Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Antoni Pizà

Committee Members

Scott Burnham

Philip Ewell

Norman Carey

Mark Steinberg

Subject Categories

Music Performance


baroque violin, slurs, movable type, Italian Seicento, violin, music printing


Venice and Bologna were the leading Italian publishing centers for violin music during the seventeenth century. While composers in other countries circulated their music in manuscript or copper engraving, Italian publishers continued operating with movable type. Although this printing method was cheaper, it was also inadequate when faced with more advanced instrumental music. With the fast rise in popularity of the violin at the beginning of the century and the new stile moderno, composers started adding more technical demands for the violin, including requests that publishers were not always able to add later in print. Some of the most challenging additions were slurs. Slurs created a conflict between composers and publishers: while composers had to decide to add them or not as they knew the printing result could be inaccurate, publishers had to use their creativity to manage the requests of the composers.

There is little information that survived about slurs in violin playing during the Italian Seicento. Violinists considered slurs as an ornament, possibly because the most common bowing for violin was to play one note per bow. In order to explore any information about violin playing, one needs to look into the scarce information that appears in treatises for other instruments. Among those, diminution manuals for voice or cornetto remark on the expressive qualities of the violin, which aspired to imitate the human voice. In some cases, these treatises included slurs when referring to expressivity. We should rethink seventeenth-century slurs, not only as plain ornaments but as expressive ornaments that might denote rhetorical qualities in the slurred notes.

In my dissertation, I compiled, compared, and analyzed slurs in seventeenth-century violin published works using movable type to demonstrate any connection between slurs, expression, and rhetoric. By doing this research, I tried to prove that seventeenth-century violinists, reading from editions where the printed slurs were inexact, would have played them differently from our current literal interpretation of these signs.