G.G. Ferrari:

Sei canzonette italiane

Six Italian songs with guitar or keyboard accompaniment

The complete preface by Brian Jeffery


Giacomo Gotifredo Ferrari (1759-1842) was born in Italy, travelled through Europe, and spent much of his life in London and Edinburgh. A successful and prolific composer, his works include much Italian vocal music, as well as some instrumental pieces. He published in London a method for the Italian style of singing. The first part of his life is described in entertaining fashion in Sainsbury's Dictionary of Musicians. For the latter part of his life, and for more bibliographical data, see works of reference such as The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Ferrari's own Anedotti are interesting, which were published in London in 1830 and reprinted in 1929. - Here is the account of the first part of his life, taken from Sainsbury's Dictionary of Musicians (second edition, 1827, from a copy in my collection), most probably based upon information supplied by Ferrari himself:

FERRARI (GIACOMO GOTIFREDO) is the son of Francesco Ferrari, a respectable merchant and silk-manufacturer at Roveredo, in the Italian Tyrol. G. G. Ferrari, after the usual course of study in the public school at Roveredo, was sent by his father to Verona, to finish his education under the Abbate Pandolfi. There he began sol fa, and to learn thorough-bass, first under Abbate Cubri, and subsequently under Marcola, and at the same time to play on the harpsichord, under Borsaro; these being esteemed the first masters at Verona, at that time. Ferrari showed immediately a great natural genius for music, and, in the course of two years, and, accompanied, and played at sight. He then returned to Roveredo, and was taken into his father's counting-house. But music was already so much his delight, that he determined in his own mind to become a composer, and to learn the theory of every instrument for that purpose. He persuaded his father to let him learn to play on the flute; assigning as a reason, that being on the change of his voice, and therefore unable to sing, the study of the flute would prevent him forgetting his singing. His father, who could refuse him nothing, agreed to his request, and, in a few months afterwards, he played with fluency on that instrument. After this, his family conceiving that he became too much attached to music, he was sent to Mariaberg, near Chur, in the German Tyrol, with the intention of being instructed in the German language. But the good man, his father, did not imagine that the institution of the convent and college of Mariaberg was, that the thirty two monks belonging to it should be all musicians, and could not enter into it without having proved that they could sing or play upon some instrument at sight: that every day, and sometimes two or three times a day, sacred music was performed in the church of the convent: and that the scholars belonging to the college had the right to receive instructions in any branch of music they liked, by paying only ninety Tyrolean florins (eight pounds sterling) a year, including board in a luxurious style, a bedroom to each, washing and instructions, and no extra charge. Here Ferrari perceived that he was in a situation agreeable to his wishes. By constantly hearing both sacred and profane music performed, and by copying a great deal of it, he became a solid musician at an early period of life. He pursued his other studies at school just for the sake of not being punished, but music was his fort. He learned also to play on the violin, hautboy, and double bass, in a slight manner, of course, but well enough to be able to take his first part with other instruments. The celebrated fuguist, Pater Marianus Stecher, who was the school master, gave him also a great many lessons on the pianoforte and in through bass. After spending two years at Mariaberg, Ferrari returned again to his father's counting-house, where he attended for three years, but more from obedience than inclination. His father then died, and being ill-treated by his partners, he determined, without further delay, to try his fortune as a composer.

Prince Wenceslas Lichtenstein, who was then on his way to Rome, took young Ferrari with him. From thence he repaired to Naples, with the intention of taking lessons in counterpoint from Paisiello; but that great dramatic composer having no time to spare, recommended him to Latilla, an able contrapuntist, under whom he studied for two and a half. At the same time, however, Paisiello gave him advice, and, as a friend, instructed him almost daily in theatrical composition. At that period, M. Campan, maître-d’hôtel to the late queen of France, offered to take him on a tour through Italy, and from thence to Paris, which proposition was accepted. M. Campan introduced him to his wife, première femme de chambre to the queen, and Madame Campan introduced him to her majesty, whom he had the honour to accompany on the piano for several hours. Her majesty approved his manner of accompanying, and also admired some Italian notturni of his composition which he sang to her. Some time afterwards, the queen sent Madame Campan to inform Ferrari, that it was her intention to appoint him her singing-master, should the public affairs take a good turn, but the revolution came rapidly on, and every thing was overthrown.

