Onorato Costa: Souvenir d’Orient ou Fantaisie Brillante, op. 12. The complete introduction by Brian Jeffery.

Onorato Costa’s Souvenir d’Orient for guitar and flute was first published in Vienna in 1932 or shortly before. Containing as it does elements of Greek popular music at this very early date, the work is of considerable historical interest, as well as being a splendid concert piece in its own right.

Onorato Costa

Nothing by this composer is known to have been published previously in a modern edition. He was evidently an accomplished and inventive guitarist and composer. His music was published in Vienna between 1818 and 1832, and as we shall see he had connections with Romania; he may have lived in either or both of these places. His known works are as follows:

– Op. 2. Variations pour Guitarre seule sur la Marche d’Aline composées et dediées A Madame Catinka de Slatinian née Comtesse Philippesco par Onorato Costa. Oeuvre 2. No. 472. Vienne … chez Cappi et Diabelli [c. 1818-19]. 7 pages. Theme and variations 1-4. The theme is possibly from Aline, Reine de Golconde by Berton. [Copy: Copenhagen, Royal Library.]

– Op. 4. Published in Vienna by Tranquillo Mollo and advertised in the Wiener Zeitung on 10 May 1820 as “Introduction et variations (Foppländler), Guit.”, according to A. Weinmann, Verlagsverzeichnis Tranquillo Mollo, 1964, p. 73. No copy found.

– Op. 5. Published in Vienna by Tranquillo Mollo and advertised in the Wiener Zeitung on 20 July 1820 as “Gr. Variations et Rondo sur un thème Espagnol, Guitarre”, according to A. Weinmann, ibid., p, 74. No copy found.

– Op. 6. Variations pour Guitarre seule, sur un Thème favori de l’Opera: Cenerentola, de Rossini, composées et dediées à Madame la Comtesse Nina de Petrovitz Armis par Onorato Costa. Oeuvre 6me. No. 666, Vienne, chez A. Diabelli et Comp. 7 pages. Introduction, theme, variations 1-4, and Allegro. [Copy: Copenhagen, Royal; Library.] The plate number shows that this was first published by Cappi & Diabelli in about 1819-20 and that the copy in Copenhagen is a later issue.

– Op. 9. Douze Valses Brillantes pour deux Guitarres, composées et dediées à Monsieur Dominique de Costa par son frère Onorato Costa. Oeuvre 9me. Wien, bey Pietro Mechetti qm. Carlo, im Michaelerhaus der K. K. Reitschule gegenüber No. 1153. 5 and 5 pages. Plate number 1283. The first guitar part is for a terz guitar or for an ordinary guitar with a capotasto at the third fret; the second part is for an ordinary guitar [Copy: Copenhagen, Royal Library.] The plate number, according to A. Weinmann: Verlagsverzeichnis Mechetti … Carlo, 1966, shows that this was published in about 1822.

– Op. 10. Variations et Rondo sur un thème de la Dame Blanche pour le Pianoforte et Guitare, composées et dediées à Monsieur de Hakenau Conseiller de S.M. Imp. et Roy. Apostolique, agent impérial d’Autriche en Valachie, chevalier de 1’ordre de St. Leopold d’Autriche, de celui de St. Anne 2de. Classe de Russie etc par Onorato Costa. Oeuvre 10. No. 2613, Vienne, chez Ant. Diabelli et Comp. [1827]. For terz-guitar and piano. 8 and 13 pages. Introduction, theme, six variations, and Rondo alla Polacca. La Dame Blanche is by Boieldieu. [Copies: Vienna, Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek; Vienna, Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde.]

– Op. 12. Souvenir d’Orient ou Fantaisie brillante pour Guitare et Flûte composée et dediée à Madame la Comtesse Catherine de Philippesko par Onorato Costa. Oeuvre 12. No. 2725. Pr. [blank]. [No place or name of publisher.] The present work. For guitar and flute. 7 and 4 pages. [Copy: Vienna, Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde.] Advertised in the Wiener Zeitung on 6 February 1832, according to A. Weinmann, Verlagsverzeichnis Giovanni Cappi bis A.O. Witzendorf, 1967, pp. 114 and 210.

– Opus number (if any) not known. L’Ecco d’Apollon. Listed under “Solos für die Guitarre” in Whistling/Hofmeister: Handbuch der musikalischen Literatur, Siebenter Nachtrag (1824), as: “Costa, l’Ecco d’Apollon. Wien, Molla, 30 Xr’. Not listed in Weinmann, Verlagsverzeichnis Tranquillo Mollo, 1964, doubtless because Weinmann did not locate a copy. No copy found.

Thus, all his known works have to do with the guitar; they are for guitar solo, guitar duet, guitar and piano, or guitar and flute. He twice uses a terz-guitar, as was common in chamber works in Vienna in the early 19th century. We know almost nothing about his life.

