On 16 March 1736 Giovanni Battista Pergolesi died from consumption at age twenty-six in the Franciscan monastery of Pozzuoli near Naples, leaving a considerable number of compositions in all genres: stage works, cantatas, instrumental music and sacred music. On account of the success these compositions had enjoyed in Italy during his life, and the extraordinary fame they achieved in the rest of Europe after his death, a multitude of works bearing his name continued to be disseminated, many of which had little, if any, connection with Pergolesi himself. This phenomenon invites us to question what mechanisms are at work when a piece of music is misattributed, for if spurious or doubtful works can be classified according to their origin, then the identification of recurring patterns may help disentangle similar cases. This essay aims to classify the origins of misattributed sacred works from the first decades of Pergolesi's posthumous reception.
The artificial multiplication of Pergolesi's compositions ebbed after a few decades. By the turn of the nineteenth century, European reception of his music was reduced to just a few works: the intermezzo La serva padrona and the Stabat mater, and to a lesser degree Livietta e Tracollo and the Salve regina in C minor.Footnote 1 Catalogues of Pergolesi's works were first compiled at this time, with the beginning of a historical interest in ‘classical’ Neapolitan music from the early eighteenth century. During the 1820s one of Pergolesi's earliest biographers, the collector and amateur composer Giuseppe Sigismondo (1739–1826), mentioned only works that he knew or owned in score.Footnote 2 In the second half of the nineteenth century, François-Joseph Fétis, Hans Michael Schletterer and Friedrich Chrysander, among others, rediscovered and described with commendable bibliographical effort not only Pergolesi's authentic compositions, but also many of the spurious works, leading to the surprisingly extensive work-lists included in Robert Eitner's Quellenlexikon and in Giuseppe Radiciotti's biography.Footnote 3
Considerable confusion was introduced by the infamous ‘complete works’ edition in vocal score by Filippo Caffarelli, published during the Second World War. Caffarelli did not enter at all into the question of attribution, printing anything that bore the name of Pergolesi, and most often even failed to mention the sources he had used.Footnote 4 Understandably, post-war musicology had to deal with attribution problems for several decades, starting in the late 1940s with studies by Frank Walker and Charles Cudworth concerning the instrumental music.Footnote 5 From the 1960s to the 1990s, a second generation of musicologists questioned the authorship of several other doubtful compositions using different approaches. To mention only a few of the most important studies, Francesco Degrada examined the style of Pergolesi's sacred music, Marvin E. Paymer and Barry S. Brook described his handwriting and Hanns-Bertold Dietz discussed conflicting attributions among works by contemporary Neapolitan composers.Footnote 6 In the 1980s Brook, Degrada and Helmut Hucke were general editors of a series of Pergolesi's complete works, of which only four volumes were published. The goal of a complete critical edition was taken over by a new series that started in 2012. As part of this endeavour, a thematic catalogue of the composer's works will be published.Footnote 7 It is easy to predict that one of the more challenging tasks will be to list all spurious works and to identify reworkings of authentic compositions.
There are two main ways of resolving attribution issues, by examining internal and external evidence. Internal evidence is roughly equivalent to style analysis, a topic that was of central interest for Pergolesi scholars such as Brook and Paymer.Footnote 8 On the other hand, even a work stylistically near to those of Pergolesi must exhibit convincing external evidence – that is, a transmission of sources with some connection to Naples. Such evidence may be found, for example, in the history of music collections and in the identification of copyists’ hands and Neapolitan paper types.Footnote 9 In this essay I follow a different line of thought, still pertaining to external evidence, in seeking a methodology by which to classify misattributions. Many spurious works were evidently created for commercial reasons, as a new Pergolesi work would certainly have been easy to sell in the mid-eighteenth century. Still, the aim in attributing a foreign work to a famous composer need not be dishonourable: it may be a sincere, if unfortunate, attempt at identification. Three main mechanisms in the production of misattributed works can be identified: parodies, false attributions and homages. In posthumous parodies and pasticcios, most of the music is actually by Pergolesi but the work itself has to be considered spurious. Source evidence suggests that this was the first means whereby new titles were added to Pergolesi's works list. False attributions attach the name of Pergolesi to music that may or may not resemble his works in style, and can have a very distant origin in both time and space. Finally, some cases exist of compositions that are stylistically very near to Pergolesi’s, but whose sources do not provide enough evidence to confirm his authorship: these may be instances of Pergolesi's compositional influence in Italy.
