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Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music

Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music

Volume 3 (1997) No. 1

Girolamo Frescobaldi, “Fioretti del Frescobaldi”: London, British Library Add. 40080. Edited by Andrea Marcon and Armin Gaus. “Musica antiqua nova arte scripta” 1. Zimmern ob Rottweil: Edition Gaus, 1994.

Reviewed by Frederick Hammond*

1. Authenticity of the Works

2. The Present Edition


Comments and Discussion

1. Authenticity of the Works

1.1 The words “Fioretti d[el] Frescobaldi” appear on the title page of the manuscript British Library Add. 40080, added in the hand of the scribe of the manuscript. The writer has been identified as Nicolò Borbone (d. 1641), Frescobaldi’s pupil and the engraver of his two books of toccatas. The blanket attribution of its contents—eleven canzonas and a toccata—was initially doubted by Alexander Silbiger, who later accepted the identification of the manuscript hand by the other major scholar of the subject, Claudio Annibaldi.

1.2 Such acceptance has not always been so scrupulously considered. When three volumes of manuscript keyboard works attributed to Frescobaldi were published in 1968, just about anything bearing the master’s name was included without critical examination by editor or reviewers (including myself, I am sorry to say). (note 1) In 1976 Silbiger completed a dissertation (published in 1980) which subjected every manuscript Frescobaldi attribution to the strictest historical, musical, and philological scrutiny and established a new level of discourse on the subject. (note 2) With the approach of the Frescobaldi quadricentennial in 1983 a complete edition of his works was projected, whose first volume comprised two works without parallel in the Frescobaldi canon: double-choir masses on the Aria di Fiorenza and La monica marked “G. F.di” on the organ part-book of their Roman manuscript source and identified by Raffaele Casimiri as genuine works of Frescobaldi. (note 3) This rather fragile attribution was attacked by Annibaldi in a detailed examination of manuscript materials which generated, as well as a certain amount of heat, a good deal of light. Annibaldi concluded that the inscription on the part-book referred to Frescobaldi as continuo-player rather than composer, that Frescobaldi’s hand was visible in the annotations of the organ part, and that the copyist and possible composer of the masses was Borbone. (note 4) (The rediscovery of two contracts between Frescobaldi and Borbone for the printing of the first book of toccatas provided a key to the relationship between the two men.) (note 5) From this identification Annibaldi proceeded to propose Frescobaldi’s son Domenico as the writer of the blanket attribution to Frescobaldi on the Vatican manuscript Chigi Q. IV. 25, Borbone as the main scribe of the manuscript, and Frescobaldi himself as the writer of Q. IV. 29—the first plausible identification of a manuscript music hand as Frescobaldi’s own and a crucial step in evaluating other manuscript attributions. (note 6)

1.3 The third major student of these problems, Etienne Darbellay, devoted himself to a parallel investigation of the printed works, notably the two books of toccatas engraved by Borbone and the various editions of the Capricci, as the basis for his editions in the collected works. From a microscopic examination of these three collections, Darbellay reached important conclusions about seventeenth-century music printing, performance practice, and Frescobaldi’s compositional processes. (note 7) This boom in Frescobaldi source studies supported not only the progress of the complete edition but also the publication of various facsimile editions of the printed works and a superb series of manuscript facsimiles edited by Silbiger. (note 8)

The Present Edition

2.1 At this point the present volume, which takes Silbiger’s facsimile of Add. 40080 as its point of departure, enters the picture. The series of which it forms the first item has been prompted, according to its introduction, by the laudable desire to enlarge the canonical repertory of early music editions. It achieves this aim. The music is relatively little-known and attractive. A spot-check with the original reveals that the text has been treated with almost exaggerated caution. The computerized typography is pleasing, and at least some of the page-turns occur at appropriate places. The preface contains remarks on the source, the edition, and interpretation (especially the realization of the openings of the canzonas, which consist only of bass-lines in long note-values), followed by Frescobaldi’s prefaces to the toccatas and Capricci in Italian, German, and English. The volume is paperbound and therefore, one hopes, financially accessible to the average player.

2.2 As Philip Brett observed, with the dramatic increase in performance from “original” materials, one might think that “the editor will be lucky to find employment running the copying machine and brewing the herbal tea,” (note 9) but editorial intervention is often necessary. The initial responsibility of an editor is the choice of text, which seems open to question here on the grounds that, unlike virtually all seventeenth-century Italian keyboard manuscripts, Add. 40080 is notated on two five-stave lines in “modern” treble and bass clefs (with the occasional C clef)—one reason that Silbiger initially doubted its authenticity. The musical text thus requires virtually no editorial intervention to be readable by the average keyboardist.

