The historical context


he Ensemble Baschenis studies and performs seventeenth and eighteenth-century music for mandolin and continuo, using original instruments. During the nineteenth century the mandolin, like many other instruments, underwent significant modifications. The Neapolitan mandolin prevailed whilst the other types disappeared or were limited to regional usage.

One of the peculiarities of eighteenth-Century mandolin music is the fact that the composers were also performers. They were technically skilled musicians with knowledge of their instrumental language, and hence fully developed the expressive possibilities of the mandolin, often using techniques that were so characteristic that they could not be reproduced on other instruments.

One of these techniques was the tremolo, produced by quick movement of the plectrum across a unison pair of strings. Tremolo was often used as an alternative to the trill, although its overuse was considered to be rather vulgar or distasteful. The plectrum (or patacca as it is sometimes referred to in Italy) can create a variety of effects if used skilfully: these effects range from a metallic harpsichord-like sound to the sweeter tone of the harp.

Other expressive possibilities are the use of arpeggios on different strings and chords played with a single stroke of the plectrum. The downstroke or upstroke of the plectrum was dictated by certain expressive conventions according to the pronuntia strumentale of the period.

The continuo instruments used by the Ensemble Baschenis (lute, chitarrone, guitar, cello and double bass viol) are a standard feature in the chamber music of this era. The Ensemble Baschenis not only presents three different early mandolins, the Neapolitan, the Milanese and the bresciano, but also performs a large part of their repertoires, including works of Sammartini, Leone, Piccone, Vivaldi, Beethoven.

The Ensemble has recorded two CD on Italian mandolin repertoire with great

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