Book Series Speculum musicae, vol. 33

Musical Improvisation in the Baroque Era

Fulvia Morabito (ed)

  • Pages: xvi + 405 p.
  • Size:210 x 260 mm
  • Illustrations:15 b/w, 110 musical examples
  • Language(s):English, Italian, Spanish
  • Publication Year:2019

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-58369-3
  • Hardback
  • Available

This volume aims to investigate the role and forms of improvisation in Baroque music.


“A great and admirable strength of nearly all of the contributions to this volume is their rigorous attention to situating specific practices in historical context; greater attention to contextualizing the terms of our own understanding of such practices would illuminate more clearly improvisation in the Baroque era and in ours.” (Mark Rodgers, dans Revue de Musicologie, 108/2, 2022, p. 520)


Fulvia Morabito is currently President of the Centro Studi Opera Omnia Luigi Boccherini, Lucca. She is General Editor of the series ‘Monumenta Musica Europea’ and ‘Studies on Italian Music History’ (Brepols Publishers). She is a member of both the scholarly committee of the Italian National Edition of Luigi Boccherini’s Complete Works and the Advisory Board of the Francesco Geminiani’s Opera Omnia (Ut Orpheus Edizioni).


In the Baroque period there is a large discrepancy between sound entity and musical notation. In a context where the musical tradition, handwritten and printed, at times suggests the possible execution of a passage, at times indicates a specific mode of execution often adapted by the ability of the performer or the musical occasion, the margin for improvisation is wide. The in-depth and possibly comparative study of musical sources, their historical contextualization, their evaluation on the basis of documentary and theoretical testimonies, allows us to shed light on the real aural rendering of the synthetic written page. This volume aims to investigate the role and forms of improvisation in Baroque music under many of its multifaceted aspects, in a study that will define the links between creative process and executive practice.


Fulvia Morabito

Improvisation into Composition

David Chung, French Harpsichord doubles and the Creative Art of the 17th-Century Clavecinistes
Massimiliano Guido, Sounding Theory and Theoretical Notes Bernardo Pasquini’s Pedagogy at the Keyboard: A Case of Composition in Performance?
Javier Lupiañez – Fabrizio Ammetto, Las anotaciones de Pisendel en el Concierto para dos violines RV 507 de Vivaldi: una ventana abierta a la improvisación en la obra del ‘Cura rojo’
Josué Meléndez Peláez, Cadenze per finali: Exuberant and Extended Cadences in the 16th and 17th Centuries
Marina Toffetti, Written Outlines of Improvisation Procedures in Music Publications of the Early 17th Century: The Second (1611-1623) and Third (1615-1623) Book of Concerti By G. Ghizzolo and the Motet Iesu Rex Admirabilis (1625-1627) by G. Frescobaldi

Issues of Performance Practice

Giovanna Barbati , «Il n’exécute jamais la Basse telle qu’elle est écrite»: The Use of Improvisation in Teaching Low Strings
Anthony Pryer, On the Borderlines of Improvisation: Caccini, Monteverdi and the Freedoms of the Performer
Laura Toffetti,  «Sostener si può la battuta, etiandio in aria». Testi e contesti per comprendere l’invenzione e la disposizione del discorso musicale nel repertorio strumentale italiano fra Seicento e Settecento  
Rudolf Rasch, Improvised Cadenzas in the Cello Sonatas Op. 5 by Francesco Geminiani

Contemporary Treatises, Pedagogical Works, and Aesthetics

Valentina Anzani, Il mito della competizione tra virtuosi:  quando Farinelli sfidò Bernacchi (Bologna 1727)
John Lutterman, Re-Creating Historical Improvisatory Solo Practices on the Cello: C. Simpson, F. Niedt, and J. S. Bach on the Pedagogy of Contrapunctis Extemporalis
Francesca Mignogna, Accompagnamento e basso continuo alla chitarra spagnola. Una cartografia della diffusione dei sistemi di notazione stenografici in Italia, Spagna e Francia tra xvi e xvii secolo e loro implicazioni teoriche
Guido Olivieri, Naturalezza o artificio: riflessioni su improvvisazione e virtuosismo italiani in Francia nel Settecento
Neal Zaslaw, «Adagio de Mr. Tartini. Varié de plusieurs façons différentes, très utiles aux personnes qui veulent apprendre à faire des traits sous chaque notte de l’Harmonie…»

The Art of Partimento

Simone Ciolfi, Cantata da camera e arte del partimento in Alessandro Scarlatti. «An Historical Link between Baroque Recitatives and Development Section of the Sonata-Form Movements?»
Marco Pollaci, Two New Sources for the Study of Early Eighteenth-Century Composition and Improvisation
Giorgio Sanguinetti,  On the Origin of Partimento: A Recently Discovered Manuscript of Toccate (1695) by Francesco Mancini
Peter van Tour,  «Taking a Walk at the Molo»: Partimento and the Improvised Fugue

Index of Names