Treasures of The Library of Orfeó Català



Regarding the instrumental repertoire, two interesting manuscripts from the 18th century are preserved: a collection of seven passacaglias with numbered notation for the harp and a manuscript copy of “war rhythms” designed to regulate the movements of the soldiers.


Harp tablature

Pasacalles. At the beginnig of the 18th century. Musical manuscript, 6 f. (16 x 22 cm)

Harp tablature

Manuscript from the second half of the 17th or early 18th century. Some of these seven passacaglia for harp tablature may have come from a book by Diego Fernández de Huete (Compendio numeroso de zifras armónicas, con teórica, y práctica para arpa de una orden, de dos órdenes, y de órgano. Madrid, 1702), a treatise containing this series. The passacaglia─ originally a dance in three time over a basso ostinato that repeats every four bars ─ could serve as a prelude to establish the “tone” as a means of introduction to the vocal pieces, both in the theatre and in church. There are series for accompaniment instruments, such as the harp or the guitar.

The tablature is written on four lines, each line corresponding to one voice: the upper line represents the high voice and the bottom line, the low voice. The letters below the figures indicate the position of the finger for plucking the string ─ p (thumb), y (index) and l (middle finger) ─ and match those used by Lucas Ruiz de Ribayaz for the harp in his treatise Luz y norte musical para caminar por las cifras de la guitarra española, y arpa, tañer, y cantar a compás por canto de órgano (Madrid, M. Álvarez, 1677).

The numbers apply here to the following notes: 1 F, 2 G, 3 A, 4 B, 5 C, 6 D, and 7 E. The points determine which octave to play. Its duration, in general, is shown beneath the stave.

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