Follow-up: Variations by Gabriele Leone

Apparently my blog about the variations by Gabriele Leone seems to have triggered some readers to request the items from the library. Normally, that’s not a big problem, but of course it can flood the library staff and we’re dealing with a fragile item as well. To offload their staff and preserve the volume’s integrity the library has requested me to share the scanned images from the volume I received so far.

Down below you can find a download link to get the scans as one PDF. Please note though that this consists of pages of the different items in the volume:

  • Title and dedication page of Leone’s Method
  • Title and first page of first sonata of the Leone Sonata set
  • Title and dedication page of the volume containing the Barbella violin sonatas edited by Leone and the variation sequence
  • First sonata by Barbella edited by Leone
  • Full variation sequence by Leone
UCSB Cage MT608.L4.M4.pdf 24 MB

My special thanks to the library staff at the Music Library of the University of California, Santa Barbara, for giving me the opportunity to share.

Please note that I’ve undertaken efforts to consult the remaining Barbella sonatas. As soon as I get my hands on the full set, I will of course publish about them on this blog.

Variations by Gabriele Leone


My mandolin history research is focused mainly on prints before 1850.  (See earlier blog post about my reasons.) I have collected a huge list of mandolin prints and many of these are now at my disposal. Only about a dozen or so items remain to be pursued. One outstanding item was a volume kept in the Music Library of the University of California, Santa Barbara (Call number Music Library, Cage MT608.L4.M4).

I became first aware of this volume in 2017 whilst listing all the known copies of Gabriele Leone’s prints and found out some volume by Leone was listed in their catalogue. However, both due to the state of the volume and for personal reasons I wasn’t able to continue the investigation until 2018. Unfortunately, due to the state of the volume it couldn’t be referenced in full. However, the staff at the library were able to help me a lot. I now have identified the contents of the volume and have been able to access some interesting contents.

Items in the library

All items in the volume are of the same format (35,5 cm x 25,5 cm) and the engraving plates are also all of the same size (26 cm x 19,5 cm). These are pretty much the standard sizes of the Paris prints the 1760s.

The first part of the convolute-like print volume is the well-known Methode by Leone. This volume dates to 1768 and it’s the well-known and most spread version (Montatui). (NB: these dates are based on advertisements which were made and can be dated exactly.) Several facsimile editions exist and it can even be found on IMSLP nowadays (currently available in two versions, from the libraries in Karlruhe and München, both the same edition as the item in Santa Barbara).

A next big item is a bundle of sonatas by Leone which was published in 1767. This edition is well-known as there are a lot of modern editions drawn from it. It is interesting because there was only one other preserved copy (in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris). I don’t think I will need to go into too much detail about these two prints as they are known and can be retrieved in modern or facsimile versions.

The third big part of the volume is the item which drew my attention most.  It is a volume of Barbella sonatas edited by Leone. It matches advertisements made in the Annonces, affiches et avis divers (Paris) and Affiches de Lyon and in the Mercure de France in 1768. (This corresponds to the date in the dedication.) As there is a surviving copy of a London print of violin duets edited by Leone I previously presumed this volume might be the same. However, it seems that the music is different and that the duets were indeed meant as violin duets and the sonatas are a different set for violin and bass.

The sonata I have been able to look at seems to be for violin but can be played on mandolin (could have been adapted by Leone to fit the mandolin better). The title page and advertisements are a bit unclear in this respect but they seem to suggest that the sonatas are also suitable for mandolin. I’ll reproduce the title page here:

A Violon Et Basse
Del Sig.r

Avec un Sujet Varié En XXIV Manieres
Utile pour les amateurs de la Mandoline
Composés et Dedié
A Monsieur le Comte de Neipperg
Chambellan Conseiller d’Etat intime actuel de leurs Maj.tes
Imp:les Et Roy:les Apostque Et Leurs Ministre Plenipotentiaire
Aux differentes Cours et Cercles de l’Empire

Maitre de Musique de S.A.S. Monseigneur Le
Duc de Chartres Prince du Sang.

Prix 9lt

A PARIS Gravés par Vendôme rue S.Honoré vis a vis S.t Honoré
Chez L’editeur Et aux adresses ordinaire


There is also a dedication page which is interesting for more than one reason:

Eccelentissimo Signore

La Virtude, il Valor, lo Zelo, il Sangue sono assai possenti
prerogative, che nell’ E. V. si ritrovano, ma quella di esser
famoso dilletante, et Prottetore della Musica mi fece in Napoli
meritare il di Lei valevole Patrocinio Mi lusingo pereio non
voglia sdegnare che quest’Operetta port’ in fronte l’Eccelso
Nome dell’ E. V. e gradirne lo scherzo di pennate che ò
inserito alla fine, come picciol ricordo dell’Eterna memoria, che
sempre, e da per tutto conserva colui che si dice

Dell’ Eccellenza Vóstra ed Servo
Gabriele Leone.

Parigi li 11. di Agosto 1768.

It is certainly a surprise to have this dedication, because it is the first French source which confirms the first name of Leone. Theories about the first name of Leone have been favouring Gabriele for years, as opposed to the first name of “Pietro” offered without explanations in the Minkoff reprints of mandolin methods. Some British sources do contain the first name of Gabriele (such as the London print of Barbella violin duets) so it was already an established hypotheses that the French and British Leone were the same and his first name hence Gabriele. At least we can now lay to rest the discussion about Leone’s first name and conclude with certainty that the person printing in Paris and London is one and the same.

The second point of interest regarding this dedication is the hint that Leone received some kind of patronage from his dedicatee and this might have even been when in Naples. It should therefor be a worthwhile research point to see whether the count of Neipperg was in Naples around this time and if any Italian sources can bear this out. It might mean we can finally also get a further grasp on the Italian origin of Gabriele Leone.

