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date: 15 September 2019

Partimento (It.: ‘division’)locked

  • Peter Williams
  • , revised by Rosa Cafiero

Extract

(It.: ‘division’)

A term used fairly frequently in the late 18th and early 19th centuries to denote exercises in figured-bass playing, not so much as accompaniments to a solo instrument as self-contained pieces. Composers using this term were very often Neapolitan or Milanese, though the significance of this is unknown. The word may or may not refer to the 17th century practice of divisions, i.e. performing variations on a repeating (figured) bass; more likely it reflects the common Italian practice c 1700 of writing bass lines for keyboard players to work into fully-fledged pieces. The definition is attested to as early as 1634 by G.F. Cavalliere in Il scolaro principiante di musica (Naples). Examples are common in MSS, e.g. the ‘Arpeggi per cembalo’ exercises in GB-Lbl Add.14244 (?A. Scarlatti), the organ ‘Versetti … per rispondere al coro’ in Lbl Add.31501 (?B. Pasquini), and the complete solo and even duet figured-bass sonatas for harpsichord by Pasquini in ...

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