François de Fossa: Thême Varié
Suivi de Huit Valses Choisies de Mozart Op. 9
16 pp., $7.95, Presser Order number 494-02940 (PWYS-109)
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The first reliable biography of François de Fossa, (Perpignan, 1775 – Paris, 1849), contained a preliminary checklist of the works of this French army officer, composer and guitarist. With this study the importance and work of François de Fossa became better known and a series of his compositions was published subsequently by Editions Orphée, Tecla Editions in London, England, and Chanterele Verlag in Heidelberg, Germany. When it was first compiled, the checklist contained some gaps in the sequence of known opus numbers. With recent discoveries, in particular in the Jacinto Guerrero library in the conservatory of Toledo, Spain, and other libraries in Europe and in the USA, some of these gaps are now closed. The print on which this edition is based was found in the Stadtbücherei, Augsburg, Germany.
The plate number and the address of the publisher Corbaux suggests a publication date between 1807 and 1814. De Fossa returned from Spain to Paris in 1813 which makes it likely that Op. 9 was published sometimes between 1813 and 1814. All compositions by de Fossa, which are known so far, were published in the 1820s, therefore op. 9 can be considered as the earliest French publication of music by François de Fossa.
The piece consists of two parts: a theme with eight variations followed by eight waltzes. In the original print the theme is marked as N’el margine d’un fonte. This is in fact the tune known as Sul margine d’un rio, a very popular tune in early nineteenth century. The tune goes back to the eighteenth century and during the time of its highest popularity it was always associated with Italy. The oldest located manuscript where the tune is used is a Cantata by Alessandro Scarlatti (1660–1732).
The second part of the work is a set of eight waltzes in various keys. Although the title page indicates that the eight waltzes were selected from the works of Mozart, only waltzes N° 5, 6, 7 and 8 in the original are marked with de Mozart. Waltzes N° 1, 2, 3 and 4 are marked with a single capital F. which, presumably, stands for Fossa. The form of the waltzes follow the standard A-B-A setup with a Trio for the B-sections. As in many other works by de Fossa we can see here the composer’s preference for keys which are quite remote from each other like E Major (waltz N° 2) and f minor (waltz N° 4). The waltzes marked with de Mozart can be identified in the standard Mozart thematic catalog, the Köchel-Verzeichnis.
François de Fossa was born in Perpignan on August 31st 1775 and died in Paris on June 3rd 1849. He was one of the most influential composers for the guitar, an influence which was reflected in his close personal relationships with many well known guitarists of the early nineteenth century, and in particular, with Dionisio Aguado. It is thanks to de Fossa that the guitar quintets of Luigi Boccherini, perhaps the basis of the repertoire for chamber music with guitar, were preserved and are available to us today.
Front cover illustration is a water color by François de Fossa (1861-1935?), the composer’s grandson.
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