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I hope you have highlighted them so that they can be picked out from the rest of the text. Whilst you are about it when you quote from the original sources you should include the original text - preferably parallel with your translation, but at least in note and give your source of reference in full ao that readers can check the accuracy. One important criticism of the whole thing is that you have consistently and deliberately ignored what Corbetta has said in the Italian  preface - which is more detailed than the French - and Donald Gill's interpretation of it. 

P.S. It would help if you identified the different versions of the article too - there seem to be at least 3 with this latest.

Mea culpa. I thought too soon that it was finished, and, somewhat naively, I had not foreseen that it would cause confusion. Anyway, sorry for the inconvenience.

Well – you haven’t yet ‘fessed to wilfully ignoring the Italian preface to La guitarre royale (1671) which must have been written by Corbetta himself. It is the closest insight we will ever get into his own ideas about how his music should be performed and it includes personal information which only he can have supplied.  It is not directed to a group of French players who were used to the re-entrant tuning and too dumb to put a bourdon on the fifth course. In the Italian preface Corbetta refers to the courses in the Italian manner i.e. the fourth course is referred to as the second which would certainly have confused French players (as it has confused some players today including James Tyler!). His account of his dispute with Granata is omitted from the French preface – French players would probably have never heard of him. Corbetta probably wrote the dedication to Charles II himself too. Charles II took lessons in Italian whilst in exile in the Low Countries and would have been able to read it. What we don't know is whether Corbetta spoke any English.

 If anyone is really interested in all this, my study of Corbetta includes a comparative translation of both prefaces set out in parallel columns with a commentary and musical examples. You will find this at www.monicahall.co.uk/corbetta in Section 1 Chapter 5.

 The exercises for accompanying a bass line in Corbetta’s 1643, 1648 and 1671 books all work perfectly well with the “French” tuning. These are compared in detail in Section 1 Chapter 7.

 

Have a happy and Covid 19 free Christmas! Let’s hope it doesn’t all end in tears.

 

>  You will find this at www.monicahall.co.uk/corbetta in Section 1 Chapter 5.

  1. It does not take into account that, also with Corbetta, there might be a difference between strumming and plucking. Strummed chords probably can be heard as ‘inversion-free harmonic sonorities’ in which the position of the bass generally is not an issue, like it would be when they are plucked.
  2. If we count the sheer numbers of plucked chords of which the bass is the same as the one in the figured bass in staff notation, there are far more ‘correct’ (with only a few exceptions) with conventional stringing than with French tuning.
  3. Another element that is neglected is that with plucked chords there is always the possibility that only the high octave string is intended. This would have implications for voice leading.

Thank you for this Lex.

Yes, as said earlier, the lute tablature tuning checks serve the same purpose as those on the guitar (ie to check whether 'notes' are sounding the same in whatever octave). 

Accordingly, I'm not convinced that the guitar tablature checks are fundamentally any different to those on the lute (and other plucked instruments, such as the callichon/mandora) - although, of course, we might wish them to be to better reflect our own personal views on how some early instruments were tuned.

regards

Martyn

Again, I would prefer not to ignore those checks which indicate that they are in octaves.

Best, Lex

However you are happy to ignore anything else that does not support your own theory. Foscarini's charts are included in his earlier Secondo libro which is a plagiarized version of books by Colonna and he has included them with other information in the later books regardless of whether it is relevant. Pesori has probably copied them thoughtlessly from Foscarini.

Corbetta has not indicated that the intervals in his second chart are octaves. It is just as likely that they are intended to check stopped courses with open courses and other key intervals which is important when ensuring the instrument is in tune overall. The only interval that must be an octave is the first.

What is interesting is that where second checks are included they are not the same in every source.

Attachments:

I fail to see how this would possibly impact Foscarini’s tuning. Although Foscarini may have copied parts from Colonna’s introduction, I’m not aware that he copied the tuning chart and check as well.

Stefano Pesori made a considerable effort to include them in several of his books, in different formats, and it probably was just practical for him to reuse available information, to indicate the tuning that he used himself. It is the kind of information that would have been circulating widely, in the public domain.

