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

“This was the teaching of those masters whom many mediocre singers today contemptuously call ancestors. Observe its rules carefully, examine its precepts strictly, and if you are not blinded by prejudice, you will see that this school teaches you to sing in tune. , to project the voice , to make words intelligible, to express them, to use proper gestures, to perform in tempo, to improvise suitable ornaments, to compose, and to learn fine, sensitive singing, in which good taste and judgment alone triumph. Compare this school with yours, and if you find one a field where it lacks precepts to instruct you, take the rest from the modern.” Pier Francesco Tosi, Observations on the Florid song, p. 78.

The foundations of the bel canto method and style were laid at the end of the 16th century during the creation of opera and monodistic solo singing. With the development of the new art form, virtuoso singers appeared on the international stage, with almost inhuman agility, range and beauty. Mostly castrated, but including all voice types, these highly trained singers became the world’s first rock stars with the influence, income and lifestyle to match.

The techniques of these bel canto singers (and most of the singers themselves) come exclusively from the conservatories and vocal studios of Italy. The training and techniques they used were passed down orally from master to apprentice over generations, with very little recorded in writing. Pier Francesco Tosi was the first (in 1723) to publish a substantial and detailed treatise on singing. It quickly became the foundational and stylistic model for later 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 modern, o sieno osservazioni sopra il canto figurato was translated into English, German and French.

A castrator himself, in writing Opinioni, Tosi drew on his own bel canto musical training as a boy in Italy (probably Milan) and his extensive experience as a professional singer and voice teacher. He clearly developed both his repertoire and his taste in ornamentation from the many singers he observed throughout his career, including Il Cortnoa, La Santini, Sifacio, Rivani, and especially Pistocchi. While his treatise focuses on and expresses a clear bias towards the castrated male voice, Tosi’s occasional mention of other types of singers shows that he believes all singers are equally trained.

From Tosi’s writings we can discover the surprising fact that bel canto training focused on vocal aesthetics, with almost no physiological instruction. Unlike the many process-based singing methods developed since Garcia Traité (1840), which emphasized breathing, abdominal support, throat and head resonance, and larynx and pharynx positioning, the “old Italian school” method was result-based, and brought emphasis to the fore. about intonation, timbre and the successful, tasteful use of ornamentation. In fact, Tosi’s physical advice to the singer was: “never let the Scholar hold the Musick-Paper before his Face in singing” (p. 29) “compositions[e] [the mouth] in such a way […] rather it leans into a smile” (p. 12) and “The voice of the scientist […]it should always come out clear and clean, without passing through the nose or choking from the throat; which are the two most terrible faults of singers.” (pp. 10-11) It can be seen that even these directions were specifically given to improve verbal or visual aesthetics, not as part of a technical method.

Opinioni is primarily aimed at the singing teacher, laying out what and how to teach the students. It also includes a chapter and several sections for the aspiring professional singer, offering advice on good taste, finery, performance skills, and the life and business of professional singing. Tosi emphasizes that students must study for a long time in reading and composing, singing and ornamentation, as well as grammar, diction, social decorum and acting. All the standard ornaments of the period are thoroughly presented: appoggiatura, messa di voce, eight types of trill, passaggi (division) and portamento. Tosi devotes a chapter to both recitative and aria singing, preaching the necessity of improvising one’s own graces and divisions in performances.

Opinioni contains some of Tosi’s teachings that have been of particular interest to singers and scholars over the years. Tosi clearly advocates the unification and unification of the chest and head registers (p. 11), the first vocal teacher on record to do so. While earlier writers such as Zacconi (Practica di Musica, 1592, ch. 2) and Caccini (Le nuove musiche, 1602, intro.) had stated that singers should only sing in their “natural voice”, Tosi went so far as to He told. “If [the chest and head register] do not unite perfectly, the Voice will consist of varied registers, and must consequently lose its beauty.” (p. 11) Tosi’s is also the first recorded encouragement of the use of rubato as an ornament. While he relies again and again on singers. who happen to sing out of tempo , or they make sounds of self-praise, as in modern farms, he encourages.”[t]stole the time […]provided he makes up for it with ingenuity”; that is, provided the singer gets the accompaniment back, allowing them to keep the tempo. (p. 67)

Another interesting element Opinion Tosi’s talks on intonation and sol-phasing. At a time when keyboards, string players, and even singers used different temperament methods, Tosi complains that “except for a few professors, modern intonation is very bad.” (p. 9) He speaks of different “semitones major and minor” (or a major and a minor semitone) whose “[d]the organ or the harpsichord cannot recognize the allusion if the keys of the instrument are not split.” (p. 9) Consequently, he warns that “if a soprano were to sing on a D-sharp as an E-flat, a good ear would find out who it is from the melody, because it is the last to rise.” (p. 10) Tosi’s remedy for bad intonation is to start the singer on solfège at a young age, using the traditional scale created by Guido. While both the Guidonian hexachord system and the middle tone temperament are increasingly They were protected when Tosi wrote his thesis, yet he insisted on using them.

Opinion it was actually much more of a watershed than early Baroque music theory and tuning. In his dissertation, Tosi praises the “ancient” cantabile (or “Pathetick”, as the original translator put it) style of his generation at the turn of the 18th century. He doesn’t seem to understand why “the mode” switched to the fast, highly ornate “Allegro” style popular at the time of his writing, which was characterized by insufficient vocal training, ignoring traditional church modes and the “tasteless” virtuoso appearance, the great sin of the “modern” musical generation. However, being a pragmatist, he still encourages that it will be “useful to a prudent scientist who wants to be an expert in both methods” (p. 40).

Pier Francesco Tosi was born in Cesena, Italy in 1653 or 1654. Sources disagree as to whether he is the son of composer Giuseppe Felice Tosi. He was castrated before puberty to preserve his high-pitched voice. Although it is not known where he received his rudimentary musical training, he sang in a church in Rome from 1676 to 1677 and in the Milan cathedral from 1681 to 1685, when he was dismissed for “improper conduct”. After this he appeared in opera once in Reggio nell’Emilia in 1687 (in Varischino’s Odoacre) and spent some time in Genoa. In 1693, Tosi moved to London, where he received singing students and sang weekly at public concerts. In 1701, he entered the service of Emperor Joseph I of Austria and Palatine Johann Wilhelm, whom he served as a musical and diplomatic agent, and traveled extensively until 1723. In 1724, he returned the flames of London with the works of Handel, where he taught again and was a founding member of the Academy of Ancient Music. Sometime before his death, in 1732, he took holy orders in Faenza, Italy. In addition to being a well-known soprano (sings in cantabile style, mainly chamber music) and singing teacher, Tosi was the composer of numerous arias and cantatas. (Biographical data 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, he played a significant role in the city’s musical life in the first half of the 18th century. He was a founding member of both the Royal Society of Musicians and the Academy of Ancient Music, which Tosi also attended. Due to the quality of the translation and his long personal acquaintance with the author, Galliard’s translation and annotation of Tosi Opinioni (1742 as Observations on the Florid Song) has long been considered a high-quality and authoritative rendering. (Biographical information is from “Galliard, John Ernest”, New Grove Dictionary of Opera.)

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