Tonadilla by Blas de Laserna?

If you've ever listened to Pablo Casals's short-piece collections, surely you have heard a piece called Tonadilla by Blas de Laserna. It's a cute and simple little piece.

Laserna's name might seem obscure to us. Laserna was a Spanish Classical-era opera composer who wrote many Tonadillas. Tonadillas are staged songs that sometimes last the length of an opera scene. The Tonadilla in question, however, is not by Laserna but by André Grétry, the famous French opera composer.

The confusion started with Cassadó's publication that attributed a piece called Tonadilla to Laserna in his transcription for cello and piano. This piece comes from Grétry's opera Zémire et Azor, which premiered in 1771. The dance is called Passepied, from Act III of the opera.

Ironically, the tonadilla genre is not danced, only sung, but the piece Cassadó attributed to Laserna is a dance. It's hard to say where Cassadó got the information for this piece. The manuscript collection at Tamagawa University has this work arranged for various ensembles, including piano solo and cello with harp and a double string quartet, but always under the Tonadilla title. Perhaps Cassadó was working from memory and couldn't remember where he had heard the piece. In his earlier days, Cassadó attributed his own compositions to Frescobaldi, Couperin, Boccherini, and others. While the popularity of this arrangement has waned, I hope that this Passepied will be attributed to the correct composer.


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