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Although Fedele Fenaroli's partimento and counterpoint pedagogy has been the subject of a number of recent publications, several aspects of its organization and contents require further research. Thanks to the recent discovery of multiple manuscripts, I am able to elaborate on two of them in this article. First I deal with Fenaroli's partimento curriculum. As several manuscripts illustrate, Fenaroli appears to have maintained a progressive method consisting of four parts (or books) almost throughout his entire career. A partimento student had to work through the first three books successively, which served as Fenaroli's basic partimento course. When these three books had been satisfactorily assimilated, the student could proceed with book 4, which was clearly intended by Fenaroli as his advanced partimento course. Secondly, I engage with Fenaroli's views on dissonance treatment and place them in the broader context of eighteenth-century Neapolitan pedagogy, and thoroughbass and music theory treatises in general.


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I would like to sincerely thank Rosa Cafiero, Robert O. Gjerdingen, Nicoleta Paraschivescu and especially Peter van Tour for their help with finding the sources needed for my research and/or for valuable comments on earlier drafts of this article.



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1 See amongst others Gjerdingen, Robert O., Music in the Galant Style (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007); Sanguinetti, Giorgio, ‘Partimento-Fugue: The Neapolitan Angle’, in Partimento and Continuo Playing in Theory and in Practice, ed. Moelants, Dirk (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2010), 71–109; Sanguinetti, Giorgio, The Art of Partimento: History, Theory, and Practice (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012); and van Tour, Peter, Counterpoint and Partimento – Methods of Teaching Composition in Late Eighteenth-Century Naples (Uppsala: Uppsala Universitet, 2015).

2 Sanguinetti even calls this distinction ‘one of the most puzzling aspects of partimento theory’: Sanguinetti, The Art of Partimento, 103.

3 As far I know, five editions of Regole Musicali appeared in Naples during Fenaroli's lifetime. The first two editions, dating from 1775 and 1795, have as their full title Regole musicali per i principianti di cembalo (Rules of Music for Beginners at the Harpsichord) and were published by Vincenzo Mazzola-Vocola. The third edition of Regole Musicali also came out in 1795, but was published by Domenico Sangiacomo with the title Regole musicali per li principianti di cembalo. The fourth and fifth editions, having as their full title Regole musicali per i principianti di cembalo nel sonar co i numeri, e per i principianti del contropunto (Rules of Music for Beginners at the Harpsichord for Playing Figured Bass, and for Beginners in Counterpoint), were also published by Domenico Sangiacomo and date from 1802 and 1814 respectively. A sixth edition of Regole Musicali was probably published by Sangiacomo as well, since this was the case with the seventh edition, dating from 1832. I have been unable to find the sixth edition and do not know its publication year.

4 Peter van Tour is one of the few scholars who has, to an extent, dealt with some of these partimento manuscripts: van Tour, Counterpoint and Partimento, 162–164.

5 Rosa Cafiero, who pointed out to me the existence of I-Baf MSGI-MUSC-MUS.1 (C. 1R), has completed an article on this source that will appear later in 2018 (Rosa Cafiero, ‘Muscogiuri! Chi era costui? Apprendistato “secondo la scuola vera di Durante” (febbraio 1781–novembre 1782)’, in Studi Pergolesiani / Pergolesi Studies 11, ed. Claudio Bacciagaluppi and Marilena Laterza (Bern: Peter Lang, forthcoming).

6 I have discovered that this publication, with the title Partimenti Ossia Basso Numerato, Opera Completa Di Fedele Fenaroli, was actually printed at least twice: F-Pn Vm8–313 represents one edition, F-Pn Vm8–314 and F-Pn Vm8–315 another. Both editions give a different layout for the same text on page 48, and F-Pn Vm8–313 contains one extra paragraph (named ‘Risoluzione ommessa nell'Armonia della 9.a/Résolution omise dans l'harmonie de la 9.e’) and illustration.

7 Gjerdingen, for instance, based his own digital edition of Fenaroli's complete partimento corpus on Imbimbo 1813: Robert O. Gjerdingen, website Monuments of Partimenti, As for Sanguinetti, he used a considerable number of musical examples from this specific edition in order to illustrate Fenaroli's Regole Musicali: Sanguinetti, The Art of Partimento, 114–157.

