The presence in the Mdina Cathedral Museum of an important music collection has strongly influenced scholarly activity. The availability of such rich documentation represents an endless stimulus for local and foreign researchers. Study of these archives has brought to light interesting documents related to past musical activities. Thanks to the work of Mons. John Azzopardi, Curator of the Mdina Cathedral Museum, who has organized, inventoried and made available to the public the music collections of the Cathedral Museum, these music archives today are definitely the richest ones on the Maltese islands and, in general, in the Mediterranean area.

The richness of the Cathedral Museum has provided fertile ground for the development of scholarly research. In the last few years, an important project of cataloguing has been undertaken to make more people aware of these music sources, both in Malta and abroad. Following the aims of this project, I have decided to proceed in the cataloguing of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century manuscript collection. This work actually represents the second volume of a three-volume doctoral thesis entitled La Cappella Musicale della Cattedrale di Malta nel diciassettesimo e diciottesimo secolo (The Musical Chapel of the Cathedral of Malta in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century), which I presented at the “Union Formation et Recherche – Musique et Musicologie” of the Sorbonne University, Paris, in May 1998.

This collection, together with the printed one, represents the repertoire played at the Mdina Cathedral musical chapel, an institution which was founded in the 1620’s. In particular, this catalogue covers exclusively the seventeenth and eighteenth century (part of nineteenth century collections have been already catalogued and published). The works described in this catalogue include both Italian and Maltese music. The seventeenth century is represented mainly by Italian composers, several of whom belong to the Sicilian and the Roman polyphonic schools. Most of the manuscripts of this period are made up of single partbooks, while the scores are very rare. In comparison, the eighteenth-century collection is represented mainly by original full scores compiled by two Maltese composers, Benigno Zerafa and Francesco Azopardi, both chapel masters (the latter also organist) at the Mdina Cathedral in the second half of the century. This section is also characterized by a large number of instrumental and vocal parts, following the growth of the musical ensemble that in the eighteenth century became one of the biggest and better organized music institutions on the Maltese islands.

Organization of the Catalogue

This catalogue adopts the international standard descriptions of musical manuscripts as established by R.I.S.M. (Repertoire Internationale des Sources Musicales). Two other irreplaceable manuals for cataloguing music manuscripts have been consulted, namely those written in collaboration by M. Donà, A. Zecca Laterza, E. Zanetti (1979) and M. Gentili Tedeschi (1984).

The entries are ordered following the cataloguing number (Ms. 1-584) and each one is organized in the following areas:

  1. Cataloguing number
  2. Uniform title
  3. Title
  4. Physical description
  5. Notes

The Uniform or Conventional Title includes the normalized title with synthetic notes about the music genre, scoring, and tonality (only for works dated after seventeenth century). The Title area carries the faithful transcription of the title as found in the source, including the original punctuation and mistakes. The Physical Area includes remarks about autograph or copy, date, number of pages of score and/or partbooks, and size. A separate list of voices and instruments is provided when the partbooks are missing or incomplete. The Notes Area gives all other relevant information about the presence of binding, notes of ex libris, dedications etc. The relation of the work to other copies (identical or with different arrangement) is also noted, as well as the presence of a printed copy.

– Dr. Franco Bruni