The Barbella sonatas are not the main object of this blog post. I plan to visit the library and study them further and in detail. Due to the condition of the volume, the location of preservation and some personal circumstances this might yet take some while. From what I have seen the sonatas are likely for violin. They might have been adapted to fit mandolin though. What I have seen is suitable to be played on mandolin and that is rare in unarranged violin sonatas. At the moment I have not found a match for other preserved violin sonatas by Barbella. (It would be great to compare the Leone edition to other sources so we can see if he altered them or not.) Some blog post can be expected later with details about the Barbella sonatas once the research about them has concluded.

The main item of this blog post is of course the set of variations by Leone himself as announced on the title page of the Barbella sonatas. This set of variations was also found in the volume at Santa Barbara. Actually there are two copies of them: there is also a copy at the end of the Methode. As the set of variations is a detachable set of 8 pages it makes commercial sense to also sell the variations separately or as an annex to other volumes than the Barbella sonatas.

La Pierre de Touche

The variation set announced in the title page is a separate volume of its own account of 8 pages, with blank pages on page 1 & 8. No title page or dedication is offered. But in the current context it is of course clear that this is offered by the title and dedication of the Barbella set. It’s also not uncommon to find that later editions of music use a different title page or exchange the dedication with a catalogue of music by the printer. It may be that the blank pages were also kept blank as an opportunity to later on still print on them (title page or catalogue) but that seems unlikely. Most likely the pages were simply kept blank so musicians could have music on adjacent pages as much as possible.

Indeed, the variations themselves declare to be in three parts (“en trois parties”). The theme of the variations is called La Pierre de Touche. So far I have not found a match for this in the contemporary Paris music scene. It is most likely taken from either an opera or well-known song or traditional. The three parts of the variations seem to be to distinct the pagination:

p. 1: blank
p. 2-3 (adjacent): Theme + variations I-IX
p. 4-5 (adjacent): Theme + variations X-XVI
p. 6-7 (adjacent): Theme + variations XVII-XXIV
p. 8: blank

The fact that the theme is repeated on each part is most likely due to the accompaniment which is only provided on the theme (but can be played with all variations). There is a part in bass clef without figuration. Very interesting though is that this part includes the plectrum signs of Leone’s method. Though a full continuo is possible it seems these plectrum signs could suggest to play the accompaniment on mandolin. (Sources for lower tuned mandolins such as the mandolone are usually later than 1768, so I would rule these out for now.) We already have some other proof which suggests a bass part in sonatas is not (always) played by a cello, harpsichord or similar on the expected pitch. (Cfr. see the Verdone brother’s edition of Barbella triosonatas where they explicitly tell to play the bass on an alto.) Though we should not jump to conclusions and now play all mandolin sonatas with a second mandolin, it seems certainly possible for this case. The range doesn’t go below the g so it won’t even require too much transposing in octaves.

The mandolin part is quite detailed in annotations – it includes fingering, plectrum signs and occasionally dynamic signs. Stated at the beginning of the score the plectrum signs should be taken from Leone’s Methode. (“Suivant les regles de la Methode de L’Autheur”) This also corroborates further that Leone was the composer of the variation sequence.

The theme and variations have a very simple structure. All are in a 4/4 metre (written as “C” throughout all theme and variations at the start of each). All are in C major, with a small jump to G major in the second part. There are no variations with harmonic changes, so all remains well in C major and G major. The structure is as follows:

C 1/4+1 full bar+3/4:||:1/4+1 full bar + 3/4||

Mostly there are also segno signs which seem to suggest to play bars 1-2 again after playing bars 3-4. This makes sense as it would return to C major. It is also a  sonata form in miniature if played like this. So even though the segno signs seem to be ommitted sometimes, I take this as an engraver’s error and would suggest to play all variations the same:

Bars 1-2 with repeat, bars 3-4, bars 1-2.

There is one exception: Var. XV where the second part has a repeat sign (the a la Lolli part, see below). I would suggest this is indeed meant to be repeated more than usual (maybe one time clean and second time with the grace notes?).

The fact that the theme is repeated at the head of each “partie” might also mean you can play the variations as a rondo but I don’t think this is the case. I would expect clearer marks to this extent and I believe it’s simply there for the convenience of the accompanying part.

Fingering: almost all the variations remain well in the first position. The fingering is only indicated when a finger would be deviate from its normal position on the fingerboard.

First position with fingers on different places: Theme, Var. I, II, V, , VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII
4th finger explicit (to avoid open string): Var. XIII
Extended 4th (while remaining in first position): Var. IV
Temporary second position: Var. II, VIII (not indicated), XV, XX (not indicated), XXI (not indicated), Var. XXII, Var. XXIII
Temporary third position: Var. XXII

Likely accents: Var. VI (accents on each quaver?), XVIII, XIX, XXIII
Likely to point to keep basses soft: Var. XI

Plectrum strokes:
Plectrum signs are added where the musician might otherwise be confused or cannot use the default techniques mentioned in the Methode. I won’t enter into a detailed explanation of each variation, the Urtext edition as well as the modern edition have Leone’s indications.

Exceptional techniques:

  • There is one variation which makes use of the technique of more than one note on a string (clearly indicated): Var. XI.
  • One variation marks to use the third finger to pull at the string (“l’on tire la corde avec le 3e doigt pour faire resonner le Sol”): Var. XVI
  • One variation mentions “a la Lolli”. Antonio Lolli was a well-known virtuose on violin who is known to have played in the Concert spirituel in the years before this publication. Likely this variation should in some way reflect Lolli’s manner of playing but it’s unclear from this print or Lolli violin method what is meant exactly. The place itself simply contains normal grace notes. It it the only place where the second part of the variation has repeat marks. I would currently suggest to play this second part of the variation first clean, and then use the grace notes.

