It seems impossible, but the first month of this new year is already behind us. That said, welcome to the February 2023 edition of the Artistic Score Engraving newsletter. This is the first edition to be sent to more than 50 people! Thank you to all those who have faithfully followed me so far, and a warm welcome to the new ones!
As I’m writing this, I am fighting with a nasty cold with all the means at my disposal. These last few months have been full of “first times”: 14.5 °C at home with heating turned on, wearing mountain cloths at home, and, lastly, wearing a winter hat at home! For all these records we need to thank our government who, without saying anything publicly, ordered the reduction of public hot water (the one used to keep buildings warm) temperature by a significant amount. Neither I nor anyone else will probably ever be able to find any written proof of this; instead, here is what our government goes proud of:
We have reduced our dependency from Russian fossil fuels by 23%
The exact amount will vary from TV show to newspaper, but my point is this: of course you have reduced your dependency from Russian gas and oil if you are keeping your people in the cold! Now that I am sick, I feel these low temps much more than I already did, and my body is having a hard time fighting one and the other.
As it increasingly more often happens in our democratic world, if you have some complaints against the State you live in, it is better to let it go. Our system (possible most States’ systems) is made in such a way that politicians can mess and brew all what they want, and there will always be a friend ready to hide the incriminating documents under the carpet.
Winter here is being cold, but not impossibly cold, with temperatures ranging between -5 °C and +2 °C most days. The problem is how poorly Italian buildings are made: walls are very thin and hollow, windows are not using PVC most times, and this results in a massive dispersion of heat. The renovation that is going on for our and many other buildings should bring some advantages in the future, but with the massive speculation connected to it, the consequences will possibly be worse than the benefits. Ah, yes, these renovation works are literally hammering at my walls from 8am to 5pm, every day, with a short pause for lunch. Let me just say that I have been living these weeks with noise-cancelling earphones …
Enough bad news for this month, though; let’s move on to music!
What have I been up to?
This new year started with a bang, as I have constantly had more assignments than what I could deliver. Since this year saw an increase in taxation for my revenues (and a 3x increase in that!) I asked companies that were on the low end of my hourly rate spectrum for a raise. Sadly—surprise!—, they refused, instead proposing to offset that with an increase in production. I cannot say I am satisfied with it, but as long as there is some kind of income, then all is good, and I can keep concentrating on bigger projects.
I now have several engravings on the workbench: three duets for cello and double bass are reaching their final stage, alongside a contemporary piano trio which has proven very challenging to realise. It is full of aleatoric music—that is, when the instruments are repeating certain excerpts until something else happens—, and this is incredibly challenging to do in notational software. For example, here is an excerpt from the cello part:
You can see here how the cello part needs the full violin part “quoted” (which in musical jargon we say “cued”) above it. The repeat marks are differently placed and, in the following system, the piano will play something (also cued above), that will show the other two players when to stop with these repeats. I am pleased of the final result, but I still need to proofread it on my iPad, to make sure nothing has moved without me approving that!
Yesterday I completed the engraving of a quick arrangement of “Three Responsoriæ” by Carlo Gesualdo, and today I should be able to complete a new piece for cello and piano by Andrea Casarrubios, which will be premiered sometime in March. I linked to her website because I believe you should follow her, she is great!
A few days ago, I was contacted by a composition teacher from an American university. He found my website through what he defined “a nest of redirects” (!), and stumbled upon my contemporary music engravings, such as this one:
He proposed that I hold a short conference over Zoom, showing his students how to approach the engraving of a contemporary work in Sibelius. I gladly accepted, and you will hear more about how it went in my May 2023 newsletter.
Finally, this has been confirmed! I will hold a 3-hour-long conference on the Cello Schools between 1750 and 1900 at the Conservatorio “Niccolò Piccinni” in Bari, Italy, sometime during the first half of October. I will focus on the German schools of Romberg, Dotzauer, and Kummer, but there will also be time for Duport, Breval, &co.! Students from the Conservatory will also perform some of the Dotzauer’s duets I have been recently preparing. They asked for them to be short, beautiful, and difficult enough to be attractive for students of Academic level (that is, Bachelor and Master degrees). They will get what they asked for!
Back in February 2021 I released a tool to control Sibelius from your iPad, which proved wildly successful at launch. Over the two years of its life I have constantly refined it, releasing a new version for the new MetaGrid Pro app, and a Windows-compatible version as well.
Today I am thrilled to announce that I have officially sold more than one hundred (100) copies of it! What was born as a tool to help me keep being efficient with Sibelius while on the go (as MacBooks don’t have numpads) turned out being something that helped so many people. And this just feels great!
If you want to give it a try, you can find it here.
New and updated editions!