8 Fenaroli apparently obtained a press proof from Imbimbo, about which he stated the following in the above-mentioned letter: ‘La stampa della mia musica in Parigi si era stampata piena di errori, ora si stà rivedendo da un mio discepolo, e spero d'averla purgata, seppure si prenderà la pena di renderla tale’. (The edition of my music in Paris has been printed full of errors, is being corrected right now by one of my pupils, and I hope to have it purged, but only if he makes the effort to do this.) Letter quoted in Cafiero, Rosa, ‘“La musica è di nuova specie, si compone senza regole”: Fedele Fenaroli e la tradizione didattica napoletana fra Settecento e Ottocento’, in Il didatta e il compositore, ed. Miscia, Gianfranco (Lucca: Libreria Musicale Italiana, 2011), 206; my translation.

9 The reason Fenaroli composed these partimenti specifically for Imbimbo 1813 remains somewhat puzzling. After all, he intended only a restricted use for them: ‘Ora sto facendo il quinto libro di partimenti fugati, e soltanto voi che siete della mia scuola, e che molto capite potete insegnarli’. (Right now, I am composing the fifth book of partimenti fugati, and only you, who belong to my school and are very learned, can teach them.) Letter quoted in Cafiero, ‘La musica’, 206; translation from van Tour, ‘Counterpoint and Partimento’, 163, note 92.

10 Fenaroli's partimento curriculum accords to a certain extent with that of his teacher Durante. For more specific information about the latter see Peter van Tour's excellent article ‘Partimento Teaching according to Francesco Durante, Investigated through the Earliest Manuscript Sources’, in Studies in Historical Improvisation: From ‘Cantare super Librum’ to ‘Partimenti’, ed. Massimiliano Guido (London: Routledge, 2017), 131–148.

11 Two of the partimento manuscripts I have examined do propose a slightly different order. I-Mc Noseda Th.c.121 is lacking its beginning, that is, the section on the rule of the octave in the commonly used keys, and starts with the cadences, after which the rule of the octave is given in remote keys. As for I-Bsf FN. F. I. 1, the beginning of this manuscript seems hastily written, opening with a mix of the rule of the octave in major and minor, and in common and remote keys, with illustrations of the cadences in the middle of this section. Note, though, that this partimento manuscript also opens with the rule of the octave and not with the cadences.

12 It should be mentioned that the current binding of I-Bsf M.F. I-8 contains a mistake: folios 8 and 9 should be interchanged. In its present form, folio 7v, containing the beginning of the illustrations of the rule of the octave in third position in remote keys, is followed by the partimenti in A major and A minor on folio 8r and by those in B major and B minor on folio 8v. As for the current folio 9, its recto shows the conclusion of the illustrations of the rule of the octave in third position in remote keys, under which Seguono i Bassetti (The small basses [partimenti] follow) is written, while its verso gives the partimenti in G major and G minor.

13 One partimento manuscript I have analysed proposes a different superstructure. While all the individual sections are presented in the same order as in the other partimento manuscripts, the explanatory section on the dissonances in I-PAc F. Ms. 612 does not open book 2, but concludes book 1. Similarly, its section on the moti del basso occurs at the end of book 2 instead of at the beginning of book 3 (see also Table 1). As for the number of partimenti in book 3 of the partimento manuscripts, it seems to vary according on the stage of composition (see again also Table 1). The earliest version of book 3, as illustrated in I-Bsf FN. F. I. 1, contains forty partimenti, while its final version, as illustrated in I-Bsf M.F. I-8, features forty-nine. Another difference between the earliest and final stages of book 3 is that, in the former, three of its partimenti are notated as partimenti diminuiti – a type of partimento that includes a possible realization for the first bars and was abundantly used by Fenaroli's own maestro, Durante – while the final version of book 3 gives an incipit for realization to two more partimenti. (Still, it must be mentioned that these partimenti were not always copied as diminuiti. I-PAc F. Ms. 612, for instance, contains all forty-nine partimenti of the final version of book 3, none of which, however, is accompanied with an incipit for realization.)

14 For more information on Fenaroli's counterpoint curriculum see van Tour, Counterpoint and Partimento, 157–168.

15 Lavigna studied counterpoint from 1791 to 1795 and has dated his copy of the first and second sections of the fourth book ‘1794, 29. 9bre’ (29 November 1794) and ‘1795’ respectively (see also Table 1).

