Among the roughly 150 Italian songbooks published between 1610 and 1665 with the guitar tablature known as alfabeto, about thirteen are anthologies. These anthologies often advertise the role of a compiler who has gathered together music by diverse authors. The extent to which compilers also functioned as authors and editors is not well understood. This essay considers the case of Giovanni Stefani, a compiler who, in the preface to his Scherzi amorosi of 1622, describes the anthology as a collection of his choosing that contains “varie compositioni de Virtuosi della prima classe” (various compositions of first-class virtuosos). Intriguingly, none of the settings Stefani prints (in both this alfabeto anthology and two others) include attributions.
Since the 1880s, scholars have been preoccupied with matters of transmission and attribution, unearthing a network of textual and musical concordances. This article expands the nexus of Stefani’s songs and their concordant sources, revealing an array of examples that range from identical copies to “partial” concordances that take over motives, phrases, refrains, or harmonic schemes. These examples indicate that in preparing his anthologies, Stefani mined a corpus of existing prints and manuscripts while also relying heavily on oral transmission. The complex nature of Stefani’s approach, taken together with his complete avoidance of composer attributions, points toward an editorial process shaped by a fluid exchange between oral and written musical practices.
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