Manchester, 14th-18th July 2004


Michael F. Robinson (University of Cardiff, UK)

Domenico Scorpione and the teaching of counterpoint in 18th-century Naples

In the library of the Liceo Musicale in Bologna hangs a portrait of the 18th-century Neapolitan composer and pedagogue Francesco Feo (1691-1761). On the left side of the picture the painter has painted three books, on the spines of which are the words 'Zarlino', 'Fux', and 'Scorpione'. 'Zarlino' presumably refers to Gioseffo Zarlino's Le istitutioni harmoniche (1558) and 'Fux' to Johann Fux's Gradus ad Parnassum (1725).

'Scorpione', not a well-known name like the others, presumably refers to Domenico Scorpione (recorded in Grove as 'fl' 1672-1703), whose major treatise was Riflessioni Armoniche, published in Naples in 1701. The link between the three books is that all offer a complete training course starting with simple note-against-note writing and ending with advanced counterpoint in the 'church' style. Since Scorpione's name appears in Feo's portrait and since Feo was an important teacher in two Neapolitan conservatories, the assumption is that his work, like Zarlino's and Fux's, had a degree of influence on the teaching of counterpoint in Feo's circle.

This paper looks at Scorpione's Riflessioni Armoniche. It examines whether it is a forward-looking document relative to its period, and whether it contributes anything special to our understanding of how counterpoint and composition were taught in Naples in the early 18th century.

Last updated on 12 May 2004