A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Mandoline

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MANDOLINE (Ital. Mandolino) is a small and very beautifully formed stringed instrument of the lute kind, with deeper convexity of back than the lute. It is, as its name implies, less in size than the Mándola or Mandóra, a much scarcer instrument. Mándola, or Mándorla, signifies 'almond,' and it has been supposed that the shape of the instrument has given it the name. But this cannot be accepted, since the almost universal use of the syllable 'Man' unchanged, or changed by phonetic variation to 'Ban,' Tan,' 'Tan,' etc., for the first syllable of names of lute instruments from East to West, removes it to a wider etymological field.

There are two varieties of Mandoline, the Neapolitan and the Milanese; the former having four pairs of strings, the latter usually five. The Milanese 'Mandurina' is tuned

{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \relative g { \cadenzaOn g4 ~ g c ~ c a' ~ a d ~ d e ~ e } }

There is one at South Kensington with six pairs, tuned

{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \relative g { \cadenzaOn g4 ~ g b ~ b e ~ e a ~ a d ~ d e ~ e } }

The Milanese variety, however, is rare in comparison with the Neapolitan, the tuning of which is like that of the violin, in fifths. The lowest pair of strings is of gut, spun over with silver or copper, like a guitar first string; the next of steel also spun over; the second and first pairs are of steel only. The Mandoline is played with a plectrum of tortoise-shell, whalebone,horn, or ostrich-quill, more or less flexible, which is held in the right hand, the left being employed to stop the strings, for which purpose there are seventeen frets across the fingerboard. The scale of the instrument is three octaves and one note, from the G below the treble stave to the octave of A above it. The Serenade in Mozart's Don Giovanni, 'Deh vieni,' was written to be accompanied by the Mandoline:—

{ \time 6/8 \key d \major \relative d'' { d16-. e-. fis-. g-. a-. fis-. d8-. fis-. a-. | g16 a b cis d b g8 b d | a,16 b cis d e fis g fis g e cis e | d fis d a e a d,4 r8 \bar "||" } }

The pzzicato of the violins is of a different colour of tone, and offers but a poor substitute.

The Mandoline is not however the correct instrument. Don Juan would have played a Bandurria, a kind of half guitar and truly national Spanish instrument, sometimes incorrectly called a Mandoline. The back of the bandurria is flat; it has only in common with the Mandoline that it is played with a plectrum of tortoiseshell, called in Spanish 'pua,' and that it is the practice to insert a plate of the same substance in the belly below the soundhole to prevent the plectrum scratching. The bandurria has twelve strings timed in pairs, the higher three notes of catgut the lower of silk overspun with metal. It is tuned much more deeply than the Mandoline. The compass is in all three octaves.

{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \clef bass \cadenzaOn g,4 ~ g, c ~ c f ~ f g ~ g \clef treble e' ~ e' a' ~ a' }

The Spanish 'Estudiantina,' in London 1879, had eleven bandurrias in their band and six guitars.

The most recent instruction-book for the Neapolitan Mandoline is by Signer Carmine de Laurentiis, and is published by Ricordi, Milan. Our illustration is from an instrument in the possession of Mr. Carl Engel.

Beethoven's friend Krumpholz was a virtuoso on the Mandoline, and this probably explains the fact of Beethoven's having written a piece for the instrument (Thayer, ii. 49). The autograph is to be found in the volume of MS. sketches and fragments preserved in the British Museum, Add. MSS. 29,801. Though entitled 'Sonatina per il Mandolina. Composta da L. v. Beethoven,' it is only in one movement, and is here printed probably for the first time. It will be observed that the phrase with which the Trio (C major) begins is the same which Beethoven afterwards used in the Allegretto of op. 14, No. 1. [App. p.709 "the Sonatine, also an Adagio in E♭ for the Mandoline and Cembalo are given in the supplemental volume for Beethoven's works (B. & H. 1887)."]

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[ A. J. H. ]