Con la mente e con le mani

Improvisation from ‘cantare super librum’ to partimenti


Fondazione Giorgio Cini - Venice, Italy

9th - 11th November 2013


An International Conference for discussing

Improvisation as a Teaching Tool

In recent years, scholars and musicians have focused interest on the revival of improvisation as it was known in the Renaissance and Baroque. This historically informed practice is replacing the late Romantic concept of improvisation as a rhapsodic piece, blossoming out the capricious genius of the player. In the Renaissance and Baroque, composing in the mind (alla mente) had an important didactic function, and it induced a better assimilation of the contrapuntal vocabulary by repetition and memorization of patterns and models. For several categories of musicians, the teaching of counterpoint happened almost entirely through practice on their own instrument: singers learned super librum to improvise canons on a cantus firmus and make diminution on a motet; organists seeking important positions had  to be able to play with fantasia, answering the choir with versets, ricercari, and intonations. 

    The event will be a real laboratory for improvisation and teaching, with lectures, panel discussions, recitals, and lecture-recitals. The central theme will be how one can use improvisation today in theory teaching, and how it can be integrated into the different curricula around the world. The Istituto per la Musica  of the Fondazione Giorgio Cini is the main organizer and will host the event in the prestigious venue of the island of San Giorgio Maggiore. Massimiliano Guido and Peter Schubert from McGill University are the scientific coordinators. 

    Thomas Christensen will deliver the keynote lecture, followed by sessions on memory, vocal and instrumental improvisational practices, and pedagogy (E. Bellotti, M. Callahan, P. Canguilhelm, G. Fiorentino, S. Lorenzetti, W. Porter, G. Sanguinetti). During the recital featuring Edoardo Bellotti and William Porter, the Fondazione Accademia Internazionale di Smarano will present its summer academy devoted to historical improvisation at the keyboard.