Music and its media
Music and its media

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Music and its media

3.5 Walsh’s editions of Corelli’s Opus 5

Let’s now turn to two of Walsh’s editions of Corelli’s solo sonatas: his first edition (advertised above, Figures 6 and 8; see Score 1) and a later edition of c.1711 (see Score 2).

Activity 8

Look at the title pages of the two editions (Score 1 [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   and Score 2). You might find it helpful to open these in a new window or tab. What differences do you notice in their appearance? How do you think each edition might have appealed to the London public?


The title pages are indeed very different: Walsh’s initial edition (Score 1) is in Italian, and is faithful to the original Italian print apart from the insertion of his imprint at the bottom of the page. The Italian title page lists the instruments of the work (‘violino e violone o cimbalo’ – violin and bass violin or harpsichord), and boasts that it is dedicated to Sophie Charlotte, Electress of Brandenburg (‘dedicate all Altezza Serenissima Electorale di Sofia Charlotta Electrice di Brandenburgo’). It states that it is by Arcangelo Corelli of Fusignano (a small town between Bologna and Ravenna) and that it is his fifth opus (‘Opera Quinta’). Walsh’s later edition (Score 2) has a title page in English: ‘XII Sonata’s or Solo’s for a Violin a Bass Violin or Harpsicord Compos’d by Arcangelo Corelli. His fifth Opera. This Edition has ye advantage of haveing ye Graces to all ye Adagio’s and other places where the Author thought proper.’ Both title pages therefore claim that each edition is linked in some way to Corelli himself: the first edition faithfully reproduces the Italian edition’s title page (and also, on the following page, its dedication – not reproduced in Score 1) while the later edition of c.1711 claims to include ‘Graces’ (i.e. ornamentation) allegedly as Corelli intended. Both would have therefore appealed to enthusiasts of Italian music, the later edition in particular to those who wished their performances to truly reflect Corelli’s style.

Activity 9

Now let’s consider the music itself. Look at the opening of the first sonata in the collection and compare the two editions (Score 1 and Score 2) while listening to Track 2. You might find it helpful to open these in a new window or tab. How do the editions differ?


The score in the later edition is far more detailed, with embellishments printed for the performer, whereas the earlier edition presents the basic melody and leaves any decoration down to the performer’s own interpretation. In both editions the accompanying bass lines are simple, again allowing the performer a certain amount of freedom.

You may have also noticed that the numbers printed above some of the notes in the bass line of the earlier edition are missing in the later publication. This is known as a figured bass and signified the intervals to be played above the bass line in the improvisation of an accompaniment. The missing figures here might just be a printing error – the keyboard part still includes the occasional instructions ‘Tasto solo’ (‘single key only’), indicating that the performer should not add chords to the bass line at these points, and presumably that elsewhere, figured bass principles would apply.

Activity 10

Now compare the opening of the sonata in Walsh’s later edition (Score 2) with the same section of music in Roger’s Amsterdam publication of 1710 (Score 3). You might find it helpful to open these in a new window or tab. Can you spot any differences between the two? What about in the suggested embellishments presented in the scores?


Apart from differences in the fonts of any text in the editions, these seem to be identical. The formats of the pages match exactly, with line and page breaks in the same places. They also have exactly the same suggested decorations and are both lacking figured bass markings.

These similarities are due to the fact that Walsh had reprinted Roger’s edition for the London audience under his own (Walsh’s) name. This unauthorised reprinting of publications was quite common in the eighteenth century as there were fewer restrictions on publishing practices, especially when works were printed outside the country of origin (the Netherlands in this case). Walsh in fact reprinted numerous editions for the London audience from Roger’s publications, and therefore benefited from Roger’s prolific output. Roger likewise based some of his own editions on Walsh’s, although to a much lesser extent, and focused on works by composers based in London that might be otherwise unavailable on the continent (Rasch, 1996, pp. 401–2).

Walsh’s publications of Corelli’s Opus 5 therefore clearly reflect his intentions to meet the demands of the elitist London public who wished to own and perform the Italian repertory they had encountered during their Grand Tours of Europe. Walsh’s talent as a printer-publisher is not only apparent in the format of his editions, but also in his clever use of Roger’s publications, and his wording of advertisements and catalogues that aimed to appeal to his customers. Walsh’s output, and his rivalry with Vaillant and Roger, testify to the great popularity of Corelli’s music during the early eighteenth century and the need to make this repertory, along with other favourite works, easily available to London’s high society.


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