The Recueil and Its Transformations

In this sec­tion I will present evi­dence of how com­po­si­tion­al cred­it of Francesco Pasquale’s Recueil was mis­at­trib­uted by the pub­lish­er LeDuc. The Recueil’s his­to­ry, and recent schol­ar­ly writ­ings, will pro­vide the rea­sons for my sup­po­si­tion.

In Novem­ber of 1778, Ric­ci placed an announce­ment in a Hague news­pa­per, that his Recueil “would be avail­able by sub­scrip­tion for sev­en Dutch nick­els at the begin­ning of 1779.”24 On its first page he writes an intro­duc­tion addressed to Maitres de Musique (music teach­ers) where he writes in the open­ing para­graph that he is the pub­lish­er:

The same zeal that dri­ves your efforts to guide your stu­dents has com­pelled me to fol­low, with my own, the order that you will find in this Recueil de Con­nais­sances Elé­men­taires. The suc­cess that this work has always brought me has led me to pub­lish it, and I dare to hope that it will meet with your approval.”25

The next ten-page part is divid­ed into twelve writ­ten sec­tions, each one head­ed by a Roman numer­al with an expla­na­tion of a dif­fer­ent ele­ment of music the­o­ry. Sec­tion V dis­cuss­es dif­fer­ent tem­pos with musi­cal selec­tions “No. 9,” “No. 10,” and “No. 11” serv­ing as exam­ples.

Sec­tion XI, “Il Com­p­lesso” describes the many dif­fer­ent forms a piece of music can take, such as l’Allemande, Min­uet­to, Ron­do and the Canone, which is a per­pet­u­al fugue, with the first voice, Gui­da, fol­lowed by the sec­ond, Pre­sa. Any fol­low­ing rep­e­ti­tions of the Gui­da are indi­cat­ed by an “.S.” Ric­ci writes that “Le Canon noté dans la Vignette en bas du Fron­tispice peut en fournir l’Exemple” (The canon writ­ten in the vignette at the bot­tom of the fron­tispiece gives an exam­ple). The front of this CD has the vignette of which Ric­ci is writ­ing. It is from the cov­er of the Recueil that he pub­lished in 1779. The words are from Eccle­si­as­ti­cus: 325 in the Catholic Bible. “Non impe­dias musi­cam non non” (Don’t impede the music). Note how the imi­tat­ing voic­es are indi­cat­ed by a dot­ted .S. .S. .S.26

Detail from cover of the Recueil by F. P. Ricci

Detail from the vignette on the title page of the orig­i­nal Recueil.

The last page of the Recueil was signed by “F. P. Ric­ci A14” on the bot­tom right side and by “A Stech­wey,” the engraver, on the bot­tom left. The orig­i­nal Recueil has a vio­lin part which is intend­ed for the teacher to help guide the stu­dent. Ric­ci very like­ly accom­pa­nied his stu­dents on the vio­lin.27

One would think that Ric­ci, by declar­ing in the intro­duc­tion to the Recueil that he pub­lished it and then by sign­ing the last page with a wit­ness (Stech­wey), was doing enough to pro­tect his Recueil from copy­right infringe­ment.28 This was not to be the case, how­ev­er, for in 1786, six years after Ric­ci had returned to Italy, a new edi­tion of his Recueil was pub­lished by LeDuc of Paris. It was re-engraved, attempt­ing to copy the orig­i­nal, but with the new title Meth­ode ou Recueil De Con­nois­sances Ele­men­taires pour le Forte-Piano ou Clavecin. The vio­lin part, the address to music teach­ers, and, most impor­tant, the vignette were omit­ted, but a new “Sec­onde Par­tie” with a new composer’s name, “J. C. Bach,” was added.29 These changes to the body and front page of Ricci’s com­po­si­tion were to cre­ate much con­fu­sion among future musi­col­o­gists.

Title page from Methode ou Recueil

When LeDuc, the pub­lish­er of the Meth­ode, copied the Recueil, he failed to omit a men­tion with­in the book of a vignette on the title page. One can see on this new title page, which adds the name J. C. Bach, that there is no vignette.

