A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Alberti bass

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ALBERTI BASS. A familiar formula of accompaniment which first came prominently into fashion early in the 18th century, and has since been the frequent resource of hundreds of composers from the greatest to the meanest. It derives its distinctive name from Domenico Alberti, a musician who is supposed to have been born during the second decade of the 18th century at Venice, where he became a pupil of Lotti. He won fame both as a singer and as a player on the harpsichord, and wrote some operas and a considerable number of sonatas, some of which were very popular with musical amateurs. It is not very probable that he actually invented the formula, but he certainly brought it into undue prominence in his sonatas, and therefore did his best to deserve a notoriety which is not altogether enviable. A set of eight sonatas of his, which was published by Walsh in London, affords good illustrations of his love of it. He uses it plentifully in every sonata of the set, sometimes in both movements, and occasionally almost throughout a whole movement. For instance, in the first movement of the second sonata it persists through thirty-seven bars out of a total of forty-six; and in the first movement of the sixth sonata it continues through thirty-six whole bars and four half bars out of a total of forty-four. The following quotation from the beginning of the sixth sonata illustrates his style, and his manner of using the formula.

{ \time 4/4 \tempo "Allegro moderato." \key g \major << \relative d'' { d8.\trill c32 d e8 d d4 c | c8.\trill b32 c d8 c c4 b | }
\new Staff { \clef bass \key g \major \relative g { g16 d' b d g, d' b d g, e' c e a, e' c e | fis, d' c d fis, d' c d g, d' c d g, d' b d | } } >> }


The fact of his having been a singer at a time when Italian opera was passing into an empty and meretricious phase, may account for his excessive use of the so-called 'bass.' [See also Arpeggio, i. 87 a; Horn, i. 748 b; Lotti, ii. 168 a.] He has been injudiciously credited with the invention of the sad subject in the binary form, and is said to have been the first to associate contrast of subjects with contrast of keys; a theory which is equally ill-founded. He died comparatively young in 1740.