The Frescobaldi Legacy

Copies and Editions

Our list of sources, when viewed chronologically, shows that from the composer's lifetime to the end of the eighteenth century there was no period during which his music was not copied, adapted, and presumably studied or performed. The list cuts off around 1800, but had it continued beyond that year and included publications of his music, the statement would remain valid to the present day. A surprising number of editions date back to the nineteenth century, among them Clementi (1802), Commer (1838),Trautwein (1840) [F 9.09  scored for string quartet]; Farrenc (1868 and 1870), Alsbach (1873 and 1874), Haberl (1889), and Torchi (1899).  Most nineteenth-century editions do little more than transform the notation to modern practices with regard to clefs, accidentals, etc., but early twentieth-century editions, such as Guilmant (1922), introduce far more drastic interventions, adapting the works to the modern piano or organ, as well as to modern taste to the point that their texts really represents a kind of recomposition. Should Béla Bartók's edition of the Toccata quinta F 3.05, with its octave doublings and triplings and extreme dynamic contrasts, still be regarded as merely an edition or rather as another composer's adaptation of Frescobaldi's original work?

Adaptations and Homages

From the seventeenth through the twentieth century composers have created works based in one way or another on compositions by Frescobaldi. These adaptations take a multitude of different forms: from passing allusions to quotations of extended passages to reworkings of entire compositions, as well as variations, fantasias, and fugues on his themes, and arrangements of keyboard pieces for string quartet and for full symphony orchestra. These adaptations were not considered instances of plagiarism, but rather of homage, especially when they were the work of a composer not lacking creative skills of his own. The earliest examples can be found among the works of his near-contemporaries and followers, such as Kindermann (F 19.05H), Scheidemann (F 19.05H and F 19.07H), Froberger, Ferrini (F 19.01H), Poglietti (F 19.02H), Blow (F 19.12H and 19.13H). Below is a selected annotated list of such works dating from c. 1700 onwards, along with their Frescobaldian sources.

BERNARDO PASQUINI, Variazioni d'Invenzione (c. 1697?).
Pasquini paid homage to his great predecessor with a set of variations on a theme of his own invention (at the time, writing variations on a self-invented theme was an uncommon and bold move). Several variations contain allusions to keyboard pieces of Frescobald, almost all from Toccate II. Some are immediately audible, others are more subtle. The theme alludes to Frescobaldi's own self-invented theme, the Aria detta la Frescobalda F 3.32.1; the third variation to F 3.32.2; the fifth variation to 3.33; and the eighth and ninth variation for F 3.09. Other allusions are not as clear, but could include variation 2 to F 3.26.03, and variation 6 to 2.19

JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH, Fugue in C sharp minor from Das Wohtemperierte Clavier, Vol. 1 (1722).
The subject probably is derived from F 9.01; in fact, the construction of the entire fugue appears to be inspired by Frescobaldi's Recercar primo; as demonstrated by Ladewig (1991). Many apparent debts to the works of Frescobaldi in Clavierübung III, Die Kunst der Fuge (including the cuckoo call from F 4.03 in Contrapunctus IV), Das Musikalisches Opfer, and Das Wohltemperierte Clavier have been noted by Vartolo (2008) and by Williams (2012).

ANTON REICHA, Fuga-fantasia, Thema: Girolamo Frescobaldi. Trente - six fugues pour le pianoforte, composés d'après une nouveau système (36 Fugues for the piano, composed according to a new system), Op. 36, No.14, Vienna, 1805.
This "Fuga-fantasia" is based on the subject of the famous chromatic wedge ricercar from the Fiori musicali, F 12.29, which also inspired Ligeti (see below). The fugue is introduced by a dense chordal harmonization of the subject; the countersubject is also based on Frescobaldi's subject, but in eighth notes rather than in whole and half notes.

FELIX MENDELSSOHN, Fugue in G Minor, for piano (1824)
The subject of this little fugue by the fifteen-year old Mendelssohn may have been based on that of the spurious fugue F 18.06S published by Clementi in 1803; see Todd (1990).