It may be true that Corbetta has not indicated that the intervals in the tuning check are octaves. The point is, however, that we should probably follow the instructions in the same order as they are presented in the book. If we would take the first chart (the accordatura) at face value and follow the information step by step we will be checking the courses to one another in unison — which is, incidentally, exactly how the tuning of the courses 6 – 1 of the lute was done.

Next, we will turn to the ‘prova’, which, as Foscarini would say, can be used ‘to test if the guitar is tuned [correctly], . . . it will all be octaves’.

[On a closer look at the concept of ‘checking whether 'notes' are sounding the same in whatever octave’, it becomes clear that, also with 17th-century tuning charts for the lute, notes that actually will be there (being the high octave strings, when checking the bass courses) could as well be compared to fretted notes, in unison.]

 

On the face of it, this alternate interpretation seems very odd. The assumption that the interval between a fretted course and the next open course could be anything other than an unison is completely counter-intuitive. The idea that this chart could as well have been intended to serve for re-entrant tuning would therefore require credible supporting evidence. It is very inconvenient that this never seems to have been discussed unambigously in any 17th-century source.

Although we may assume that a re-entrant guitarist simply played the music, this cannot serve as proof that this chart was intended by the composer (or the compiler) to also represent this particular way of stringing. Moreover, as we can see with Valdambrini and Sanz, there were other (and better) ways to indicate re-entrant tuning.

 

It raises the question of why so much weight is attached to an idea for which there is so little sound evidence, and what could have been the reasons, in the 1970s and after, to vigorously promote it.

The last section of my study of Foscarini  www.monicahall.co.uk/foscarini is a detailed comparison of Foscarini’s “Libro secondo” with surviving books of Colonna. It is reasonably certain that all of Foscarini’s material has been copied from earlier sources. I suggest you read it.

Whilst on the subject, note that Foscarini’s instructions for tuning three guitars to play together are copied from Colonna and he has included one piece for three guitars and two for two guitars with separate parts clearly marked. Although these instructions appear in the later book(s) none of the alfabeto pieces this includes are intended to be played by 3 guitars together. You don’t seem have realized this. Example 4.4 and comments on p. 88 of your book make no sense.

I thought that your article was about the guitar in the sixteen-seventies and specifically baroque guitar stringing for the works of Francesco Corbetta and Gaspar Sanz.

I would have expected you to start by setting out in full what Corbetta himself says about this in both the Italian and French prefaces and to comment on different interpretations of it.

Auerti di mettere una piciol ottaua alla seconda Corda che e D. Sol re perche li dui unissoni non fanno Armonia come anche le mie sonate lo ricercano; e batti sempre le consonanti con la mano et il polzo insieme che ti riuscira piu armoniosa la batuta.

Note that you should put a small [thin] octave on the second [i.e. fourth] course] which is D sol re [i.e. D on the middle line of the bass stave, a low D], because the two in unison do not make the harmony which my sonatas also seek; and always strike the chords with the hand [fingers] and thumb together, which will make the stroke more harmonious.

Ie uous auertis de mettre une Octave à la 4me Corde de.la.re.sol. parceque les deux unissones ne composent point d’harmonie, et battez auec la main et le pouce ensemble les consonnantes doucement, afin d’avoir plus d’harmonie.

I advise you to put an octave on the fourth course, d la re sol because the two in unison never make harmony, and strike the chords with the hand [i.e. fingers] and the thumb together in order to have the most harmony.

Donald Gill suggested that the “una piciol ottaua” refers to the guage of the string to be used. It is important to keep the difference in thickness between the two strings of a course to a minimum – something which Sanz refers to.

 

To my knowledge you have ignored the Italian preface in every permutation of this article. Instead, all you have done is argue that Corbetta is telling other (French) players to do something different from what he did himself.  There is no way that you can prove that this is so. 

You argue that the tuning charts which appear in an assortment of Italian books printed from the 1620s onwards prove that tuning with octave stringing on fourth and fifth courses was standard in Italy throughout the 17th century and this must therefore have been the method of stringing which Corbetta used throughout his life. There is no way that you can prove that this is so either. 

