Faà di Bruno, Giovanni Matteo [Horatio, Orazio] 83

Foli [Foley], A(llan) J(ames)

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Foli [Foley], A(llan) J(ames)

(b Cahir, Tipperary, 7 Aug 1835; d Southport, 20 Oct 1899). Irish bass. Originally a carpenter, he went to Naples to study with Bisaccia when he discovered that he had a good singing voice. He made his début as Elmiro in Rossini's Otello in Catania in December 1862. After appearances in Milan, Modena, Turin and at the Théâtre Italien, Paris, he was engaged by Mapleson for the 1865 season at Her Majesty's Theatre, where he sang Saint-Bris in Les Huguenots and the Second Priest in Die Zauberflöte. He continued to appear in London at Her Majesty's, Drury Lane and Covent Garden until 1887. He sang Daland in the first performance in England of Der fliegende Holländer at Drury Lane in 1870, and had a repertory of more than 60 roles, including Bertram in Robert le diable, Assur and Oroe in Semiramide, and the title role in Rossini's Mosè, which he sang with great success in Russia.

He took part in many of the English choral festivals, and sang in the first performances in England of Berlioz's L'enfance du Christ (1880) and Gounod's Redemption (1882). At ballad concerts he was invariably billed as ‘Signor Foli’. He possessed a powerful voice of more than two octaves, from E to f'.



(Port., It. [It. occasionally follia]; Sp. folía; Fr. folie).

A term for a musical framework used during the Baroque period for songs, dances and sets of variations. In the late 17th century a related, alternative form gained popularity and for some time co-existed with the original model.

1. Origins.

The history of the folia predates the earliest surviving musical sources. A dance called ‘folia’ was popular in late 15th-century Portugal; it probably originated as a folk dance, but Portuguese sources of the period mention folias sung and danced during both popular festivals and courtly spectacles (Vasconcelos, 1904). Folia texts appear in Portuguese in theatrical works by Gil Vicente (c1465–c1536) and in Spanish by Diego Sánchez de Badajoz (c1460–c1536). Sung on stage by an ensemble ‘properly dressed for the folia’ (Vicente, Triunfo do Inverno), they retain a popular tone and a metrical form characterized by a refrain of two, three or four lines (Rey, 1978). The few descriptions of the folia dance containing specific references to its performance manner date from the beginning of the 17th century. In 1611 Sebastián de Covarrubias (Tesoro de la lengua castellana) described the folia as a Portuguese dance, very noisy, performed with tambourines and other instruments by disguised street-porters carrying young men in women’s clothing on their shoulder. He also explained that the name, which means ‘mad’ or ‘empty-headed’, was appropriate because the dance was so fast and noisy that the dancers seemed out of their minds. Gonzalo Correa (Arte de la lengua castellana, 1626) related the poetic form of the folia to that of the seguidilla and added that the performance was accompanied by guitar and sonajas and pandero (types of tambourine).

Since no music for Vicente’s and Badajoz’s plays survives, the relationship between such traditions and the harmonic-melodic formula known later as the folia remains somewhat obscure. Some earlier scholars (Gombosi, Ward) located the origins of folia music in the Spanish and Italian vocal repertory of the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Similarities between the harmonic structure of the 17th-century folia and the chord progressions found in some villancicos in the Cancionero de Palacio (E-Mp 1335; an anthology compiled in Spain for the ‘Reyes Católicos’ Ferdinand and Isabella in about 1500) as well as in some frottolas printed by Petrucci and Antico have led to the suggestion that the folia model was already at work in these compositions. However, like other dance forms and ostinato types, the folia did not consist merely of a chord progression, but included a complex of other distinctive musical elements such as metric patterns, rhythmic and melodic figures, cadential formulae and so forth. The isolated appearance of the chord progression, often fragmented, in compositions whose structure and character are altogether different may not have been associated with the folia music. On the contrary, the use in early 16th-century compositions of chord sequences similar to those of the folia would simply seem to suggest a common musical idiom gravitating toward certain standard progressions.

2. The early folia.

The earliest extant composition to use the folia progression in an ostinato fashion is the Fantasia que contrahaze la harpa in Alonso Mudarra’s Tres libros de música en cifras para vihuela of 1546 (Griffiths, 1986). The title ‘folia’ first appeared in 1577, however, in Francisco de Salinas’s De musica libri septem. The melody given by Salinas (on p.309), and associated with the text ‘No me digays madre mal de padre fray Anton’ does not fit the folia scheme; indeed, it is the tune of ‘Veritate facta’ on the previous page that appears in the next century as the folia melody (ex.1). Some differencias de folías may be found in an anonymous manuscript collection of music for vihuela dated 1593 (Ramillete de flores nuevas, E-Mn 6001). In Italian sources the term makes its first appearance in 1604, in a set of variations by G.G. Kapsberger (Libro primo di intavolatura di chitarrone). There is no doubt that the folia was enjoying great popularity in Italy by the early 17th century. The chords to be strummed as the accompaniment to the folia were included in more than 50 tablatures for the five-course guitar, beginning with Girolamo Montesardo’s Nuova inventione d’intavolatura (1606).