OTTORINO RESPIGHI, Passacaglia per organo di Girolamo Frescobaldi. Transcrizione libera per pianoforte (freely transcribed for piano solo) [di] Ottorini Respighi. Milan: Ricordi, 1918.
Based on F 2.28, monstrously extended along the lines of a Bach passacaille or chaconne, and then arranged for piano in the manner of Franz Liszt. Respighi also arranged a "Preludio a Fuga in sol minore per organo," based on F 3.01, and and a "Toccata e Fuga in la minore per organo") based on F 12.3 (Milan: Ricordi, 1918).

HAROLD BAUER, Frescobaldi, Capriccio (on the Cuckoo's Call) (1918), arranged for piano. Boston: Boston Music Co., 1918.
An arrangement for piano by the renowned pianist Harold Bauer (1873-1951) of F 4.03. Some sections stick fairly close to the original except for changes of note values or register and addition of interpretive markings, but other sections have been omitted and newly composed passages have been added. While pianistic, the arrangment is tasteful, without bombastic octave doublings. Available online from Novato Music Press (2000) through onlinesheetmusic.

ALFREDO CASSELLA, Frescobaldi, Ricercari, canzoni e altri pezzi per organo e cembalo, ed. Alfredo Cassella. I classici della musica italiana 12. Milan: Istituto editoriale italiano, 1919.
A straightforward edition.

GIAN FRANCESCO MALIPIERO, Girolamo Frescobaldi, Toccate, arr. for string orchestra. Milan: Ricordi, 1930
Four pieces from Toccate I.

BÉLA BARTÓK, Frescobaldi, Toccata (in G major), transcribed [for modern piano] by Béla Bartók. New York: Carl Fischer, 1930.
Bartók's transcription of F 3.05 consists principally of doubling, or even tripling octaves, and adding interpretive markings. Bartok also transcribed the spurious Fuga (in G Minor), F 18.06S. His source was Torchi 3.

ALEXANDRE TANSMAN, Variations on a theme by Girolamo Frescobaldi, for string orchestra. New York: Associated Music Publishers, 1944.
Variations on F 3.32.

VITTORIO GIANNINI, Frescobaldiana, from three organ pieces of Gerolamo Frescobaldi. Milan: Ricordi, 1952.
Arrangements of F 3.01, F 3.32, and F 18.06S for large orchestra.

JEAN LANGLAIS, Hommage à Frescobaldi: Huit pieces pour orgue. Paris: S. Borneman, 1952.
The last of the eight piences is an "Épilogue sur une thème de Frescobaldi": the theme the opening subject of F 12.41.

GYÖRGY LIGETI, Musica ricercata XI. (Omaggio a Frescobaldi) Andante misurato e tranquillo. Schott: Mainz: 1951-1953.
A modern ricercar with a subject taken from F 12.29. Ligeti subsequently wrote versions for organ and for wind quintet.

LUIGI DALLAPICCOLA, Frescobaldi, 2 Sacred Songs, ed. Luigi Dallapiccola. New York: International Music Co., 1961.
Editions of F 7.04 and F 7.06, with the editor's realizations of the basso continuo.

SAMUIL FEINBERG, G. Frescobaldi, Capriccio-Pastorale, ed. Mikhail Sokolov. Moscow: Muzyka, 1966.
A simple piano piece by a noted Russian pianist and composer, it is loosely based on ideas from F 2.35, but avoids anything that made the original interesting. This work was originally published in Feinberg's Transcriptions of Foreign Composers (date and publisher unknown), as was an abbreviated and simplified version of the Canzona prima F 3.13.

MICHAL NOVENKO, Frescobaldiana, for organ (c. 2006?)
An organ fantasia on the subject of F 12.29.

LAURENT LEFRANÇOIS, Toccata sesta, d’après Frescobaldi (2013)
A transcription of F 3.06 for string quartet with only minor modifications, although the different medium profoundly impacts the work's character.