Welcome to a new episode of Let’s cook together! … no, sorry, wrong start! Welcome to the September 2022 edition of the Artistic Score Engraving newsletter! I wrote this while spending my last days in Belgrade, Serbia, but you will receive this on September 1st when I should have settled back in our hometown of Saluzzo, Italy. In all honesty, I have not been eagerly awaiting to go back, for many reasons:
- The Italian government fell at the beginning of August, and we’re going to have elections on September 25th. You possibly don’t know that it has been more than 10 years since the last time we Italians have been allowed to vote for our parliament. Ever since the Monti’s government, it has been one technical government after the other, with zero democracy involved. No party is actually proposing anything appealing to me, but I will probably go to vote anyway, who knows when I will get another chance? There is no doubt that the center-right wing will win, and the only thing I can do is go vote any alternative (avoiding M5S, which kept us as prisoners for 2 years during Covid-19). The remaining variables are: by how much will they win? And how extreme will they go? From what Salvini & Meloni promise, I am quite concerned.
- It will be a cold winter. Regardless of the laughable sanctions towards Russian gas, Italy has stockpiled it with a passion—either directly or bypassing restrictions—, causing its price to soar to impossible heights. If we want to keep the same temperature in-house as last winter, we will be broke by spring. Luckily, my body seems to have an excellent vascular system, as it radiates heat all around. At the very least, I will keep my partner warm1. We planned ahead before leaving for Belgrade and bought an electric radiator. Since in Italy electricity is, for now, cheaper than gas, we should survive by turning off all central heating system and by warming up only the room we are currently in. The only big unknown factor is whether we will have restrictions or not. My girlfriend, who lived through and under NATO’s bombs here in Belgrade in 1999, and under their “cultural embargo” ever since the first Yugoslavian wars, prepared me very well to them, so I know what to expect2.
- Work will be a big question mark. With all prices skyrocketing, the first thing people will cut on will be education, following the marvellous example our government has given them in the last two decades. The hourly gross income of a music teacher in Italy is between EUR 14 and 25. I doubt that there is any country where the proportion between how much teachers are paid and how much life costs is that unbalanced. For a comparison: in the USA prices are about twice their Italian equivalent and yet, a music lesson will cost anywhere between USD 60 and 150. That’s 5-6x wage for a 2x cost increase. Make the math, and you get that wages are 2.5-3x greater there3. The only way I have seen this make sense was when my violinist colleague had 55 students plus 3 student orchestras, and he played gigs as an aside. He was working morning and afternoon 6 days a week, plus commuting, and still because of that absurdly low wage, not managing to pass 30k gross income per year. Regardless, I expect my income for this school-year to plummet to the ground, with contingency plans already being prepared.
Enough of this introduction, let’s move on to what I have been up to during the month of August.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
About 10 days ago, my partner’s grandma, 99, needed to go to the dentist. She broke her hips 4 years ago and underwent the 8h-long surgery needed to substitute both of them. She can still walk today but, for the last 8 years, she has never gone out of home, and this was a great challenge. I am so proud of having been able to help her, bringing a chair for her to rest after every run of stairs, supporting her at every step down, and up again. You should have seen with what strength she grasped at the handrails, a strength her arms didn’t have, but that her resolve did! On the way back, she didn’t let us pull her up to the third floor, she wanted to do that herself. For the following three days she almost only slept but, one day, she said:
You know, I felt less agile that day compared to what I remembered being last time!
…and since then, she started once more to practice her exercises, to get back in shape! One can ask oneself where does that strength comes from, but I think that seeing your father and your brother being brought away by partisans during WWII and never seeing them again must have had its side effects.
The next good thing is that I reached my goal of publishing twelve editions during 2022. As a New Year’s Resolution I had challenged myself to publish twelve professional-level edition by the end of 2022, and I am thrilled to announce that, on August 23rd, the goal was met! I will talk more about the two new editions that came out during the month of August, but here is the list of what I published (so far) in 2022:
- Piatti, C. A. | Pioggia d’Aprile for cello and piano
- Popper, D. | Wie einst in schöner’n Tagen—Op. 64/1, arranged for Two Cellos
- Dotzauer, J. J. F. | Twelve Original Pieces for Two Cellos, Op. 58
- Marcello, B. | Six Sonatas for cello and basso
- Dotzauer, J. J. F. | Twenty-four Exercises for Two Cellos, Op. 159
- Lindley, R. | Capriccios & Exercises for the Violoncello, Op. 15
- Goltermann, G. E. | Piano reduction of the Cello Concerto n° 4, op. 65 in G major
- Piatti, C. A. | Elegia sulla morte di Antonio Rubinstein for Two Cellos
- Piatti, C. A. | La Corsa for cello and piano
- Dotzauer, J. J. F. | Twelve Original Pieces for Two Cellos, Op. 52
- Vivaldi, A | Nine Cello Sonatas
- Rossini, G.—Piatti, A. | Soirées Musicales for cello and piano
I still have so much to give for this year, but I am relieved that at least the goal is met, and I can slow down and take a deep breath.