And of course the variation sequence uses all kinds of arpeggio’s or arpeggio-like techniques. One variation (XXIV) refers to the Methode to pick an arpeggio to play it (“arpegio ad libitum Suivant le Magazin de la Methode”). This variation only contains three-note chords and is hence very suited to creatively try out  the many types of arpeggios possible.

There are lots of missing accidentals in the print. Mainly the fis is missing in the G major part. However, as they are written explicitly in many places, and this harmony makes most sense it seems this an engraver’s error. The Urtext edition lists all added accidentals with round brackets in the score. Not a real error but not correct according to today’s conventions: sometimes an accidental is not put on a note on a different octave later on in a bar. These were also marked with round brackets. There are also cases of missing natural signs, usually when a grace note had an accidental. Such naturals are also marked with round brackets. There are other problems, usually what you could assume engraving mistakes, such as some missing notes or note groups. (These are easily guessed from the context and added in on the Urtext and modern editions, with clear markings on the Urtext edition.)

A variation sequence is a genre where a musician shows off his level of virtuosity and that certainly is the case here. There is one further item of note: Gabriele Leone played several times at the Concert spirituel in the years leading up to this print. Though we have to find proof it wouldn’t surprise me that this set of variations might have been played at one of these occasions. It makes sense to publish a favoured set of variations not too long after they were a hit at a concert.

In conclusion, the variations seem to hold a wealth of information for historical mandolin performance practice as well as being an interesting example of virtuoso repertory for mandolin from 1768. No doubt both fellow researchers and fellow mandolin players would like to study and play the music. Hence I have judged it a priority to make these available and I have made an Urtext edition as well as a modern edition to cover for different audiences. One of the many advantages of this digital edition and distribution is that I can still update if I would find further editorial errors. So you might need to revisit this page to get the latest version of the edition.

Both of these are available for free from download link below:

If you find my research or these editions worthwhile, please consider donating to support me. It costs a lot of time, money and effort to pursue research and/or create editions. Also take a minute to think about what you would have paid if you would have had to order an article from a magazine about this topic and/or a regular published edition of music. You can find a donate button in the sidebar (except for the home page) or in the footer of pages on this website.

Update: as the library has received requests to access the item, they have asked me to publish the scans I received. See newer blog post to download these.

Quartetto by Giuseppe Totti

As part of my ongoing research project mainly focused on retrieving the known mandolin prints from the 18th century (almost finished by the way), I occasionally stumble upon manuscripts as well. Though these are not the focus point of my current research there are occasions were I cannot resist indulging into a little side project.

I also went through the Portuguese national library, and one manuscript caught my eye almost at once. My interest was soaring because of the particular ensemble (quartet of two mandolins and two guitars) as well as the composer: Giuseppe Totti, one of the music masters of royal court.

Giuseppe Totti

Though there is certainly a case for further research into this composer, some elementary studies provide information about Giuseppe Totti. Some first sources from Rome in 1777 list him as a singer, and some other sources put it that he was a castrato. When around 1777 some singers from the Portugese royal court went away or on pension, there were some vacancies for singers. Totti’s name shows up in the archives for an audition and was accepted in 1780.

The position of singer at the royal was combined with some functions as singer (in some cloisters, royal theaters and the royal chamber). Though we get good reviews about his qualities as a singer, one source mentions that he sometimes suffered from (health?) issues from which his voice also suffered. Hence it is not surprising that Giuseppe Totti looked for alternative musical functions. He was likely trained in composition by those famous composer from the royal court, like David Perez and Joao Sousa de Carvalho.

In the end, he reached the position of master of the royal chapel himself. He left compositions in different genres: quite a lot are vocal music (mainly religious). Some of the profane vocal music is accompanied by guitar, which seems to suggest that he had some affinity with plucked string instruments (maybe played guitar to accompany singers).

Mandolin at the Portuguese royal court

We already know for year that David Perez wrote a variation sequence of 128 variations on a theme, dedicated to the royal princesses. This piece was most likely a study meant for their music / mandolin tuition. This manuscript is also preserved in the Portuguese national library and a facsimile edition is available from Colibri.

David Perez both held the title of master of the royal chapel as well as teacher to the royal children. Hence he is a direct predecessor to Giuseppe Totti, who also achieved both titles later on. The quartet seems to suggest that mandolin tuition or playing of these instruments at the royal court held on in the 1790s. At the very least the music was meant for the royal court, but with the clear link to mandolin tuition, it’s even possible it was played by members of the royal family.

The Quartetto by Giuseppe Totti

Though it’s only a short piece it shows affinity with plucked string instruments as well as a very good education in composition. Both Neapolitan and Viennese influences can be found in the composition and it’s very much in line with the fashion of it’s day (composition has a date of “1793” written in a different hand).

The ensemble is made up by two mandolins and two guitars, though the part of the first guitar says ‘guitar or viola’. Though Totti used guitar in some other vocal works, he never used two guitars, and maybe had difficulty to find a second guitar player. The third part is quite possible with viola, but the chords and plucked string feel of the composition make it slightly less favourable.

There are only two movements, a rather stately Allegro with interesting orchestration. This is not a composition with two main melody instrument and accompaniment, the guitar parts are in effect used in interesting ways. The Allegro is a typical sonata form. There are also some nice interactions between the parts and some driving rhythms which make the piece pleasing to the ear.

The second movement is a Rondo. Here the first mandolin takes the lead and the other parts are usually accompaniment (true to the normal music form of a rondo), but in some cases (mainly in the alternation themes to the rondo theme) their roles becomes a but more substantial. Again a composition very much in the style very fashionable at the end of the 18th century – a Rondo is quite usually the end of a quartet.

It seems there never were other movements, and though a quartet usually had three or four movements, there are other examples of two-movement quartets. Some dynamics help form a view of the interpretation – though only piano and forte signs are used there is also a distinct use of technique which suggest crescendo.

