The Art of Partimento

History, Theory, and Practice


At the height of the Enlightenment, four conservatories in Naples stood at the center of European composition. Maestros taught their students to compose with unprecedented swiftness and elegance using the partimento, an instructional tool derived from the basso continuo that encouraged improvisation as the path to musical fluency. Although the practice vanished in the early nineteenth century, its legacy lived on in the music of the next generation. In The Art of Partimento, performer and music-historian Giorgio Sanguinetti chronicles the history of this long-forgotten Neapolitan art. Sanguinetti has painstakingly reconstructed the oral tradition that accompanied these partimento manuscripts, now scattered throughout Europe. Beginning with the origins of the partimento in the circles of Corelli, Pasquini, and Alessandro Scarlatti in Rome and tracing it through the peak of the tradition in Naples, The Art of Partimento gives a glimpse into the daily life and work of an eighteenth century composer.The Art of the Partimento is also a complete practical handbook to reviving the tradition today. Step by step, Sanguinetti guides the aspiring composer through elementary realization to more advanced exercises in diminution, imitation, and motivic coherence. Based on the teachings of the original masters, Sanguinetti challenges the reader to become a part of history, providing a variety of original partimenti in a range of genres, forms, styles, and difficulty levels along the way and allowing the student to learn the art of the partimento for themselves at their own pace.As both history and practical guide, The Art of Partimento presents a new and innovative way of thinking about music theory. Sanguinetti's unique approach unites musicology and music theory with performance, which allows for a richer and deeper understanding than any one method alone, and offers students and scholars of composition and music theory the opportunity not only to understand the life of this fascinating tradition, but to participate in it as well.
  • Oxford University Press; April 2012
  • ISBN 9780199908998
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF format
  • Title: The Art of Partimento
  • Author: Giorgio Sanguinetti
  • Imprint: Oxford University Press

In The Press

"I suspect AoP will generate much speculation and discussion regarding its theoretical, pedagogical, historical, and philosophical-aesthetic merits and implications. For this, and for its powerful practical application and Sanguinetti's unique and passionate approach to the subject-matter, it will become a watershed in the community of music theory and in studiesof eighteenth-century music more generally in the years to come." --Music Theory Online
"[A] revelatory book...Recommended." --Choice
"[A] fascinating book...Sanguinetti's writing style is clear and eminently readable, and heguides the reader with skill and patience through the intricacies of an important but almost forgotten system used to great advantage by students, teachers, and some of the great composers of the Baroque and early Romantic eras." --Early Music America
"Equally functional as an encyclopedic reference tool and a textbook on partimenti -- [it] appeals to a wide range of readers, including music educators, music theorists, musicologists, ethnomusicologists, and other interdisciplinary scholars." --Journal of Historical Research in Music Education
"In sum: The Art of Partimento is a groundbreaking study that vividly illuminates musical learning in and beyond eighteenth-century Italy. On top of this, it transforms a historical tradition into a current practice - something that twenty-first century musicians can learn to do. As such, the rediscovered art of partimento stands to serve as a nexus between historical and current theories about, instruction in, and making of music."--Music Theory Spectrum

About The Author

Giorgio Sanguinetti is Associate Professor of Music Theory at the University of Rome - Tor Vergata.