A MONUMENT OF EARLY VIENNESE MUSIC PRINTING

Paride ed Elena. Dramma per musica . . . dedicato a sua altezza, il Signor Duca Don Giovanni di Braganza.

Vienna, Johann Thomas von Trattner, 1770.

Tall folio, pp. [xii] (title, dedication, tables and argomento), 196; full score in letterpress; a few early corrections in red crayon; occasional slight browning and a few isolated spots, but a very good, crisp copy in contemporary vellum; slightly rubbed, a few stains on lower cover, small loss of vellum at fore-edge of upper cover.

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First edition of Gluck’s Paride ed Elena, which tells the story of events between the judgment of Paris and the flight of Paris and Helen to Troy. It was premiered at the Burgtheater in Vienna on 3 November 1770.

Paride ed Elena was the third of Gluck’s Italian reformist operas, following Orfeo ed Euridice (1762) and Alceste (1767); the poet and diplomat Ranieri de’ Calzabigi provided the subjects and librettos for all three operas. Opera had previously followed the stylised conventions of the Baroque opera seria, acting as a vehicle to show off the beauty of the human voice, but Gluck and Calzabigi introduced elements of human interest, passion, and dramatic intensity to the operatic stage for the first time. Their reforms were highly controversial and met with great opposition, particularly after Gluck moved to Paris in 1773.

The edition is a monument of early Viennese music printing, with type-set music, a process which was technically far ahead of music engraving in Austria at the same date. Johann Thomas von Trattner (1717–1798) was the leading music publisher and retailer in Vienna between 1770 and 1790, who became a wealthy society figure and an intimate friend of Mozart. He is particularly remembered for the present edition and a similar type-set edition of Alceste published in 1769.

The work begins with a long dedicatory preface to Duke Juan Carlos de Braganza, one of Gluck’s earliest supporters, then living in exile in Vienna. Although signed by Gluck it was probably drafted by Calzabigi, and outlines the composer’s and librettist’s intentions to depict ‘the different character of the Phrygian and Spartan nations, contrasting the roughness and savagery of the one with the delicacy and softness of the other’.

Provenance: the French pianist and composer Jules Bordier (1846–1896), whose music library was one of the richest in France, with his stamp on title and on front free endpaper; the French musicologist Henry Prunières (1886–1942), with bookplate.

Hopkinson 39A; RISM G 2876.

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