16 While some small variations exist regarding the order in which the partimento manuscripts present the remote scales, the most frequently used sequence is given in Table 3.

17 The reason that book 3 gives each possible realization of the moti del basso in only one key, G major or G minor, is probably to limit the number of pages this enumeration takes, the topic of the moti del basso already being the most extensive one. As for the partimenti of books 3 and 4, they are no longer presented in a regular key sequence – undeniably a logical choice, both pedagogically and musically, at this stage in the curriculum.

18 In Imbimbo 1813, book 3 contains only the demonstration of the moti del basso, while book 4 displays forty-four of the forty-nine partimenti present in the final version of book 3 of the partimento manuscripts.

19 For an in-depth, and the most recent, discussion of this matter see van Tour, Counterpoint and Partimento, 28–69 and 121–200.

20 Fenaroli 1775, 3 and 14. In the paragraph following his enumeration of the dissonances, Fenaroli did nuance the rule that all dissonances have to be prepared, pointing out that this does not account for the second, which makes it different from the ninth (Fenaroli 1775, 14–15). Somewhat further in Regole Musicali, in the section Delle legature del Basso (Concerning Suspensions of the Bass), he elaborated on the second, explaining that ‘sulla nota susseguente del Partimento, la quale scenderà di semitono, dovrà rimanere per terza quella nota dell'accompagnamento, che è stata la seconda della nota del Partimento legato’ (above the partimento's subsequent note, which descends a semitone, the note that had been the second above the tied partimento should remain as a third): Fenaroli 1775, 20–21; translation from Gjerdingen, Monuments of Partimenti (for this and for all future translations from Gjerdingen, the ordinal numbers have been written in full). It should be noted, however, that the distinction between the second and ninth was not specifically Fenaroli-related, but rather represented a generally accepted view in the eighteenth century, as formulated, for instance, by Francesco Gasparini in his Armonico Pratico al Cimbalo: ‘in questo caso [la Seconda] non si risolve come l'altre Dissonanze, ma la parte istessa del Basso risolve descendendo di grado in questo modo’ (the second does not resolve, as do the other dissonances, but instead the bass itself resolves stepwise downward). Gasparini, Francesco, L'Armonico Pratico al Cimbalo (Bologna: Silvani, 1713), 41; translation from Gasparini, Francesco, The Practical Harmonist at the Harpsichord, ed. Burrows, David L. and trans. Stillings, Frank S. (New Haven: Yale School of Music, 1963), 49.

21 Fenaroli 1775, 15; translation from Gjerdingen, Monuments of Partimenti. Note that if I do not refer to a specific edition, the citation occurs more or less identically in each of the five editions that were printed during Fenaroli's lifetime, and that, for reasons of convenience and conciseness, I only give the reference from the first edition.

22 Fenaroli 1775, 16; translation from Gjerdingen, Monuments of Partimenti.

23 Fenaroli 1775, 21; my translation.

24 Fenaroli 1795, 6; my translation.

25 Van Tour, Counterpoint and Partimento, 65.

26 Muscogiuri 1781, fol. 3r; my translation. In spite of the explicit reference in Muscogiuri's Libro VI° to the minor seventh and diminished fifth as consonances, the third, fourth and fifth editions of Regole Musicali still give the old version of the rule on how to prepare the fourth (that is, without mentioning the minor seventh and diminished fifth as possible preparations).

27 Muscogiuri and Lavigna were not taught counterpoint exclusively by Fenaroli. More than eighty per cent of Muscogiuri's Libro III was written under Fenaroli's assistant Giuseppe Gargano, while Lavigna started his counterpoint instruction under another assistant, Saverio Verde, before being taught by Fenaroli and Gargano. Although I cannot see any difference in dissonance treatment between, on the one hand, the teaching of Verde and Gargano and, on the other hand, that of Fenaroli, all examples in this article were written exclusively under Fenaroli.

