The Organ

Anonimi Toscani (18th century) Sonate per Organo Volumes III-IV

Anonimi Toscani (18th century) Sonate per Organo Volumes III-IV

Editor: Jolando Scarpa

Publisher: Edition Walhall EW985 and EW989 23.50 Euros each
Available through:

Ricasoli Collection

These two volumes, complete the modern edition of the 121 organ pieces contained in manuscript RicS 137, part of the Ricasoli collection at the University of Louisburg, USA. This particular manuscript contains pieces composed for the Mass, with many Verses for the standard components, as well as Toccatas and Fugues. There is a notable similarity to many pieces found in manuscripts of Giambatista Martini. A review of volumes I and II was published in The Organ no. 391 pages 50-51.

Volume III contains 13 pieces, opening with an Offertorio in C time in G, marked Tempo Giusto and subheaded Toccata. With long held pedal notes and vigorous right hand writing with much use of semiquaver triplets over left hand quavers it is full of vitality. The following Elevazione in cut C time in D is in binary form, just the first section of 32 bars having repeat dots marked, the second section with 49 bars could still be repeated. The right hand is mainly in single note semiquavers with a few passages in quaver thirds over left hand crotchets. The Post Communio in G in C time is marked Allegro, and is in binary form, again just the opening section has repeat marks. An Alberti bass in semiquavers beneath crotchets makes a rare appearance, with similar broken triad seniquavers also appearing in the right hand towards the end of the first section. Two sets of Versetti, both in F, follow, the first set of five being per il Vespero della Sacra and longer than most other sets, opening with a Toccata in C time. The second, also in C time, is marked Con Spirito as is the fifth, the third is an Andantino Brioso in 3/ 4 for Principale e Flauto with more Alberti bass in a few bars and long pedal notes. The fourth Versetto is an Allegretto in 2/4 for Ottava e Flauto (probably at 4 ft pitch) and also has more Alberti bass. The right hand has some effective syncopated writing. The final Versetto is a Con Spirito in 3/ 4 for Orgo Aperto. Most of the writing is in the treble range. The next set of Versetti in 6 Tuono consists of only three pieces, a Toccata in 3/ 4, a Grave in 2/4 with a melodic right hand in various rhythms against quavers, and a piece in 3/ 4 without indications with Alberti bass semiquavers against right hand crotchets appearing for a few bars midway through. Long pedal notes underpin quaver thirds. The Offertorio in D in C time has passages for Organo aperto punctuated by brief passages in thiirds and sixths in the right hand for Trombe. Writing includes semiquaver broken triads over drumming quavers. The Elevazione in C major marked Maestoso in C time has mainly crotchets in the left gand beneath semiquaver passagework with some quaver thirds. The Post Communio, also in C major, in 3/8 is a lively piece with repeated semiquaver thirds and oscillating left hand quavers. The remaining five pieces are all entitled Pastorale, opening with an Offertorio in G, opening in a Vivace 12/8 for Principe, Ottava e Flauto has dotted rhythms and held pedals, moving into a Largo in 6/8 for Princip. E Flauto which in turn is followed by repeated sections in 2/4 for Flauta solo and then Princip. E Flauto, which has more lively writing over held pedal. The final section sees a return to 12/8, Organo aperto, probably also Vivace. The Post Communio Pastorale in C major in C time is primarily in two voices and has alternating sections for Princip e Flautao the closing passage having oscillating quaver octave Cs in the left hand over a pedal note. The Versetti Pastorale are all in F and include eight pieces opening with a short Larghetto in 6/8 with dotted notes. The Allegro in 3/ 4 makes use of insistent rhythmic the right hand. There are long internal pedals. The third is a Largo in 6/8 with dotted rhythms and equal semiquavers in the right hand. The following 12/8 Allegro is mainly in crotchet-quaver in each hand, and the fifth, a Larghetto for Princip.e, e Ottava, is a dotted rhythm 12/8. An Allegro in C time is for Princip. E Flauto with two sections for the Flauta solo. An Andantino in 3/8 has semiquaver triplets in the left hand and the last Versetto in the set is an Andante in 12/8 marked Piva, mixing dotted and crotchet-quaver rhythms. The penultimate piece in the book is a multi sectional Offertorio Pastorale in G, which opens in C time with much use of Alberti bass. There follows a brief repeated Andantino in 3/8 for Princip. Solo, before a much longer Allegro in 12/8 for Princip, Ottava e Flauto mixed rhythms with internal pedals. A short Adagio in 6/8 alternates between Flauto solo and Princi, Ottava e Flauto before an Allegro for Organo aperto with Alberti basses over a tonic pedal brings the piece to a close. The final piece in the volume is a Post Communio Pastorale, an Allegro in C major in 6/8, opening on the Flauto and alternating with passages for Principale. E Flauto (although some psubsequent passages are marked Princ).

