Critical Notes Series: Costanzi's Sinfonias and Sonatas

Costanzi -  11 Sinfonias and Sonatas for Cello and Basso, Vol. 1 (Urtext Edition)
Costanzi - 6 Sonatas for Cello and Basso, Vol. 2 (Urtext Edition)

Giovanni Battista Costanzi (1704-1778) was an Italian composer and cello virtuoso. He entered the service of the famous Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni in 1721. In 1722, Costanzi was appointed to the post of violoncellist at S. Luigi dei Francesi in Rome. In 1740 he entered the service of Cardinal Trojano Acquaviva d'Aragona and, on the latter's death in 1752, the service of Cardinal Albani. He was also maestro di cappella at various churches in Rome: Madonna di Loreto in 1742, and S. Marco e S. Maria in Vallicella the following year. In 1754 he was named assistant to Pietro Paolo Bencini, succeeding him as maestro di cappella of the Cappella Giulia at his death in 1755.

Costanzi's most noted work is the D-major cello concerto, once attributed to Joseph Haydn. Costanzi wrote many chamber works for his own instrument, including sinfonias and sonatas. His sinfonias are basically sonatas. Our new edition includes 11 of Costanzi's works for cello, 5 sinfonias and 6 sonatas. 

The Sinfonias and the G-major sonata come from the Graf von Schönborn-Wiesentheid Collection (MSS 548-553). 

Sinfonia in C major 
(Schönborn WD 548)

The entire C-major Sinfonia also appears as Antonio Vandini's C-major Sonata. Vandini's manuscript is located at Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Venice (Mss.It.IV.1095). Vandini's manuscript is dated May 1717. Costanzi did not enter Ottoboni's service until 1721, so it is likely that Vandini is in fact the composer of the Sinfonia. The differences between the Vandini and Costanzi manuscripts are slight. The first movement is a solemn prelude. The second movement is in binary form, built around the ritornello principle. The third movement is a minuet with one variation. The variation may have been added by Costanzi.

Sinfonia in G major 
(Schönborn WD 549)

The G-major Sinfonia is a typical sonata da camera for the 1720s-30s. The Allegro movement is a Corrente.

Sonata in G major 
(Schönborn WD 550)

The G-major Sonata is the only piece with the title of "sonata" among Costanzi's scores in the Schönborn collection. The second movement is imitative. The third movement is in E minor until the last four bars. The bass part in the last four bars is vague as the music moves to the key of B. We provided a solution for the bass part that makes the music less jarring; other solutions are welcome. The finale is a minuet.

Sinfonia in D major 
(Schönborn WD 551)
Adagio staccato

The D-major Sinfonia opens with a descending bass by itself. The first movement explores the key of E major, not a typical key to explore in that era when the tonic is D major. The second movement is in binary form, but both sections begin and end in the tonic key instead of the first section ending on the dominant. The last two movements are called Amoroso. The first Amoroso is in a typical binary form. It has a stuttering scale near the end. The final Amoroso is a minuet.

Sinfonia in E-flat major 
(Schönborn WD 552)

The E-flat-major Sinfonia is a typical sonata da camera. The second movement is a courante and the finale is a minuet where the bass imitates the cello line.

Sinfonia in B-flat major 
(Schönborn WD 553)
Sarabanda. Amoroso

The B-flat-major Sinfonia has a couple of oddities similar to the D-major Sinfonia. The second movement is in binary form but both sections end in the tonic key instead of the first section ending on the dominant. The third movement is called "Sarabanda" but it is in 4, not in 3. 

The following two sonatas, in C-major and G-minor, respectively, come from the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde collection (MSS 23 and 43). 

Sonata in C major 
(Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien: 23/g IX)
Giga. Allegro

The C-major Sonata has three movements in straightforward binary form. The second movement is a fantasia, almost a recitative that moves from G to E. 

Sonata in G minor 
(Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien: 43/g IX)

The G-minor Sonata manuscript is almost illegible in some spots. The first two movements are missing tempo markings. The first movement is similar to the Cantabile movement in the cello sonata manuscript housed at the Frank V. de Bellis Collection at the San Francisco State University.

Sonata in C minor
(Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin: 4204)
Capricio. Allegro assai

The C-minor Sonata explores the extremes of the cello range. The repetitive nature of the fast movements allows the musicians to vary dynamics. The Capric[c]io is a perpetual motion. This is the most technically-demanding movement among Costanzi's solo works.

Sonata in F major 
(Alströmer-Samlingen Statens Musiksamlingar Filmnr: 150:18)
Alla Francese

The F-major Sonata is perhaps better described as a work for two equal cellists. The cellos often play the same rhythm or in imitation.

Sonata Da Camera Per Due Violoncelli ad Vso di Corni da Caccia
(Universitetsbibliotek, Uppsala: Gimo 79)
Amoroso - Allegro assai - Amoroso

Like the previous work, the Sonata da camera is for two equal partners and is in the style of Corni da caccia (hunting horns). This sonata may be played in  (but not limited to) the first position in its entirety by both cellists.

We want to thank the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro for putting the manuscripts from the Elizabeth Cowling collection at our disposal for volume 1. The first 4 sonatas in volume 2 were graciously provided by the Frank V. de Bellis Collection at the San Francisco State University. The last 2 sonatas in volume 2 were graciously provided by the Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Münster.

The sets come with a playable cello-basso score, a separate cello part, and a basso (cello 2 part). All clefs have been updated to bass, tenor, and standard treble clef.

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