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Giovannino Sonata in A minor Double Bass & Piano
Very little is known about the two sonatas which appear here in their original keys. They were placed in the library of the Music School in Oxford at the end of the seventeenth century in a form convenient for playing (i.e. unbound). The library was catalogued by Hake between 1850 and 1855 and the sonatas were eventually bound in 1855 with other instrumental and vocal manuscripts of the same period, some of which are dated 1698.
The sonatas are both inscribed on the title page Sonata Violone Solo. Col Basso per l'Organo, o Cembalo. A third sonata bears the words Sonata Violino e Violoncino di Giovannino del Violone. Giovannino (=Little, or Young John) must have been a performer, and although the third sonata has been copied by a different hand, it is conceivable that Giovannino is a connecting link between the three. He cannot, however, be assumed to be their author.
The Violone was a six-stringed instrument with frets, and there is evidence to suggest that the Contrabasso of the same period was similar but probably a little larger; the Violoncino (=Little Violone, or Violoncello) must have been smaller. The word 'Violone' was also used as a collective term embracing all members of the Viol family, which means that the sonatas might well have been written for a tenor or a bass Viol, and not necessarily a Violone as such. Indeed, when they are played on a Violone, or Double Bass the continuo bass line must be played at a lower pitch than the solo instrument, to prevent inversion of the intended harmony. (The use of a Violone/Double Bass continuo or 16' organ tone would overcome this problem.)
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