Music for Public and Private Use: The Cello-Basso Sonatas of Carlo Graziani

By Parker, Mara | Notes, March 2012 | Go to article overview

Music for Public and Private Use: The Cello-Basso Sonatas of Carlo Graziani


Parker, Mara, Notes


All of Carlo Graziani's (d. 1787) published sonatas for cello and basso, issued in three sets of six, were written during the second half of the eighteenth century, the heyday of the galant sonata.1 All bear the standard structural and stylistic characteristics one might expect from works of this type: three movements in a fast-slow-fast sequence, a limited number of accidentals in the key signatures, an emphasis on figuration, short phrases of two or four bars, lyrical melodies, dotted rhythms including the Scotch snap, interruption of duple surface rhythms with triplet passages, contrasts of articulation, and a marked absence of polyphony.(2) Despite their similarities, one can distinguish among these sonatas based on their probable function--personal promotion, pedagogy, or performance. While the sonatas of opus 3 fall into the second and third categories, Graziani's opera 1 and 2 fit into the first, and to a lesser extent, the second. Further distinction is achieved if one considers their likely place of use--public or private. The works themselves, and the circumstances that surround their publication reflect, in part, the composer's acknowledgment of the growing separation between the spheres of public and private music making, that of the professional and amateur musician. Furthermore, while Graziani intended his opera 1 and 2 for public consumption--either professional performance or purchase by the amateur cellist--the later works were oriented, primarily, toward the private use of his final patron, Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia (1744-1797; reigned 1786-1797). These sonatas, then, written at different points of the cellist's life and for a variety of reasons, serve as a set of musical snapshots of Graziani's career and the decisions he made in order to further it.

OPUS 1

Graziani most likely moved from his native Asti to Paris during the mid-to-late 1750s. While some argue that he arrived earlier, in the 1740s, a case can be made for the later date.(3) In a sworn affidavit, dated 5 September 1764, Graziani stated that he began working for Alexandre-Jean-Joseph Le Riche de la Poupliniere almost immediately upon his arrival in Paris. Moreover, he describes himself as serving exclusively as first cellist in La Poupliniere's ensemble: "Hardly had I arrived in Paris when M. de la Poupliniere invited me to become first cellist in his music, where I lived until his death with a very comfortable salary and much above what he had so far given musicians on that instrument."(4) With the exception of one extended period between 1748 and 1751, La Poupliniere hosted weekly concerts until his death in 1762; these musical events were renowned throughout Paris. The interruption, due to a family scandal,(5) along with Graziani's own statement of continuous employment suggests that the cellist began his tenure after the resumption of concert activities, that is, in the 1750s. It seems highly unlikely that La Poupliniure would have maintained his orchestra during the hiatus; moreover, there is no evidence that Graziani worked for anyone else until after his patron's death.

A second point to keep in mind is that on 14 December 1758, Graziani obtained a ten-year general privilege for instrumental music.6 A privilege, or "permission to print," was usually valid for five to ten years; during that time, a composer had sole rights. No other publisher could issue his own edition without the composer's express permission. In theory, a privilege was similar to copyright protection; in reality, its benefits were limited, and many composers chose simply not to obtain one. Consequently, it was a haphazard and ineffective tool.

Graziani's opus 1 set of sonatas, appearing ca. 1761,(7)are dedicated to the "Eccellenza il Conte d'Oginski." Graziani identifies himself as "Carlo Graziani, Astigiano." The conte d'Ogiriski is probably Michael Kazimierz Oginnski (1728-1800), the Grand Hetman of Lithuania.(8) That the dedicatee is Ogiriski rather than La Poupliniere, Graziani's first Parisian patron, suggests that opus 1 was written prior to the cellist having secured stable employment. …

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