Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Child Composers in the Old ConservatoriesHow Orphans Became Elite Musicians$

Robert O. Gjerdingen

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190653590

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190653590.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 13 June 2021

Masters Take Up the Challenge

Masters Take Up the Challenge

Durante, Leo, Fenaroli

Chapter:
(p.33) 3 Masters Take Up the Challenge
Source:
Child Composers in the Old Conservatories
Author(s):

Robert O. Gjerdingen

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190653590.003.0003

Abstract and Keywords

The early conservatories were trade schools. Over a period of about ten years they needed to transform orphans, then thought of as social outcasts, into skilled craftsmen who could earn a productive income and become self-supporting. So they developed practical methods to give boys the skills needed to become professional church organists, court composers, opera singers, orchestral musicians, or choir directors. The chapter surveys the historically most important music masters in Italy and the types of innovative lessons that they developed.

Keywords:   Francesco Durante, Leonardo Leo, Fedele Fenaroli, Alexandre Choron, Arcangel Corelli, Bernardo Pasquini

WOMEN WERE EXPRESSLY EXCLUDED from the male-dominated world of the old Italian conservatories. Yet the music composed and taught by Durante, Leo, Fenaroli, and all the other masters in Naples owed a great deal to one of the most remarkable women of the seventeenth century, Queen Christina of Sweden. She was raised in a Europe torn by decades of religious wars between Protestants and Catholics. Her father, Gustavus Adolphus, was the great military champion of the Protestant north, and he bequeathed to

Masters Take Up the ChallengeDurante, Leo, Fenaroli

Queen Christina of Sweden, ca. 1650, by David Beck

(p.34) his daughter the crown of a triumphantly Lutheran kingdom. Yet in what became the scandal of the century, she abdicated her throne, switched sides from Protestant to Catholic, and moved to Rome, where, under the protection of a series of Popes, she presided as patroness over one of the most intellectually and artistically advanced courts in all of seventeenth-century Europe.

Masters Take Up the ChallengeDurante, Leo, Fenaroli

Arcangelo Corelli, 1698, by Hugh Howard

Christina supported artists of all kinds. Well educated, wealthy, and well connected, she could spot great talent and then provide the resources to nurture it. She gathered around her musicians who were among the finest in Europe. Most famous today was the violinist and composer Arcangelo Corelli, seen to the left. During the 1700s virtually every violinist in Europe played Corelli’s sonatas and trios. Even in the distant English colonies the young Thomas Jefferson played Corelli, likely accompanied at the harpsichord by his future wife Martha Skelton. Less famous today, but more important for our story, was Corelli’s accompanist, the harpsichord virtuoso Bernardo Pasquini, shown below.

Masters Take Up the ChallengeDurante, Leo, Fenaroli

Bernardo Pasquini, ca. 1680, by Andrea Pozzo

Pasquini attracted many students who would later become important composers, performers, and music masters. Francesco Durante and Leonardo Leo, the two most important masters in Naples during the first half of the 1700s, are believed to have studied with him. I say “believed” because musicians from Pasquini’s era left few written records of their lives. Students came to study with Pasquini privately and so no institutional documents can be used to fix their time of study, much less anything about what they studied. Historians are left trying to piece together the stories of musicians’ lives from scattered and incomplete mentions in people’s diaries, in records of payments from churches or noble courts, in notices of important performances, or in brief comments scribbled on music manuscripts. Pasquini left behind two kinds of intriguing musical manuscripts that, given how the course of music training developed after his death in 1710, suggest that he was an important model for later masters. His old manuscripts contain some of the first collections of what came to be known as regole and partimenti.1

(p.35) REGOLE — In the early conservatories the Italian word for “Rules” (regole, RAY-go-lay) was heard all the time. Each conservatory had a set of written rules to guide it, analagous to how the Rule of St. Benedict regulated the behavior of Christian monks in monasteries. Here, translated into English, is the title page of the regole of 1746 for the Pietà:2

RULES

AND

STATUTES OF THE

ROYAL

CONSERVATORY

OF LA PIETÀ DE TURCHINI

to be observed by the

Administrators, Masters, Students,

and Servants

A.D. 1746

The rule book then presents twelve small chapters on “general rules,” whose titles are:

  1. 1. On the purpose of the Institute

  2. 2. On the way to admit and graduate students

  3. 3. On the way to dress

  4. 4. On the daily Spiritual exercises

  5. 5. On the other Spiritual exercises

  6. 6. On the annual Spiritual exercises

  7. 7. On the schools of grammar and of music

  8. 8. On concerts, processions, funerals, and other circumstances

  9. 9. On leaves and consultations

  10. 10. On the dining hall

  11. 11. On recreation

  12. 12. On silence and repose

Then follow twenty-three additional chapters of “individual rules and statutes” that cover every job or “office” from the “Lord Father Rector” down to “Barbers and Sweepers.” Twenty-four similar rules decreed for the Loreto will be presented in Chapter 5.

