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Mauro D'Alai

Concerto in C minor

ed. Paul Everett

The only known source for the work is a non-autograph manuscript: a set of five parts in a large collection of Italian music now known as "The Manchester Concerto Part-books". Since the history and contents of this significant collection, representative of the heyday of the Italian concerto, is fully described elsewhere, only a summary needs to be given here. The volumes contain sets of separate parts for 95 compositions, mostly concertos, that came into the possession of Charles Jennens, well-known as the librettist for Handel's Messiah and other works; later they passed to the music libraries of the earls of Aylesford and Sir Newman Flower. It was Jennens who had acquired the music from Italy and had it bound in its existing volumes. Earlier, in its unbound state, the collection had almost certainly been part of a much larger corpus: the music amassed over many years at the court in Rome of Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, sold off after the illustrious patron's death in 1740. The diverse contents of the concerto collection suggest that Ottoboni's musicians collected and performed music from artistic centres elsewhere as well as works composed locally. Thus while the existence of the d'Alai manuscript hints that the composer may have visited Rome, it does not establish that he was employed there or that he came under the cardinal's patronage in any official capacity.

Catalogued as item 56, the source belongs to the largest subset of the collection: works copied on Roman music-paper by scribes who are likely to have worked at Ottoboni's court, in and around the mid-1720s.3 The five parts' original nomenclature and location within the partbooks are as follows:

Principal violin: Violino Principale volume VII, f. 36
First violin: Violino P:o volume VIII, f. 27
Second violin: Violino 2.do volume IX, f. 14
Viola: Violetta volume XI, f. 12
Basso continuo: Violone Cembalo volume XIII, V. 26-27

Only the Violone Cembalo part (which hereafter we will refer to as the basso or basso continuo) contains identifying inscriptions, having been designed as a folder within which the remaining parts were inserted when not in use. The music of the bass itself begins on the second page (f. 26v). The first page is a title-page giving, beneath a 1-bar incipit of the upper part for the work's opening, the following words: "Concerto 4o / Del Sig:r Mauro Alai / Cembalo". Of the three anonymous scribes who shared the task of copying out the music, one was evidently more senior than the others.4 Taking into account all 43 manuscripts in this Roman subset of the collection, he was responsible for producing more whole works and individual parts than any other copyist, and is the person who most frequently added superscriptions. In the case of the d'Alai manuscript, he notated portions of the principal violin and second violin parts, and changed the designation of the basso part from simply "Cembalo" to "Violone Cembalo". Like most items within the concerto partbooks, this manuscript is a utilitarian set of parts intended to be used in performance rather than to grace a library shelf. Much of the text, while legible, is ugly in its appearance having been hastily copied; although mostly accurate, it is not without error, as our Textual Notes attest.

Editorial policy and matters of performance In this critical edition, original key signatures, time signatures and clefs are retained. For the most part, text missing from the source or otherwise added by the editor is shown within square brackets. Exceptions include editorial slurs and ties, given in dashed form, and signs occasionally given above the stave to suggest rhythmic interpretation. In other cases of editorial intervention, including instances where such intervention cannot be distinguished in the main text by those typographical means, the source's readings are described in the Textual Notes. The original notation follows the normal convention of the early eighteenth century whereby an accidental governs only the note it precedes and any immediate repetitions of that note, whether barlines intervene or not. The conversion to modern notation has thus entailed the tacit suppression of accidentals that are redundant in today's usage (where an inflexion occurring earlier in the bar has not been cancelled) and the tacit addition of others (after a barline, when an inflected pitch continues to apply). An accidental omitted from the source in error is recorded in the Textual Notes if an accidental occurring earlier in the bar remains valid, by modern convention, for the pitch in question; it is otherwise restored in square brackets in the normal way. Editorial cautionary accidentals are given within round brackets; cautionary accidentals included in the source are reproduced without brackets.

For the present work, the source provides a figured bass only for the second movement. This is supplemented editorially where appropriate and normalized so that accidentals precede the figures to which they refer. In the case of the first and third movements, all figures in the basso part are editorial and thus shown throughout in italics. Naturally, an entirely editorial figured bass should not be regarded as the only possible harmonic solution in every instance; its purpose is to ensure that a complete text is presented and to assist continuo players inexperienced in realizing unfigured basses. "Tutti" and "solo" directions in the basso part distinguish passages for the full array of bass instruments (which may of course include a double bass or violone playing at sixteen-foot pitch) from those where it is appropriate to reduce the continuo to perhaps one melodic instrument (normally a cello) and one of the realizing instruments (harpsichord or perhaps an archlute or theorbo).

Editorial intervention has deliberately been kept to a minimum with regard to other aspects of interpretation. The source specifies little ornamentation, not least because little needs to be added to figurations in the fast movements' solo episodes which are already ornate by design. Editorial trills are accordingly added only sparingly, where they are clearly invited by particular melodic formulae, typically at cadences. Since the slow movement is so closely modelled on recitative, it follows that the most appropriate form of embellishment is the application of appoggiaturas of the kind typical of the vocal genre; the soloist might substitute, for example, an f'' for the first e'' natural in bar4. As was normally intended in the early eighteenth century, the choice of dynamics is left largely to the discretion of the performers. Editorial dynamic markings are added only by vertical assimilation or where it is necessary to reconcile the few original markings. In works such as this, forte (intended to mean a "normal", full-bodied sonority) is typically assumed rather than explicitly marked, especially for tutti periods such as the first movement's ritornello. Accordingly, piano means a relative reduction from that norm, not soft in an absolute sense; only pianissimo, when specified, requires a particularly hushed sound. Players - especially the soloist - may vary dynamics freely from moment to moment, though it is important to remember that long or wide-ranging crescendos and diminuendos are essentially foreign to this kind of music. In this connection it is interesting to note that the ritornello of the finale calls for a gradual reduction (forte - piano - pi piano, bars 18-20 and elsewhere): a rare instance of a specified diminuendo in all but name.