The earliest surviving source of these charts is Millioni’s “Quarta impressione del primo, secondo, et terzo libro d’intavolatura” printed in 1627. There were presumably three earlier editions and it was reprinted and plagiarized to the end of the 17th century.    

Most of the sources which include versions of these instructions, including Corbetta’s 1639 book, are collections of alfabeto pieces to be strummed for which any method of stringing is suitable. None of them mention that the 4th and 5th courses are octave strung or offer any advice about tuning them. At first sight it may seem obvious that the checks represent unisons and octaves but in practice they are simply two alternative ways of checking whether the instrument is in tune. Incidentally you have ignored Costanza’s instructions which are different but not necessarily less typical. It is largely down to accidents of preservation.

You claim that there is little sound evidence to support the French/re-entrant tuning. There are in fact more clear and unequivocal references to it than to your preferred option and the reason why many players prefer it is because they find that the music works best that way.  

 

Thanks for your detailed comments. For practical reasons I will copy-paste mine into it.

 

> The last section of my study of Foscarini  www.monicahall.co.uk/foscarini is a detailed comparison of Foscarini’s “Libro secondo” with surviving books of Colonna. It is reasonably certain that all of Foscarini’s material has been copied from earlier sources. I suggest you read it.

     < As a matter of fact I did.

 

> Whilst on the subject, note that Foscarini’s instructions for tuning three guitars to play together are copied from Colonna and he has included one piece for three guitars and two for two guitars with separate parts clearly marked. Although these instructions appear in the later book(s) none of the alfabeto pieces this includes are intended to be played by 3 guitars together. You don’t seem have realized this. Example 4.4 and comments on p. 88 of your book make no sense.

     < I understand what you are saying, but don’t agree. In his later books      there are several pieces that have a ‘prima’, ‘seconda’, and ‘terza’. Considering the different keys, they may well have been intended to be played together on three guitars of a different size.

 

> I would have expected you to start by setting out in full what Corbetta himself says about this in both the Italian and French prefaces and to comment on different interpretations of it.

> Donald Gill suggested that the “una piciol ottaua” refers to the guage of the string to be used. It is important to keep the difference in thickness between the two strings of a course to a minimum – something which Sanz refers to.

     < Actually, I do use thin bourdon strings myself, as you might be able to see (and hear) on my recent videos. This is all about the instrumental balance: the high octaves on the fourth and fifth courses should preferably be of a relatively low tension, as they are struck by the thumb and should not overwhelm the higher courses. As a consequence, the bourdons should be rather thin too, to match the tension of the octaves, for similar reasons. And not because of what Sanz (and Gill) would have said about minimizing the difference in thickness (and tension?), for ease of playing ornaments etc.

 

> Instead, all you have done is argue that Corbetta is telling other (French) players to do something different from what he did himself.  There is no way that you can prove that this is so. 

     < Indeed, I can’t. Understanding things from the past is often about trying to find a plausible relation between known facts and context.

 

> You argue that the tuning charts which appear in an assortment of Italian books printed from the 1620s onwards prove that tuning with octave stringing on fourth and fifth courses was standard in Italy throughout the 17th century and this must therefore have been the method of stringing which Corbetta used throughout his life.

     < Like you, I have labeled these tuning charts as ‘standard’, because they appear very often. I did not, of course, intend to say that no other tuning at all could have been used.

  

> Most of the sources which include versions of these instructions, including Corbetta’s 1639 book, are collections of alfabeto pieces to be strummed for which any method of stringing is suitable.

     < In Corbetta 1639 there is also a number of pieces in mixed battuto-pizzicato style. Foscarini, Pesori (whatever you may think of his works), and others have included music in mixed style too, in books that also include a standard tuning chart.

 

> At first sight it may seem obvious that the checks represent unisons and octaves but in practice they are simply two alternative ways of checking whether the instrument is in tune.

     < However, the accordatura and the prova must always be consistent with each other.  

 

> You claim that there is little sound evidence to support the French/re-entrant tuning. There are in fact more clear and unequivocal references to it than to your preferred option . . .