Playing the quartet

The quartet is quite playable as it stands in the manuscript. I made an adaptation for mandolin orchestra first. The biggest alterations are reduction of the guitar chords (so you can take them with the four fingers rather than strumming a chord) as the left-out notes are present in other parts. Also, some alterations / reduction were made to fit the mandola rather than guitar. I’ve added in a double bass – more or less in the orchestration style of Mozart who uses the bass only in places where the orchestration needs the extra depth (forte passages usually).

First impressions from rehearsals: very enjoyable as this is one of the few 18th century pieces really written for a 4-part plucked string ensemble. We could also immediately reach a nice tempo and in short while have the interpretation in our fingers, which shows how suitable the music is for a mandolin orchestra. The orchestra members also seemed to prefer the piece to some of the existing adaptations of 18th century mandolin music. These usually are adapted triosonatas (or extended triosonatas – 2 mandolins, violin and bass) which have not so much of an orchestral composition but more of a melody role for the mandolin parts, reducing the rest to accompaniment. Totti has a more orchestral composition, and his style is also more akin to the fully developed classical era rather than the early classical (gallant) style.

Today we will create this adaption for the first time before an audience (fingers crossed!). Based on the feedback from the audience and my colleagues in the orchestra I will likely make some slight further alterations (so far already highlighted: making the mandola part slightly more idiomatic).

In the meanwhile I’ve also created a mandolin quartet version of the music. Though at some parts this lacks the orchestral depth, the music seems to hold its own  even in this particular ensemble.

I will likely distribute the original and my adaptations at a later stage, when I’m content and have reached a version I consider to be final. If possible I might also share some recordings of the piece as the concert will be recorded (though a simple field recording only, not with a huge setup of audio captation).

The original can be found at the Portugese National Library in Lisbon, ms. F.C.R. 216/47.

Focus point of research & sharing = caring

Focus point in mandolin research

People who have been in touch know my vision, but for the sake of clarity I will repeat it here. (I don’t think I shared it as it as clear and openly on this blog yet.) I have directed my main efforts to a focus point of mandolin history instead of a wide spread research effort. Even though I concur that best results are coming from a multi-disciplinary approach, the amount of work to be done on mandolin history is staggering. Hence I had to decide on my priorities.

For me, it makes most sense to start work on the mandolin prints prior to 1850. I won’t completely ignore iconographical or written sources or even manuscripts as long as they are connected to the prints. (And I allow myself to occasionally diverge to these other sources besides my primary focus to break the boredom – not all print research is exciting.)

Why this focus?

  • Access
    • Printed sources are usually a lot more easily retrieved and accessible than manuscripts. In my experience they are also less expensive than manuscripts (though everything is relative and some libraries are expensive regardless). In the same category: I usually am able to retrieve prints faster and easier and I often won’t need gloves if I take a look at them in physical form (though library rules differ).
    • Often the catalogues containing music prints are part of the main catalogues of libraries – which these days are more and more accessible online (a lot of manuscript catalogues of libraries are not even digital).
  • Size matters
    • Usually prints are composed of a big set of music movements, such as a set of 6 sonatas or duets (of each two-three movements). Manuscripts sometimes also come as a big collection but mostly tend to be limited to one sonata or duet. The difference lies in the fact that each item you retrieve takes time and money; hence retrieving prints is more efficient.
    • There are only about 250 items to be retrieved in my current focus point of prints. If I take a look at the manuscripts in the same range, there’s about 500. Having a limited focus point hence also helps to get a more obtainable goal.
  • Manuscript copies
    • Most often you’ll find a manuscript copy or two of a print. But these won’t always mention the source in full, so having all prints will help identifying them as copies if I start to shift focus to manuscripts. (There are expections: some Paris prints such as the Récreations de la campagne seem to be based on manuscripts and not the other way around as the manuscript are the more extensive versions.)
  • Distribution
    • Prints are intrinsically printed in many identical copies. Manuscripts are sometimes copied and distributed as well, but on a lot smaller scale. The chance of retrieving an existing copy out of a set of 100 printed copies versus one out of a handful of manuscript copies are quite different.
    • As there are more copies distributed, it is also a lot more likely to get hold of one. Some libraries are not readily accessible. Knowing in such a case that you can also retrieve the item elsewhere can save a lot of time and effort.
  • Chronological boundary
    • A time limit to 1850 is of course arbitrary. But we need to keep the focus on the historical repertory for mandolin rather than the flood of late 19th century prints from the revival of the instrument. (Otherwise the amount of sources to be retrieval is expanding on an exponential scale from 1880 onward.) The chronological boundary might yet shift upwards – it has already done so twice in the course of the search.

Current status: about 8 years on into my research I’ve reached the point where only a few dozen of prints remain to be collected (besides those items still lost). Some of my finds of lost volumes were already shared, some I’m still preparing as research on the items is ongoing. However, I’m close to reaching the focus goal and hopes are up I will be able to start sharing a lot of knowledge and (when possible) even repertory with the community. For this I have even started the effort of a specific site on which people can easily search for mandolin sources. This is then the nice hook into the next topic.

Sharing = caring

As mandolin history research isn’t exactly my main paying job, I don’t mind not making money out of my research. It would be nice to get some of my expenses covered now and then, but I don’t think it’s remotely possible to make a living out of this rather nice hobby. So it will remain a hobby and I won’t extort anyone to pay money for what is essentially our cultural heritage. My editions will be free, and my research results and where to find the sources will be shared.

Do I expect something back? No. It would be nice if people reach out to help, though. Helping can be done by a donation to cover some of my expenses (I’ll likely set up a donation button at some point in the future), or by offering to help out on the actual research. There are also quite a lot open tasks on entering data on the website. Because, of course in this day and age, it makes most sense to share online.

