Polishing a Hidden Gem: the Transcription of an Original Manuscript

As many of our concert-goers are aware, every season Musicians of the Old Post Road researches and performs musical works that have been lost to audiences for centuries. This work involves the procurement of copies of the original source material and, more often than not, transcription of the scores to a more readable, practical modern edition for the performers.

Many of our audience members have asked us about this process, so we thought we would describe in detail how the cantata Amor di che tu voi by Giovanni Lulier (which we performed on our Roman Handel program) was procured, transcribed, and edited.

The Roman Handel program will explore the milieu of the young Handel while he was in Rome from 1707-1708 under the patronage of Benedetto Pamphilj. Pamphilj supported a large number of Italy's finest musicians, including Giovanni Lulier, a cellist and composer in his household. Very little of Lulier's music is published, but a search using the amazing (and now free) database of extant eighteenth-century manuscripts maintained by RISM revealed a sizable number of works available for exploration. The excellent Santini manuscript collection at the Diözesanbibliothek in Münster, Germany possesses multiple Lulier scores and a microfilm copy of a selection of manuscripts was ordered.

(Click on images to enlarge.)

Here is the title page of the manuscript for Lulier's Amor di che tu voi. The score (by an unknown copyist) is in a typical format of the period: oblong in aspect, with vocal part and sparsely figured bass line in score form. The musical notation, while not the neatest ever encountered, is readable enough to transcribe. The largest challenge for a modern editor lies with the text. You will notice that the words do not at all line up with the notes — this is typical of the period. During this time, and well into the 19th century, the beaming and flagging of the eighth, sixteenth, and shorter note values along with the use of slurs provided the only indicators of how the text was synchronized with the notes. Though most of the time straightforward, this system has some ambiguities because in the the Italian language syllables are often elided into a single note. Also typical is the complete lack of punctuation for the text. The text editing for our edtion will be done by ensemble members, some of whom have a good sense of Italian text setting from their years of experience with music of the period, and with the help of other experts.

In producing a modern edition, our goal is to produce an easily readable text that is as faithful to the original as possible. All interpretive decisions are left to the performers during the rehearsal process. Our harpsichordist, Michael Bahmann, is adept at improvising a continuo realization, so none is provided for the edition. The addition of measure numbers is helpful for identifying particular measures in the piece, aiding the rehearsal process. Individual parts for each of the instruments are extracted from the score, as is (and was) the custom. Our edition was made using the Finale software. One of the great features of the software is the ability to play back the music. This really helps with proof-reading!

Here is the manuscript of the opening of the first aria of this cantata,


and here is the modern edition.



You can listen to an excerpt of the Lulier Cantata as generated by Finale's midi playback. There is a link to the file at the end of this article.

This cantata will be among many rediscovered gems on Old Post Road's Roman Handel program. Performances will be on October 22 and 23. We invite you hear all the marvelous regional premieres on these concerts. You can purchase tickets online here.

Comments are most welcome. Please register or log in to post them.

Lulier cantata excerpt773.88 KB