     < My preferred option would be to play the music with the stringing that seems to be most appropriate, based on the available evidence. What I really said is that there is very little evidence to support the idea that this particular tuning chart could as well have been used to indicate re-entrant (or French) tuning.

 

> . . . and the reason why many players prefer it is because they find that the music works best that way.  

     < Fair enough. But my question actually was what reasons there could have been for holding on to this barely substantiated idea.

Thanks for your detailed comments. For practical reasons I will copy-paste mine into it.

 < I understand what you are saying, but don’t agree. In his later books      there are several pieces that have a ‘prima’, ‘seconda’, and ‘terza’. Considering the different keys, they may well have been intended to be played together on three guitars of a different size.>

Most alfabeto books include versions of the pieces in different keys. ‘Prima’ ‘seconda’ and ‘terza’ simply refer to the different versions, first. second and third version. Many of the pieces in the first section of Foscarini’s later books are included in ‘Libro secondo’ (1639) and in Colonna where they are referred to simply as ‘Spagnolette diverse’, ‘Pavaniglie diverse’ etc… You have jumped to the conclusion that because the instructions are included in the later books, these must include some pieces for three guitars. This does not follow. Corbetta’s 1639 book does not include pieces for 4 guitars. Your suggestion (note 13, p. 216) that the some of the pieces are intended to be played by three guitars tuned a fifth apart is not very sensible. Not very practical and how would anyone know? Very time consuming to work out which ones.

     < Actually, I do use thin bourdon strings myself, as you might be able to see (and hear) on my recent videos. This is all about the instrumental balance: the high octaves on the fourth and fifth courses should preferably be of a relatively low tension, as they are struck by the thumb and should not overwhelm the higher courses. As a consequence, the bourdons should be rather thin too, to match the tension of the octaves, for similar reasons. And not because of what Sanz (and Gill) would have said about minimizing the difference in thickness (and tension?), for ease of playing ornaments etc.>

So – you know better than Sanz?

What you say isn't very clear. Presumably you mean that the high octaves placed on the thumb side should not overwhelm the bourdons placed below them on the instrument as held. If players did not want the higher octaves to overwhelm the bourdons, they wouldn’t have strung the instrument in that way. The whole point about having them like that is so that they are more prominent.

I have listened to your recording with the score in front of me. Of course, it is difficult to judge from a recording like this, but my impression is that the bourdons overwhelm the treble strings to such an extent that it is difficult to pick out the melodic line. The quasi ‘campanella’ passages e.g. in the allemande at bar 14, 16, 35 and 37 sound uneven – the notes on the 4th and 5th courses are too loud and prominent. The bourdons are more resonant and ring on longer obscuring everything else. The balance between the strummed chords and passage work is also unsatisfactory. There is no light or grace to your performance.

      < Understanding things from the past is often about trying to find a plausible relation between known facts and context.>

What exactly do you mean by that?

     < In Corbetta 1639 there is also a number of pieces in mixed battuto-pizzicato style. Foscarini, Pesori (whatever you may think of his works), and others have included music in mixed style too, in books that also include a standard tuning chart.>

Corbetta 1639 includes 8 short experimental pieces which are of no great musical merit. They are unlike anything in his later books. It is by no means self evident that the pieces in Book five of Foscarini are intended to be played with the tuning described in the preface. Pesori’s books are so bad that it is impossible to take them seriously.

     < However, the accordatura and the prova must always be consistent with each other. > 

Why? In what way?

 

> . . . and the reason why many players prefer it is because they find that the music works best that way.  

     < Fair enough. But my question actually was what reasons there could have been for holding on to this barely substantiated idea.>

 

What reason could there be for holding onto to any other unsubstantiated idea?

 

With all due respects to the writer in question, some time ago an article was included in a prestigious collection of essays suggesting that guitarists in northern Italy always used bourdons on the 4th and 5th courses whilst those in the south used the re-entrant stringing. There is no evidence to support such a proposition. Nevertheless, many people promptly accepted it without question.

 The available evidence (rather than speculation) suggests that, whether or not we like it, re-entrant tunings were preferred for a number of very good reasons and the music works best when we use them.

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