Author: Peter M. van Tour
Title: Counterpoint and Partimento: The Teaching of Composition in Late Eighteenth-Century Naples.
Institution: Uppsala University
Begun: January 2012
Completed: May 2015
During the last decades the role of improvisation in the training of composers and court musicians at the neapolitan conservatories during the 18th century have been explored in a growing number of publications. Musicologists like Robert Gjerdingen, Giorgio Sanguinetti, Rosa Cafiero and Ludwig Holtmeier have particularly highlightened the importance of partimento playing in the training of becoming a composer. Since then, the importance of improvisatory methods and the influence they had on the teaching of music at these conservatories (also upon the rest of Europe) have increasingly become part of the general discourse on 18th century music.
Despite this growing awareness, still very little is known about how this actually worked. Some musicologists mean counterpoint and composition were taught primarily from solfeggi and partimenti. But partimenti and solfeggi were just a few of many tools and techniques: rulebooks, dispositions, training in written and alla mente counterpoint, intavolature, the writing of strict counterpoint exercises and fugues, analysis of important models and examples by older masters, the singing of psalmtones and ecclesiastical chant, singing and writing canons and the study of important dramatic scenes from operas, seem to have been involved in this training. The ways in which these different teaching methods were related to each other is still unclear.
Keywords: Naples, partimenti, solfeggi, Leisti, Durantisti, basso seguente.