Claudio di Veroli's first (?) book on temperament

I’d like to record my thanks to Claudio. When I bought a harpsichord and was faced with tuning it, I hunted in my university library and found a book on temperaments, looking like a well-typed doctoral thesis with a solid library binding; and it had definitions and theorems!! I was a lecturer in maths, so naturally I was hooked, and had it on loan for a long time.

It was a clear and logical exposition of the subject of unequal temperaments, with many useful tuning recipes, and advice. It opened up the subject for me and I learnt a great deal. So thank you, Claudio!

Since then I’ve bought Claudio’s more recent e-book on temperaments, and read his articles or forum postings in various places. Always interesting, but my ideas have in some respects diverged from his.

It’s hard to know exactly how music was performed in any particular place at any particular time in the 16th-18th centuries. Books don’t always reflect current practice. Opinions from one eye-witness (or a dozen) about performance in a given town may be very different from the views of other people in that town who haven’t left any evidence.

So I don’t believe in “correctness” of style. Historically informed performance is my aim. Not historically constrained performance.

I write this after looking at Claudio’s posting about Jean Rondeau’s Goldbergs, and listening to the variation that he pointed to. I quite liked it (though I wouldn’t have played it in quite the same way), and I have enjoyed Rondeau’s playing before. Different first-class musicians play in different ways. And opinions change over time; I might come to dislike Rondeau’s playing.

So, thank you again Claudio for that little book I read in the 1980s, and for your advocacy of unequal temperaments and early fingering. I part company with you on many topics, but my gratitude remains.

with best wishes,


Welcome @madhg to the forum.

The purpose of The Jackrail is to encourage vigourous, lively, and learned and extensive debate on topics, not just for trivial chat like social media platforms.

Why don’t you elaborate on where you disagree? That would be of interest to all, and you will certainly get response from Claudio, and I am sure we can all learn a lot.

Thanks Andrew. Let me disagree somehow! :slight_smile:

When a few years ago one of the two greatest living temperament scholars, Prof. Patrizio Barbieri, endorsed without reservations my present book on Unequal Temperaments, he did it on an email with a strict condition: he wrote “You will never discuss (or even worse have ME to discuss) your book online.” He later elaborated further: his point is that a specialist should never discuss in short online exchanges (thus inevitably somehow amateurish) hundreds of pages and decades worth of studies, research and practice. If somebody disagrees with the contents of a specialised book, this can be conveyed in two ways:

  1. Personal observations. People with whom supposedly I had less than amicable relations, did write me more than once details that were worth improvement in my UT book: in subsequent editions (about one every four years) their observations were incorporated into the book and their contribution acknowledged.
  2. Published reviews. Anybody who is well versed with the subject matter is free to have a formal review published, to which anybody can publish an observation.

Accordingly, I will be very happy to read observations by David Griffel in any of the two ways above.

Without discussing my book in any way here, let me know that I disagree with the interpretation of HIP by people like the late Taruskin and followers. The idea that one cannot know exactly what happened in the past is true, the idea that for that reason one is free to depart from known past manners in uncontrolled ways and still call it an “authentic” performance, is something I strongly disagree with.

Let me even more blunt: in this particular case, the possibility that I can in anyway agree with somebody who admires Jean Rondeau is quite slim indeed. Regardless, I will be very happy to discuss privately at length with David Griffel, and I am surely grateful to him for his very kind comments.!

I fully agree with Claudio (excepted his remarks on Jean Rondeau). Scholar researches and subsequent discussions, criticisms and defense, have their natural life in scholar spaces.
Of course, if the author doesn’t like otherwise. In this case, jackrail is a safe space to do such discussions as well as no hate speech is ever allowed here.

However, my understanding is David Griffel often disagrees with Claudio on general subjects, not specifically on temperament and Claudio’s book. So probably there isn’t a real issue.

Domenico is right. Perhaps the subject line suggested that I disagreed with Claudio about temperament, in which case I apologise. The main purpose of my post was to say how helpful I’ve found Claudio’s book, and to thank him. Probably I should have put my response on his remarks about Rondeau in a different thread.

Claudio, thank you for your reply. You mentioned “authentic” performance. I was never sure exactly what this means. So just now I read John Butt’s article on Authenticity in Grove Music Online. It does not give a crisp single definition, but it’s an interesting article.

I prefer to think of historically informed performance, which does not make such claims as “authenticity” suggests.

with best wishes,

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Thanks David Griffel! (and excuse me for the family name, with so many Davids around. Here in Italy the often call me Claudio Di Veroli, with so many Claudios around … :slight_smile: ): You have given me the opportunity to repeat once more some basic concepts for the benefits of students.

I am quite sure about what “Authenticity” means, so much so that in my latest editions of my “Playing the Baroque Harpsichord” book I have included an extensive discussion of similar matters. Let me just abridge two facts I am pretty confident about (although a Taruskin would fully disagree with!):

1- We know so much about baroque performance customs (especially about average-central cities ones, much less so about provincial variants), that every time we incorporate one of those manners we discover a “new universe”, yet as amenable of personal variants as, say, Romantic music. It has been said and demonstrated that the music of bygone eras is not just the score, but all the conventions (flexible, but up to well-defined limits) that went into how it was meant to be read and played. Accordingly, performances by different modern players can still be within style. I believe that F. Couperin would have fully approved of the performances by Kenneth Gilbert, Davitt Moroney and Skip Sempé, as diverse as they are. Also, perhaps surprised by the strange sound of revival instruments and the limited playing flexibility, earlier ones by Anton Heiller and Rafael Puyana. By the same token, I am confident a Couperin would fully disapprove Jean Rondeau and a few others.

2- There is no law forcing the general musician to authenticity when playing music from the harpsichord era. But when instead of general musicians we are harpsichordists, things are very different. By seating at the harpsichord you are implying a reconstruction of ancient manners and sounds. If a keyboard player wishes to stray away from authenticity, he/she is welcome (pianists should play Bach more often!), just the instrument should be the modern piano, so that nobody believes the performance to be baroque music making.

In a nutshell: we should play authentically on a harpsichord, and play HIP on a piano. To seat at a magnificent Baroque-model harpsichord and play with some basic baroque manners, but then adding to the mix romantic rubatos, prebeat trills, influencing audiences with grimaces, using piano technique, concentrating on highly virtuoso pieces, well, that is a mockery of what baroque music making is.

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Andrew please feel free to move my last post elsewhere, as we are into another matter (already discussed in the past) altogether. Thanks!

Sorry I forgot …

David Griffel. Thanks for mentioning excellent John Butt.
I have read quite a few of his works and one of his books: first class scholarship and pratical musicianship!!