The site will make it possible to look mandolin sources based an search criteria (date, region, instrumentation, composer etc). The music movements will get a detailed description including the structure, key, metrum, articulations and similar properties. It will also include an incipit (first couple of bars). All of this should make it a lot more easy to either look up or compare. For example, if we find an anymous and untitled piece in a library we should be able to compare with the pieces entered quite quickly.

In the end I hope this contribution will help make more advancements than a specific research paper or book, or publishing music through regular publishers. I have hopes other people will start to get involved later so the community rather than a single person will be maintaining the project after a while. After all, sharing = caring. :p

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.

Sonate da mandorlino

This blog post again focuses on some material which is digitally available.

The manuscript is preserved in Louisville, School of Music, in Louisville, Kentucky with the shelf mark of RICASOLI Profana 238.

The link to the digital version goes to IMSLP:

It’s a really interesting manuscript which add to the repertory but also brings up some interesting questions.


Dating the manuscript proves hard. It is anymous and there are no easy identifying marks. From the style of writing and music we can easily put this past the mid-18 century (most likely from around the 1780s) but it might just as well be somewhat more recent.

Regionally the fact that we at least know that the manuscript originates from the Ricasoli family helps link it solidly to Florence.


Even though the title promises “sonate” the actual content are mainly minuets (27) and some (3) counterdances, mostly for two, some for one “mandorlino”. The style is rather simple, with parallel acompaniment.

Minuè (2 mdl)

p. 3: 3/4 in D

Minuè (2 mdl)

p. 4: 3/4 in D

Minuè (1 mdl)

p. 5: 3/4 in G

Minuè (1 mdl)

p. 5: 3/4 in D

Minuè (1 mdl)

p. 6: 3/4 in G

Contradanza (2 mdl)

p. 6: 2/4 in A

Minuè (1 mdl)

p. 7: 3/4 in G

Contradanza (1 mdl)

p. 7: 6/8 in G

Minuè (1 mdl)

p. 8: 3/4 in G

Minuè (1 mdl)

p. 8: 3/4 in G

[Untitled, minuet (1 mdl)]

p. 9: 3/4 in F

[Untitled, minuet (1 mdl)]

p. 9: 3/4 in C

[Untitled, minuet (1 mdl)]

p. 10: 3/4 in G

[Untitled, minuet (1 mdl)]

p. 10: 3/4 in A

[Untitled, minuet (1 mdl)]

p. 10: 3/4 in C

[Untitled, minuet (1 mdl)]

p. 11: 3/4 in G

[Untitled, minuet (1 mdl)]

p. 11: 3/4 in F

[Untitled, minuet (1 mdl)]

p. 11: 3/4 in C

Contradanza (2 mdl)

p. 12: 2/4 in C

[Untitled, minuet (1 mdl)]

p. 13: 3/4 in C

[Untitled, minuet (1 mdl)]

p. 13: 3/4 in G

[Untitled, minuet (1 mdl)]

p. 13: 3/4 in F

[Untitled, minuet (1 mdl)]

p. 13: 3/4 in A

[Untitled, minuet (1 mdl)]

p. 14: 3/4 in Bes

[Untitled, minuet (1 mdl)]

p. 14: 3/4 in G

[Untitled, minuet (1 mdl)]

p. 14: 3/4 in C

[Untitled, minuet (1 mdl)]

p. 15: 3/4 in F

[Untitled, minuet (1 mdl)]

p. 15: 3/4 in C

On p. 27 the tuning is given, matching the Neapolitan mandolin’s tuning. That was also clear from the chords written in the pieces.


The interesting thing about this manuscript are pretty much plain for all to see. First of all the mention of yet another alternative spelling for the mandolin. Next, about 30 until now unknown pieces for our instrument. And of course the link towards a Florentine family of nobility is perhaps the most intersting of all. Whereas in the 1700s we have Florentine noblemen playing the Milanese baroque mandolin, this is proof that almost a century later the Neapolitan mandolin has taken over.

Anonymous, Alemãda


My next blog post is about a manuscript from the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid (shelf mark MP/3180/20) which is also digitally available though when last checked gave a blank page:


The manuscript consists of 11 parts written in ink on 13 pages of 22 x 32 cm.

The parts are: flute, 1st and 2nd clarinet, 1st and 2nd horn, oboe, 1st and 2nd violins, mandolin, bass and bassoon.

The library dates the manuscript as “circa 1780”. Personally I find that rather, both the musical style and the extensive orchestra would suggest this is probably an insertion for an opera (probably an opéra-ballet) from France in the early 19th century, up to anything like the 1820s.

We assume it’s French based on the French annotations and descriptions of the instruments. It also fits stylistically with the genre of an opéra-ballet.

Sadly the library doesn’t list any acquisition history.


The piece is a rather boorish dance which might be either used evocatively in an opera or as the place for a ballet scene.

Some fragments are in a different key for the same part, whereby the final version clearly was D major in 2/4 beat. The older version was in Es major. The mandolin part and some other parts are only written in the D major version and should be considered more recent additions.

The mandolin part is solo, not unison with other parts, though sometimes in parallel with other parts. The structure of the works seems to alternate between mandolin and flute as principal instrument to carry the melody.

The composer uses his extensive orchestra in alternating the ensembles.

1st section: clarinets, flute, oboe + violins

2nd section: flute solo + 1st clarinet + oboe + horns + violins + bass + bassoon

3rd section: mandolin solo + 1st clarinet + flute + violins

4th section: 1st clarinet + flute + oboe + horns + violins + bass + bassoon

5th section: mandolin + clarinets + violins

6th section: 1st clarinet + flute + oboe + horns + violins + bass + bassoon

7th section: flute solo + 1st clarinet + violins


Research on this piece is at the moment rather inconclusive. Further reserarch should first of all focus on identifying the composer and the pieces background. Once we retrieve that we might learn a great deal more about this piece and the role the mandolin played in it.

