Rule: “On the same (6/5s) in another way”
This partimento focuses on the movements of ⑦-① and its harmonisation, 6/5 to 5/3 respectively. This motion is found in both in the tonic key, A major, and local tonics found in the ‘Monte’ sequence at bars 27-30.
When presented with a partimento, it is important to take some time to understand it before realising it. A short amount of time spent understanding the foreground (such as chords, non chordal bass notes), middleground (such as prototypes, phrases, local modulations) and background (larger tonal structure, form) can help speed up the process of realising the music. In my analysis of Durante’s Regloa 36, I have used the following annotations:
- Tonality – Determining tonalities helps determine everything else. It is important to understand the key as this outlines which selection of notes (scale) you can improvise with in the right-hand. There are a series of modulations in this partimento, some of them may be local modulations (which I have put in brackets), such as the ‘Monte’ in bars 27-30. Precisely indicating where a modulation appears is an inexact science – it begins whenever you first hear the new key. I tend to label it early, during the transition to the new key. The partimeto goes through keys:
- I – Tonic (bb. 1-5)
- V – Dominant (bb. 6-13)
- vi – Submediant (Relative Minor) (bb. 14-19)
- V – Dominant (bb. 20-23)
- I – Tonic (bb. 24-40)
- Scale Degree – This partimento emphasises the movement of ⑦-①. Material may be reused for this bass motion, and so I have labelled every ⑦-① in the partimento. I have labelled some as #⑦ to indicate where the scale degree is part of a modulation, rather than in the home key. Scale degrees change with key, further emphasising the need to identify the key as the first step in the analysis.
- Figured Bass – Durante has already indicated the important figured basses (usually, this is where the Rule is being illustrated or the harmonisation may not be apparent). Additional figures should be outlined where you need them. You may require lots of figures and lots of labels to realise the partimento fluently – this is perfectly fine. In fact, Partimento pedagogues of the 18th century were more prescriptive with adding figures for less experienced learners (Gjerdingen, 2010, p. 56).
- Prototypes – Once you have understood the keys, scale degrees and chords, then middleground prototypes will emerge. Prototypes such as the Rule of the Octave, Cadences, Scale Mutations (modulations) and Bass Motions (such as sequences) are extremely useful tools to understand partimenti, and, more broadly, Galant music. When fluency can be gained with identifying prototypes, then you will be able to see music at the middleground level, and quickly spot recurring patterns of harmonisation.
In this realisation, I have employed some diminutions from Durante’s Partimenti Diminuiti centred around the movement of ⑦-①:
- Bars 2, 4, 9, 11 is taken from No. 4 Style 3 (Gjerdingen, 2020, p. 4)
- Bar 27-32 No. 1 Style 2 combined with the opening bar (p. 1)
- Bar 24-26 and 34-37 is a derivation of No. 5 Style 1 (p. 5)
Once these diminutions have been ‘filled in’, the rest is relatively simple. This is by design. Partimenti were written to facilitate improvisation. Recognition of the bass motion, for example, ⑦-① and its harmonisation, 6/5 to 5/3 respectively, would require the student to spot this pattern, and use an appropriate diminution in real-time without hesitation. There are many different diminution possibilities, and my adaption of Durante’s Style 1 for his fifth Partimenti Diminuiti demonstrates how this style could be adapted to different metres.
I have kept the realisation in two parts throughout. This was to reflect the diminutions given by Durante in his diminuiti, but also as I felt the partimento suited a light, fast, two part texture. A two voice texture also allows for compound melody, where a single voices implies multiple voices, such as the diminution in bar 2. I have also updated the key signature from the original 2 sharps, to 3 sharps.
Gjerdingen, R. (2010). Partimenti written to impart a knowledge of counterpoint and composition. In D. Moelants & K. Snyers (Eds.) Partimento and Continuo Playing (pp. 43-70). Leuven: Leuven University Press.
Gjerdingen, R. (2020). Francesco Durante (1684–1755): Regole (“Rules”). partimenti.org. http://partimenti.org/partimenti/collections/durante/durante_regole.pdf
Gjerdingen, R. (2020). Francesco Durante: Partimenti diminuiti. partimenti.org. http://partimenti.org/partimenti/collections/durante/durante_diminuiti.pdf
Partimento: A Beginner Method for Classical Improvisation
‘Partimento: A Beginner Method for Classical Improvisation’ book teaches the reader classical improvisation through updating the method of Partimento for the modern student.
During this book, we start by getting to know the basics of music, covered in Stage 1: Prerequisites. Then, from Stages 2-5 we tackle the main ingredients of improvisation (what the 18th century, Neapolitans called Regole, the “Rules”). Finally, in Stages 6-7 we practise improvising with, and without, partimenti. Here are the seven stages below:
Stage 1 – Prerequisites (pp.9-43)
Stage 2 – Cadences (pp.44-72)
Stage 3 – Rule of the Octave (pp.73-92)
Stage 4 – Sequences (pp.93-137)
Stage 5 – Modulations (pp.138-171)
Stage 6 – Partimenti (pp.172-188)
Stage 7 – Improvise! (pp.189-220)
Take your first steps into classical improvisation on the rediscovered path of Partimento.