Music and its media
Music and its media

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Music and its media

3.4 John Walsh, Estienne Roger and Corelli’s solo sonatas

In this case study you are going to focus on Walsh’s publications of Corelli’s solo sonatas for violin and continuo – his Opus 5. These were the first works by Corelli to be published by Walsh and became the most popular of all his sonatas. We therefore find that several editions of the pieces appeared during the eighteenth century, in various forms. You are going to look at their early reception at the start of the eighteenth century. The sonatas were originally published by Gasparo Pietro Santa in Rome in 1700 – the dedication is dated 1 January – and editions in Amsterdam and London soon followed. Walsh was not alone in his plans to sell Corelli’s music in London and he therefore had to vie with rival publishers and booksellers. His main competitor in this respect seems to have been the prolific Amsterdam music publisher Estienne Roger (1665/66–1722). Roger’s output boasted an international repertory that was distributed by agents in cities across Europe, including one in London – the French bookseller François Vaillant (Rasch, 1996, pp. 398–400).

Activity 7

In this activity you will look at a number of London newspaper adverts to gain a sense of how Roger/Vaillant and Walsh competed for sales of the first English and Amsterdam editions of Corelli’s solo sonatas. Vaillant had initially placed an advert for Roger’s publication of the sonatas on 27 August 1700, and Walsh’s response, on 31 August, is the advert presented in Figure 6. This swift exchange of notices continued with Vaillant’s response to Walsh on 3 September (Figure 7), and another notice placed by Walsh a few weeks later, on 21 September (Figure 8). As you look at the three advertisements, jot down how you think they were trying to appeal to the London audience and to what extent the rivalry between Walsh and Roger might have affected the appearance and quality of their publications.

Described image
Figure 6 Advertisement for sheet music, The Post Boy, 31 August 1700, issue 842. British Library, Burney 123a.
Described image
Figure 7 Advertisement for sheet music in The Post Man and the Historical Account, 3 September 1700, issue 798. British Library, Burney 123a.
Described image
Figure 8 Advertisement for sheet music in The Post Boy, 21 September 1700, issue 851. British Library, Burney 123a.


The rivalry of Walsh and Vaillant and their attempts to win customers is plain to see in Walsh’s claims that his edition is better than that of Roger (the Amsterdam edition sold by Vaillant), and Vaillant’s dismissal of this statement as nonsense. Links to the Italian original, such as Walsh’s offer of the frontispiece of the Roman edition, are clear attempts to appeal to lovers of Italian culture who wished to have an ‘authentic’ copy of the great Corelli’s work with its elitist associations – Corelli’s dedication to the Electress of Brandenburg, mentioned in Walsh’s adverts, was also copied from the original Italian edition. The close rivalry between Walsh and Roger can only have resulted in their endeavours to improve their editions in order to appeal to the music-loving public.

Following the publication of Opus 5, Walsh proceeded to publish the remainder of Corelli’s works for the London audience. His rivalry with other publishers is clear in his quick retaliation to their new editions with publications of his own, and in his issue and reissue of his editions. He also aimed for a broader audience by publishing arrangements of Opus 5 for the instruments commonly played by amateurs in their homes: ‘Six solos for a flute and bass’ and ‘Six setts of aires for two flutes and a bass’ were issued in 1702, and an arrangement for harpsichord followed in 1704.


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