Saturday, September 30, 2017

More Partimento Studies

It still amazes me that I went through all the coursework for BM, MM, and DMA degrees and never heard the word partimento. The explanation is simple though; all the traditional history and theory I was exposed to concentrated on the north German organ school - Jan Pieterzoon Sweelinck to J.S. Bach - the subsequent German classical school - C.P.E. Bach to Brahms - and the Italian sacred music that peaked with Palestrina. There were bits and pieces of other things, but the Neapolitan Conservatories and their teaching methods were completely ignored. I understand the reason for that now: The partimentos are forbiddingly complex and indecipherable without having been instructed on how to realize them. Just understanding the basics of figured bass, which I learned as early as my days at the Guitar Institute SW, is not nearly enough.

So I'm just devouring these books and learning about the practice until I get to a critical mass of understanding that will allow me to take some of the simple partimenti and realize them for the guitar.

Over the last couple of months I've read Partimento and Continuo Playing in Theory and in Practice, four overviews by modern scholars, and the Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments by C.P.E. Bach (Nice link to the German school). Though a lot of it is concerned with fingering and other technical aspects of keyboard performance, there is a lot about improvising from a figured bass, which is the heart of partimento realizations. I'd known about this treatise for decades, but was not interested in it at all, because I didn't know what was in it!


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