As one can infer from these titles, regole were meant to regulate and control human behavior, and it is in that spirit that one should read the regole for music. Pasquini’s rules for music begin with generalities, as did the rules for the Pietà. “First Rule: [When accompanying (p.36) at the keyboard] One should take care to move the hands in contrary motion, united by consonances if possible.” After only a few general rules he moves on to describe much more particular musical behaviors. In a set of regole called “Rules for Walking by Step” (meaning “how to accompany stepwise basses”), Pasquini labors through a prolix description: “When you find three notes that ascend by step and a last one that leaps down a fifth or up a fourth, make [the interval of] a sixth over the first note, a fifth and sixth over the second note, and a fourth then a third over the third note, and by ‘fourth’ one also intends a fifth, as for example …” He then clarifies things by notating the intended bass in five different major and minor keys (see Ex. 3.1).

Masters Take Up the ChallengeDurante, Leo, Fenaroli

Ex. 3.1 Pasquini’s rule for certain basses

As a famous virtuoso performer, Pasquini attracted young-adult students who were already highly capable. When they saw this notation, with the interval figures over the bass (a “figured bass” or “thoroughbass”), they immediately would recognize a common cadence that is presented first in the key of C major and then replicated in the keys of A minor, F major, D minor, and B♭ major. Pasquini’s method of teaching was actually quite subtle. By drawing attention to this pattern he set it apart as a distinct musical object that required a particular behavioral response from the player. Each of its replications uses the same scale degrees, so a performer begins to associate this cadence with scale steps ③, ④, ⑤, and ①. In Video 3.1 you can hear Pasquini’s bass played in its five different keys, with performances of student-like additions of right-hand keyboard parts (from easy to difficult), and a recording of this important seventeenth-century pattern in a composition for lute printed in 1650. That year Queen Christina was only twenty-four, still on the throne in Sweden, and her future harpsichordist Pasquini was only an apprentice musician, age thirteen. In other words, this was the type of music that the nobility and their musicians heard when growing up in the mid-1600s. It relied on stock bass patterns supporting elegant variations in treble parts, and it fostered a way of listening and sets of expectations that would remain important in European art music for centuries to come. To prosper in this style, apprentice musicians needed to learn all of those bass patterns.

PARTIMENTI — Each of the five cadences presented in Pasquini’s rule (see Ex. 3.1) is a miniature partimento (par-tee-MEN-toe, plural par-tee-MEN-tee). A partimento notates only one thread of a musical fabric, a bass to be played by the apprentice’s left (p.37) hand at the keyboard. It asks the young player to supply one or more of the other threads from his memory and imagination, to be performed by his right hand. Across Europe beginning in the early 1600s, basses supplied with figures to cue the intended chords, as in Example 3.1, were common aids used by keyboard accompanists playing in ensembles. What is different about partimenti is that they were intended to be independent compositions (no other players needed). Even when partimenti lacked any numerical figures, their basses contained clues to patterns learned in the regole, and those clues allowed the student player to complete or “realize” the piece intended by its composer, who was often the student’s master. Thus, through partimenti, masters and apprentices conversed musically in a language of musical patterns encoded in a bass.

Some of Pasquini’s partimenti were for two players and would have provided excellent opportunities for an apprentice to perform with his master. A simple adagio in D minor (Ex. 3.2; the music actually suggests a faster tempo) illustrates the pedagogical utility of these partimenti. The lead player or primo begins with a first motive (marked here with a red A). The secondo answers with motive B. If the secondo had studied Pasquini’s rules he would realize that motive B is like the cadence from Example 3.1. The modern annotation of scale degrees should make the resemblance clearer. The type of call and response pattern in this movement, where the players see each other’s basses but not their improvised upper parts, forced the apprentice to listen closely to what the master would play. A recreation of a master-and-apprentice performance can be heard on Video 3.2.