There are two scraps of information concerning musicians named “Costa” in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung which were picked up in confused fashion by later writers. First, in March 1820 there appeared a review of a concert held in the “grosser Redoutensaal” in Vienna on 27 February of that year, including the following words: “Eine Cavatine von Rossini, gesungen von Dem. Wranitzky, und Guitarrevariationen, gespielt von Herrn Costa, waren angenehme Zugaben” (“A cavatina by Rossini, and guitar variations played by Mr Costa, were agreeable additions”). And in March 1818 there had appeared a review of an Italian opera, Ser Marcantonio by Pavesi, performed in Vienna at the Theater an der Wien on 5 February of that year, in which one “Herr Costa”, the singing teacher of the leading lady Gentile Borgondio, played the supporting role of the Vecchio burlato, but specifically “als Dilettant”, as an amateur, not as a professional stage singer. The 1820 review is probably the source of Domingo Prat’s statement in his Diccionario de Guitarristas (Buenos Aires, 1934), p. 95, that Onorato Costa “en el año 1820 realizó varios conciertos en Viena” (“in 1820 gave several concerts in Vienna”): either Prat had other sources of information for which he has not given the references, or, more probably, he was careless in using a review of one concert in order to speak of “varios conciertos”. Certainly, according to the detailed and reliable indexes to the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, there is in fact only one reference in that journal to a guitarist named Costa. – Another secondary reference to Costa is in H. Mendel’s Musikalisches Conversations-Lexicon, 1873: “Im Jahre 1818 finden wir in Wien einen Gesanglehrer Costa thätig, der die berühmte Borgondio unterstützte und auch als Guitarrist einen Namen hatte” (“In the year 1818 we find a singing teacher named Costa active in Vienna, who gave support to the famous Borgondio and also had some celebrity as a guitarist”). But almost surely this is also carelessness: Mendel does not give his source, but in fact it was most probably the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, and he appears to have simply assumed that the two Costas were the same man, which is far from necessarily the case since Costa is not an uncommon name. In view of the complete absence of vocal material among the known works of Onorato Costa, I think it is most unlikely that he and the singing master of Gentile Borgondio were the same person. In the end, the confusion of Prat and Mendel resolves itself simply into one concert in the Grosser Redoutensaal in Vienna on 27 February 1820, in which a guitarist named Costa played variations. We may guess that it was in fact Onorato Costa.

The matter of the confusion between two musicians named Costa seems to be settled by F.-J. Fétis, who says that the singing teacher of Gentile Borgondio was one André Costa, born in Italy, who later settled in London and published here his Analytical Considerations on the Art of Singing (1838), which he dedicated to Queen Victoria (no copy of which, however, is in the British Library) (Biographie universelle des musiciens, I, Paris, 1860, “Costa, André”).

A patroness of Onorato Costa was “Madame la Comtesse Catherine de Philippesko” as she is called on the title-page of Souvenir d’Orient; in Costa’s op. 2 which is also dedicated to her she is called “Madame Catinka de Slatinian née Comtesse de Philippesco”. Thus it appears that by birth she came from the prominent Romanian family which is often written Filipesco, and that she married a gentleman named Slatinian, which could also be a Romanian name, since there is a major town in Romania called Slatina. Costa’s op. 6 is dedicated to “Madame la Comtesse Nina de Petrovitz Armis”, and his op. 10 to M. de Hakenau, “agent impérial d’Autriche en Valachie”, otherwise known as Walachia which is the province of Romania where Bucharest lies. So the Romanian connection is strong. Moreoever, Costa’s music itself shows another eastern connection, for, as we shall see, the Greek elements in Souvenir d’Orient are remarkable. He clearly knew the music of Greece, either through having lived in that country or through visiting it. His music is intelligent and adventurous.

“Souvenir d’Orient”

An introduction leads into the Allegro vivace, bars 34-49. The fast melody in the treble, all on the top string of the guitar, when combined with the unchangingly open second and third strings, creates a special effect. The notation is interesting, for all the slurs in this section are placed, in the original edition, under the notes and chords to which they refer, and not over them as one might have expected. Because of this unusual placing, it appears that the slurs in bars 34-36 and 42-44 have some special meaning, perhaps indicating a special technique. It is not possible to know for certain what technique was intended here, but it may be suggested that a fast strumming back and forth with the index finger be used. It is most unlikely that these slurs have the conventional meaning of slurs in guitar music.

This passage, with its unusual effects, appears to imitate Greek native instruments. The guitar seems to imitate a plectrum-struck instrument such as the laouto, and Costa’s flute would take the part of an indigenous Greek flute.

The “Romance grecque, Ilios lambros, Soleil lumineux” is a hauntingly beautiful melody, all too short before we return to melodic material from earlier in the piece.

