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Solfeggio in the Long Eighteenth Century

Music Theorist in Residence 2018
Dr. Nicholas Baragwanath, University of Nottingham 

Thursday 8 March 2018, 15:30 - 17:30

Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01

Each year the Vereniging voor Muziektheorie invites a guest from abroad to come to the Netherlands and Flanders to offer lectures, workshops, and seminars on a topic of choice. This year, Dr. Nicholas Baragwanath will present on:

Solfeggio in the Long Eighteenth Century

Apprenticed musicians in the eighteenth century would spend three or more years singing solfeggio before they were allowed to undertake lessons in playing an instrument, counterpoint, or composition. Solfeggio training provided the fundaments for almost every musician, regardless of their later specialism. Many thousands of their solfeggio manuscripts survive. They record compilations of sung lessons, usually conceived by a maestro and written-down for a pupil to sing, but sometimes originating in the pupil’s own improvisations. What they reveal about the art of melody is just as relevant to sonatas and concertos as arias.
To reconstruct how solfeggi were used, I will present evidence drawn from the following: (1)hitherto unremarked performance indications that regularly appear in manuscripts; (2) contemporary solmization and its founding principles; (3) a broad range of contemporary vocal repertory and singing treatises; and (4) consideration of the practical demands and pedagogical purposes of individual solfeggi.
Knowing how to “speak” galant melody explains how castratos managed to amaze audiences by singing the same aria five or six times in completely different ways, and how composers could write an opera in a matter of days. The secret lies in understanding how the same basic cantus firmi, learned in the first weeks of training, were sung for up to six years.

Following studies as a pianist, Nicholas Baragwanath completed postgraduate degrees at the University of Sussex. From 1998 he was Lecturer in Music at the University of Wellington, New Zealand, moving in 2001 to the Royal Northern College of Music, where he was Head of Postgraduate Studies and subsequently Dean of Research and Enterprise, overseeing the establishment of a new Graduate School and the introduction of PhD programmes. He joined the University of Nottingham in 2010.