Masters Take Up the ChallengeDurante, Leo, Fenaroli

Ex. 3.2 Pasquini, a partimento for two players (Rome, ca. 1690)

DURANTE — Francesco Durante (1684–1755) was a contemporary of Bach and Handel. He entered the Poveri as a little boy, probably in the early 1690s, and later transferred to the Onofrio where he studied with Alessandro Scarlatti. Scarlatti had been at Queen Christina’s court and may have helped Durante obtain lessons from Pasquini in Rome. Sources vary on this point, but it would have been normal for a musician at the journeyman stage to travel in search of new experiences and masters. In the 1720s he succeeded Scarlatti at the Onofrio, and later he succeeded Nicola Porpora as head of the (p.38) Loreto. In the teaching of counterpoint he was important for using contemporary partimenti, rather than plainchant, as a foundation for lessons. And in the teaching of partimenti he was a great innovator.

Masters Take Up the ChallengeDurante, Leo, Fenaroli

Francesco Durante

If the young Durante had studied with Pasquini, his own virtuosity on the harpsichord would have joined his master’s to make for exciting performances. But in returning to Naples to teach, Durante would have realized that little boys could not play at that level. Regole would be useful in teaching a repertory of stock patterns, but the boys would need help in learning how to turn a partimento into an artistic performance. What had been only a loose connection between regole and partimenti with Pasquini and Scarlatti became more focused with Durante. He left behind forty-one rules for partimento basses, all of them illustrated with partimento exemplars of from two to fifty-five measures in length. He wrote many independent partimenti and, most importantly, more than a hundred partimenti diminuiti. “Diminished” partimenti meant partimenti whose upper part(s) featured elaborated figurations, often with short (“diminished”) note values. They gave a boy concrete suggestions for what to play with his right hand when encountering a given pattern in his left hand.

These Durante partimenti imply a three-stage process of discovery for the student. The first stage involves analyzing a partimento (see the bottom staff in Ex. 3.3) to determine which rule applies to it. If the student could see the leaping octaves as just repetitions of the same note-names, then this partimento goes from E down to C, from C up to D, and so forth. The masters called this “down a third, up a step” (cala di terza, sala di grado), which matches Durante’s rule (regola) no. 34 shown on the top staff. Observe that in this case the exemplar of the rule has the exact pitches of the beginning of the partimento, though this was not always the case. In the second stage, one studies and practices the three separate “styles” (modi) that Durante provides. Style “A” is typical of church music, Style “B” of the newer Galant style, and Style C of an advanced player. A third and final stage involves a return to the original partimento and an attempt to incorporate the modi into the flow of the complete work. All these stages can be heard in Video 3.3.

Masters Take Up the ChallengeDurante, Leo, Fenaroli

Ex. 3.3 Durante, A partimento diminuito

Viewed from the outside, these three stages may seem mechanical and uninspiring. But young performers were on an exciting path of musical discovery. For them a first glance at a Durante partimento could be terrifying. But the “Aha!” moment of recognizing a known bass motion began a process of familiarization and understanding. Mastering Durante’s styles allowed young performers to play at an adult level of complexity, and making the whole thing work in performance could be an exhilarating and highly memorable experience.

(p.39) A feature of ornamentation and elaboration in Naples was that the core tones implied by a rule tended to be played at salient moments. Thus in Ex. 3.3, the red “6s” in the rule, if performed as plain quarter-notes, would fall on the beat just as do all the red notes in the modi. The elaborations decorate but do not funad-mentally obscure the rule.

Masters Take Up the ChallengeDurante, Leo, Fenaroli

Leonardo Leo

LEO — Leonardo Leo (1694–1744) was trained at the Pietà under Nicola Fago, whom he replaced as first master in 1741. In his lifetime he was best known as a leading composer of opera, both serious and comic. His success in that difficult arena was due in part to his mastery of melody. In his sacred music, he composed elegant melodies that he then wove into beautiful tapestries of sound. His counterpoint was respectful of older Italian traditions going all the way back to Palestrina, but he could shape the flow of voices into the clear phrases of the newer Galant style, whose ultimate master would be Mozart many decades later.

