The Figured Bass Accompaniment in Europe


BresciaScuola Diocesana di Musica ‘Santa Cecilia’

10-12 September 2021

Because of the continuing uncertainties arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, the organisers of this conference will make contingency plans for an online event, in case an in-person gathering is not possible

The Centro Studi Opera Omnia Luigi Boccherini of Lucca, the Research Group Palma Choralis® and the Dipartimento di Musica Antica ‘Città di Brescia’ – are pleased to invite submissions of proposals for the symposium «The Figured Bass Accompaniment in Europe», to be held from 10 to 12 September 2021.

The basso continuo phenomenon, as a practice for accompanying one or more vocal and/or instrumental lines, spread throughout Europe and colonies from the end of the sixteenth century to the threshold of the nineteenth century, including several stylistic and notational peculiarities, according to different contexts and repertoires.

As a halfway between composition and performance, which can integrate and/or substitute other notational systems, continuo was born as a shorthand of a contrapuntal texture that was extemporaneously reconstructed by performers. Nevertheless, continuo practice and partimento from the late eighteenth century became also pedagogical tools essential to the composition training.

The conference, open to musicologists, performers, and music teachers intends to explore developments, stylistic features, similarities and idiosyncrasies of the figured bass across different geographical areas and periods of time. We investigate any kind of sources, documentation, music instruments (e.g. organological features, line-ups, doublings) as well as performative contexts, both professional (e.g. theatre, church, court) and amateur (e.g. domestic enjoyment of certain social classes).

Special attention is paid to improvisation issues and the complexity of cognitive resources and mental representations related to perception/imagination of the musical discourse. Furthermore, as continuo notation turns out to be particularly versatile, it leaves it open to a broad spectrum of possibilities (e.g. from tasto solo to big chords, or instrumental gestures) to be used by performers as a means for musical expression and creativity.

The programme committee encourages submissions within the following areas, although other topics are also welcome:

  • Insights on a wide range of themes are welcomed, including, but not restricted to:
  • New discoveries and evidence from treatises, musical and non-musical sources
  • Stylistic features and performance practice issues of accompaniment – solo, ensemble and integrated performance (self-accompaniment)
  • Basso continuo and opera
  • Music instruments: influence of organological peculiarities on continuo style
  • Accompaniment notation and its use in continuo instruments (figures, alphabet letters, intabulation)
  • Written-out accompaniments and intavolature, and their relationship with actual performance practice
  • Liturgical chant accompaniment: cantus planus and cantus fractus as unfigured and figured bass
  • The music and social contexts: differences between practices amongst amateurs/beginners and professionals
  • Pinnacle and decline: partimenti and the compositional training
  • Training: performance skills, improvisation and aural teachings
  • Composer, performer and improvisation: the relationship between basso continuo practice and res facta

Programme Committee:

  • Roberto Illiano (Centro Studi Opera Omnia Luigi Boccherini)
  • Marcello Mazzetti (Palma Choralis, Early Music Department “Città di Brescia”)
  • Fulvia Morabito (Centro Studi Opera Omnia Luigi Boccherini)
  • Massimiliano Sala (Centro Studi Opera Omnia Luigi Boccherini)
  • Livio Ticli (Palma Choralis, Early Music Department “Città di Brescia”)

Keynote Speakers:

  • Thérèse de Goede (Conservatorium van Amsterdam, NL)
  • Thomas Christensen (University of Chicago, USA)

The official languages of the conference are English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. Papers selected at the conference will be published in a miscellaneous volume.

Papers are limited to twenty minutes in length, allowing time for questions and discussion. Please submit an abstract of no more than 500 words and one page of biographical information.

All proposals should be submitted by email no later than ***28 March 2021*** to <>. With your proposal please include your name, contact details (postal address, e-mail and telephone number) and (if applicable) your affiliation.

The committee will make its final decision on the abstracts by April 2021, and contributors will be informed immediately thereafter. Further information about the programme, registration, travel and accommodation will be announced after that date.

For any additional information, please contact:

Dr. Massimiliano Sala