Another superb news is that a professor I had the luck to study with proposed that I hold a conference about Dotzauer and my revaluation work early in 2023. I will do my best to get op. 156 & op. 63 out in the wild to at least complete this first cycle. Using his words:
This is a subject at the same time omnipresent and unknown for us!
It’s going to be exciting, to say the least!
As wonderful as it may look to be able to prepare, engrave, review, design, and publish twelve professional-level editions in 8 months (that’s 3 editions every 2 months), that would have not been possible if I had been given the usual amount of engraving assignments from my customers. Unexpectedly, though, both July and August have been quite calm, if we exclude the period July 20–August 5 when I completed a job for HNE Rights. I normally have quiet periods in November and in February-April, but this time, getting July-August so eerily silent got me concerned about my future in this profession.
While I have loved to prepare these editions, the amount of work needed to bring them to this level is not being compensated by a return in sales. The edition of Vivaldi’s Cello Sonatas (130 pages of main score, 114 of piano reduction, 22 of alternative sources) required about 60 hours to realise from start to finish (note input excluded). That means that for it to justify its costs it would need to sell about 120 copies of the cheapest variant, and the sooner, the better. To be bluntly clear, we are very far from that.
What does this mean in practice? I cannot certainly force people to buy something they do not need, but I firmly believe I am offering products of the highest quality that, for those concerned—cello teachers, students, scholars, etc…—should be a must-have in their collection. I would never publish something I would not like to have among my scores, and more than 1/3 of the hours spent creating any score are dedicated to meticulously proofreading the smallest detail of each document.
It seems to me, though, that this is not a parameter under which people buy musical scores, rather how cheap they are. My first cello teacher from when I was 4-7 years old recently told me that period performers aren’t concerned about how clean a score is, and that the only people who would buy my scores would be those who are having troubles getting the sources for free. As much as I do not agree with it, so far, he is being right…
What will I do, then? If all this effort is not going to pay off, I will be obliged to slow down and go back to just doing it for fun, when time allows. There are 2-3 people doing their best to help me out but, at the same time, there are some personal acquaintances who are even opposing the fact that I do this thing—yes, that feels awful, I can tell you!
The main pain point is that I do not see any meaningful reaction to what I do. Through intensive sharing, I can get up to ten thousand people see my posts, but that translates to about one sale every 3-4000 views. Sincerely, I have never seen a business where one’s effort is so meaningless. Close to none of my posts, of my articles, of my newsletters have any comment, any reaction to them, as if almost no one did care.
Now, what can you do to help, assuming you want to? Share my posts, my catalogue, my mailing list subscription link. Do you think this is not worth doing for free? Become an affiliate! You will earn back a percentage from every sale! Is this still too much work? Fine, then maybe what I do is not good enough to make a long-lasting impression on you, and I understand it.
Possibly, the best thing you can do to help me out is to tell your musician, composer, arranger friends out there that you know a quite skilled engraver and publishing designer, and that they should possibly contact me to inquire about using my services to make their music stand out! Share my engraving dossier with them, freely, the more people see this the better. Here’s an example:
Do you know a music publisher? Tell them about me! If I earn enough from my ordinary engraving job, I will be able to keep creating editions and thus keep offering the free excerpts as I always do. Unfortunately, direct contact from my part is doing very little to get me any job from publishers. The only thing that has always worked in business is knowing people, and having people talk about you. Being good at what you do is not enough, it is just the starting point!
Since most of my editions are pedagogical in nature, I thought it a good idea to write an e-mail to schools proposing to have their cello teacher(s) give a look at my catalogue, possibly subscribe to the mailing list and, eventually, get something going. I also proposed that, if they found that useful, they could use my engraving services for their arrangements and transcriptions. I had a list of all major German schools ready from a few years ago, and created a list of all Swiss schools divided by German, Italian, and French speaking. Not speaking any German, I sent the e-mail in English to those. The e-mail text was reviewed by a native English speaker for the English version, and by a native French speaker for the French version. They both corrected not only the grammar, but also the style, and made very meaningful suggestions and adjustments. I therefore think the starting text was quite solid. The subject of the e-mail was “Pedagogical Editions & Arrangements”, please keep it in mind.
I decided to send the first e-mails on the 15th of August, on the same date in which I announced my Back to School sale. Even if I didn’t expect anything in return, I was not prepared for what was to come.
Close to none replied, all according to plan, but most of them were on summer holiday, so no problem there. The few who replied, though, did all with the same message:
Thank you for your application. At the moment we do not have any open cello teaching position.