Dotzauer’s Russian Air Op. 32
The new edition for January is the beautiful set of Twenty Variations on a Russian Theme for solo cello (accompanied by a second cello) by our dear friend Justus Johann Friedrich Dotzauer. For some reason, I had always called his Johann Justus, and yet it is the other way around!
This piece, which you can find here, is fiendishly difficult, and covers most techniques possible on the cello (the only notable absent being harmonics). I have written about it here, and I hope you will love it! Here below, you can watch a promotional video:
Piatti Caprice 7 Op. 25
This edition was one of the first to be published, back in 2018. It was therefore due to an update. For those who were not yet following me back then, this is the original Seventh Caprice, in C major, Op. 25, by Piatti, to which he himself added a piano accompaniment. This was premiered by Giovanni Sollima in Bergamo in November 2018, and recorded by Thibaut Reznicek last summer (2022).
You can find it in digital form here, while the printer will send out to the distributor the first batch of printed copies by February 7th, 2023. It should become available as a physical copy sometime around mid-February. Watch this space to see when it does. Meanwhile, enjoy the announcement article here, or the promotional video:
The next new edition should be a couple of String Quartets by Dotzauer, which were dedicated to his teacher Bernhard Romberg, so you can expect a quite challenging cello part. These were the first two string quartets Dotzauer composed out of more than twenty in total. They will represent the First Episode of the Second Phase of the Dotzauer Project, dedicated to chamber music.
A few days ago I finished practicing Dotzauer’s Op. 58, and thus the next updated edition will be that one. Besides the original edition I would like to add Klingenberg’s realisation, then a French edition, and my suggestions, but I will see how much patience I have for that! As always, anyone who has already purchased this edition will get the update for free, and will be granted “Collector” status!
After this, I would like to focus a bit on Piatti, since I have a new edition and a couple of revisions ready to go. Time is a tyrant, though, and there are only so many hours I can dedicate to this daily.
Print, yes we can!
After teasing you for at least two months on this, I can finally say it: my first edition in physical format is now available worldwide! I published a short article yesterday on this, and you will find all relevant links in there.
In general, every edition that is also available as a physical copy will have its description’s first paragraph showing you where you can find it. As you can imagine, I do not have the logistical power to do this myself (actually, no publisher apart from Bärenreiter & Faber Music has), so I need to use a distributor. So far, I am happy with this arrangement, and will gladly share some sales numbers in the future.
A bittersweet story
Finding a printer that knew their mettle was already hard enough, let alone finding one that is transparent and sincere at all times. This is a sad story, and long enough to be worthy of a separate article, but let me summarise it here.
The printer I chose for the Boccherini was good, they were kind and open to negotiations; then, when I confirmed the order, they told me the parcels had already been shipped. I asked for an invoice, got it, asked a clarification about it, … and then it all broke: they blocked all shipments, further blackmailing me to withhold them until I paid it in full. But wait… didn’t they write that they had shipped the items? Was that a lie?
A few weeks have passed since that and I still have no idea what made them click. I suppose they got afraid I could’ve not paid and just got away with the scores. That’s nonsense, from my point of view, since one who is looking for a solid working relationship would never do that.
Regardless, I paid the “ransom” on my scores, got them delivered, and asked for a meeting on Zoom to clarify our positions: they refused. Asked for an agreement on future collaborations: they refused, saying instead:
We need to gather more payment experience from you before committing to a contract
At that moment I realised: if my money is all they are interested in, if they want to keep the power to change the rules mid-game, if they do not give a shoe about my scores, it is better to put as much ground between me and them as possible. After all, they lied once and, without a contract, nothing could stop them from withholding my scores without me being able to do anything about that.
What now, then?
For the second edition, Piatti’s Caprice with piano mentioned above, I have chosen another German printer. I received the proofs a few days ago and they are excellent. The quality is higher than the printer who did Boccherini, especially in the binding. The paper is also less reflective, which is a plus. I have ordered one hundred copies of this, and they should be delivered in the second week of February. I do not think I will be able to afford them for bigger editions, though, as they are about 50% pricier than the others. To make this viable, I would be obliged to raise prices beyond what is acceptable for my customers (and for me as well!).
I have therefore kept looking, and a new printer is now taking care of Dotzauer Op. 52. The price is slightly higher than what the first printer offered, but since I already have indirect experience with them, I know they can be trusted. You see, after sending me the quote, which I accepted, and the proof, which I will get next week, they specified:
Please pay in full before we start production
Of course! No problem! As long as this is clear and written out! With the first printer, no agreement had ever been penned out, and they abused their position of power unjustifiably.
I told all this story to one of my customers, and here’s what he said:
That’s just bullshit! In business, you are always open to negotiation!
I believe that’s all what I had to say for this month! Please share this article, leave a like if you enjoyed it, and consider following me here on WordPress, on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and to subscribe to my mailing list.
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Thank you for getting this far!
Until next time,