Volume IV has only 10 pieces, opening with a Pastorale in 12/8 in A, marked Adagio and for Princip.e e Ottava. It is in dotted rhythms with tr and grace notes, and some interplay between major and minor. The second section is a short Allegro of only 17 bars in binary form in 2/4 for Flauto. The next piece, a Piva, is also in 2/4 and in A and unusually is for Princip.e, Ottavo e Flauto – such pieces imitating the sound of bagpipes were usually registered by a reed stop. It is written in several sections, some of which are between repeat dots, with f and p indicated. For much of the piece the bass consists of a long held A with occasional G#. This is followed by another Pastorale in three sections, opening with an Adagio in G in 6/8 for Flauta solo mainly in crotchet-quaver rhythm, after which comes an Allegro for Princip.e, Ottavo e Flauto in nine short sections in G, of which the second, fourth, sixth and eighth are repeats of the first, third, fifth and seventh respectively and are marked p as a contrast to the f of the odd numbered sections. The final one is a short coda marked f. The final movement is a Grave in C time in D, with much use of oscillating octave quavers in the left hand before the closing eight bars with semiquaver runs or repeated notes over crotchets before a chordal coda. The main piece in the volume is a multi-movement Toccata, opening with an Allegro in D with long held pedal points supporting the varied textures in the manuals. The following Grave Andantino in F has rhythmic variety in the right hand including runs in hemidemisemiquavers, necessitating a slower tempo than the heading might suggest and a more active pedal part, relatively speaking. It is very similar to Martini’s Elevazione. The next four movements are marked Allegro and for Flauto, the first being in 2/4 in G,, mainly in two voices with short repeated sections of fuller left hand over a pedal point. The next two are in C, the first in 6/8 and the second in 3/8, both with a variety of rhythmic writing, as is also found in the fourth Allegro, in C time and in G. The final movement is in G, marked Allegro Moderato in C time, and is for Organo pieno with extensive pedal points.

After the Toccata there are three pieces entitled Post Communio, all are bipartite and marked Allegro, and are similar to many non-specifically liturgical Italian sonatas for organ or harpsichord/fortepiano. The first in G is in C time and has a single note treble against a fuller left hand including repeated quavers. The second is a two-voice piece in C in 12/8 with quaver movement against repeated dotted crotchets a feature, and the third, in C in 2/4, has a mainly two-voice texture but with some re[eated chords in the left hand and scale passages in semiquavers in the right hand alone. The final three pieces are groups of short Versetti, the first being a set of 20 in C 3.a.Min (ie C minor). Nos. seven, 12 and 13 are Toccatas, nos. four and 10 are marked Grave, 11, 13 and 20 are Allegro, 16 and 19 are Larghetto Giusto, 18 is Allegretto. Only nos. 18 and 20 carry registration indications, Flauto in each case. The next set of 11 is in C major, three and nine are marked Grave, four and eight Allegro, and only no. eight has a registration, Flauto. The final set of 17 are headed per il Te Deum I, all being in F major, apart from no. 3 which is in G minor. 11 is marked Grave, 12 is Allegro; none have registrations indicated. Each set of Versetti contains a wide variety of time signatures, rhythms and textures, several have long held notes for pedals. Most are homophonically conceived, with just a few having imitative writing.

Some of the pieces indicate the registrations to be used, but the majority would probably have been played on the full or semi-full chorus of the Principale with some Flutes according to contemporary builders and others; the author of the manuscript left some useful notes on registration which Scarpa has included in his preface. A few pieces have an obligato pedal part, sometimes written out and sometimes indicated just by letters, although this does not preclude their use at cadences in pieces which carry no indications. They are all still most suitable for use in the Liturgy today; perhaps these two volumes will inspire some readers to explore the similar pieces in mss from the collection which have been digitised for Imslp.

John Collins