PARODIES AND REWORKINGS
The simplest way to augment Pergolesi's output and thereby quench the thirst for new works by him was to resort to parody.Footnote 10 Consider the example of Girolamo Chiti (1679–1759), born in the Tuscan town of Siena and maestro di cappella of the Roman basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano from 1726 to the end of his life. Most of his extant sacred vocal works are scored a cappella, since instruments were only exceptionally used in the basilica. Still, he owned a collection of concertato works with instrumental accompaniment. Some of these are mentioned in a letter he sent in 1754 to Giovanni Battista Martini in Bologna: sacred compositions by the Neapolitans Domenico Sarro, Leonardo Vinci, ‘Ciccio’ (Francesco) Durante and Giovanni Gualberto Brunetti. Chiti mentions, incidentally, that he had ordered two motets and a mass by Durante directly from the composer in Naples.Footnote 11 Comparatively few concertato compositions are preserved today in the music archive of the Lateran basilica. Among these is a responsory, Christus factus est, for which Chiti does not supply the author's name, only giving the date of his copy, 1744. In fact, it is an adaptation of the ‘Qui tollis . . . suscipe’ from the Mass in D major by Pergolesi.Footnote 12 Chiti changed the text and the scoring, reducing the original five vocal parts (with double soprano) to four.
More complex cases result from reworkings that mix together several authentic works; for some of these, no conclusive evidence is available. The ‘Laudamus te’ from Pergolesi's Mass in D major replaces the original setting of the same text in a copy of his Mass in F major.Footnote 13 The fugue on ‘propter magnam gloriam’, again from the Mass in D major, was parodied as the fifth movement, ‘Et abundantia diligentibus te’, of a Laetatus sum in D major attributed to Pergolesi. The rest of this work is a parody of Pergolesi's authentic Confitebor setting. This ‘pasticcio-parody’ is preserved in two eighteenth-century manuscripts in Naples and Milan;Footnote 14 two early nineteenth-century copies in Paris and Washington derive from an unidentified Roman score.Footnote 15
This kind of reworking was also popular outside Italy. Another pasticcio based on the conflation of the two authentic masses inserts the ‘Qui tollis . . . suscipe’ and the ‘Quoniam’ from the Mass in F into the Mass in D. The pasticcio's oldest known source is a set of parts from Breslau dated 1750.Footnote 16 One copy eventually found its way to Italy and is today preserved in the collection of Simon Mayr in Bergamo.Footnote 17 Another example comes from nearby Prague. The Kapellmeister of the city's cathedral, Josef Antonín Sehling (1710–1756), copied a work indicating its parody status in the title Cantata versa in offertorium pro defunctis (cantata transformed into an offertory for the dead). More precisely, Sehling combined extracts from two original compositions by Pergolesi: a parody of Bernardo's aria ‘Come non pensi’ from the ‘sacred drama’ Li prodigi della divina grazia nella conversione e morte di San Guglielmo duca d’Aquitania (first performed in Naples in 1731) and a parody of the fugal duet ‘Fac ut ardeat’ from the Stabat mater.Footnote 18
Most ‘parody-pasticcios’ are likely to be posthumous reworkings. Still, their authenticity is a thorny issue, since self-borrowings and parodies were an important part of the compositional method of Pergolesi and his contemporaries. For example, Pergolesi borrowed for the Mass in D the E minor ‘Domine Deus’ that he had originally composed for the Mass in F.Footnote 19 He also parodied the ‘Cum Sancto Spiritu’ from the Mass in D and inserted it as a ‘Sicut erat’ at the end of his Laudate pueri.Footnote 20 Thus evidence for or against the authenticity of similar reworkings can only come from carefully considering the sources. In general, non-Italian copies are more likely to transmit spurious works than Neapolitan manuscripts from Pergolesi's time. However, such evidence cannot be considered conclusive, since we cannot know how many sources have been lost.
Conflicting attributions are helpful in establishing the authenticity of works because one can compare the compositional style and transmission patterns of two or more known authors. But when all sources ascribe a composition to Pergolesi, the results of style analysis and a study of transmission may be confirmed by investigating the origin of a suspected misattribution.
Recently, attention has been drawn to a composition attributed to Pergolesi in many sources from German-speaking countries, especially Catholic ecclesiastical circles in southern Germany and Austria. The oratorio Septem verba a Christo in cruce moriente prolata was first published by Hermann Scherchen in 1952 based upon a set of partbooks copied in Zurich c1770.Footnote 21 In 2013 Richard Fehling published a new edition using three additional manuscripts in Kremsmünster, Metten (both dated c1760) and Munich (undated, originating from the monastery of Aldersbach).Footnote 22 Other sources are preserved in Ottobeuren and Regensburg.Footnote 23 Thus the transmission pattern of the known sources points to north of the Alps. Does this disqualify the work as authentic? Surely not, but the specific pattern of dissemination through ecclesiastical circles does suggest that the attribution may be incorrect, as with the following examples.
Consider the case of a Mass in F major printed under Pergolesi's name in Vienna in 1805.Footnote 24 Stylistically, there is no doubt that it is a composition by a Neapolitan master from the 1730s or 1740s; for publication, it was slightly adapted to modern practice through the addition of winds.Footnote 25 Francesco Degrada included the work among Pergolesi's authentic works, whereas Helmut Hucke expressed serious doubts, as he did not know any sources prior to the Viennese edition.Footnote 26 Today we have a clearer picture of the work's transmission. The earliest datable mention of this composition is found in a 1753 inventory of the music library in the Cistercian monastery of Osek, in Bohemia.Footnote 27 Josef Antonín Sehling in Prague owned a set of partbooks for this work which is still preserved there.Footnote 28 Later manuscript sources, for example those in Dresden and Zug, Switzerland, were probably copied from the Viennese edition.Footnote 29 Thus the so-called Missa postuma is an example of a work attributed to Pergolesi showing a similar origin to the Septem verba, with sources spreading from the abbeys of Kremsmünster and Osek.