The instructional works penned for his teaching at the Pietà show Leo to have been preparing his boys for work in church music. His strategy was practical. As mentioned in the Introduction, jobs in church music were far more numerous than jobs as a court musician or opera composer. And church jobs were steady. Every day there was some sort of service, the Sunday services required a great deal of music, and major feast days like Christmas and Easter were practically music festivals. With the Church as target employer, a master like Leo still had to determine what churches wanted from musicians. The place of music in Christian worship has been a subject of long dispute. Churchmen typically want the music to be subservient to the liturgy, but congregations usually want attractive music in a contemporary style to divert and entertain them.

Leo taught a sacred musical style that symbolized reverence and propriety through supple melodies and carefully crafted polyphony. Each voice moved gently, “obediently” with few leaps or harsh intervals. And at least one voice tended to waft downward in long, slow lines, giving a sense of forward motion toward musical “perfection” in a cadence. The fragment of a Leo partimento shown in Example 3.4 contains sufficient thoroughbass figures to suggest the counterpoint of imaginary upper parts. As indicated by notes in red, each suspension (tied notes that become dissonant) in the partimento can be answered by

Masters Take Up the ChallengeDurante, Leo, Fenaroli

Ex. 3.4 Leo, partimento in G major and 3/8 meter (Naples, ca. 1735)

(p.40) an imagined suspension in the upper voice. The entire partimento and a likely realization can be heard in Video 3.4. As you will hear, Leo’s simple bass line conceals an enchanting contrapuntal fabric of gentle voices all wafting slowly downward.

Video 3.4 also contains a likely realization of one of Leo’s partimento fugues. In a partimento fugue at least one voice of the multivoice texture is notated, with the performer adding in the other voices. You might say, “What other voices?,” given their absence from the score. But a partimento fugue contains a lot of clues to the combinations of voices that will be needed. The apprentice had to study the partimento, memorize important melodic material, and then be able to replay that material in any key when needed. Players who can do well in realizing these fugues attain an almost Zen-like state of intense concentration as their minds orchestrate the coordinated movements of two, three, or even four voices, only one of which may be written down. Many years of training are needed to reach this level, and partimento fugues were the capstone in improvisation training for apprentice church musicians at Leo’s Pietà. While partimento fugues seem not to have been a focus for Durante, they were widely taught elsewhere and contributed to the training of J. S. Bach and Handel. In comparison to fully notated fugues, the conservatory fugues in Naples were smaller, thinner in texture, and simpler, in part because they were meant to be improvised by students, not great masters.

Masters Take Up the ChallengeDurante, Leo, Fenaroli

Fedele Fenaroli

FENAROLI — Sometimes a master’s name may be remembered not for his brilliance in performace or composition but for his usefulness to students. The name Fedele Fenaroli (1730–1818) was of that type. As a boy he studied partimenti with Durante at the Loreto, remaining there as a teacher after graduation. Beginning in 1775 and continuing over the next forty years, he completed a series of manuscripts and small publications—Fenaroli’s “six books”3—that became the bible of later partimento training. The partimenti of earlier masters had been composed to fit the needs of particular students at particular stages in their training. Such partimenti were hand copied by or for students who already knew what their master intended. Fenaroli was the first conservatory master in Naples to think beyond his own institution and to envision publications for students not attending a conservatory. He arranged his lessons so that a talented amateur or a precocious child far from Naples could still begin work and slowly progress from Book 1 through Book 6. Compared with a modern textbook, Fenaroli’s books are almost entirely in music notation. Instructions are very brief or missing completely, and help from a local musician might be needed from time to time if one were studying alone. Nevertheless, by arranging the lessons in a progressive series from the very easy to the very difficult, he singlehandedly created a market for partimento books. His little volumes were (p.41) in print continuously from the early nineteenth until the mid-twentieth century and could be purchased in every possible format from small study editions to beautiful leather-bound, annotated volumes.

His Book 1 presents simple figured basses, Book 2 adds in a few suspensions, Book 3 restates all the rules of his first publication (1775) and provides simple partimenti as practice for each rule, Book 4 introduces unfigured basses, Book 5 contains a few partimenti diminuiti à la Durante and then advances to partimento fugues à la Leo, and Book 6 continues with complex counterpoint in more remote keys. In Naples, Book 1 might have been appropriate for a ten-year-old, with Book 6 used by advanced students eighteen to twenty years old. Any student who could realize the partimenti of Fenaroli’s Book 5 or 6 would have attained a mature understanding of the language of eighteenth-century harmony and counterpoint. Or put another way, completing Book 5 or 6 closed off the realm of school lessons and opened up the direct study of musical masterworks.