When the Théâtre Feydeau was built in Paris for the Italian opera, Ferrari was appointed conductor, when he composed several pieces of music, which were received with great applause. In the year 1791, having witnessed the horrors of the French revolution, he emigrated to Brussels and Spa, where he gave concerts. He also composed there, and performed a concerto and several sonatas, which were favourably received.

He was, however, never a very great player, but his feelings, taste, and compositions made him appear greater in that respect than he really was.

In the same year, he set the opera “Les Evénemens imprévus,” for the Théâtre Montansier, which was very much admired, although it have been composed before by Gretry. The favourite duet of “Serviteur à Monsieur la Fleur,” was rapturously encored; this was the first time any piece of music had been encored on the French stage; also after the opera was over, Ferrari was called for, to present himself, when he was greeted with the applause of the whole audience. During the four years he remained in Paris, he composed and published several Italian notturni, duets, modern canons for three voices, some sets of romances, the favourite of which are, “Théonie, pour aimer j’ai reçu la vie," "A l’ ombre d’une myrthe fleurie,” “Quand l’ amour naquit à Cythère,” &c. several sets of sonatas for the piano-forte, and for the piano-forte and violin, or flute, &c. &c.

Ferrari was next engaged as a composer to the Théâtre Montansier, with three hundred louis d’or a year; but, fearing that the public affairs would become worse and worse, he emigrated to Brussels, and in the year 1792 to London, highly recommended to some of the first noblemen’s and gentlemen's families, as well as to several foreign ambassadors, by whom he was constantly well received and employed for musical tuition, particularly in singing.

His first composition in London, was performed at Salomon's concerts, and was a recitative and rondo, “Se mi tormenti amore” sung with great success by Simoni. In the course of thirty-one years' residence in London, he composed a great many pieces for public concerts, and for the Opera-house, some of which are [list] . . .a great deal of music di camera, such as sets of Italian and English canzonets, duets canone for three voices, sets of sonatas for the piano-forte, sometimes with an accompaniment for the violin, violoncello, and flute, &c. A great many duets and divertimentos for the harp and piano-forte, the first of which (Op.13) has been deemed quite a model for a duet for those instruments. In the year 1804, he married Miss Henry, a celebrated pianist, by whom he had a son and a daughter. In the year 1809, he was afflicted with a complaint in his eyes, and was blind for nearly three years. At this period he used to dictate his compositions to his friends; but at length he recovered well enough to be able to write for himself, with the help of a magnifying glass, and to resume his instructions.

Ferrari's last compositions are without doubt the best; for, without changing either his school or style, he has followed the modem taste with effect. As a part of his latter compositions, we shall mention “L’ Addio,” dedicated to Miss Ellis and Miss Canning; “Six Italian Canzonets,” dedicated to Lady E. Lewison Gower; “Three Italian Canzonets,” dedicated to Mrs. Trevor Plowden; “A Greek Notturno," dedicated to the Countess Cowper ; “A Treatise on Singing,” and a “First Vol. of Sol fa,” dedicated to T. Broadwood, Esq.; a " Second Vol. of Sol fa," dedicated to Miss Naldi; "Six Italian Canons," dedicated to the King; and his last work, just published, “Studio di Musica Teorica practice” dedicated to Lady C.Stuart Worsley.

We do not know why Ferrari has left London for Edinburgh; but we are happy to hear that he is well received there, that his compositions and singing have been admired in many private concerts, and that his instructions are eagerly sought after in the first families and schools of that metropolis.


The "Sei Canzonette Italiane"

This collection of six Italian canzonets was doubtless composed by Ferrari for voice and piano, and an anonymous guitar arrangement of the accompaniment was then added. But this guitar accompaniment is excellent in its own right: it does no merely copy the piano, but has its own strength and its own character. It is because of this, and because of the high quality of the songs themselves, that I decided to include this set of songs in the present series.