Good­win Sam­mel, a well-known musi­cian, schol­ar and teacher in Berke­ley, has been doing research on Ricci’s Recueil for many years. Ear­ly in 2011, he brought to my atten­tion con­clu­sive proof that the LeDuc edi­tion is a copy of Ricci’s orig­i­nal pub­li­ca­tion: In dis­cussing Canone, the LeDuc writer copies Ricci’s Sec­tion XI, refer­ring to “Le Canon noté dans la Vignette en bas du Fron­tispice…” but he neglects to print the front page vignette that he his writ­ing about.30

Mod­ern pub­li­ca­tions use excerpts from LeDuc’s mis­cred­it­ed edi­tion as their source. The many mis­takes in this edi­tion have trav­eled across the cen­turies. It was in col­lec­tions of ele­men­tary piano pieces that I first came across this beau­ti­ful music, with almost all the pieces being attrib­uted to J. C. Bach.

When I first found these pieces, I also assumed that they were by J. C. Bach. At the stu­dent recitals, I would hap­pi­ly announce, “No, the com­pos­er of this love­ly piece is not the Bach, but instead it is his youngest son.” There is the excit­ing “No. 69 Toc­ca­ta.” That piece is unique. Its con­struc­tion is easy to under­stand, but it sounds dif­fi­cult. After learn­ing the piece, a per­son can feel like a pianist for the first time.

This music pulled me more and more to it, and soon I found a four-vol­ume set of all the hun­dred pieces, Intro­duc­tion to the Piano, Method or Col­lec­tion of Ele­men­tary Stud­ies for the Forte-piano or Harp­si­chord, com­posed by J. C. Bach and F. P. Ric­ci, edit­ed by Beat­rice Erde­ly. I shared the music with my friends, gave away some of the books, and loaned out oth­ers. It seemed as though the only music I want­ed to play was Erdely’s Bach-Ric­ci method, and so I skipped back and forth from piece to piece. Then I dis­cov­ered the “No. 89 Sicil­iana.” It was a rev­e­la­tion and fueled the fire of my inter­est. This music, attrib­uted to Chris­t­ian Bach, was very excit­ing. His life sto­ry was very inter­est­ing too, and the paint­ing of him by Thomas Gains­bor­ough was unfor­get­table, so I went to the library and took out every book about him that I could find. His music seemed love­ly, but dif­fer­ent from the pieces in the Meth­ode. No mat­ter. In her intro­duc­tion to the four-vol­ume set, Beat­rice Erde­ly said, “there is lit­tle doubt that the major­i­ty of the pieces, if not all, come from his pen.”31

More research land­ed me in the de Bel­lis library at San Fran­cis­co State Uni­ver­si­ty. Among the trea­sures there are some fac­sim­i­les of cham­ber music by Fran­cis­co Pasquale Ric­ci. What a joy it was to play them on the Clemen­ti Forte-piano in the library. I decid­ed to seri­ous­ly study the whole method, so it was time to go to a man­u­script edi­tion. I ordered a fac­sim­i­le by Minkoff of Gene­va,32 and just to be thor­ough, ordered anoth­er fac­sim­i­le edi­tion by Paideia Editrice of Bres­cia, Italy.33 They turned out to be the same, using as their source the LeDuc pub­li­ca­tion of Paris. The Ital­ian edi­tion had an addi­tion­al intro­duc­tion, which attrib­uted a few more of the pieces to Ric­ci. Mean­while, I found the man­u­script writ­ing hard to read, so I con­tin­ued to use the Erde­ly. By now, I was prepar­ing the music for record­ing with William Cor­bett-Jones.

Around 2007 Good­win Sam­mel led me to anoth­er edi­tion, this one from the Nether­lands. He had made micro­film copies of some of the pages. He said that there was also a vio­lin part and that the com­pos­er was F. P. Ric­ci, and not J. C. Bach. That was dis­turb­ing news, but I could not dis­agree with the last page, which had “F. P. Ric­ci A 14” on the bot­tom right cor­ner.34 Then Good­win hand­ed me some music sheets with del­i­cate red pen­cil marks indi­cat­ing the many mis­takes in the LeDuc. Some of these, to my dis­may, had already been record­ed for this CD. “No. 49” had a par­tic­u­lar­ly excit­ing mis­take, giv­ing the piece a “20th cen­tu­ry” sound in mea­sure nine.