Masters like Durante, Leo, and Fenaroli found in partimenti a wonderful means of connecting a boy’s musical imagination with the physical acts of playing the keyboard. By giving the boy only part of a musical whole, they forced him to engage his aural and motor memories to complete it. Every act of completion, of matching improvised right-hand movements to written-out left-hand movements, helped to reinforce one of the rules, and collectively those rules formed the building blocks of a musical language the boy was actively learning to speak. Partimenti gave the masters a relatively foolproof way of taking little boys and slowly transforming them into professional musicians who could improvise and compose. These were valuable skills that could outweigh the social stigma that would always be attached to abandoned children.

Although partimenti were the integrative, embodied center of a boy’s maturation as a musician, they were only one facet of the curriculum. The masters saw to it that at least five additional types of musical knowledge were taught to the boys. Part 2 of this book will discuss all of these in some detail. But for the present a short summary of each should give a general idea of what one needed to learn.

1. Schemas

Musical knowledge is stored in memory. Young preprofessional musicians needed to fill their memories with dozens if not hundreds of musical patterns (i.e., structured mental representations that psychologists term “schemas”). Model patterns were provided to them by their masters, who listed them in regole, included hints of them in partimenti, and gave lovely melodic examples of them in solfeggi.

2. Solfeggi

Learning to read music was the first job of a conservatory boy. Each note was given a syllable (e.g., do, re, mi), helping to transform fleeting sounds into things with names and characteristics. A boy would prepare and perform textless melodies known as solfeggi, with the master accompanying at the harpsichord. That way a vocabulary of (p.42) melodies was learned in the full context of harmony and a bass. Knowing a melodic vocabulary would help the boy complete partimenti and assignments in counterpoint.

3. Counterpoint

Eighteenth-century music almost always involved two or more parts or voices. An old name for a graphic notehead was a “point.” So when one point sounds against another there is “point contra point” or “counterpoint.” Counterpoint involves learning how to match one part of a melody against another in such a way that they sound good together. The basics of this art were learned in partimenti, but the fine points were learned in advanced classes where exercises were written out, each voice or part on a separate staff.

4. Intavolaturas

These were completely written-out pieces for organ or harpsichord. They gave the boys examples of what contemporary keyboard music sounded like, how it felt in the hands and fingers, and how the complexities of orchestral music could be simplified so that a boy with only ten little fingers could play a facsimile of the real thing.

5. Dispositions

Adding the right-hand part to a partimento was called a “realization,” because the boy realized the musical potential of the left-hand bass part. When learning to write for ensembles, the boys would distribute or “dispose” voices onto individual staves. For a choir that meant a “disposition” into parts for soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. The same partimento that one might realize in keyboard improvisation could be given a disposition where each of its imagined upper voices was written out on its own staff with its own clef. Three or four voices (counting the given bass) was the norm for a disposition, the result being described as a dispositione à 3, or a dispositione à 4.

In some respects the Naples conservatories were closed systems where boys were taught by masters who had themselves been taught there as boys. The whole system appeared self-evident to those who had grown up on the inside. For us today, we are fortunate that some outsiders took the time to describe things that the insiders took for granted. The Englishman Charles Burney’s description of the Onofrio was mentioned in Chapter 1. This chapter continues with a description of the efforts of the Frenchman Choron to salvage classical music from the destructions of the French Revolution.

Masters Take Up the ChallengeDurante, Leo, Fenaroli

Alexandre-Étienne Choron

CHORON — Alexandre-Étienne Choron (1771–1834), son of a prosperous government official, had a number of talents. In mathematics he rose to become a tutor in descriptive geometry at the École Normale when he was only twenty-four. He also had talent for music, but given his social status, employment as a musician would have been well below his station. He nevertheless took lessons that seem to have included partimenti and counterpoint studies by Nicola Sala, a pupil of Leo at the Pietà. What makes Choron important today was his third talent—administration. In a chaotic era of (p.43) revolution and unstable French governments, his skills in creating or safeguarding institutions devoted to music, especially sacred music, have earned him the respect and gratitude of historians.

