muzeum, shelfmark Kinsky P 138, p. 17r. Image licensed by the Národní Muzeum.

The series can be dated by an advert from 1811 in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung:

La Lyre d’Orphée, Ouvrage périodique contenant de la musique vocale et des pieces pour la Guitarre accomp. de Pianof. par Liverati N° 1. 2. 1 Thlr.

Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, 12/06/1811, nr. 24, p. 28

Based on the copper plates, it seems that the series had 8 items (or at least had 8 volumes planned). I have only been able to look at issues 1-4, but I think none of the other volumes had mandolin music, and at least the other volumes gave me a good idea of the rest of the series.

Giovani Liverati, image licensed through Alamy.

Giuseppe Liverati (1772-1846) was a singer, composer and vocal teacher originally from and taught in Bologna. After a period in Spain and a stay in Potsdam, Liverati became chapel master in Prague in 1799. He likely stayed in Vienna from 1805 until 1814 before moving to London, and was mainly active as vocal teacher though he also managed to stage some operas.

The print series title (see above) mentions that the ‘score of the vocal music is available through the author, Mr. Liverati, Kloster Gasse N.° 1119’. Though not mentioned, it should be assumed that Gelli also distributed some issues. This might have been complete volumes, but possibly also only the guitar music. Interestingly enough, the Kinsky collection in CZ-Pn I accessed had two versions of issue number 1, and the sequence of the two vocal pieces in the volume is not the same. This seems to suggest that before begin bound together, the pieces could be separated. Whether this was intended or not, it seems likely that both Liverati and Gelli sold a number of copies during their activities as music teachers in Vienna.

As mentioned on the title page, the instrumental music for guitar is by “F. V. Gelli”. This person was active in Vienna as guitar teacher and publisher of quite a number of guitar prints. He published several sets of variations for guitar and a number of guitar duets including some “suonatine notturne” for two guitars, as well as divertissements for flute or violin and guitar, and a serenade for violin and guitar. More impressive is that he also published a guitar method, the Neue gründliche, theoretisch-pracktische Guitarre Schule op. 3. Most of his music was published by Cappi in Vienna, and while most items are preserved in the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, some items are also in the Národní Muzeum).


The vocal music is always printed as a score for the vocal part(s) and keyboard. The instrumental music is printed as separate parts, though there are cases of guitar solo music as well.

The volume containing the mandolin music is structured as follows:

  • Unnumbered title page (see above) p. 17 r&v (blanc) – number 2 from the Lyre d’Orphée series
  • Vocal music
    • Scêne de l’Opéra Enea in Cartagine par J. Liverati: p. 18r-21v (Recitativo, Aria (Ombra irata che m’erri d’intorno)
  • Instrumental music
    • Violino o Mandolino Imo: Marcia Allegretto, Andante Sostenuto, Rondo Allegretto p. 22r-v
    • Mandolino 2do o Chitarra 1ma: Marcia Allegretto, Andante Sostenuto, Rondo Allegretto p. 23r-v
    • Chitarra 2da: Marcia Allegretto, Andante Sostenuto, Rondo Allegretto p. 24r-v
  • Blanc pages (p. 25r-v)

The engraving is quite well-made and I have only found minor problems, no real mistakes, making the publication of quite high quality. The parts have some dynamic signs.

The first part looks like it was mainly conceived for mandolin rather than violin. It is certainly possible to play the music on a violin, but the writing is likely not idiomatic for violin. There are a few cases where the music is technically easier to perform on a mandolin, besides the fact that there are no long notes (or even any bow articulation).

F. V. Gelli, first page of the violin/mandolin part, La Lyre d’Orphée, vol. 2, Prague, Národní Muzeum, shelfmark Kinsky P 138, p. 22r. Image licensed by the Národní Muzeum.

The second part puts us for a bit of a puzzle: was this really meant for mandolin or was it written for guitar? There are a few chords and broken chords in the music which seem to suggest the guitar (see below), and a position marking in the Rondo also seems to reinforce this point. However, the music itself seems not be conceived with the guitar in mind as there are almost no places where the writing turns to idiomatic styles of guitar playing. Rather, it seems this was effectively written with both instruments in mind. With only leaving out a few notes on chords (and not even that often), it is possible to play this on a second mandolin. It is of course also possible to play it on guitar. I have made a list of all the cases where the writing is more suitable to guitar than mandolin:

  • At the end of the first phrase of the Marcia, there is a chord which is impossible on the mandolin but an easy chord on a guitar. However, by leaving out one note, it becomes quite easy to play this chord on a mandolin, and I don’t find this a blocking issue.
  • Some of the broken chords in the minore part of the Marcia and in the Andante make slightly more sense on a guitar than a mandolin. They are playable on mandolin though.
  • During the solo part of the Rondo, the composer uses a low e, but it is also present as a high e (open string) so just leaving out the bass note would not really make a huge difference.

The second guitar part has plenty of typical guitar chords and arpeggio techniques. The composer clearly was an able guitar player and composer and used this to a good effect in this third part.

As both the guitar and mandolin are a possibility for part 2, and the author clearly meant it that way, it is a matter of preference to choose how to play this trio music. Two mandolins and a guitar come closer to the galant style music of the late 18th century. An ensemble of a mandolin and two guitars also works quite well.

The music is unassuming entertainment, typical for the salons in Vienna in the early 19th century. Gelli’s style has some traits which feel a bit old-fashioned, and interestingly, Liverati also wrote in a somewhat older style. The form of the Marcia and Andante is an A-B-A, commonly encountered for such short movements as an alternative for the more elaborate forms such as a sonata. The rondo follows a proper rondo pattern.

All in all, this find is another treat: trios for two mandolin and guitar or mandolin and two guitars by an Italian guitar composer active in Vienna in the era of the parlour guitar. I am quite sure people will cherish the new arrival in our repertoire. As usual I have taken the time to provide a modern edition of the pieces and have included them in this blog post. I’ve included an export of the audio from my music editor software to give an impression of the music.


I’d like to express my thanks to Michal Lukeš and Adam Petrásek of the Národní Muzeum, Prague for supporting my research. I am also grateful for their permission to publish this article and the edition as well as providing me with a license to use two images from the original in their library.