There are several early editions of the Sei Canzonette Italiane and the bibliographical evidence is not strong enough to establish conclusively which is the first edition. Most probably the first edition with alternative piano and guitar accompaniments, and perhaps also the first edition of any kind, was the one published by Giovanni Cappi in Vienna in 1802, and it is that edition which is here reproduced. Because it is so beautifully engraved, and entirely clear for the modern singer and accompanist, there seemed little point in having it newly engraved. The bibliographical data of this Cappi edition are as follows:

- Sei Canzonette Italiane coll’ accompagnamento di Piano-Forte o Chittarra [sic] composte dal Sig. G. C. Ferrari. Vienna: Gio. Cappi. Pl. no. 916. Advertised in the Wiener Zeitung on 22 May 1802; see A. Weinmann, Verlagsverzeichnis Giovanni Cappi bis A. O. Witzendorf, Vienna, 1967, p.50. Title-page, pp.2-15. Keyboard part is marked “Cembalo”. Copy: M.S. 27.038 in the Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek, Musiksammlung, by whose kind permission it is here published.

Two other editions with guitar are known, of which one went through two issues:

- III Canzonette Italiane Coll’ Accompagnamento di Fortepiano, o Chitarra composte dal Signore G. G. Ferrari. Parte I. a Vienna …Hoffmeister & Comp. a Lipsia … Hoffmeister & Kühnel (Bureau de Musique). Pl. no.116. This may also be dated at 1802; see O. Deutsch, Musikverlagsnummern (Berlin, 1961), p.14. Copy: Part I in my own collection; title-page, pp.2-13, first three songs only, numbered I-III. Keyboard part is marked “Fortepiano”. A copy of Part II is in Stockholm, Swedish Academy of Music: last three songs only, pl. no.117.

- Same title-page as the preceding, printed from the same plate but with alterations: the imprint is "a Lipsia ... A. Kühnel (Bureau de Musique)" and the words "Ediz. nuova" are added. Copy: Part II (only), with plate number 117, in the collection of Ruggero Chiesa, Milan. Title-page, pp.2-13, last three songs only, numbered I-III.

- III Canzonette Italiane coll’ Accompagnamento di Fortepiano, o Chitarra composte dal Signore G. G. Ferrari. Parte I. a Gera presso C. G. MenzeI. No plate number. Title- page, pp.2-9, songs numbered I-III. Then new title-page with “Parte II", pp.2-11 with the last three songs but again numbered I-III. Keyboard part is marked" Fortepiano". Copy: Copenhagen, Royal Library, Rung Collection. Date unknown (c.1810?).

All of the above have been compared in detail, and the texts and music appear to be identical. No significant differences have been found from one edition to another.

Two other early editions of these same six canzonets, but for voice and piano only, are:

- Sei canzonette coll’accompagnamento di cembalo o pianoforte. Leipzig, Breitkopf & Härtel. Copies: Stockholm, Swedish Academy of Music; Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek; Milan, Conservatorio. Reviewed in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung on 26 January 1803, and hence (since that periodical was published by Breitkopf & Härtel and they might be expected to have seen to it that their own publications were reviewed promptly) probably published in 1802.

- Sei Novelle Canzonette. Musica dal Signor Ferrari. Paris, Mlles Erard; Lyon, Garnier. Title-page, pp.2-13, no plate number. Copies: London, British Library, and Stockholm, Swedish Academy of Music. From the publishers' addresses, this can be dated within the period 1800-1806 (see Devries & Lesure, Dictionnaire des Editeurs de Musique Français, I, 1979).

Finally, one song, "A Margheritina", with piano accompaniment only, appears in:

- Six Italian Canzonette, Six Duettini, Six Comic Canoni ... The whole Selected from G.G. Ferrari’s Favorite Works ... Edinburgh: [the composer], c.1823. Copy: London, British Library.

Other songs by Ferrari with guitar.

As well as these canzonets, other songs by Ferrari exist with guitar accompaniments from his own time. Nine publications with guitar (other than the Sei Canzonette) are listed in RISM Einzeldrucke vor 1800:

- Papa (non dite di no) Canzonetta favorita con accomp. di pianoforte (O arpa, O chitarra). Leipzig, Peters, no. 978. (From "Il furbo contro il furbo").

- Sei ariette col’accompagnamento di pianoforte ... ridotta [sic] per la chitarra da E. Seidler. Leipzig, Breitkopf & Hartel, no. 647.