Can you believe that? They didn’t even read the subject of the e-mail, let alone its body! They assumed a priori that I was looking forward to teaching at their institution. I never said that, not in any part of the e-mail. I promptly replied to those, thinking it was some sort of automated response. Only one school, from Italian Switzerland, replied, saying they were sorry not to have read the entirety of the message, and that they would forward the e-mail to their cello teacher. All others, already more than 10, rebuked me with a “we don’t need a cello teacher!”
This is distressing because this means that a) these people are not reading the e-mails they receive and b) they receive so many applications from teachers that they label everything they receive as “just another one”. Then it came the time for the nationalist answer: to an e-mail in English, at least 3 replied in German, and one even said:
If you are interested in working with us, please use the German language in your correspondence.
I was totally shocked, and felt like stopping there, that nothing about all this was worthy anymore. One thing is doing one’s job and not getting any material reward: that is business, it can go well or bad. Another thing is this kind of attitude. I guess I can only keep doing the good things I do and try my best to ignore the evil I see around me.
I talked at length last month about the Dotzauer Project. Sadly, there is no news from that front this time, as the publication of Op. 156 was delayed by the urgent need to create the Vivaldi edition.
Vivaldi Nine Cello Sonatas
In the USA school starts much earlier than in Italy and Maestro Yuriy Leonovich, with whom I have already published the complete sonatas by Jean-Baptiste Bréval, reached out to ask if I would have liked to curate this project together. I gladly accepted, and we worked very hard on this edition over the two middle weeks of August to get it into your hands.
Who needs an extra edition of Vivaldi, you may ask? There is already Bärenreiter Urtext and Wiener Urtext available. They are good, sure, but they fail in three fields: 1) they do not offer a comparative and playable score for the sources, 2) they do not offer a playable cello and basso score and 3) they do not offer an edited/marked up/ready-to-play cello part based on the Critical/Urtext edition.
Our edition comes in several versions:
- A cello and basso version, with a perfectly paginated score which allows you to play directly from it, and a set of parts with bigger staves and, still, all page-turn free! All this, in 130 pages.
- A cello and keyboard version, with continuo realisation by M° Leonovich, alongside his precious bowing and fingering suggestions. This comes in 114 pages.
- A bundle of versions 1 and 2.
- A score of Sonatas RV 47, 46, and 44 using the alternative sources available and counting 22 pages. If I see some interest in this, I will also create a separate cello and basso part for these three sonatas.
- A complete bundle of versions 3 and 4.
This edition can be found here if you want all sonatas together, and here if you want to buy individual sonatas. Here you can enjoy the first page of the first sonata, while the full first sonata is available to mailing list subscribers:
Rossini-Piatti : Les Soirées Musicales
When I was 18 I participated in the Suzuki Method World Convention, which was held in Torino, Italy, in 2006. There I played Fauré’s Elegy in concert and participated in the 80-cello orchestra concert conducted by Maestro Mario Brunello. Among the pieces we played was a version of Rossini’s La Danza, heavily arranged and simplified. Little I knew, then, that 16 years later I would have gone through the trouble of publishing a new edition of this marvellous piece. The original piece is very different from what we played then, much harder in some way, but more beautiful in all respects! The original edition came bundled with a more sombre piece, La Gita in Gondola, which also appears in this edition.
The cello part of both these pieces will be edited by Raphael Pidoux, professor at Paris Conservatoire Superieur, just not in this version, as we didn’t manage to arrange our schedule in a way that would fit. He has already assured me that we are going to finish this during the month of September.
You can find the edition here, and enjoy the first page below:
I hope to be able to resume my learning path, as this month has really killed my resolve in many respects. I love making these editions, but overdoing it as I did this month is something I do not look forward to repeating in the future. My rhythm, my time, and, especially, my spare time for reading, taking a stroll in the forest, and sleeping, all things I have not done enough in August, all need to get bumped up in priority.
I plan to work on Dotzauer’s Opp. 156 & 63 and have all this ready by November. If you browsed my redesigned catalogue, you will have seen a nice comeback in position 28. Subsequently, I have a couple of surprise that involve Piatti, but about which I cannot say anything more.
There will be no further request to rate your purchases. I have done that for two months in a row and I have only seen rating coming from the same two people—who were already doing that without being asked—to whom I am deeply grateful. This is clearly not working.
I guess that’s it for this month. I apologise for this more bitter than usual episode, but sometimes realism is needed to shake us out of our comfort zone.
The mailing list version of this episode will get the product list with the discounted links. Should you want to join that, feel free to insert your e-mail address here.
Thank you for reading through all this. I sincerely hope that you found something useful in it.
I wish you all the best until the next episode.
- I have already jokingly renamed myself “Gazprom”. Every political reference is unintentional. ↩
- If you think that NATO bombing of Serbia was a right and just thing to do, let’s have a talk about it, I am curious about what you know of it that shaped your opinion in that direction. Spoiler: it was a crime! ↩
- Sure, you have to take bullet-dodging into account. ↩