Italiana (No. 59)—transcribed by Oscar Chilesotti

Classical guitar Italiana (No. 59) is a lute piece from Da un Codice Lauten-Buch del Cinquecento: Transcrizioni in notazione moderna di Oscar Chilesotti.[1] The compilation of lute transcriptions contains three pieces titled Italiana (Nos. 49, 59, and 60). Therefore, to distinguish the piece, I include in the title the number of the work from Chilesotti's book. One of the three pieces (No. 49) is in 2/4 and the other two in 3/4. So it's not clear what makes an Italiana an Italiana. Usually, pieces sharing the same classification use the same meter.

You will sometimes see Italiana (No. 59) published as Saltarello with Vincenzo Galilei[2] attributed as the composer. The Saltarello version plays the ostinato by itself before starting the melody. It also adds some harmonics to finish the piece. I can find no evidence Vincenzo Galilei composed the piece. I have, however, found footage of Andrés Segovia playing the piece on Italian television after having introduced it as Saltarello. The best I can figure is that Segovia modified the Chilesotti transcription and others have copied Segovia's version. In support of this view, note that the 16th century Renaissance lute had eight frets, yet the Saltarello version requires some harmonics to be played at the 12th fret, an obvious guitar-specific arrangement. Given that sheet music publishers and authors are notorious for not citing their sources, there's no way to know if there exists a source that reliably attributes the work to Vincenzo Galilei. I doubt that Galilei composed the work and am not sure that it follows the saltarello dance rhythm; but I'm no expert on Renaissance dance forms.

Italiana (No. 59) uses a dropped-D tuning and features the same ostinato as Tanz. Before attempting to learn Italiana (No. 59) you should first master Tanz as it is both simpler and shorter. Chilesotti's transcription is in 3/4 time and does not list a tempo. Although I have not seen the original lute tablature (the codex is said to have been lost in a fire), I suspect it used an alla breve meter like Tanz. Therefore, I have notated the piece as 6/4 and chosen an adagio tempo for the dotted half note beat unit.

I've added left and right hand fingering. The fingering should be taken as a suggestion only. There are several ways the piece can be played. My fingerings are idiomatic to the guitar and not at all how you would play the piece on the lute, where you would likely remain as close as possible to the first position. I've chosen to start off in the fifth position and end in the second position. Even though measures 17–24 must be played in the second or first position, the final four measures could be played in the fifth position. Likewise, measures 9–16 could be played in the second position. If my choices don't agree with you, try the alternatives.

Sheet Music

Revision History

Corrected left-hand fingering in measure 17. The F♯ should have used finger 3 instead of 2.

[1] For more information, see the discussion at Dove son quei fieri occhi?.

[2] Vincenzo Galilei was a 16th-century lutenist and Galileo Galilei's father.