Prior to the Revolution (1789) hundreds of choir schools (maîtrises) taught choirboys to sing plainchant and sacred polyphony. Given that the maîtrise in Toulouse was still able to take in the seven-year-old Henri Busser (see Chap. 2) ninety years after the Revolution, one might think that the political upheavals of that era had little effect on educating singers. But in fact the Revolution killed music education in France. Everything came to a standstill. All of the people who funded training in music—bishops, cardinals, princes, marquises, counts—had been put to flight or worse. Without these benefactors the schools for musicians floundered and soon failed. Only when the National Guard began to run short of bandsmen was the Paris Conservatory established (1795) to begin training them.

What is known to historians today as the Concordat of 1801 ended an undeclared war between the Revolution and the Catholic Church. The agreement was signed by the new strongman, Napoleon. He also maneuvered the Church to support his coronation as Emperor in 1804. In return the Church obtained imperial permission to reestablish many of its institutions. Choron, well connected politically and passionate about church music, was ready to help put music education back on its feet. By 1804 he had already prepared and published a large volume containing an edited collection of regole and partimenti from the Naples conservatories, in cooperation with the Fenaroli student Vincenzo Fiocchi. Here is a translation of the long and flowery title page shown to the right:

Principles of Accompaniment of the Schools of Italy Extracts from the Best Authors: Leo, Durante, Fenaroli, Sala, Azopardi, Sabbatini, Padre Martini, and others A Classical Work Serving as an Introduction to the study of Composition Translated from the Italian, and arranged in an order most appropriate to facilitate both the intelligence and practice and dedicated to Monsieur Tarchi by Alexandre Choron and by Vincenzo Fiocchi formerly Organist at St. Peter’s, Rome and Master of Music for His Highness Ferdinand II, Grand Duke of Tuscany.

Masters Take Up the ChallengeDurante, Leo, Fenaroli

Choron, Principes d’accompagnement …, 1804

(p.44) The names Leo, Durante, and Fenaroli should sound familar, and both Sala and Azopardi were trained in Naples. The other masters—Sabbatini and Martini—were important figures in Bologna. Citing these authoritative masters bolstered Choron’s claim to having produced “A Classical Work” (Ouvrage Classique), by analogy to the classical works of ancient Greece and Rome. It is in this period that the idea of “classical music” begins to take hold. The Rome of Palestrina and Corelli takes the same place in music that the Rome of Cicero and Virgil had taken in literature. As we will explore later, the highest prize awarded to a composer at the Paris Conservatory would be the Rome Prize (Prix de Rome), which included a multi-year fellowship at the Villa di Medici in Rome.

“Harmony” was never an important subject in Naples. The masters saw particular chords as the byproducts of voices engaged in counterpoint. The movements of voices were primary, chords were secondary. In France, by contrast, harmony had been a topic of academic discussion since the 1720s. The great French composer Rameau, for instance, tried to conceive of harmony as an unseen, all-pervasive force akin to Newton’s gravity. That French approach explains something of the organization of Choron’s next publishing venture. The title page, shown below, looks much like that of his earlier project, shown on the previous page. But Choron’s Principles of Composition of the Schools of Italy (1808), in three folio-size leather-bound volumes, was a far grander undertaking with imperial support and a Who’s Who list of subscribers (including Haydn and Beethoven):

Principles of Composition of the Schools of Italy Adopted by the Government of France to serve the instruction of Students in Cathedral Choir Schools A Classical Work Complete with the most perfect models in their genres, enriched by a methodical text edited according to the instruction at the most celebrated Schools and the most highly esteemed authors of instructional material Dedicated to His Serene Majesty the Emperor and King by Alexandre Choron Volume I Containing the Preface and the First Three Books.

Masters Take Up the ChallengeDurante, Leo, Fenaroli

Choron, Principes de composition …, 1808

(p.45) This magnum opus was like an elaborate note in a bottle flung onto the seas of Napoleonic France in the hopes that a choir school (maîtrise) would receive it and thus preserve the great classical tradition of sacred music. Choron put in everything one might need. Its six books not only provide manuals in harmony, partimenti, and fugue, but they also contain extensive models of masterworks in all the needed genres under the heading “Musical Rhetoric”:

Book 1. Harmony and Accompaniment

A harmony text followed by 210 (!) Neapolitan partimenti and a chromatic fugue by Leo