- Sechs Lieder mit deutsch- und italienischem Texte, sei ariette con l’accompagnamento di piano-forte o chitara [sic]. Vienna, Artaria, no. 2447.

- Sei canoni per tre voci coll’ accompagnamento di pianoforte ridotti per la chitarra da Seidler. Leipzig, Ambrosius Kuhnel (bureau de musique), no. 626.

- Sei duetti coll'accompagnamento dal piano-forte e della chitarra. Leipzig, Breitkopf & Hartel, no. 614.

- Sei duetti coll’accompagnamento dal piano-forte e della chitarra ... no.2. Leipzig, Breitkopf & Hartel, no. 1404.

- Sei notturni coll'accompagnamento di pianoforte ... ridotti per la chitarra da E. Seidler. Leipzig, Breitkopf & Hanel, no.650.

- Douze romances nouvelles ... avec accompagnement de guitare para P. Porro, op.14. Paris, M. Porro; Lyon, Garnier.

- L'amant malheureux et constant. Romance ... accompt. de guitarre par M. Le Moine.

Of course, Ferrari lived until well after 1800, and it may very well be that some of his later songs may also have been published with guitar accompaniment and because of their late date did not find their way into RISM Einzeldrucke vor 1800; but up to now I have located no such later publications with guitar. The only ones known at present are those listed in RISM. And the best of them, to judge from the many works by Ferrari which I have examined, seem to be the Sei Canzonette here published.

The arranger of the guitar accompaniment

Unfortunately, the arranger of the guitar accompaniment to the Sei Canzonette is not named. It is unlikely to have been Ferrari himself, who was a composer above all for the voice and the keyboard. It might have been one E. Seidler, who is credited with the guitar arrangements for three of the Ferrari publications listed in RISM. Not much is known about E. Seidler. He may have been related to the more famous C. G. Scheidler, lutenist and guitarist, whose name was occasionally spelt Seidler. Against Seidler, however, is the fact that all three of the publications with which he was involved came out in about 1808-09, whereas the Sei Canzonette with guitar were first published in 1802. Also, all three Seidler publications came out in Leipzig, whereas the Sei Canzonette with guitar were probably first published in Vienna. Finally, I have examined all three of the Seidler publications, and although he cannot be entirely ruled out, it does seem that the style of the Sei Canzonette guitar parts is different and superior. Accordingly, I would guess that some other guitarist was responsible: one who was active in Vienna in 1802, at the time when the first edition appeared. Was it perhaps Bartolomeo Bortolazzi, who brought out XII Variations pour la Guitarre with the same publisher as the Sei Canzonette, only two months earlier, and who two years later published Italian airs with guitar in Vienna, again with the same publisher?


The Sei Canzonette themselves are quite delightful, full of strength and character. They form a set of six, addressed to six different girls: Carolina who is full of deceit, Margheritina the flame of the poet's heart, and four others. The piano parts are fluent and these six songs will form a good addition to the repertory for singers who work with piano. The guitar parts are typical of their time in that they are written for the six course guitar but with the sixth course only occasionally stopped, and in that they do not go above A on the top string.

The author of the words is not known.

The collection was reviewed favourably in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, Leipzig, on 26 January 1803. The reviewer liked "Giorgina crudele" best, saying: "Dies Stuck ist wirklich sehr schön" ("This song is truly very beautiful").

Two errors in the Cappi edition have been noticed. In "A Carolina", page 2, line 2, bar 1, the semiquavers in the guitar part should be quavers. Also in "A Carolina", page 2, line 3, bar 4, the highest note on the guitar should be A. It should be noted that no attempt has been made in this edition to make a complete list of such errors.

This facsimile is 60% of the original size.

Another song by Ferrari, with guitar accompaniment arranged by Seidler, from the Sei Ariette, may be found in my anthology Songs for voice and guitar (Tecla Editions).

Grateful thanks are due to the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna, for permission to reproduce their copy of the original edition, and to Valerie James for valuable assistance with the Italian texts.


London, 1983


G.G. Ferrari- Sei canzonette italiane, main page

Tecla home page.

Copyright 2003 by Tecla Editions. Errors and omissions excepted.