POSTSCRIPTUM (20170411): New sources have come to light, it seems likely that I have now found a score overview of the piece; further investigations are sure to follow.

Anonymous (Miroglio?), Huittième suite des Amusemens des Dames

A discovery that had me gasping for air for a minute was the retrieval of a surviving copy of one of the earliest prints for Neapolitan mandolin in Paris.

We knew this particular print had been published in Paris in 1765 but so far no one had found a copy.

Thankfully I stumbled on a copy during some routine research in the Colonial Williamsburg Research Department, historical collection with the shelf mark of M287.M676 H9


The print was originally published at the Bureau d’abonnement musical in 1765, engraved by Mme (Marie-Charlotte) Vendôme. The author is anonymous on the title page (Mr. ***) but it has been suggested in the past to be Jean-Baptiste Miroglio (ca. 1725-1785). The print consists of 13 pages. The library gives no clear acquisition history.








Pour deux Violons, Mandolines, ou Pardessus

de Violes

PAR MR. ***

Prix 3lt12


Au Bureau D’abonnement Musical Cour de L’ancien Grand-

Cerf St. Denix

Et aux adresses Ordinaires de Musique

de l’Imprimerie de Récoqualtiée      A.P.D.R.     Gravée par Made. Vendôme.





p. 2: 2/4 in D


p. 2: 3/4 in D



p. 3: 3/4 in D


p. 3: 2/4 in D



p. 4: C barré in D

Minuetto. 2e MInuetto

p. 4: 3/4 in D



p. 5: 2/4 in c

Aria Graziosso

p. 5: 3/8 in c


Aria I Tedesco Presto

p. 6: 3/8 in C

Aria II All°

p. 7-8: 2/4 in A

[Aria III]

p. 7: c barré in A

[Aria IV]

p. 7:  c barré in C

Aria V Minuetto

p. 8: 3/4 in A

Aria VI Forlana

p. 8: 6/8 in A

Aria VII Minore

p. 8-9: 6/8 in a

Aria VIII Allegro

p. 9: c barré in A and a

Aria IX Grasiozo Pastorella

p. 10: 3/8 in G

Aria X Balletto

p. 10: c barré in G

Aria XI

p. 11: c barré in g

Aria XII Grasiozo

p. 11: 3/8 in g


p. 12: c barré in G

Aria XIV

p. 12: c barré in F

Aria XV

p. 12-13: 3/4 in F

Aria XVI Minuet°

p. 13: 3/4 in F

Aria XVII MInuetto

p. 13: 3/4 in F

All writing is in the style of the typical simple duets of the later 18th century. No real idiomatic use of mandolin technique.


The writing of the print is in the rather simple, gallant style so fashionable in Paris during the 1760s. The music is indeed interchangeable between several lead instruments but mandolin did indeed gain some popularity and hence the market of prints was starting to target the instrument. The music is certainly a welcome addition to the repertory and for scholars it is clearly a famous find as it is one of the first Paris prints for the instrument.

Anonymous baroque manuscript

During my routine research I came accross a rather big manuscript of music for mandolin which certainly deserves our attention.

The manuscript is preserved in the University of Texas at Austin, The Harry Ransom Humanities Rearch Center, with Shelf mark Finney 39.


The manuscript consists of 9 fascilces, all written on in ink on 61 folios (16 x 23×3 cm).

The library doesn’t state a clear date. From the style of music it is clear that even the oldest parts are probably from possible the last part of the 17th century but more likely the early 18th century (first quarter), the older parts seem most likely to come from the second quarter of the 18th century. The most recent part of the manuscript, the vocal music, seems to match the mid-18th century.

There are no sure ways to put this manuscript in a specific regional setting. The manuscript is probably Italian, and the style is more northern Italian than southern Italian, but that’s about all we can assume from the content and style.

However the later added vocal pieces do mention composers which were mainly active in Florence. One instrumental piece added to the vocal part actually also matches the violin part of the Matteo Caccini manuscript which seems to corroborate this link to Florence.

We have no clear acquisition history except for one previous owner, Theodore Finney, an Amercian musicologist who later on donated the manuscript to the library.


1/ Scala + Solo dances for mandolin solo – Copyist A

f. 1r-3v – p. 1-6

“Scala per il Mandolino”

f. 1r – p. 1: lists the different strings (cordone, mezzana, sottana, canto) and the notes / frets.


f. 1r – p.1: 3 (3/4) in C


f. 1v – p. 2: C barré in C


f. 2r – p. 3: C barré in F


f. 2r – p. 3: 3 (3/4) in C


f. 2v – p. 4: C barré in F


f. 3r – p. 5: 3 (3/4) in F


f. 3r – p. 5: 6/8 in C


f. 3v – p. 6: C barré in C

2/ Sinfonia 1 for mandolin + B.C. – Copyist A

f. 4r-10r – p. 7-19


f. 4r-5r – p. 7-8: C in C


f. 5r-6r – p. 9-11: 3 (3/4) in C


f. 6v-8r – p. 12-15: C in C


f. 8v-10r – p. 16-19: 12/8 in C

3/ Sinfonia 2 for mandolin + B.C. – Copyist A

f. 10v-16r – p. 20-31


f. 10v-11r – p. 20-21: C in C


f. 11v-13r – p. 22-25: C in C


f. 13r-14v – p. 26-28: C in C


f. 15r-16r – p. 29-31: 3/8 in C

4/ Minuets, gigues, gavottes, allemande, balletto, veneziana for mandolin solo or mandolin + B.C. (probably arrangements) – Copyist A

