A Surprise Publication from 1619

Johanna Thöne

Monday, August 19, 2019

Almost exactly 400 years ago in Rome, Luca Antonio Soldi (ca. 1558-1627) published the second collection of Concertini a due a tre, et a quattro voci di Gregorio Allegri con il Basso continuo. The first publication of 1618 unfortunately has not survived.

The collection of motets for two to five voices (the title page doesn’t mention the five-part compositions!) contains twenty motets by Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652) and four works by other composers. But because most of the works are by Allegri, this printed edition is listed in RISM’s series A/I (A 858) as well as in B/I (1619|12). Since the project to revise the B/I entries and merge them with A/I duplicates is in full swing (see our previous report), the updated A/I entry can now be found in the RISM catalog.

While one litany was composed by Roberto Vailero (who also has a composition in Selectae cantiones, Rome 1616; B/I 1616|1), the other three works are by Duke Giovanni Angelo Altemps of Gallese (died 1620), who also appears as the dedicatee of the entire anthology. A ram, the heraldic animal of the Altemps family, can be seen on the title page where the printer’s vignette is usually displayed. At the time, Giovanni Altemps was one of the leading bibliophiles and polymaths in Rome, owned an extensive library, and was the hub of a wide circle of intellectuals. It is known, for example, that he corresponded with Galileo Galilei about the purchase of a new telescope.

As can be read in the dedicatory foreword, the Duke apparently unknowingly contributed his compositions to the book. Soldi writes:

…& quod caput, & ornamen- | tum est totius operis, tuos aliquos etiam concentus, qui per manus eruditorum tra- | debantur, & clam acceptos inserere cum reliquis ausus sim, vt veluti gemmę pulcher- | rimum hunc harmonię annulum exornarent.

And as for the crowning glory of the whole book, I was so bold as to secretly receive some of your works, which have come to me through the hands of experts, and to add them to the others so that they may adorn this harmonious piece of jewelry like precious gems on the most beautiful signet ring.

I wonder if the dedicatee felt flattered! We will probably never know. But you can see for yourself whether his compositions are really the highlight of the anthology. You can look at the digitized copy of the Libro Secondo from the Museo internazionale e biblioteca della musica di Bologna (I-Bc). And if you are interested in motets by Allegri, the RISM catalog also has a manuscript from the 19th century that contains exclusively compositions by Allegri from this collection (RISM ID no. 450054001).

Information about mistakes, additional known copies, or essential secondary literature is always welcome.

Image: Gregorio Allegri, Concertini a dve a tre, et a quattro voci. (Rome: Soldi, 1619). RISM ID no. 990000859. Museo internazionale e biblioteca della musica di Bologna (I-Bc) V.63, available online.

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Catégorie: Anniversaires

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