Concerto in C major
ed. Paul Everett
It would be difficult to overstate the historical and musical importance of the present works (HH18 & HH19), which, to the best of my knowledge, have never before been published. They enlarge significantly the known repertory of clarinet music before Mozart; equally, they expand our knowledge of the state of clarinet composition and virtuoso clarinet playing at the close of the baroque era. Although the instrument had been invented c1700, very little music written expressly for it survives from its earliest period. And besides some anonymous duets published c1717-22, most sources from before the 1740s document the clarinet's occasional contribution in obbligato arias within large-scale vocal works. The present concertos establish beyond doubt that purely instrumental music involving the clarinet was neither as unusual nor as underdeveloped as one might hitherto have believed. They are, moreover, the earliest known 'double' clarinet concertos (i.e., with solo parts exclusively for a pair of clarinets of similar type and range), and among the earliest concertos to feature the instrument in any capacity. Concertos involving at least one clarinet which antedate the six examples of c1745 by Johann Melchior Molter (1696-1765) are rare, though one imagines that they were more numerous than the paucity of extant sources tends to suggest. The present works, which appear on stylistic grounds to date from the mid- or late 1720s, are roughly contemporary with (but considerably less conservative than) two concertos by Johann Valentin Rathberger (1682-1750) published in 1728. They are certainly older than the 'Concerto per Clareto' of Giuseppe Antonio Paganelli (1710-c1763), which in any case appears to be a work for a different instrument. Italian music for the early clarinet is, indeed, exceedingly rare. The only known pieces that come even remotely close, in style and date, to the present works are three multi-instrument concertos by Antonio Vivaldi (RV 556, 559 and 560), the precise dating of which remains uncertain. The comparison is an apt one - all five concertos appear to require the same type of two-keyed clarinet in C (discussed below), and all show the particular fashion for employing clarinets as a pair - but as far as we know not even Vivaldi, responsible for so many flute, recorder, oboe and bassoon concertos, ever ventured into the realm of composing actual clarinet concertos, solo or double.
The manuscripts are preserved within a large quantity of Italian music known today as 'The Manchester Concerto Partbooks'. Since the history and contents of this significant collection, representative of the heyday of the Italian concerto, are assessed in detail elsewhere, only a summary needs to be given here.8 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.
Like most items within the concerto partbooks, the sources for the present works are utilitarian sets of parts intended to be used in performance rather than to grace a library shelf. Catalogued as items 58 (Chinzer) and 17 (anon.), they belong to a small subset of the collection, labelled, in former literature, 'the F repertory' after a particular variety of music-paper its contents uniformly exhibit. Ignorance of the origins of this paper means that the location in Italy where this group of manuscripts was copied remains very uncertain, though there are grounds for suspecting that it is Florence. One clue is that Chinzer appears to have pursued most of his career, from about 1719 to the 1740s, in that city and described himself as Florentine. Another is that the same subset of the Manchester collection contains unattributed instrumental parts (items 38-40) for an unnamed work now revealed to be a version of Serpilla e Bacocco, a popular series of intermezzi by a more famous Florentine, Giuseppe Maria Orlandini (1675-1760). Although that is not reliable evidence of provenance (the comedy received numerous performances in a variety of places), the coexistence of music by Chinzer and Orlandini, two of the leading figures of the operatic scene in Florence, among these few manuscripts may not be purely coincidental.
Only the Organo part for the concerto by Chinzer 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. 30v). 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 a 6 Strumenti / Con 2: Clarinet 2: Violini Viole e Basso / Di Giouanni Chinzer / Organo'. Containing occasional figurings, both bass parts are for basso continuo; one imagines that the Basso of the unattributed work might be a duplicate that reproduces the music, but sadly not the identifications, of a lost organo part-cum-folder comparable to that of the Chinzer manuscript. Indeed, the Basso part stands alone, seemingly significantly, as the only one of the twelve in one particular scribal hand. Of two other unidentified copyists, one was responsible for all six parts for the concerto by Chinzer and for the first violin part of the anonymous work, the other for the remaining four parts of the anonymous work.
There can be little doubt that the type of clarinet for which both works were written is the two-keyed clarinet in C of the kind manufactured from c1710 by Jacob Denner and others. This makes the anonymous concerto in F all the more fascinating, for it is extremely unusual for the tonic key of a clarinet composition of this period to be other than the key in which the instrument itself was constructed. All authorities agree that this is the instrument, with a range from f to at least as high as c''', called for by Vivaldi's concertos mentioned above, which, like the present works, involve a pair of clarinets playing trumpet-style music at both lower and upper registers. The range of the present clarinet parts is g - c'''. Like Vivaldi, both Chinzer and the composer of the concerto in F have consciously eschewed use of the note b' natural - an intention clearly demonstrated in the manuscripts by several scribal corrections of pitch in cases where b' was at first mistakenly notated (recorded below in the Textual Notes). It would be wrong to conclude that the many compositions that avoid b' (including those as late as Molter's concertos) do so because it was simply unobtainable. Recent research has established that the note is playable on the majority of surviving two-keyed instruments when both the frontal and speaker keys are depressed, but that not all instruments of the period were necessarily tuned to produce that result. Evidence that b' was regarded as an option when available is found here in the form of an original trill on a' (second clarinet part at bar 13 in the slow movement of the concerto by Chinzer). The routine avoidance of b', and exceptionally also of a' (a pitch curiously absent throughout the present concerto in F), is intrinsically connected with the persistent fashion for writing for the early clarinet as if it were a trumpet, a role well-suited to its timbre as confirmed by J. G. Walther in 1732.16 Examples of the trumpet idiom abound in the present works, many making a virtue of avoiding b' as if the clarinet were limited, like a natural brass instrument, to the notes of the harmonic series (see, for example, the second clarinet part in bars 8 and 10 of the first movement of the concerto by Chinzer). The same rationale applies even when the presence or absence of b' is not a factor, and its application is not confined only to the clarinet's upper register where comparison with the trumpet's high clarino range is to be expected. Imitation of the trumpet extends, for instance, to the avoidance of the note b (bar 13, same movement), and to the preferring of e' over d' for the sake of achieving the characteristic middle-range inner part of a trumpet-style cadence (Chinzer, finale, bar 91).