Ex.2 shows the musical design of the early 17th-century folia. The upper staff provides the melodic framework, although the precise melody varies. The lower staff gives the simplest type of guitar accompaniment, with the notes representing chords and the stems showing the strumming direction. Two four-bar ritornellos may occur between renditions of the 16-bar structure; occasionally the latter half is repeated. The opening two beats of anacrusis are sometimes omitted, but in any case the first accent always falls on the V chord. The stroke pattern continually emphasizes 3/4 metre, whereas both the melody and the harmonic changes often oscillate between 3/2 and 6/4. Though most often in G minor, the folia may be cast in other keys or, rarely, in the major mode; sometimes both major and minor modes alternate within a single statement of the scheme. The structural chords of the folia formula may be reached by way of intermediary chords. Examples of this practice abound in guitar books of the first half of the 17th century. These usually present a series of folias, each consisting of a single statement of the scheme, and each adding different chords to the framework of ex.2; these pieces were probably intended as pedagogical examples. Some sources suggest that the folia was still sung in early 17th-century Spain; Luis de Briçeño, in his Método mui facilissimo (Paris, 1626), provided texts as well as guitar music. In Italy texts were not usually given with guitar folias, but the musical framework is indicated for use in singing poetry in I-Fr 2793, 2951, 2973 (III) and Fn XIX 143 and, in keyboard notation, in I-Fn XIX 115. A monody based on the aria della folia appears in Giovanni Stefani’s Scherzi amorosi of 1622.

Sets of instrumental variations on the folia were written for guitar by A.M. Bartolotti (1640), Foscarini (c1640) and Corbetta (1643, 1648, 1671 and 1674), for chitarrone by Alessandro Piccinini (1623), for two violins and continuo by Falconieri (1650) and for keyboard by Frescobaldi (1615), Bernardo Storace (1664), Ximénez (d 1672) and Cabanilles (1694). Early 18th-century examples also appear in Portuguese and Spanish manuscripts (P-Pm 1577, Loc.B, 5 and E-Mn 1538–60).

In his Nova inventione d’intavolatura Montesardo claimed that the music that the Spanish called ‘folia’ was known among Italians as ‘fedele’ (Folia chiamata così dagli Spagnuoli, che da Italiani si chiama Fedele’). In reality, ‘folia’ was the term commonly adopted in Italian prints, but some composers did prefer the name ‘fedele’, including Trabaci (1603), Mayone (1603), Francesco Lambardi (GB-Lbl Add.30491, c1617), P.A. Giramo (a set of three-voice partite on the text ‘Filli mia, Filli cara’ in Arie a più voci, c1650) and Cristoforo Caresana (1693). Two variations on fedele for guitar with bass courses also survive in I-Nc 1321. As Montesardo suggests, no significant differences seem to distinguish the examples of fedele from those of folia. Fedele settings tend to use the first inversion of IV in the third and 11th bars of ex.2. But the same variant, which can be easily explained as a mere variation in the part-writing, occasionally appears also in pieces labelled ‘folia’. The reason why Italian composers adopted such terminological distinction thus remains ambiguous.

The name La gamba, transmitted exclusively in 16th-century sources, seems to have designated a rather different dance type. Although La gamba settings share the same chord progression as the folia, they differ from the folia music in other respects, specifically in their rhythmic shape. Moreover, they usually terminate each statement of the formula with a reiteration of the same chord sequence in shorter note-values. Although not identified as such, Diego Ortiz’s recercada quarta and recercada ottava (Trattado de glosas, 1553) correspond to the La gamba model. In the 16th century a musical framework very close to La gamba circulated under the name Caracossa (or Cara cos(s)a), especially in north European prints and manuscripts. Numerous examples appear in Phalèse’s collections, often in the guise of a gaillarde (see Apfel 1976–7).

3. The late folia.

In the course of the 1670s the folia scheme underwent some decisive transformations. Lully, who composed the earliest known example of the new folia model (an Air des hautbois dated 1672 in F-V 168), no doubt played a vital role in the late history of the genre. His folia settings seem to have exerted a strong influence on French musicians, contributing to the definition of a distinctive local idiom. Francesco Corbetta, one of the most celebrated guitar virtuosos of his time, who emigrated to France in about 1648, might have been in part responsible for this transformation, as some of the characteristic traits of the late folia are already discernible in his works. The new structure developed by Lully and his French colleagues remained popular in France and England until the end of the Baroque period. In France it was often called ‘folie(s) d’Espagne’, in England ‘Farinell(i)’s Ground’. Corbetta’s two sets of variations (La guitarre royalle, Paris, 1671) began with a statement of the scheme in ex.2 in which all second beats were dotted. This threw a powerful secondary accent on the opening chord, a significant detail that may have acted as a transition to the new rhythmic structure employed by the later folia (ex.3). A comparison of like-numbered bars reveals that the chord progression of ex.3 is similar to that of ex.2, especially when III is inserted in the fifth bar. But in the later folia the first accent falls on I, with a resulting shift in the rhythmic structure. The almost fixed melody shown in ex.3 moves a 3rd lower than the melody in ex.2, with second beats dotted, particularly in the odd-numbered bars. The second-beat accentuation may be the reason why Taubert (Rechtschaffener Tanzmeister, 1717); and Mattheson (Der vollkommene Capellmeister, 1739, p.230) related the folia to the saraband. The later folia has no ritornellos, is almost always in D minor (transposed in ex.3 to facilitate comparison), and is generally slow and dignified. Some Spanish sources contain examples of both types of folia (E-Mn 811 and 1360, dated 1705 and 1709; E-Bc 1453). In the Reglas y advertencias generales of Pablo Minguet y Yrol (1754), the earlier type is called ‘folías espagñolas’ and the later type ‘folías italianas’.