The “Sirtos, Dance grecque nationale” is carefully notated to give a very precise effect. The largo tempo, combined with the staccato markings, rests, slurs, and the dolce indication, should be observed exactly.

Mr Mark Dragoumis, of Athens, has been kind enough to send me his comments on these passages. The Allegro vivace does not appear to be known today from Greek native sources. The “Romance grecque” may be a melody based on Western European prototypes and popular among educated Greeks in the early 19th century. The Sirtos, however, is a uniquely Greek piece of music, and variants of the second part of its melody (Largo, bars 9-12) are still sung by modern Greek folk singers: it is to be found, for example, on a recording issued as “Authentic Songs from the Greek Islands”, 1976, Side B, cut 3, General Gramophone GGMG 4007, as well as in Ellen Frye, The Marble Threshing Floor, a Collection of Greek Folk-songs (University of Texas Press, 1973, p. 260) and in G. Rigas, The Folklore of the Island of Skiathos, vol. 1, Folk Songs (Salonika, 1958, p. 124).

Despite the Greek elements, the title of Costa’s work as a whole does not refer to Greece as such, only to “the East” – Souvenir d’Orient, “Memories of the East”. So it is that the piece closes with a movement that is not specifically Greek, but rather Eastern European: an Hongroise. Thus the work becomes an integrated whole in which Greek music is a part. We should be grateful that this music has survived: documentation for Greek popular music from the early 19th century is scarce indeed, and Souvenir d’Orient itself is known to survive only in two remaining copies, only one copy each of the two known editions.

It should be noted that performance on an authentic gut-strung guitar and wooden flute of the early 19th century, either original instruments or else replicas, will doubtless solve problems of balance which might arise with the modern metal concert flute and the modern nylon-strung guitar which despite its greater size often has less carrying power than the early 19th century guitar. If modern instruments are used, it is suggested that the flute play less loudly than the dynamic markings indicate.

The text

This edition is based on the source described above in the list of Costa’s works. The title-page of the copy located does not give a place or a name of publisher, and this remains a mystery. However, it is clear from the research of Alexander Weinmann that the edition was in fact published by Joseph Trentsensky in Vienna in 1832 or shortly before, and the reasons for the absence of Trentsensky’s name on the title-page are a matter for conjecture. See Weinmann: Verlagsverzeichnis Giovanni Cappi bis A.O. Witzendorf, 1967, pp. 114 and 210.

Souvenir d’Orient also appeared in another edition published by Richault in Paris, with the same title (but omiting the word ou before Fantaisie), plate number 2999.R, in about 1837-38. Copy: my own collection. This Richault edition was evidently copied directly and literally from Trentsensky’s with the addition of a few errors of its own.

Notes to the music

Obvious errors are corrected without note. Brackets indicate editorial additions.

Bar 9, guitar part: in the Richault edition the last bass note is replaced by a rest. – Bar 14, flute part: fz in the flute part is added on the analogy of the previous bar. – Bar 32, guitar part: the original edition gives an isolated quaver G at the fourth quaver of the bar. Almost certainly it was a copyist’s error, put there automatically to begin the same sequence as in the previous two bars. The Richault edition copies it literally. It is here deleted. – Bar 43, guitar part: the original editions both give [musical example] at the first beat of the bar. Altered following bar 35. – Bar 56, guitar part, second half of the bar: the sharp on the C is editorial- – Bar 60, guitar part: the natural on the F is editorial. – Bars 62-65, guitar part: the accents are present only in bars 62-63 in the original.

Romance grecque: the guitar part is marked Andante amoroso, and the flute part Andante, in the original.

Hongroise, guitar part, bars 1, 5, 33, and 37: the slurs are carefully notated in the original edition in each case. Such a slurring technique, evidently entirely deliberate, should be observed in performance, even if it may not be familiar to some modern players. – Bar 24, flute part: the first acciaccatura is added on the analogy of the guitar part (it is not in the original); cf. bar 32. – Bar 32, flute part: the second acciaccatura is added on the analogy of the guitar part (it is not in the original); cf. bar 24. – Bar 51: note that the markings dolce in the flute part and f in the guitar part are those of the original edition and are certainly intentional. – Bar 55, flute part: the natural is editorial.

The original edition of Trentsensky is used by kind permission of the Archiv der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, Vienna. It is a pleasure to thank them and the others who have assisted in the preparation of this edition: the Royal Library, Copenhagen; Matanya Ophee; Lily Afshar; Leif Christensen, Maria Kämmerling, and Erik Stenstadvold; Ebbe Husted Nielsen and Jan Flindt, and Vidar Austvik and Njal Vindenes, who took part in the first public performances from this edition in Arhus and Oslo in January 1983; Erling Moldrup, Ted Petrides, and Mark Dragoumis; Mary Criswick; and Richard Macnutt.


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