Anthology of Italian song of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries

This is one of a series of posts about books used as source material for Art Song Central.

Book Title: Anthology of Italian song of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (In two volumes)
Editor: Alessandro Parisotti (1853-1913)
Publisher: G. Schirmer
Copyright: 1894

Volume 1 contents:

Volume 2 contents: (Google Books now has a copy of Volume 2!)

Preface to Volume 1:

While in all art a loving investigation of ancient forms is an unfailing bourn whence flow the most fitting resources for the purification of taste, this applies most fully to music, which, eluding plastic realism, can readily derive from grand models whatever it may need for the improvement and development of its productions This assertion appears like, and in fact is, a paraphrase of the well-known saying of our great modern melodramatist, the sense of which may perhaps be more directly and forcibly felt in the original general form. And since the new is no-a-days growing scarcer and scarcer, its place may fortunately be filled by the resurrection of the ancient; the more, because it has appeared for some time as if such a resurrection would interest patrons of art far more than current novelties.

For these two reasons, then, the time seemed to be ripe for the present publication; and it cannot fail to be a source of real benefit to our beloved art of song, to point out a means for certain improvement both on the aesthetic and practical side.

The songs which follow were gleaned from old manuscripts and ancient editions, where they lay in unmerited oblivion. In undertaking this work of exhumation, such an abundance of material was unearthed that the task of rejection, necessitated by the modest proportions of this volume, became difficult and grievous. [Since the above was penned, the very favorable reception accorded to this first volume has encouraged the preparation and publication of a second.]

In transcribing the melodies the utmost care was taken to alter nothing in the originals, and often various manuscripts were consulted to ascertain the most elegant and correct form. Obsolete abbreviations were written out in full, and the melodies so selected that none overstep the range of an ordinary voice, thus making them accessible to all.

Further, in adding the accompaniments and harmonizing the bassi continui, care was taken to insert nothing out of keeping with the words or character of the compositions, or with the style of the author and his period; during this work constant reference was made to the models left by the greatest masters in this style of chamber-music, placed in centuries past at the lofty elevation which is theirs of right.

Having explained the scope of this publication, a few observations on the correct mode of interpreting the music will be offered. The main characteristics peculiar to the composers of the 17th and 18th centuries are clearness and simplicity of form, depth of feeling, and a suave serenity whose grateful influence permeates their entire style. The music of to-day on the contrary, is neurotic, full of startling effects and violent contrasts. In the interpretation of these ancient songs, therefore, a prime requisite is the avoidance of any exaggeration of coloris, of all strained delivery. The singing must be simple, unaffected, tranquil, legato; the tempi quiet, without any precipitation whatever; the embellishments executed with studious attention, to insure clearness and accuracy; words and tones welded to form one indissoluble whole, so that the hearer cannot fail to comprehend their meaning. The whole delivery; in short, should show delicacy of intuition and a thorough understanding of the laws of the good Italian style; it should be at once calm, elegant, correct, and expressive, yet without coldness or heaviness. No unusual powers are required for singing these ancient songs, though they demand an exact observance of the notes and directions; a modicum of good taste, and a genuine love of study, will do the rest.

Rome, November, 1885

This is the source of most of the songs in the popular “24 Italian Songs and Arias” collection that is used by voice teachers around the world. While in many cases, the songs have been given over romanticized accompaniments, these are the versions most familar to modern singers. They were also part of the larger Arie Antiche collection by Parisotti published by Ricordi. The first volume of which is available on Google Books.

Songs from these volumes have been uploaded, though some still need song posts to be created for them. If you would like me to give priority to a song that is not yet posted, please let me know via the contact page.