Barytons, voice & mandolins at the Vienna Hofkapelle by Francesco Bartolomeo Conti

Gartrell, Carol A., ed. (2005) Barytons, voice & mandolins at the Vienna Hofkapelle by Francesco Bartolomeo Conti. Hebden Bridge, U.K. : Peacock Press. 24p.


Conti’s arias are the first example of music for two barytons, thus prompting the question: who played the baryton at Court? Berti has long been identified as a barytonist. Hofkapelle evidence reveals he was in Vienna from 1721 to 1740 where he is reported to have received an annual salary of 540 florins to play the baryton. It is likely that he played the baryton at court earlier. But who was the second? Further court records reveal the existence of a reference in 1693 to Leopold Pickhl von Pickelfeld who was also paid as a barytonist. Conti’s music makes increasing technical demands on barytonists. In 'Adornato' the lower manual functions as an echo to the upper manual whilst in 'Dei Colli Nostri' there is a more sophisticated use, providing a simultaneous bass line to the figurative upper manual. This more sophisticated use raises the question of why was staff notation was adopted. A series of coincidences, which link the tradition of baryton playing at the Vienna Hofkapelle, help to explain this. Gottfried Finger composed ensemble works in staff notation for the baryton around 1600. He was probably also a barytonist. He was godparent to the daughter of an Innsbruck Court musician alongside Ariosti, worked alongside G.B. Draghi promoting a series of concerts in London including the concert given by August Kuhnell on the baryton and was responsible for supplying James Talbot with details of the baryton for his inventory. The increasingly independent character of Conti’s baryton parts foreshadows that of the solo baryton works of Schlagl, and provide a possible missing link between the entabulated repertory and the non-Esterhazy baryton works. Despite the links between the Vienna Hofkapelle and the Esterhazys, the classical style of baryton playing which developed from a plucked third manual, sparingly used, and represents its decline.

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