Good­win was giv­ing me trau­mat­ic news. I was learn­ing that the very com­pos­er of the Meth­ode was not who I had thought he was. I want­ed to find proof that J. C. Bach had at least writ­ten some of the pieces, so I went to the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia Music Library and stud­ied The­mat­ic Cat­a­logue, Vol­ume 48 of The Col­lect­ed Works of Johann Chris­t­ian Bach by the lead­ing author­i­ty on him, the late Ernest War­bur­ton. An after­noon of perus­ing the themes revealed no pieces from the Recueil except for “No. 89,” and that one was attrib­uted to F. P. Ric­ci, not Bach. War­bur­ton referred the read­er to “Work Group Y: False­ly Attrib­uted Works.”

In ref­er­ence to LeDuc’s Meth­ode ou Recueil De Con­nois­sances Ele­men­taires, he wrote:

The gap of at least three years between J. C. B.’s death (1782) and the prob­a­ble pub­li­ca­tion date (1785) clear­ly under­mine the attri­bu­tion.

The pres­ence of C. P. E. B.’s Exem­ple neb­st 18 Probestuck­en in
6 Sonat­en zu C. P. E. Bachs Ver­such… with­out attri­bu­tion in the sec­ond part reduces its cred­i­bil­i­ty still further…In all prob­a­bil­i­ty J. C. B. had noth­ing to do with this pub­li­ca­tion.

The edi­tors of the fac­sim­i­les and mod­ern edi­tions were appar­ent­ly unaware that at least one issue of the pub­li­ca­tion had an accom­pa­ny­ing vio­lin part.”35

This state­ment by War­bur­ton was enough to moti­vate me to bor­row Good­win Sammel’s micro­film of the Recueil de Con­nais­sances Ele­men­taires pour le Forte-piano [by] F. P. Ric­ci, and go to the Berke­ley Pub­lic Library where there is a won­der­ful machine that turned the micro­film into print­ed pages of music. A lit­tle clean­ing revealed a fine music score that was eas­i­er to read than the LeDuc fac­sim­i­le. The music was the same, but the Ric­ci edi­tion had many dif­fer­ences.

Last page of The Recueil

The last page of the Recueil. The sig­na­tures of the engraver, A. Stech­wey, and the com­pos­er, F. P. Ric­ci are on the bot­tom.

The orna­ments in “No. 72” and “No. 89,” for exam­ple, are much more beau­ti­ful in the Ric­ci. There are many mis­tak­en slurs and wrong notes in the LeDuc such as in “No. 42,” “No. 43,” and “No. 97,” among oth­ers. All the mis­takes had been duti­ful­ly copied in lat­er edi­tions, so it was time make a com­plete change to the Ric­ci edi­tion. There were still unan­swered ques­tions, how­ev­er.

If Johann Chris­t­ian Bach had noth­ing to do with the LeDuc pub­li­ca­tion, who decid­ed to false­ly attribute it to him? Was it Ricci’s idea to put the name “J. C. Bach” on the front page? After all, it is plain for all stu­dents of Ric­ci to con­clude that he was a good busi­ness­man and that the name “Bach” was good for busi­ness. In their musi­cal trav­els, the two com­posers might well have become friends. Per­haps Bach said to Ric­ci at a par­ty in Lon­don, “Hey, Francesco, I have sev­er­al nice lit­tle selec­tions for your new book.”

In 1786, when the LeDuc edi­tion was first pub­lished, France was in chaos with its approach­ing rev­o­lu­tion. Ric­ci had returned to Italy in 1780. At the time, the Alps must have pre­sent­ed a major bar­ri­er to com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Was Ric­ci even aware of the new French edi­tion? On the oth­er hand, in her let­ter of 1783, Josi­na van Boet­ze­laer informed Ric­ci that Anton Stech­wey, the engraver of the Recueil, had been exiled from the Dutch Repub­lic because he helped to print an anti-Orangist pam­phlet.36 Did Ric­ci need to repub­lish the Recueil? It doesn’t seem so, because in 1786 there were still eleven copies at the music com­pa­ny, Artaria, in Vien­na.37 One has to ask more ques­tions.

