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 (1925–2020), well-known pianist, scholar and teacher, did 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.