28 Letter quoted in Cafiero, ‘La musica’, 196; my translation.

29 Imbimbo 1813, 10; my translation.

30 Imbimbo 1813, 15; my translation. The intermediate status of this type of interval becomes particularly apparent, for instance, from the slightly earlier, also Parisian Principes de Composition des Écoles d'Italie by Alexandre-Étienne Choron (Paris: Auguste Le Duc & Cie, 1808–1809; both quotations given in this footnote can be found on page 19 of this publication's Livre Second, while their translations are mine). On the one hand, paraphrasing what seems to have been Charles-Simon Catel's original notion of natural harmony and artificial harmony (Charles-Simon Catel, Traité D'Harmonie (Paris: Imprimerie du Conservatoire De Musique, 1802), Preface), Choron stated the following: ‘Les dissonances, comme on sait, sont de deux espèces, savoir: les dissonances non soumises à la préparation, et celles qui y sont assujetties. Les premières sont ce que nous avons appellé dissonances naturelles; il y en à [sic] trois, savoir: la Septième de dominante, la Septième sur la septième note de l’échelle, appellée communément Septième de sensible, qui peut être mineure ou diminuée: enfin, la Neuvième dite de dominante, qui peut être majeure ou mineure.’ (The dissonances, as one knows, are of two types, being the dissonances which do not require preparation and those which do. The former are those which we have called natural dissonances, of which there are three: the [minor] seventh on the dominant, the seventh on the leading note, which can be minor or diminished, and finally the ninth on the dominant, which can be major or minor.) On the other hand, in the last sentence of the paragraph dealing with the natural dissonances, Choron added even more nuance to this matter by associating the terms consonance and natural dissonance outright: ‘C'est donc avec raison que M. Fenaroli, dit que la Septième mineure de dominante, en particulier, est une véritable consonance, puisqu'elle peut s'employer sans préparation; cette observation peut, selon moi, s’étendre aux autres dissonances naturelles.’ (Mr Fenaroli thus rightly says that particularly the minor seventh on the dominant is a genuine consonance since it can be applied without preparation, an observation which, in my opinion, can be extrapolated to the other natural dissonances [my italics].)

31 A theorist who did see the diminished fifth, but not the seventh, as a consonance was Johann Mattheson. See Das forschende Orchestre (Hamburg: Johann Christoph Kißner, 1721), 489 and 773–774; Kleine General-Baß-Schule (Hamburg: Johann Christoph Kißner, 1735), 180–183; and Der vollkommene Capellmeister (Hamburg: Christian Herold, 1739), 252–253. As for Georg Andreas Sorge, he named diminished fifths Pseudoconsonanzen – intervals that ‘eher dissoniren als consoniren’ (are rather dissonant than consonant) – but tip over to the side of consonance because of their free treatment: Sorge, Georg Andreas, Compendium harmonicum, oder Kurzer Begrif der Lehre von der Harmonie (Lobenstein, 1760), 13; my translation. Interestingly, Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg had used the same term in the first edition of his Handbuch bey dem Generalbasse und der Composition (Berlin: Gottlieb August Lange, 1757), but to refer to the free treatment of what he considered to be a dissonant diminished fifth (78–79). As a matter of fact, the term Pseudoconsonanz and the status of the diminished fifth were only two of many things with which Marpurg disagreed, which is the reason he reacted to Sorge's Compendium with a full-blown treatise of his own: Herrn Georg Andreas Sorgens Anleitung zum Generalbaß und zur Composition: Mit Anmerkungen von Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg (Berlin: Gottlieb August Lange, 1760). In this publication, Marpurg even urged his readers to cross out the word Pseudoconsonanz in the first edition of his Handbuch and replace it with unvollkommene Dissonanz (imperfect dissonance; 104). Two years later, though, in the second edition of his Handbuch, he plainly called the diminished fifth a dissonance (Marpurg, Handbuch bey dem Generalbasse und der Composition – Zweyte, vermehrte und verbesserte Auflage (Berlin: Gottlieb August Lange, 1762), 38). For more information on the controversy between Marpurg and Sorge see Bernard, Jonathan W., ‘The Marpurg-Sorge Controversy’, Music Theory Spectrum 11/2 (1989), 164186.

32 Gasparini, L'Armonico Pratico, 44; my translation.

33 Gasparini, L'Armonico Pratico, 51.

34 Heinichen, Johann David, Der General-Bass in der Composition (Dresden, 1728), 177 and 184; my translation.

35 Gjerdingen's influential book Music in the Galant Style remains the point of reference with regard to this matter.

36 Gjerdingen, Music in the Galant Style, 159–160.

37 Gjerdingen, Music in the Galant Style, 215.

38 Gjerdingen, Music in the Galant Style, 235.

39 Emanuel Bach, Carl Philipp, Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen: Zweyter Theil, in welchem die Lehre von dem Accompagnement und der freyen Fantasie abgehandelt werden (Berlin: George Ludewig Winter, 1762), 66; my translation.

