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Bernardo Pasquini

I was introduced to the music of Bernardo Pasquini by my tutor, the late Sydney Smith, Darwin scholar, who also knew a little about Chinese porcelain and wine.

Pasquini's music is warm, friendly, and at its best, very beautiful. Some suits the piano - probably about a quarter of it. Willi Apel, in his "History of Keyboard Music to 1700", tells us that Pasquini was born in 1637, studied in Rome with Cesti from about 1650, and lived there until his death in 1710. There are four autographs - one held by the Berlin State Library; the others by the British Museum. There are a few other pieces in early prints and other manuscript collections.

Pasquini's best music is to be found in his sets of variations. These are effective on the piano, and have a natural simplicity and facility. They lies well under the fingers, and the figurations are neat and effective. There is no contrived part-writing, and in the most extended variation set (on the "Follia", a Spanish dance) the theme is presented 14 times. Pasquini cleverly avoids monotony, and it's a most impressive work. He has a gift for melodic invention. He wrote many sets of variations (twenty-two, according to Apel), based either on dances or freely invented song- or dance- like themes.

The volume I use is a selection edited by Shedlock, published by Novello, Ewer & Co. around 1900. The later CEKM version (Corpus of Early Keyboard Music) is a more complete edition, though it must be said that many of the more "minor" pieces are pretty negligible . I'll stick with Shedlock.

Nigel Deacon / Diversity website

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