f. 16v-34v – p. 32-68


f. 16v-17r – p. 32-33: 3/4 in C


f. 17v-18r – p. 34-35: 3/4 in C

[Corelli op. 5, V, nr. 5] Giga (SOLO)

f. 18v-19r – p. 36-37: 12/8 in g

Giga (SOLO)

f. 19v-20r – p. 38-39: 12/8 in D


f. 20v – p. 40: 3/8 in g


f. 21r – p. 41: C barré in g


f. 21v-22r – p. 42-43: 12/8 in G


f. 22v-23r – p. 44-45: 12/8 in Bes

Giga (SOLO)

f. 23v-24r – p. 46-47: 3/8 in g

Giga (SOLO)

f. 24v – p. 48: 12/8 in g


f. 25r – p. 49: C barré in C


f. 25v-27r – p. 50-53: 12/8 in a


f. 27v-29r – p. 54-57: 12/8 in G


f. 29v – p. 58: C in a


f. 30r – p. 59: 3/4 in G


f. 30v – p. 60: C in D


f. 31r – p. 61: 3/4 in C


f. 31v-32r – p. 62-63: 3 (3/4) in C


f. 32v – p. 64: 3/4 in C


f. 33r-34v – p. 65-67: C in D


f. 34v – p. 68: C in G

7/ Gigues, gavotte for mandolin + B.C. – Copyist B

f. 35v-38r – p. 70-75


f. 35v-36r – p. 70-71: 12/8 in D

[Corelli op. 5, X, nr. 4] Gavotta

f. 36v – p. 72: C in F

[Corelli] Giga

f. 36v-38r – p.72-75: 6/8 in F

8/ Gavotte, minuet for mandolin + B.C. – Copyist A

f. 38v-40r – p. 76-79

Presto. Gavotta

f. 38v-39r – p. 76-77: C barré in a


f. 39v-40r – p. 78-79: 3/4 in Bes

9/ Gavotte, gigue for mandolin + B.C. – Copyist B

f. 40v-42r – p. 80-83


f. 40v-41r – p. 80-81: 3/4 in g


f. 41v-42r – p. 82-83: 12/8 in e

10/ Gigue for mandolin + B.C. – Copyist A

f. 42v-44r – p. 84-87

[Corelli, op. 5, III, nr. 4] Giga

f. 42v-44r – p. 84-87: 12/8 in C

11/ Vocal pieces for voice in G-clef + B.C. – Copyist C

f. 44v-52r – p. 88-101

Del Sigr. Bizza

f. 44v-45r – p. 88-89: 12/8 in C

Del Sig. Chinzer

f. 45v-46r – p. 90-91: 3/8 in Bes

Canzonetta dal Sigr Orlandini

f. 46r-49r – p. 91-95 (f. 46v-47r blanco): C in Bes


f. 49v-51r – p. 96-99: 12/8 in e

Dal Sigre Celestino Ligi

f. 51v-52r – p. 100-101: 3/4 in g

12/ Minuets for mandolin (?) + B.C. – Copyist C

f. 52v-53v – p. 102-104


f. 52v-53r – p. 102-103: 3/4 in A


f. 53v – p. 104: C in G


The collection on the one end consists of some solo dances for four-course baroque mandolin (Milanese tuning). The repertory doesn’t match any of the sources I compared it with so far but it would be really interesting if we could find a correspondence.

The two “sinfonia” pieces are probably the most interesting from a musical perspective. Both are actually nice sonatas for mandolin and basso continuo, and these pieces are quite fitting on four-course mandolin. The second sinfonia actually sort of reminds me of a sonata by Signorelli which has a really similar style in its opening piece. Though I won’t try to claim the sinfonias are by him without any further proof, it seems this is certainly a plausible hypothesis that might deserve further investigation.

The link to Signorelli in the case of the sinfonias is not a hard one, and as he has no clear link to Florence it only becomes harder to link him to it. As far as we know he also played the viola d’amore, came from Milan or was active in Milan. This does not place him too far from Florence but without further real links it is not something we can claim.

The rest of the manuscript is a collection of dance suite pieces from the later baroque era. The few we have identified are by Corelli and from his well-known opus 5. The others remain unidentified. Some pieces are solo-voiced but these can be assumed had a continuo bass originally – one of the Corelli sonatas is without its bass for example. We can assume all of these pieces are arranged music from other sources such as violin or flute sonatas and the like. The Corelli sonata arrangements are pretty easy: they follow the original quite close and where the music goes below the lowest string the melody jumps an octave higher.

The collection certainly deserves further study and I would prefer it if we could arrange for a joint effort. Perhaps we will still have some interesting discoveries when we identify more of the pieces of this huge collection.

Copyists A seems to have written the oldest pieces. But he also wrote some of the more recent pieces where copyist B has joined occasionally.

Copyist C who wrote the vocal pieces seems to have added the most recent part of the manuscript. Chinzer (1698-1749) was linked to Florence mainly but also to other Tuscany cities as Lucca, Pisa and Pistoia.
Orlandini (1676-1760) is again also linked to Florence and Tuscany, though he also had a link to Bologna. Especially after the 1730s he became a principal figure in musical circles in Florence, especially highly regarded for his dramatic music.
Celestino Ligi: I haven’t found a lot of information about this composer but he appears alongside with Orlandini in some aria manuscripts. He is also listed as a Florentine composer in some sources.

The vocal pieces seem hence to have been added around 1730-1750 or later or at least were composed at earliest around 1730.

Anonymous, Sinfonia

The discovery I enjoyed most – at the very least in musical sense – was an anonymous mandolin concerto from the mid-18th century.

It is preserved in Stockholm in the Musik- och Teaterbiblioteket under the siglum O-R. In the old catalogue it was listed as a lute / oboe concerto which explains why it has stayed under the radar for so long.


Alas, the provenance of this piece is an unsolved puzzle. We can only make an educated guess until some further hard facts are retrieved.