40 Fenaroli 1775, 16–17; translation from Gjerdingen, Monuments of Partimenti.

41 Muscogiuri 1781, fol. 3v; my translation.

42 Imbimbo 1813, 15; my translation.

43 For more information on the status of the fourth see Lester, Joel, Compositional Theory in the Eighteenth Century (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992), and Mirka, Danuka, ‘The Mystery of the Cadential Six-Four’, in What Is A Cadence?: Theoretical and Analytical Perspectives on Cadences in the Classical Repertoire, ed. Neuwirth, Markus and Bergé, Pieter (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2015), 157184.

44 When the fourth occurs in a five-four chord, Rameau did consider it a dissonance, but explained that in this case it is wrong to call it such, its correct designation and application being an eleventh: Rameau, Jean-Philippe, Traité De L'Harmonie (Paris: Jean-Baptiste-Christophe Ballard, 1722), 7778. He did, however, change his mind at some point about the cadential six-four chord, stipulating its fourth and sixth as a double suspension of the dominant chord for the first time in the manuscript treatise L'Art de la Basse Fondamentale from c1737–1743: see Christensen, Thomas, ‘Rameau's “L'Art de la Basse Fondamentale”’, Music Theory Spectrum 9 (1987), 30, and Martin, Nathan, ‘Rameau's Changing Views on Supposition and Suspension’, Journal of Music Theory 56/2 (2012), 144146.

45 Sorge, Compendium, 20; my translation. Marpurg also disagreed with Sorge on this matter, defining the fourth of a six-four as a ‘eine unvollkommene Dissonanz, die zwar mehr Freyheit hat, als eine vollkommene Dissonanz, aber nichtsdesto weniger aufgelöset werden muß’ (an imperfect dissonance which, to be sure, has more freedom than a perfect dissonance, but must nevertheless be resolved): Marpurg, Handbuch: Zweyte Auflage, 34–35; my translation.

46 Bach, Versuch: Zweyter Theil, 66.

47 Johann Philipp Kirnberger, Die Kunst des reinen Satzes in der Musik, two volumes, volume 1 (Berlin: Christian Friedrich Voß, 1771), 50–51.

48 For more information on Kirnberger's view on essential and non-essential dissonances see Lester, Compositional Theory, 242–243, and Demeyere, Ewald, Johann Sebastian Bach's Art of Fugue: Performance Practice Based on German Eighteenth-Century Theory (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2013), 5961.

49 While Lavigna wrote unprepared on-beat fourths in a two-part setting as regularly as did Muscogiuri, he was under the tutelage of Verde for this type of counterpoint, the reason why I have not included any excerpt from I-Mc Noseda Th.c.117 in Example 15.

50 Bach, Versuch: Zweyter Theil, 162–165.

51 Fenaroli 1775, 20; translation from Gjerdingen, Monuments of Partimenti.

52 Fenaroli 1775, 35; translation from Gjerdingen, Monuments of Partimenti.

53 I have found only one occurrence in Lavigna's four-part counterpoint exercises which one could interpret as a six-four-two chord, and its sixth only functions as a kind of an échappée following the fifth (see Example 19b).

54 For Monsieur de Saint Lambert, for instance, the fifth even formed the ideal combination with a four-two chord: ‘Le double chiffre deux & quatre s'accompagne de la Quinte, ou si l'on veut de la Sixième, mais la Quinte est meilleure.’ (The double figure two and four is accompanied with the fifth, or, if desired, with the sixth, but the fifth is better.) de Saint Lambert, Monsieur, Nouveau Traité De L'Accompagnement Du Clavecin, De L'Orgue, Et Des Autres Instruments (Paris: Christophe Ballard, 1707), 1718; my translation.

55 Letter quoted in Cafiero, ‘La musica’, 196; my translation.

56 Imbimbo 1813, 43.

57 According to I-Mc Noseda Th.c.117, and contrary to the partimento manuscripts, a counterpoint student started his study with handling of the cadences.

I would like to sincerely thank Rosa Cafiero, Robert O. Gjerdingen, Nicoleta Paraschivescu and especially Peter van Tour for their help with finding the sources needed for my research and/or for valuable comments on earlier drafts of this article.

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