Book 2. Basic Counterpoint

Species (= basic) counterpoint followed by the counterpoint treatise of Sala

Book 3. Double Counterpoint

More complex counterpoint followed by more Sala

Book 4. Imitation and Fugue

An adaptation of a treatise by Marpurg followed by more Sala

Book 5. Canons

More advanced counterpoint and still more Sala

Book 6. Musical Rhetoric

380 pages of music stretching from plainchant to contemporary works by Viotti and Boccherini

His publishing ventures drew attention to Choron’s interests and abilities. Napoleon made him director of music for public festivals, and Napoleon’s successor, Louis XVIII, put him in charge of reorganizing the maîtrises. These posts led circuitously to his founding (1818) a school devoted to sacred music, the Institution Royale de Musique Classique et Religieuse. While Choron’s focus and energy directed toward sacred music never waned, the finances of his school did. It fell on hard times until revived by Louis Niedermeyer in 1853 as the École de Musique Religieuse Classique, later renamed L’École Niedermeyer. And that was the school to which Henri Busser transferred from the maîtrise in Toulouse (see Chap. 2).

THE GOVERNORS — In 1972 Michael F. Robinson published a study and translation of selections from the Governors’ minutes at the Loreto.4 The Governors were the conservatory’s ruling council. They hired, fired, and paid employees, including the music masters. They set admissions procedures, wrote the rules for different types of students, and established standards of behavior for both students and their overseers. The head of the six-man council was ex officio the president of the Appeals Court in Naples, and he represented the Spanish Viceroy (Spain ruled Naples for much of the eighteenth century). The other five governors were appointees of that court. For two months a year each governor (p.46) was responsible for day-to-day problems at the conservatory, and each governor had an area of general responsibility. In 1759 these were described as:

The duty of managing the sacristy and church

The duty of managing the collection of taxes and revenue

The duty of managing the upkeep and rents of the houses

The duty of managing the lawsuits

The duty of managing classes, musical performances, funerals, clothing, fees to hire student musicians, privileges, and food

The duty of managing the reform of backward students

If Choron had had a politically well-connected and powerful set of governors like those who ran the Loreto, his music school would likely have prospered. A conservatory was partly a charitable institution, but also partly a business involved in staging performances, renting its donated properties, collecting revenues from tolls and taxes assigned to it by the monarch, renting out student performers, and managing the clothing, feeding, housing, and training of a hundred or more boys. The governors provided the business experience and connections to make all of this function smoothly. Indeed, the Loreto was long considered the best run, best financed of the four conservatories in Naples.

Robinson’s organizational chart of the Loreto is reconstructed on the facing page. What he terms Groups A and B are the support staff, those who have few daily contacts with students. Group C and especially Group C1 deal with students constantly. Those in Group C are primarily administrators and supervisors. And those in Group C1 are teachers, with the music teachers being the ones who made the institution and its students famous. It was in Naples, in four orphanages, that governors’ councils were able to hire brilliant masters to teach talented boys. The world had never had institutions like these before. And when, by the early 1700s, the institutions had reached a critical mass of boys (about 600 in total) and the masters had developed a curriculum that engaged the boys’ minds, hands, and voices from multiple angles, the graduates literally began to take over the world of music. When Charles Burney named the four greatest opera composers in the early 1770s, three out of four were graduates of a Naples conservatory. (p.47)

Masters Take Up the ChallengeDurante, Leo, Fenaroli (p.48)

Notes:

(1.) The valiant but flawed first attempt at a complete edition of Pasquini’s keyboard works (1960s) should be avoided. The current edition, Bernardo Pasquini, Opere per tastiera, 8 vols., eds. Cera, Carideo, Belotti (Rome: Il Levante, 2000–), is far superior, and includes his rules, partimenti, partimenti for two keyboard players, and a variety of fully notated keyboard works.

(2.) Anonymous, Regole e statuti del conservatorio della Pietà (Naples: MS, Consultazione Napoli 5.5.4.\7., Naples Conservatory Library, 1746).

(3.) Fedele Fenaroli published his rules in 1775 —Regole musicali per i principianti di cembalo nel sonar coi numeri e per i principianti di contrappunto (Naples, 1775)—but printed versions of his manuscript lessons of partimenti, which became codified as his six books of progressively more difficult partimenti, only began to appear in the early nineteenth century, eventually resulting in dozens of editions and numerous reprints.

(4.) Michael F. Robinson, “The Governors’ Minutes of the Conservatory S. Maria Di Loreto, Naples,” R.M.A. Research Chronicle 10 (1972), 1–97.