2.3 The editors retain the original barring (“addio per sempre, addio” to the eczematic half-bar lines of earlier practice), although they fail to note that the grouping of the opening slow sections in breves and the faster following canzonas in semibreves dovetails with Darbellay’s conclusion that the same proportions in the Capricci indicate a faster opening tactus. The editors retain the original beaming of smaller notes (although they do not acknowledge Darbellay’s theory that such beamings indicate articulation), but they find the stemming of the notes inconsistent and have modified it. In fact, the stemming displays a basic consistency. Upward stemming in the right hand indicates a principal contrapuntal entry, and a change of stemming signals an entry in another voice (see, e.g., m. 8 of Canzona I in the original, where the upwardly-stemmed alto moves down to the left hand on the third quarter, and the soprano entrance is signalled by upward stems at the top of the staff). Where the opening subject of a work lies in the lower part of the staff it may be stemmed downward, however. (note 10)

2.4 The preface to the present edition displays no awareness of the considerable scholarly effort outlined at the beginning of this review—indeed, the names of Annibaldi and Darbellay do not even appear. Silbiger’s observations and suggestions (as, for example, the possibility of employing the adagio opening of the “Canzon dopo la pistola” of the Messa delli Apostoli in the Fiori musicali or the toccata-flourish which precedes a canzona in British Library Ms. Add. 36661 as models for the bass-line openings of the canzonas) are incorporated into the preface without acknowledgment. The cursory discussion of the source refers to “the well-known MS. in the hand of Nicolò Borbone” (p. iii—the German original of the somewhat hand-made English translation reveals that “MS.” is plural). The editors do not identify any manuscripts (presumably they have Chigi Q. IV. 25 or the Lateran masses in mind), do not refer to Annibaldi as the source of the identification, and illustrate Borbone’s “Handschrift” with excerpts from his engraved editions.

2.5 As far as the authenticity of the manuscript is concerned, the editors rush in where even Silbiger once trod warily. Their offhand conclusion that “Die Musik der hier veröffentlichten Canzonen wie auch der Toccata ist so typisch für Frescobaldi, daß es schwierig sein dürfte, einen andern Komponisten als Urheber dieser Werke in Betracht zu ziehen” (p. iv) seems to ignore three decades of painstaking investigation into the complexities of manuscript attributions to Frescobaldi. Return to beginning


*Frederick Hammond is the Irma Brandeis Professor of Romance Studies and Music History at Bard College. Return to beginning

1. Girolamo Frescobaldi: Keyboard Compositions Preserved in Manuscripts, ed. W.R. Shindle (American Institute of Musicology, n.p., 1968), 3 vols. Return to text

2. Alexander Silbiger, Italian Manuscript Sources of 17th-Century Keyboard Music (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1980).

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3. Girolamo Frescobaldi, Due messe, ed. Oscar Mischiati and Luigi Ferdinando Tagliavini (Milan: Suvini Zerboni, 1975); Raffaele Casimiri, “Girolamo Frescobaldi autore di opere vocali sconosciute ad otto voci,” Note d’archivio 10 (1933), pp. 1-31. Return to text

4. Claudio Annibaldi, “Ancora sulle messe attribuite a Frescobaldi: proposta di un profittevole scambio,” Girolamo Frescobaldi nel IV centenario della nascita, ed. Sergio Durante and Dinko Fabris (Florence: Olschki, 1986), pp. 125-52. Return to text

5. Arnaldo Morelli, “Nuovi documenti frescobaldiani: i contratti per l’edizione del primo libro di Frescobaldi,” Toccate, Studi musicali 17 (1988), pp. 255-65. Return to text

6. Claudio Annibaldi, “La didattica del solco tracciato: il codice Chigiano Q. IV. 29 da Klavierbüchlein d’ignoti a prima fonte frescobaldiana autografa,” Rivista italiana di musicologia 20 (1985), pp. 44-97. Return to text

7. Etienne Darbellay, “Le ‘Cento Partite’ di Frescobaldi: metro, tempo e processo di composizione,” Girolamo Frescobaldi nel IV centenario (Florence: L.S. Olschki, 1986), pp. 359-73. Return to text

8. Alexander Silbiger, ed. 17th-Century Keyboard Music (New York: Garland Publishing, 1987). Return to text

9. Philip Brett, “Text, Context, and the Early Music Editor,” Authenticity and Early Music, ed. Nicholas Kenyon (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), p. 84. Return to text

10. Admittedly, such significant details are not universally accepted as editorial criteria. For insisting on them the present writer was dismissed as editor of the keyboard works of Andrea Gabrieli for the Edizione Nazionale. Return to text

Comments and Discussion

Submitted 26 October 1997 by Alexander Silbiger, Duke University:

I would like to offer a small correction to Frederick Hammond’s otherwise excellent review of Girolamo Frescobaldi, “Fioretti del Frescobaldi,” eds. Andrea Marcon and Armin Gaus, JSCM, Vol. 3, no. 1. In the very first paragraph Dr. Hammond writes: “The blanket attribution of its [British Library Add. 40080] contents—eleven canzonas and a toccata—was initially doubted by Alexander Silbiger, who later accepted the identification of the manuscript hand by the other major scholar of the subject, Claudio Annibaldi.” In fact, the identification of the hand as belonging to Frescobaldi’s assistant Nicolo Borbone (which was crucial to the authentication of the twelve Frescobaldi pieces, resulting in a significant addition to his known keyboard works) was not made by Annibaldi but by me. It is true that Annibaldi had published careful studies of the handwriting of people associated with Frescobaldi (Hammond, notes 4 and 6), which may be what misled Hammond, but neither in these studies, nor elsewhere did Annibaldi discuss the “Fioretti” manuscript, which I don’t believe he had even seen at the time. Hammond is correct in saying that in my 1976 dissertation I had questioned the Frescobaldi attribution; ten years later, when preparing the introduction to the Garland facsimile referred to by Hammond, I was able to take advantage of Annibaldi’s newly published handwriting analyses, and these enabled me to identify the Borbone hand in the “Fioretti” manuscript. The details of the identification are discussed at length in the introduction to the facsimile, as is the argument leading to my authentication of the Frescobaldi attribution (pp. v-xiii).

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