Giorgio Sanguinetti

The Bolognese Partimento School and its Influence on Donizetti and Rossini

It is well known that the partimento tradition flourished in the Neapolitan conservatories, but Naples was not the only Italian musical center in which partimenti were composed and used for teaching: another important school was established in Bologna by Giovanni Battista Martini (1706-1794) and his pupil, Stanislao Mattei (1750-1825). Martini, who wrote an admired counterpoint treatise, Esemplare (1774-75), also left an unpublished collection of partimenti, now housed in the Estense library, Modena. Mattei’s partimento output was much more influential, and his most important (and only published) work, Pratica d’accompagnamento sopra bassi numerati e contrappunti (Bologna, 1825) enjoyed a fame comparable to Fenaroli’s Partimenti e regole musicali. Mattei become one of the most respected teacher of his time, and had among his pupils two of the greatest Italian opera composers, Gaetano Donizetti and Gioachino Rossini.
Part I of Pratica d’accompagnamento consists of a series of partimenti arranged by all major and minor keys. Each partimento is preceded by a ‘cadenza’: this is a four-bar harmonic progression whose purpose is to epitomize some typical tonal motion. The style of Mattei’s partimenti is different from that of the Neapolitan school. They are consistently figured, explore remote tonal regions, and have a certain Romantic allure that one would not expect from a Franciscan monk who was often criticized (by his own students) for being overly conservative.
The proposed paper aims to trace the influence of Martini and Mattei’s teaching of partimento on the works of Donizetti and Rossini, through the analysis of selected passages of operas and sacred works of the latter, and a comparison with the partimenti of their teachers.