Technique in focus:
“On the diminished 5th that goes to the 3rd”
Regola 30 – Partimento
Regola 30 from Durante emphasises the realisation of diminished 5/3 chords resolving onto major or minor 5/3 chords. This can be found throughout the partimento where Durante adds the figure ‘5’ followed by ‘3’ on the ascent of the bass by a semitone. These figures provided by Durante help the realiser to follow the voice-leading as intended ‘diminished 5th … to the 3rd’.
I have updated the key signature from no sharps or flats to one sharp. This helps to clarify the key, G major, to the modern realiser. The key of this heavily chromatic partimento may be difficult to ascertain or keep track of. There are many local modulations, perhaps spanning only two notes, but these must be seen as foreground, local modulations. The modulations of consideration usually have confirmatory cadences (repeated simple or compound cadences which help define the new key). Examples of these are bars 2-3, 4-5, 11-12. Alternatively, Long Cadences (cadenze lunghe) may be used (cadences which have some preparatory notes before the descent of ⑤-① (Sanguinetti, 2012, pp. 107-110)). Examples of this are the quavers and subsequent ⑤-①found in bars 8-9 and 10-11.
‘Regola 30‘ – Simple Three-Part Realisation
Below is a literal and relatively straightforward realisation of Durante’s ‘Regola 30′. I have tried to include a mixture of different positions in the right-hand in order to provide musical interest, and to show the positions in a musical context. It is worth realising every partimento in each position to feel the different voice-leading paths your fingers take you on. This hands-on approach has many advantages for learning music theory (such as voice-leading) which I discuss in my article Chapter 3: A Case for Partimento Pt. 1 – Music Theory.
Florid Three-Part Realisation
In this florid, three-part realisation, I have used a lot of suspensions. Suspensions are a great melodic device for three-part writing. A suspension sustains a voice from a consonant note to a dissonant note (or a chordal note to a non-chordal note). This dissonance then requires resolving – usually by moving the dissonant note up or down a step. This is now commonly understood using the initialism ‘PSR’. P – Preparation (consonant), S – Suspension (dissonant), R – Resolution (consonant). The Neapolitan Partimento maestros created much introductory material around consonance, dissonance and the proper resolution of dissonances. Many of Durante’s rules focus on the proper preparation and resolution of suspensions (see his Rules 25-28 (Gjerdingen, 2020, pp. 38-41)). Practical understanding of consonance and dissonance was a vital prerequisite to realising partimenti. If you are unfamiliar with consonance and dissonance, please watch my introduction here, or if you would like Durante’s introduction to consonance and dissonance, see Gjerdingen’s partimenti.org here pp. 6-13.
Further to suspensions I have used ‘Rhythmic Activation’ (bar 4). This is a term invented by John Mortensen in his 2020 book, The Pianist’s Guide to Historic Improvisation (pp. 138-143) whereby a note is repeated towards the end of its duration. This helps to keep the voice alive for both performer and listener.
In this two-part realisation, I have decided to use triplets against each crotchet in the partimento. I have slightly changed the partimento quaver rhythm in bars 8 and 10 to align with the triplet rhythm in the right-hand. One may add diminutions to the left-hand partimento or alter rhythms for purposes of embellishment, but at this stage in the Regole, do this sparingly. The focus must be on a steady, musically interesting, different way of realising the partimento whilst conforming to contrapuntal norms.
The two-part texture allows for a more active approach to pitch variation and compound melody than three-part textures, which may emphasise imitation and countermelody within one hand. Two-part realisations can allow for more of a ‘keyboard’ texture rather than the vocal character that three-part realisations may emulate.
The realisation below stems from my ‘Simple Three-Part Realisation’ found above. The three-part realisation acted as a basis for the two-part realisation, where most changes were to break up the chords, add passing notes, neighbour notes or other forms of diminutions.
Gaydon, C. (2020). Chapter 3: A case for partimento pt. 1 – music theory. Improving Pianists. https://improvingpianists.com/2020/11/24/chapter-3-a-case-for-partimento-pt-1-music-theory/
Gaydon, C. (2019). Videos. Improving Pianists. https://improvingpianists.com/videos/
Gjerdingen, R. (2020). Francesco Durante (1684–1755): Regole (“Rules”). partimenti.org. http://partimenti.org/partimenti/collections/durante/durante_regole.pdf
Mortensen, J. (2020). The pianist’s guide to historic improvisation. Oxford University Press.
Sanguinetti, G. (2012). The Art of Partimento. New York: Oxford University Press.
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.