The complicated history of F. Lamperti’s “appoggio” – Part 1

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Article XII
By singing appoggiata, is meant that all notes, from the lowest to the highest, are produced by a column of air over which the singer has perfect command, by holding back the breath, and not permitting more air than is absolutely necessary for the formation of the note to escape from the lungs.

– Francesco Lamperti’s “The Art of Singing” (English edition of 1890 by J. C. Griffith)

Original Italian of Articolo XII in the Guida teorico-pratica-elementare:

“Per appoggio ossia regola del fiato s’intende che tutte le note dal basso all’alto e viceversa, sieno fatte col medesimo volume d’aria, trattenendo il respiro, cioè non permettendo che il fiato raccolto nei polmoni sfugga più del bisogno.”

The more precise translation of Articolo XII:

“[For] support, namely, regulation of the breath, it is meant that all of the notes from bottom to top and vice versa, be made with the same volume of air, withholding the breath, that is, not allowing that the breath collected in the lungs escape more than needed.” [This is close enough to the first translation above to keep the two functionally the same, although the phrases “over which the singer has perfect command” and “for the formation of the note” were not in the original.]

This is a very simple definition of appoggio, and if we have any faith in the principle of Occam’s Razor, which can be summarized as “Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.”, then the complicated instructions that are associated with appoggio today are probably excessive. How did “support” become so complicated? Before the 1860s, it was an unknown concept. Over the next century it became a buzzword all over the world.

In my next post, we will look at Article VII, in which appoggio is first defined, and see how the most frequently cited English edition strayed much further from Lamperti’s original, relatively simple definition and instructions.

The original Guida and the 1890 version can both be downloaded for free here.

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