Duo ›Con Dispositione e Gratia‹

Henry Van Engen, trombone · Rafaela Salgado, harpsichord and organ

Project description

Con Dispositione e Gratia
Exploring Passaggi for Trombone and Keyboards

… se altri per aventura dicessero, che io havessi posto alcuni Passaggi, che paiono impossibili à farsi con viva voce, risponderò loro, che essendo essi dalla natura dottati di buona dispositione di voce ne faranno anco di più difficili assai …

… if others should happen to say that I have set some passaggi which seem impossible to perform, I would say to them that if they are blessed with good dispositione of the voice, they will manage even much harder ones … (translation: Gawain Glenton)

In the introduction to his monumental ornamentation treatise Regole, passaggi di musica of 1594, Giovanni Battista Bovicelli sets the scene for early baroque ornamentation, that if one has good dispositione or ›disposition‹, one will be able to perform complex and difficult passaggi or ›passages‹. This key word dispositione is echoed across many treatises from the late 16th and early 17th centuries, including Francesco Rognoni Taeggio’s Selva di varii passaggi libro primo of 1620. He expands upon the idea of ›disposition‹ in his listed advice to the reader and enriches the definition of making passages, requiring gratia or ›grace‹ as both a singer and instrumentalist:

1. Il portar della voce, vuol esser con gratia […].
3. Il Tremolo si fa sovente, mà però con gratia […].
5 Il principiar sotto alle note … non é altro, se non un dar gratia alla voce nel principiar delle note.
7. Volendo passar da una nota all’altra, fà bisogno portar bene la voce con gratia …

1. The portar della voce must be with grace […].
3. The tremolo one makes often, but with grace […].
5. The principiar sotto alla nota … is nothing other than a giving of grace to the voice in initiating the notes.
7. The necessity of passing from one note to the next makes it necessary to carry the voice well with grace …
(translation: Gawain Glenton)

That Rognoni Taeggio uses this key word in 4 of his 10 rules strengthens the need to have good ›grace‹ and ›disposition‹ for performing passaggi – this is exactly what we propose to do. With this residency proposal, we seek to have the place and time where we are able to invest in developing a program that consists not only of the ›passages‹ as published in historical sources, but to also add a layer of intricacy and depth by means of unequal rhythms, proto-affect, accenti, trilli, intonati and esclamazioni (i.e. grazie or ›graces‹). Moreover, we wish to cultivate our own system of passaggi, both improvised and written-out, and have the opportunity to develop a spontaneous rapport of ornamentation between the trombone, cembalo and organ, something that is often missing in today’s historical trombone practice.

To root our exploration of passaggi in primary sources, we have chosen to focus on the above – mentioned treatises by Bovicelli and Rognoni Taeggio for their usage of text and descriptions of basic ornaments, as well as Girolamo dalla Casa’s Il Vero modo di diminuir of 1584, Giovanni Bassano’s Motetti, madrigali et canzoni francese of 1591 and Bartolomé de Selma y Salaverde’s Canzoni, fantasie et correnti libro primo of 1638 to show the evolution from the heyday of the 1580’s and 90’s to the final surviving treatise that contains new material.

Within the collection at Schloss Weißenbrunn, the 16th century virginal with short octave, the 12’ Italian harpsichord of 1699 and the Neapolitan organ from 1724 with short octave are of particular interest to us. Especially the possibility of testing various intabulation solutions after Diruta and Vicentino between 8’ and 12’ instruments makes these instruments especially well suited to our duo. In addition, the historical trombone is perhaps the most flexible instrument in terms of pitch and temperament and therefore ideally suited to working with multiple keyboard instruments over the course of a single concert.