Among the earliest examples of the later folia type are some lute variations in the Pièces de luth composées sur différens modes of Jacques Gallot, which date from around the same times as Lully’s Air des hautbois (1672). The new folia first appeared in Spain in Gaspar Sanz’s Instrucción de música sobre la guitarra española (1674) and in England in 1682 as the music for The King’s Health, a political text by Thomas D’Urfey, followed by variations for recorder in 1683 (in Humphrey Salter’s The Genteel Companion) and violin in 1685 (John Playford’s The Division-Violin). Like the earlier folia, this type was used as a scheme for songs and dances, as well as the subject of variation sets. It appeared as a song in Die grossmächtige Thalestris of J.P. Förtsch (1690), as A Royall Ode for the coronation of Queen Anne in 1702 (contained in A Collection of the Choicest Songs, GB-Lbl G.304), in The Beggar’s Opera (1728) and in Le théâtre de la foire of Le Sage and D’Orneval (1724–37); and it is presented as a dance in the books of Feuillet (1700), Gregorio Lambranzi (1716; see illustration) and Taubert (1717). The numerous sets of variations include those by Corelli (1700) and Albicastro (c1700) for violin, Marais (1701) for viol, D’Anglebert (1689), Alessandro Scarlatti and C.P.E. Bach (1778) for keyboard, and Vivaldi (1705) for chamber ensemble. The scheme is quoted in Keiser’s Der lächerliche Printz Jodelet (1726), Bach’s ‘Peasant Cantata’, Grétry’s Les fausses apparences, ou L’amant jaloux (1778) and the overture to Hôtellerie portugaise (1798) by Cherubini. Later works using the folia are Liszt’s Rhapsodie espagnole (1863), Carl Nielsen’s Maskarade (1906) and Rachmaninoff’s Variations on a Theme by Corelli op.42 (1932).


MGG1(O. Gombosi)

MGG2(J. Griffiths)

C.M. de Vasconcelos, ed.: Cancioneiro da Ajuda (Halle, 1904)

J.M. Ward: ‘The Folia’, IMSCR, V: Utrecht 1952, 415–27

M.J. Ward: The Vihuela de mano and its Music (1536–76) (diss., New York U., 1953)

D. Kamper: ‘La Gamba: Folia-Bearbeitungen für Instrumentalensemble um die Mitte des 16. Jahrhunderts in Italien’, GfMKB: Leipzig 1966, 190–95

C.M. Simpson: The British Broadside Ballad and its Music (New Brunswick, NJ, 1966), 216–18

J.M. Ward: ‘Apropos The British Broadside Ballad and its Music’, JAMS, xx (1967), 28–86, esp.37

R. Hudson: ‘The Folia Dance and the Folia Formula in 17th-Century Guitar Music’, MD, xxv (1971), 199–221

R. Hudson: ‘The Folia, Fedele and Falsobordone’, MQ, lviii (1972), 398–411

R. Hudson: ‘The Folia Melodies’, AcM, xlv (1973), 98–119

E. Apfel: Grundlagen einer Geschichte der Satztechnik, iii: Untersuchungen zur Entstehung und Frühgeschichte des Ostinato in der komponierten Mehrstimmigkeit (Saarbrücken, 1976–7)

J.J. Rey: Danzas cantadas en el Renacimiento español (Madrid, 1978)

C. Cunningham: ‘Ensemble Dances in Early 16th-Century Italy: Relationships with Villote and Franco-Flemish Danceries’, MD, xxxiv (1980), 159–204

A. Silbiger: Italian Manuscript Sources of 17th Century Keyboard Music (Ann Arbor, 1980), 39–44

R. Hudson: The Folia, the Saraband, the Passacaglia and the Chaconne, MSD, xxxv (1982)

J. Griffiths: ‘La “Fantasía que contrahaze la harpa” de Alonso Mudarra: estudio histórico-analítico’, RdMc, ix (1986), 29–40

B.B. Mather: Dance Rhythms of the French Baroque: a Handbook for Performance (Bloomington, IN, 1987)


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