Stylistically and from the writing we can assume a date no earlier than the 1730s and no later than the 1770s but in my personal opinion this piece is probably dating from the 1750s.

We also have no sure regional provenance of the manuscript. The musical style and annotations are Italian but that on its own is of course not certain proof. The style has a certain “baroque” and northern Italian flavour to it and does not not compare well to the later concertos for Neapolitan mandolin.

There is no clear acquisition history from the library.


All three movements have the following parts written as a score:

–          Mandolino

–          V.V. (Violins 1 & 2)

–          [no description, bass clef, without figuration]

1/ Allgo.

Fol. 1r-8r: Allegro in 2 (2/4) in G major.

There are lots of articulation signs. The mandolin usually stays mute during tutti but sometimes the mandolin has a unison with the first (and/or second) violin. Lots of appoggiatura signs, dynamical signs. Tutti or solo sections are sometimes written specifically.

Sotto voce is called for in one occasion (broken chords in mandolin solo).
In one place there is a unison section for the whole score as a transition passage.
The score mentions a Da Capo though it is unclear whether this would be a full repeat; more likely what is meant is a repeat of the first tutti and / or first solo passage.

2/ Cantabile e Gustoso

Fol. 8v-11v: Cantabile e Gustoso in C barré in g minor

Listed sotto voce for the violins at the beginning of the movement, which is logical as the piece is meant as a contrast to the other movements.
Especially striking are the diminished melodic phrases which emphasize the tragic and dramatic character of this piece.

This second movement contains some of the most clear idiomatic writing for the mandolin part found in the whole concerto.

3/ Allo. Gustoso (Balletto)

Fol. 12r-18v: Allo. Gustoso (Balletto) in 3/8 in G major

The third movement is again in a lively character. The mandolin solo plays unison from the start.

Especially noteworthy are the passages where the mandolin part does not reach the bottom g whilst playing unison with the violins. Also some unison parts are slightly different in the mandolin part when the violins use the open a’ string. All of this might be interesting material to consider when identifying the type of mandolin this piece was written for.


I am quite proud of this find – it was partly triggered by the last edition of the internation symposium on mandolin history in Germany. I always thought this piece was already found by other researchers but clearly that was not the case when I discussed it with my peers last year. I hence was quite keen to get a reproduction when I got home from the symposium.

The main reason why it has stayed under the radar for long is that the piece was listed as “flute concerto”. Indeed, when looking at the title there seems to be some confusion over the principal instrument to be used. It apparently at first reads “oboe”, which was crossed out and replaced by someone else to become “traverso” (flute) and that’s how it was long listed in the catalogue.

However, if you take a look at the instrumentation assigned next to the score it reads “mandolino”. This of course is not enough to make any assumptions but looking at the music in the mandolin part we clearly see some writing which is idiomatic for plucked string instruments rather that wind instruments. Some parts of the music are also rather lower than optimal for flute and oboe. Though no notes are actually out of the possible range of either oboe or flute, it seems somewhat uncomfortable. It may of course have been performed or arranged to be performed on either of those instruments; or the concerto may also have been an arrangement of a concerto originally for flute or oboe. In fact it doesn’t really matter too much – as the source preserved the music in a form idiomatic for mandolin so we can only assume this to be the best instrument to perform the music.

The mandolin type this concerto was written for is somewhat of a riddle. There are no real chords though there is of course some idiomatic writing in terms of “chord-like” writing such as arpeggios. It’s next to impossible to make out whether these are most suited for plectrum or finger style played instrument as there are no clear markings, but I would see these arpeggios as more favourably for a plectrum-played instrument.

The passages where the unison makes the mandolin part slightly easier than the violin part are puzzling. Perhaps it was technically too challenging for the player, or perhaps the tuning got in the way of things?

In terms of range the instrument seems to have a certain lack in the lower region. No notes go below middle c (C4). In some cases the mandolin actually goes an octave higher when in unison with the violin part(s) when these go below middle C. This is certainly encouraging the view that the concerto was written for a 5-course baroque instrument like the Milanese mandolin, or possible the Genovese instrument.

A second hint that might hold a clue about the type of mandolin used is found in the writing itself – often the beginning of a melodic passage start with open strings corresponding with the Genovese or Milanese instruments. It’s not real proof but can certainly be taken aboard.

More weight is added to the scale when looking at the actual passages of more idiomatic plucked string instrumental writing. Trying to play these on Neapolitan, Milanese or Genovese tuning easily points out that the piece is somewhat difficult on a Neapolitan but not all that difficult to play on a Milanese or Genovese mandolin. Especially some grips with fifths point this out, rather uncommon on the Neapolitan mandolin in the middle of an arpeggio except when a barré is possible. Fifths are quite common on instruments tuned in fourths as that will allow for easy fingering.

Though there is no way to assign the instrument with certainty, I would hence suggest this concerto was not written for the Neapolitan type of mandolin. It’s even less certain to assign it to either the Milanese or Genovese type after that, but I would suggest that the Genovese holds a couple of cards over the Milanese in the lower string arpeggios. As we have so little knowledge of the Genovese instrument I’m rather cautious to put this forward but it seems something worth considering. I’m really looking forward to receive further feedback and start some interesting discussions with my peers on the upcoming edition of the symposium. 😉

Certainly noteworthy is that today’s audiences received the concerto rather enthusiastically. It shouldn’t be seen as a concerto where the soloist has to excel in vrituoso playing – and reminds more of the concerti grossi and further origins of the genre where alternating ensembles helped create musical structure.

Lastly let me link you to some Youtube recording of a performance of this piece (students of the conservatory mandolin class of Gerda Abts and myself as the soloist). Though performing the orchestral parts on bowed rather plucked strings and with a full basso continuo will make a difference, this will give a good impression of the music.