A 10-Year-Old Is Most Likely To Describe Himself By Saying PF Tosi’s "Observations on the Florid Song" (1723)

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PF Tosi’s "Observations on the Florid Song" (1723)

“This is the teaching of those master schools of the ancients which many mediocre singers now call contemptuously. Observe its rules carefully, examine its precepts closely, and if you are not blinded by prejudice, you will find that this school teaches how to sing, to project the voice , making words understood, expressing, using appropriate gestures, performing in rhythm, improvising with appropriate decoration, composing, and studying delicate, sensitive singing where only good taste and judgment will prevail. Compare this school with yours school, and if you find one field lacking in its precepts to guide you, take the rest from the modern school.” Pier Francesco Tosi, Observations on Ornate Song, p. 78.

The foundations of bel canto and style were laid during the writing of opera and monotonous solo singing in the late 16th century. As new art forms developed, virtuoso-singers emerged on the international stage with almost inhuman agility, range and beauty. Mostly castrati, but also all voice types, these trained singers became the world’s first rock stars, with the influence, income and lifestyle to match.

The technique of these bel canto singers (and most of the singers themselves) comes entirely from Italian conservatories and private voice studios. The training and techniques they used were passed down orally from master to generation, with few written records. Pier Francesco Tosi was the first to publish (1723) a rather long and detailed treatise on singing. It soon became the basic stylistic model for subsequent generations of singing treatises, from Mancini in 1777 to Richard Miller and Clifton Ware today. Within 40 years, Tosi’s Opinioni de’ cantori antichi, e moderni, o sieno osservazioni sopra il canto figurato was translated into English, German and French.

Tosi, himself a castrati, drew on his bel canto training in Italy (most likely Milan) and his extensive experience as a professional singer and voice teacher when writing Opinions. He also clearly developed his repertoire and decorative tastes from the many singers he observed during his career, including “Il Cortnoa”, “La Santini”, “Sifacio”, Rivani and especially Pistocchi. While his thesis addresses and expresses a clear bias against castrated male voices, Tosi’s occasional references to other types of singers indicate his belief that all singers are trained in the same way.

From Tosi’s writings we find a surprising fact that bel canto training focuses on auditory aesthetics with little to no physiological guidance. In contrast to many process-based singing methods developed beginning with Garcia’s Traité (1840), which focused on breathing, abdominal support, throat and head resonance, and larynx and pharynx positioning, the “Old Italian School” method was results-based , focusing on the successful, tasteful use of intonation, tone, and grace notes. In fact, Tosi’s physical advice for singers ranges from: “Never let a scholar hold a Musick-Paper in front of him while singing,” (p. 29) “compos[e] [the mouth] with a certain method […] tend to smile” (p. 12) and “scholar’s voice […]It should always come clean, not go through the nose, or get caught in the throat; these are two of the most dreaded flaws in a singer. (pp. 10-11) It can be seen that even these instructions are given specifically for verbal or visual aesthetics, rather than as part of a technical approach.

Opinioni is primarily aimed at singing teachers, outlining what and how they must teach their students. It also includes a chapter and several paragraphs, aimed at future professional singers, offering advice on taste, adornment, performance techniques, and the life and career of professional singing. Tosi emphasized the need for long-term training in reading and composition, singing and constructing ornamental notes, as well as grammar, diction, social etiquette, and performance. All the standard grace notes of the time are thoroughly represented: appoggiatura, messa di voce, eight trills, passaggi (partitions) and portamento. Tosi also devotes a chapter each to recitatives and arias, extolling the need to improvise with one’s own grace and ensembles in performance.

Some of Tosi’s teachings in his Opinioni over the years have been of particular interest to singers and scholars. Tosi explicitly advocates combining and mixing chest and head registers, (p. 11) the first recorded vocal teacher to do so.While early writers such as Zacconi (Practica di Musica, 1592, ch. 2) and Caccini (Le nuove musiche, 1602, intro.) stated that singers should sing only with their “natural voice”, Tosi even said “if [the chest and head register] If it doesn’t fit perfectly, the sound will have a different register and therefore necessarily lose its beauty. ” (p. 11) Tosi was also the first record to encourage the use of rubato as embellishment. While time and time again he lambasted singers who accidentally sang rhythms or stuck out notes with self-exaggeration like modern sustains, he encouraged “[t]he stole time […]as long as he compensates with originality”; meaning, as long as the singer catches up with the accompaniment, keeping them in rhythm. (p. 67)

another interesting element Opinion It’s Tosi’s discussion about intonation and roll call. At a time when keyboards, strings, and even singers used various methods of temperament, Tosi lamented that “except for a few professors, modern intonation is very bad.” (p. 9) He speaks of the different “chromatic majors and minors” (or major and minor semitones), whose “[d]An organ or harpsichord would have no way of knowing the difference if the keys of the instrument were not separated. (p. 9) He thus warns that “if a soprano sings a D sharp, like an E flat, a good ear will find him out of tune, because this is the last rise.” (p. 10) Tosi’s remedy for poor intonation was to start young singers with the traditional range created by Guido. While both the Guidonian six-string system and the meantone temperament had become obsolete by the time Tosi wrote his thesis, he Still stick with them.

Opinion In fact, it was not just a watershed moment in early baroque music theory and tuning. Tosi spends considerable time in his essay praising the “old” Cantabile (or “Pathetick”, as the original translator called it) style of his generation at the turn of the 18th century. He can’t seem to understand why “the Mode” has veered toward the fast, highly flamboyant “Allegro” style that was popular around the time he wrote it, which he confuses with poorly trained singers, ignoring traditional church models and “tasteless virtuoso performances” The mortal sin of the modern” music generation. Yet, as a pragmatist, he still encourages “it is useful to a prudent scholar who aspires to be an expert in both ways.” (p. 40)

Pier Francesco Tosi was born in 1653 or 1654 in Cesena, Italy. Sources are divided as to whether he was the son of composer Giuseppe Felice Tosi. He was castrated before puberty to preserve his high pitch. Although it is not known where he received his basic musical training, he sang in a church in Rome from 1676 to 1677 and in Milan Cathedral from 1681 to 1685, when he was arrested for “misconduct”. fired. Afterwards he gave a recorded opera performance in Reggio nell’Emilia (Odoacre in Varischino) in 1687 and lived for a while in Genoa. In 1693 Tosi moved to London, where he took singing students and sang in weekly public concerts. In 1701 he served Emperor Joseph I of Austria and Johann Wilhelm, Elector of Palatinate, traveling as musical and diplomatic agent until 1723. In 1724 he returned to London with works by Handel, where he taught again and was a founding member of the Academy of Ancient Music. He received the priesthood before his death in Faenza, Italy, in 1732. In addition to being a renowned soprano (cantata style, mainly chamber music) and voice teacher, Tosi is the composer of several arias and cantatas. (Biographical information taken from “Tosi, Pier Francsco”, New Grove Dictionary of Opera.)

John Ernest Galliard (1666-1747), English translator Opinion, was a successful opera composer and oboist in London who played an important role in the city’s musical life in the first half of the 18th century. He was a founding member of the Royal Society of Musicians and the Academy of Ancient Music, which is also Tosi’s academy. Due to the quality of the translation and his long personal relationship with the author, Gagliar’s translation and commentary of Tosi’s Opinioni (published in 1742, entitled Observations on the Song of Flowers) has always been regarded as a high quality and authoritative translation. (Biographical information taken from “Galliard, John Ernest,” New Grove Dictionary of Opera.)

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