Would Ric­ci have allowed pub­li­ca­tion of his Recueil with­out his part (vio­lin), with­out his intro­duc­tion to fel­low music teach­ers, declar­ing that he is the pub­lish­er, and espe­cial­ly, with­out the vignette and Canone? He was an ordained priest. Would he have per­mit­ted the bib­li­cal quo­ta­tion “Do not impede the music” to be removed from the title page? These pieces of evi­dence point to the inescapable con­clu­sion that F. P. Ric­ci is the only com­pos­er of the Recueil.

The Ric­ci edi­tion is much more beau­ti­ful than the LeDuc. I want it to be what my stu­dents use as a source; there­fore, the cov­er of this CD is tak­en from the title page of the Recueil de Con­nais­sances Ele­men­taires pour le Forte-piano. May musi­col­o­gists study this mat­ter thor­ough­ly, and once they come to the same con­clu­sion as I have done, then with­out delay a fac­sim­i­le edi­tion of the orig­i­nal 1779 Recueil man­u­script should be pub­lished, with Francesco Pasquale Ric­ci get­ting full cred­it as the com­pos­er of this glo­ri­ous music.

See “Francesco Pasquale Ricci—An Enlight­ened Music Mas­ter”


24. Helen Met­ze­laar, “Mon cher ami,” p. 116, foot­note 91.

25. Francesco Pasquale Ric­ci, Recueil de Con­nais­sances Ele­men­taires pour le Forte-piano, 1779. One can order a com­plete micro­film or copy of the Recueil with the vio­lin part from:

Ned­er­lands Muziek Insti­tu­ut
Post­bus 90407
2509 LK Den Haag
tele­phone +31 (0)70–3140704

26. F. P. Ric­ci, Recueil, title page, pp. 2–10, and unti­tled sec­tion with musi­cal exam­ples.

27. Ibid., p. 45, illus­tra­tion on back cov­er of this book­let.

28. H. Met­ze­laar, From Pri­vate to Pub­lic Spheres, p. 122.

29. J. C. Bach et F. P. Ric­ci, Meth­ode ou Recueil De Con­nois­sances Ele­men­taires pour le Forte-Piano ou Clavecin, LeDuc ca. 1786, Paris. LeDuc’s notes dis­cuss the vignette on the title page, but one can see on the title page that there is no vignette.

30. Good­win Sam­mel, per­son­al dis­cus­sion, Jan­u­ary 2, 2011. At a meet­ing in his home Good­win Sam­mel explained to me in detail the proof that LeDuc copied F. P. Ricci’s pub­li­ca­tion. He pre­vi­ous­ly had dis­cussed the proof in a meet­ing of music teach­ers at his home in 2008.

31. Intro­duc­tion to the Piano Method or Col­lec­tion of Ele­men­tary Stud­ies for the Forte-piano or Harp­si­chord, p. I. Com­posed by J. C. Bach and F. P. Ric­ci. Edit­ed by Beat­rice Erde­ly. Pub­lished by Nov­el­lo, Cat. Nos. 01 0299–01 0302. Four vol­umes, 1987.

32. J. C. Bach et F. P. Ric­ci, Meth­ode ou Recueil De Con­nois­sances Ele­men­taires…, Edi­tions Minkoff, Gene­va, 1974.

33. J. Ch. Bach e F. P. Ric­ci, Meto­do per il Forte-piano o Clav­icem­ba­lo, Paideia Editrice, Bres­cia, Italy, 1986.

34. Back cov­er of this book­let, with F. P. Ricci’s sig­na­ture.

35. The Col­lect­ed Works of J. C. Bach, Vol. 48, The­mat­ic Cat­a­logue, by Ernest War­bur­ton. Gar­land Pub., Inc. New York and Lon­don, 1999, p. 453, p. 605.

36. H. Met­ze­laar, “Mon cher ami,” p. 105, foot­note 53.

37. H. Met­ze­laar, “Mon cher ami,” p. 119.

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