Alessandro Parisotti

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Born: 24 July 1853

Died: 4 April 1913


Alessandro Parisotti was an Italian composer and music editor. Alessandro Parisotti is better known today as the original editor of a collection of songs known as arie antiche (originally titled Arie antiche: ad una voce per canto e pianoforte, published 1890). The original collection comprises three volumes of songs or arias published as a primer to study classical singing, but the three volumes have since been reduced to single-volumed extracts known as the 24 Italian Songs and Arias, sometimes also the 26 Italian Songs and Arias.

Parisotti collected these antique arias (arie antiche is the Italian) in what was the 19th century vogue for discovering forgotten old or antique music from the classical and baroque eras. The most famous example of this practice of reclaiming forgotten music is Mendelssohn's revival of Bach's St. Matthew Passion in Leipzig (1829). The taste for rediscovered music was de riguer among musicians and audiences of the nineteenth century, with composers lesser than Mendelssohn and Brahms playing the field as well. Parisotti found forgotten scores and arranged their arias (or duets) for solo singer and Piano accompaniment.

His textual practices were unscrupulous though, the scores for many originals being modified, or supposedly improved, from how the music had been intended by the original composers. Beyond that, Parisotti also included some of his own pieces for public performance and for publication in the Arie antiche collection, but always passing them off as rediscovered masterpieces of the ancient composers. In his collection 'Se tu m'ami' was attributed to Giovanni Pergolesi, while the recitative and aria 'Il mio bel foco …Quella fiamma' was attributed to Alessandro Marcello, as it often still is today. These fake masterpieces of the baroque call the integrity of the so-called Neo-Classicism in Igor Stravinsky's ballet Pulcinella into question when considering that Stravinsky had studied them to familiarise himself with baroque style and that he even re-used the music of Se tu m'ami in the ballet.

The arie antiche or Italian songs have become the staple of modern voice pedagogy, specifically for students just beginning with lessons. Teachers laud them, perhaps mistakenly, for tracing a line to the old schools of singing right back to the golden age of the castrati. In fact, where the quality of the music is concerned, these arrangements of baroque and classical arias bear a closer kinship with the 19th century parlour song.

Singers such as Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Ramon Vargas have recorded albums of arie antiche. But the best selling and most critically acclaimed recording of Parisotti's arie antiche comes from the mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli. Despite her own good efforts at performing these songs, she has criticized voice teachers for using them as the fundamentals of a good classical singing technique because she considers them too difficult for beginners.

The above is an excerpt from Wikipedia. For the full article, click here.

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