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What is Partimento? An in-depth look at the 21st century's most exciting music education revelation

In 2007, Professor Robert O. Gjerdingen released "Music in the Galant Style", a scholarly look at the music of the 18th century. It revealed important insights into the famed Neapolitan conservatories that graduated some of the most famous musicians of the 18th century.

The Italian Neapolitan Partimento tradition was well known in Europe during the golden age of Classical music and was a popular model of music instruction. Students of the Italian Naples conservatories were grilled in partimenti, solfeggio, written counterpoint and keyboard training. Some examples of the influence of the Neapolitan school:

Giovanni Paisiello (1740 – 1816)

The great Naples-trained opera composer Giovanni Paisiello was hired by Catherine the Great to work in Russia.


Joseph Haydn studied privately with Nicola Porpora, a famous Neapolitan trained composer and singer, and learned the "true fundamentals of composition".


The Paris Conservatory was founded modeled after the conservatories of Naples.


Even modern atonal composer, Luciano Berio, studied Fenaroli partimenti exercises in his youth. Fedele Fenaroli was a famous Neapolitan teacher who's collection of partimenti were widely sold throughout Europe.


So as you can seen, the Italian connection was extensive and far more prevalent than musicologists realized in recent years.


If all this information intrigues you, I invite you to listen to the following 7 interviews with the most influential people in this exciting movement, known as partimento, from the Nikhil Hogan Show.

One of the main people in this revolutionary movement is the great scholar Professor Giorgio Sanguinetti who released the excellent monograph on the subject, "The Art of Partimento", released in 2012.

Another very important figure in the movement is Professor Peter van Tour, who's dissertation became a book, "Counterpoint and Partimento", takes a really close look at how the students of Naples studied written counterpoint.

Professor Marco Pollaci gives great insights into Opera of the 19th century, and how the Partimento tradition influenced the course of Opera past after Galant ("Classical") era. He also runs the Facebook Group, "The Art of Partimento".

Superstar teacher Tobias Cramm is definitely worth listening to because of the amazing students he has taught such as the famous prodigy, Alma Deutscher. His students receive a rigorous training in Partimento and Galant Schema, and the products are amazing!

Professor John Mortensen is a wonderful improviser and eloquent teacher. A master at improvising fugues and the partimento tradition, Professor Mortensen has done much for the movement, exposing many people to it and is releasing an exciting book with Oxford University Press, "The Pianist’s Guide to Classical Improvisation".

Finally, Dr. Johnandrew Slominski is a widely admired improviser and teacher.

Many more great partimento-specific guests will be coming onto the Nikhil Hogan Show in the future so subscribe for more interviews!

In many ways, partimento is very similar to learning music like a jazz musician. The parallels are very fascinating and here at Songbird we want to connect the old working traditions with newer styles. Ultimately, we want our students to compose and improvise music in all styles, not just classical music. Partimento helps explain why many of the great classical composers were often very good improvisers and so individual in their creativity.

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