[Ballets Russes] Diaghilev, Sergey Pavlovich. (1872–1929) [Pergolesi, Giovanni Battista. (1710–1736)] [Wassenaer, Count Unico Wilhelm van. (1692–1766)]


Bound collection of 6 concertinos for 4 violins, viola, cello, and basso continuo in score, copied from a manuscript at the Conservatoire de Paris, as prepared for and subsequently inscribed by Sergei Diaghilev. Long attributed to Italian Baroque composer Pergolesi, these pieces are a famous case of reattribution within the canon of classical music, having been identified in recent decades as the work of the Dutch composer and statesman Count Unico Wilhelm van Wassenaer. Half a century before this musicological consensus had been established, Diaghilev wrote his opinion in an inscription on the cover of the present manuscript (translated as follows from the French):

"In my opinion, only the sixth (last) concertino was composed by Pergolesi. The others are of different authors who have nothing in common with him. I believe the autograph score does not exist, and that the copy at the Conservatoire de Paris is the sole known copy that belongs to <lacuna>. These works are found in no library in Italy. It is especially strange that they are not to be found in Naples. The quality of the music of these three concertini is very unequal, and one recognizes Pergolesi solely in the last part of the last concertino, which was composed wholly by him (the Adagio movement, recalling his serenades, etc.). S. Diaghilev, 1918."

["À mon avis, il n'y a que le 6me (dernier) Concertino qui est composé par Pergolesi. Les autres sont de différents auteurs, qui n'ont rien de commun avec lui. Je crois que le partition autographe n'existe pas, et que l'exemplaire du Conservatoire de Paris est la copie de l'unique exemplaire connu, qui appartient à <lacuna>. Dans aucune Bibliothèque d'Italie ces oeuvres ne se trouvent pas. Il est étrange surtout, qu'on ne les trouve pas à Naples. La qualité de musique de ces concertini est très inégale, et l'on reconnait Pergolesi seulement dans la dernière partie du dernier concertino, qui fait être tout entier composé par lui (mouvement d'Adagio, rappelant ses serenades etc.) S. Diaghilev. 1918."]

24 pages bound in a single gathering, 10 1/2 × 13 3/4 inches (27 × 35 cm) closed. Each page ruled neatly in 16 staves. Notation neatly penned in the hand of the copyist L. Mathieu, who has stamped lower right corner of cover: "'Copie musicale et littéraire,' L. Mathieu, 30, rue Legendre, Paris." Diaghilev himself has further inscribed at the base of the page "Copiés d'après le manuscrit se trouvant au Conservatoire de Musique de  Paris / 1917. S[ergei]D[Iaghilev]"  Purple ownership stamp in lower right corner of cover of Serge Lifar, obtained at the sale of his library. Outer sheets (cover and last page of music) ever so slightly darker than openings, else very fine throughout. 

Diaghilev, the great impresario of the Ballets Russes, is best known for his prescient assemblage of extraordinarily promising composers, artists, choreographers, and dancers. Perhaps Diaghilev’s most famous musical innovation was his suggestion to Stravinsky that he set some themes by Giovanni Pergolesi (or at least some music, as here, that was then believed to be by Pergolesi). The result was Pulcinella, making Diaghilev at least partly responsible for the transition from Igor Stravinsky's Russian period to his Neoclassical period, and the subsequent broader 1920s fascination with neo-classicism.  The present manuscript offers a glimpse into Diaghilev's central own role in evaluating projects for his ensemble, since his inscriptions of 1917 and 1918, two/three years before the Ballets Russes production of Pulcinella, so clearly demonstrate his interest in Pergolesi and the commedia dell'arte.  (18294)

Manuscript Music
Classical Music