In the eighteenth-century music chapels of monasteries and convents of the Alpine region and of the Habsburg lands, there was a strong desire to update the repertoire with compositions by famous Italian composers. Often this desire was satisfied by attaching sacred texts to opera arias.Footnote 30Deliciae terrenae is the Latin text of a parodied alto aria attributed to Pergolesi and kept in the Benedictine abbey of Einsiedeln, Switzerland.Footnote 31 Given that the original text was certainly different, and that the music may not be Pergolesi's at all, the task of identifying the original context of the aria becomes a difficult one. False attributions are also found in the case of larger-scale compositions. To remain in Einsiedeln, sacred works attributed to Pergolesi in sources from the late eighteenth century include a five-part Salve regina in B flat major (in a nineteenth-century manuscript by Sigismund Keller scored from now-lost older partbooks) and a four-part Magnificat in D major (in partbooks dated 1775).Footnote 32 Setting aside the question of musical style, it is unlikely that three otherwise unknown compositions by Pergolesi should have been preserved in Einsiedeln.
Though at least some of the aforementioned works may indeed have been composed in Italy, no sources are known from that country. Possibly these works were preserved north of the Alps precisely because their sources came to carry the name of a famous author. Their putative Italian originals, which were either anonymous or attributed to an obscure maestro, have been lost or lie yet unremarked in some music library. In a central European ecclesiastical context, then, misattributions were often created, perhaps bona fide, for the sake of enhancing the prestige of the local chapel's repertoire.
EXERCISES IN STYLE
Most Neapolitan Salve regina compositions from the early eighteenth century divide the text into five to six sections, alternating slow and fast movements and solos and duets in a finely balanced scheme, and a Salve regina for two sopranos, two violins and continuo in F minor attributed to Pergolesi is no exception.Footnote 33 It divides the text of the Marian antiphon into six movements in binary ‘aria da chiesa’ form (three short, non-modulating ritornellos and two statements of the aria's text in modulating solo episodes). The first, fourth and sixth sections are duets, and the tonal plan is well balanced: F minor, B flat major, E flat major, G minor, C minor, F minor.
While the composition is likely to be Neapolitan, the source situation is less straightforward. As with the Missa postuma, most manuscripts appear to be copies of the two first editions, printed in Paris and in London between the 1760s and the 1770s.Footnote 34 The only two sources not derived from the printed editions are late eighteenth-century Italian scores of uncertain provenance, kept today in conservatory libraries in Florence and Venice.Footnote 35 The work's transmission pattern, then, does not pass through the ecclesiastical circles encountered above. Is this work a Neapolitan Salve regina from the 1730s, falsely attributed to Pergolesi by its first publishers for commercial reasons? While this remains the most straightforward hypothesis, there is another possible explanation.
Let us compare the situation of this Salve regina with two well-known cases of clear misattribution to other Neapolitan composers: another Salve regina in F minor, for soprano, alto, two violins and continuo attributed to Alessandro Scarlatti, and a Pange lingua in D minor for the same scoring attributed to Francesco Provenzale. In their studies of the two composers, Benedikt Poensgen and Dinko Fabris have shown that the attributions are untenable.Footnote 36 They also noticed that the two works are closely related: their only sources, two late eighteenth-century scores, are in the same hand.Footnote 37 The music was originally transmitted anonymously, and the two ‘wrong’ attributions were added later, possibly by Giuseppe Sigismondo.Footnote 38 It is unclear why works inspired by Pergolesi were attributed to two older composers. The close relationship of both works to Pergolesi's Stabat mater was noticed by both Fabris and Poensgen; Fabris suggested, moreover, that the attributions may be falsifications inspired by the Stabat mater's fame or preparatory material for the masterpiece by Pergolesi himself.Footnote 39
In fact, it might be more accurate to view these works as compositional exercises based upon Pergolesi's model. As such, they reflect the reception of Pergolesi's music in Naples. If they are conscious style copies, they may date from well after Pergolesi's time. Perhaps, given the lack of earlier sources, the Salve Regina printed in Paris and London was also composed in a deliberately old-fashioned manner, not long before its publication. In this case, it too might be viewed as a part of Pergolesi reception history. The Neapolitan musical ‘canon’ for sacred music from the 1720s and 1730s had indeed a long life, and its influence lasted well into the nineteenth century.Footnote 40
To sum up, we have seen that evidence derived from the transmission pattern of a doubtful work may be strengthened by reference to other works with similar patterns. Combined with style analysis, such evidence facilitates hypotheses about the origins of misattributions to Pergolesi. Moreover, by classifying misattributions as parodies, false attributions or exercises in style, as with the examples discussed above, we may be able to recognize further cases that will help refine our knowledge of the Neapolitan master and his influence.