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An Enlightenment Science Fiction Opera: Niccolò Piccinni’s Il regno della Luna

Wednesday, September 9, 2020 9:00:00 AM America/Chicago

By Lawrence Mays

My Ph.D. dissertation was originally going to be about “exotic operas,” particularly those with allegorical Moon settings and those set in fantastical Amazon realms. While researching the topic, I read of a 1770 dramma giocoso by Niccolò Piccinni (1728–1800) titled Il regno della Luna. In contrast to the majority of “Moon operas”—which are really set on Earth—this work involves five Earth people actually traveling, in an unspecified future epoch, to the Moon, where they encounter a society radically different from that of late eighteenth-century Europe. They find a kingdom in which women have complete political power and may terminate marriage as they wish, and where relations between the sexes are flexible, with polygamy being condoned. Here was an exotic opera which aligned with my interests both in Moon settings and in societies dominated by women. Intrigued, I embarked on the preparation of a critical edition with exegesis, which became the focus of my dissertation and eventually the basis for an edition in the Recent Researches series.

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Michele Pesenti: Between Frottola and Madrigal

Wednesday, July 29, 2020 9:00:00 AM America/Chicago

By Anthony M. Cummings

The thesis implied in the well-known phrase “from frottola to madrigal” has long been contested: Frottole and madrigals were different genres, with fundamentally different stylistic characteristics; they were cultivated by different composers, at different times in history, and in different centers of musical patronage and activity. But the profile of one composer, Don Michele Pesenti da Verona (ca. 1470–1528), complicates our current understanding. Unlike the vast majority of his fellow frottolists, Pesenti composed both frottole and madrigal-like compositions. He stood at a moment of transition between genres, and his career and creative output illuminate the complex dynamics of the moment. Along with my two distinguished co-editors, I am pleased to be able to present Pesenti’s complete surviving oeuvre in modern edition for the first time.

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Considering Antonio Rosetti and His Passion Oratorio

Wednesday, May 27, 2020 9:00:00 AM America/Chicago

By Sterling E. Murray

Many years ago, while searching for a dissertation topic, I came upon a volume of five symphonies by the Bohemian composer Antonio Rosetti (ca. 1750–92). I had never heard of Rosetti, and I was quite surprised at the high quality of these works. This discovery served as the topic of my dissertation (“The Symphonies of Anton Rosetti,” University of Michigan, 1972). But more than that, it initiated what was to be a lifetime of research devoted to this composer and his musical world.

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The Forerunner in the Race: Struggles of a Victorian Woman Composer

Thursday, February 27, 2020 9:00:00 AM America/Chicago

By Ian Graham-Jones

It was nearly thirty years ago that a collection of manuscripts, together with a few printed editions, of the music of Alice Mary Smith (1837–84) came into my possession following the death of the composer’s grandson. They were in a haphazard state—some had been kept in an old garage, others, more damaged, in a leaking garden shed. Besides a number of full scores, there were bundles of complete sets of orchestral parts, miscellaneous drafts and scraps of manuscript, and even harmony and species counterpoint exercises. But it was not until after my retirement that I was able to spend time assessing the worth of the collection and realizing that Smith was the first British woman composer to have any success in writing in larger-scale forms and, moreover, in having her works performed.

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Looking Past the Scottishness: William McGibbon’s Sonatas

Wednesday, December 11, 2019 9:00:00 AM America/Chicago

By Elizabeth C. Ford

William McGibbon (1695–1756) was once described to me as the best-known Scottish composer no one had ever heard of; I believe that’s a reasonably accurate assessment. When I first encountered his name in David Johnson’s monograph Music and Society in Lowland Scotland in the Eighteenth Century, I was left with the impression that his music had faded into well-deserved obscurity. At the same time, I noted that Henry George Farmer in A History of Music in Scotland (1947) spoke highly of McGibbon’s flute duets (published around 1748), though most musicians I spoke to only knew of McGibbon’s collections of Scottish tunes and the one trio sonata of his that has been published a few times in “greatest hits” collections (no. 5 from his set of 1734, headed “In Imitation of Corelli”). I knew that this wasn’t quite good enough for my studies on the flute in eighteenth-century Scotland, so I wanted to see what the rest of his music was like, and if he deserved the reputation he had. This edition is the result.

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