“Vestito a ponti d’oro e a cento corde in seno”

History, repertoire and playing techniques of the Italian salterio in the eighteenth century

PhD dissertation at Leiden University (2021)
Supervisors: Frans de Ruiter, Ton Koopman, Dinko Fabris

My dissertation is the first comprehensive and fundamental compendium on the Italian salterio of the eighteenth century. It sheds light on its genesis in the ecclesiastical environment, its dissemination and use in all regions of Italy, its social rise to the highest circles of the aristocracy, its virtuoso professionals and noble amateurs, and last but not least, its original genre-spanning repertoire, as well as its innovative instrumental developments in the second half of the century.

It is a great peculiarity of the salterio in the instrumental landscape of its time that it was played with three completely different playing techniques. Either the strings were struck with two small hammers (battuto), plucked with the fingernails and fingertips (finger-pizz) or plucked it with plectra, that were fixed in metal finger rings and placed at the fingertips (plectra-pizz). Therefore, I tried to create a kind of “map of the playing techniques” in Italy and to give instructions for assigning the appropriate playing technique to the original salterio repertoire. The search for original playing utensils such as hammers and finger rings and their reproduction were the first steps towards a more precise exploration of these techniques. The next major part of my artistic research was the application of battuto and pizzicato on my original instrument in equal measure.

This revealed an extremely wide spectrum of sound colors, which allowed me to experience and understand this instrument and its repertoire in an entirely new way. It enabled the Italian salterio to become an acoustically quick-change artist appealing to listeners in new ways. This unique talent in combination with its ethereal, overtone-rich sound enchanted the audience then and continues to do so today.

This research aims to fully recall these lost sound aspects of the eighteenth century and is, therefore, a study that passionately advocates the diversity of musical experience in the context of historical performance practice.


“Salterio practice at the Collegio San Francesco Saverio in Bologna”
in: Dramma scolastico ed oratorio nell´età barocca, a cura di Niccolò Maccavino, Reggio Calabria, editione del Concervatorio F. Cilea, 2019

“Salterio italiano” – Klangfarbenmalerei mit pizzicato und battuto / Painting shades of sound with pizzicato and battuto (2018)
in: Liner notes for the CD “Salterio italiano”, Christophorus CHR77426

“Antonio Battaglia’s salterio workshop – a place of creativity and innovation”
in: Preziosi Strumenti. Illustri Personaggi. Liuteria e Musica tra Seicento e Novecento in Europa, a cura di Giovanni Accornero, Edizioni Il Salabue, 2018

“Ein sanfter Tröster hochgeborener Ohren” – Das italienische Salterio im 18. Jahrhundert
in: Concerto. Das Magazin für Alte Musik, Hsg. Johannes Jansen, 2019