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New Piccolo Discovery

Lois Herbine | October 2009

     I recently discovered what is most likely the first piece for solo piccolo and symphonic orchestral accompaniment. Written by Philadelphia Orchestra section flutist, Joseph La Monaca in May of 1923,  Salterello (op. 53) is a catchy four-minute work that was used to demonstrate the piccolo at Philadelphia Orchestra Youth Concerts, conducted by Leopold Stokowski. Both known performances of the Saltarello were performed by John A. Fischer, a member of the orchestra from 1909-1950.

    The first time the Saltarello was performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra was October 12, 1933, but since it is not on the orchestra’s premieres list, it was probably performed elsewhere prior to that date. The 1933 presentation followed the Griffes Poem performed by principal flutist William Kincaid.
    La Monaca’s Saltarello is available on a commercial CD titled Stokowski First Releases (Cala). It is a live recording of the October 27, 1935 Pension Fund Benefit performance. The liner notes provide background details: “Although RCA recorded five 78 rpm sides during this part of the concert, these were later edited down by dubbing to make just a single two-sided 12" disc. This was issued strictly ‘For Private Use Only’ and entitled ‘Pension Fund Notes-Local Boys Make Good.’ However, transferring engineer Ward Marston has discovered some more unissued material, so we hear a complete performance of the Saltarello for Piccolo and Orchestra, only part of which was on the original 78.”
    I first came across this recording while starting research on the recordings of Kincaid and Tabuteau under Leopold Stokowski with the Phila­delphia Orchestra. I then tried to track the score and parts. The Philadelphia Orchestra principal librarian, Robert Grossman, discovered the work had been originally catalogued in their library but was no longer part of their holdings. He suggested I call the Edwin A. Fleisher Collection at the Philadelphia Library.
    Stuart Serio, assistant curator of the collection located the score and parts, which were received into the Philadelphia Library in October 1956. Even though the Fleisher Collection is the world’s largest lending library of orchestral performance materials with nearly 22,000 titles, the Saltarello is the only La Monaca composition in their holdings.
    A saltarello is a lively dance form originally from Naples in the 13th-century. The music, in 6/8  time, would leap and land along with its accompanying dance. La Monaca’s version is both charming and brisk. Although the Saltarello is a solo for the C-piccolo with orchestral accompaniment, the hand-written title page of the solo claims it is a D-flat piccolo part. It is scored for “piccolo obbligato” and orchestra in E major (2 fl, 2 ob, 2 cl, 2 bsn, 4 fr. Hn. 2 trpt, 3 trbn, tymp, snare, cym, and full strings). 
    While the piccolo part has Vivace as the tempo marking, the score also has a metronome marking of a dotted quarter = 152. Its frequent triple-tongued passages are flashy but not overly difficult. 
    The primary melody is reminiscent of a turn-of-the-century idiomatic art song and an Italian Tarantella. It is punctuated with deceptive minor chords adeptly handled in the Cala recording by Stokowski’s sonorous and somewhat ominous brass section with added bassoons, giving it an ambience similar to selections from the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Fantasia soundtrack.
    Composer and flutist Joseph La Monaca was born February 10, 1872, in Noicattaro, Bari, Italy, and received his diploma as flutist and bandmaster from the N. Piccini Conservatory of Bari. He came to America in 1900 with the Royal Marine Band under Giorgio Minoliti, played with Creatore’s Band1, and from 1910 through 1940 was second flutist of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Leopold Stokowski nicknamed him Benito, presumably because he resembled the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. 
    La Monaca performed his own alto flute composition, Primavera Melody, on a Philadelphia Orchestra youth concert on March 1922. The Incidental Dances from his opera, The Festival of Guari, were programmed on a Philadelphia Orchestra series in March 1933. He composed several tone poems for the symphony orchestra, two of which are Caius Graccus, Roman history; and The Earth, according to De Lorenzo in My Complete Story of the Flute. De Lorenzo also claims that La Monaca was known to flutists for his two flute quartets both played at concerts of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Three of his compositions for solo alto flute were published by Carl Fischer.
La Monaca was an early flute teacher of Clement Barone, Jr., former piccoloist of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Their lessons occurred from 1935 to 1939 after the death of Clement Barone’s father and flute teacher, Clement Barone, Sr. who was La Monaca’s friend, neighbor, and Philadelphia Orchestra colleague. 
    In telephone conversations with Emily Butterfield, Clement Barone Jr. recalled La Monaca’s compositional work, including symphonic tone poems, operas, solo wind concertos, and chamber music. According to Barone, La Monaca “was a wonderful composer. He was composing an opera when I was studying with him.” La Monaca was also described by Barone as “a humble gentleman” and “a musician’s musician.” 
    Saltarello would work well as originally intended as a demonstration of the piccolo in a children’s concert. It could also be used as an encore to a piccolo concerto performance or a solo for a pops concert. I will be performing it this July with the Ocean City Pops Orchestra. I believe this is a fitting homage because La Monaca was not only a flutist and composer but also the conductor of the Ocean City’s Orchestra from 1946 to 1948. 
Piccoloists interested in performing Saltarello can email the Fleisher Collection at or call at 215-686-5313.

1 Andrew Fairley, Flutes, Flautists, and Makers (London: Pan Educational Music, 1982), p. 85.
2 My Complete Story of the Flute: The Instrument, the Performer, the Music by Leonardo De Lorenzo. Published by Texas Tech University Press, 1996
3 The Professional Life and Pedagogy of Clement Barone. Butterfield, Emily J.Doctor of Musical Arts, Ohio State University, Music, 2003.

I would like to thank Stuart Serio, Clinton F. Nieweg, Emily Butterfield, Robert Grossman and William Scheible for their assistance in my research.