Banda Turca

Translated by Michael Quinn

The Timpani and Percussion Instruments in 19th-Century Italy


Prof. Renato Meucci's treatise on 19th-Century Italian percussion practice and instrument fabrication, which first appeared in 1998 in "Studi Verdiani No. 13" of the Istituto Nazionale di Studi Verdiani, and available in Italian only, has now been translated into English making its pertinent contents available to a wider practicing musical public.


From the introduction:

The nearly total absence of historical studies dealing with Italian percussion has led to insufficient recognition of the role that these instruments played in the Italian orchestra of the 1800’s, and to the erroneous conviction that there was no experimentation on the part of Italian instrument makers, or that what there was, was totally irrelevant. The situation appears quite different however if one goes to the available historical sources on the subject. These give us, instead, a glimpse of performance practice and inventive activity in Italy in constant ferment during the course of the century. It is appropriate therefore to attempt to shed light on the characteristics of construction, the terminology, and the components of this neglected section of the 19th-century orchestra, with the intent to illustrate musical practice that, although seeming very near to us, differed greatly from present custom. Moreover, it is hoped that this research will contribute to critical editions of Italian scores of the 19th century, which inevitably face the intriguing singularities of this many-faceted register of the orchestra.

— Renato Meucci

From the Translator’s Preface:

The very first time I attended a lecture by Renato Meucci that dealt with the subject of this handbook, I began to think of translating his useful and sometimes startling research for those that need it most: performing percussionists and their conductors. Here was truly new and clearly-explained information. Since then, the many questions I have received (even in Italy) and the frequent postings on the Percussive Arts Society’s website are a good indication of the interest in, and the confusion surrounding, the material presented here.

— Michael Quinn


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A softcover handbook with

96 pages

17 Illustrations

Text containing original material from the personal notebooks of Arrigo Boito, an abstract of documents from the Istituto Lombardo pertaining to the awarding of prizes for timpani tuning mechanisms, and the only known part in Italian opera ever written expressly for jingling johnny

Index of foreign terms

Handbook format for ready reference, fits in stick case

Space for personal notes with manuscript staves



Contents include discussions of:

– Instrument construction

– 19th-Century timpani performance practice and “wrong notes”

– Scoring for the Banda Turca

– The standard orchestral percussion instruments and their 19th-Century Italian nomenclature

– Musical Glasses, the Scampanaio, Cappel Cinese, and other exotics


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The Timpani and Percussion Instruments in 19th-Century Italy


« I found the work very informative. It will be a most useful reference work, especially for my opera percussion class at the Royal College of Music… »

— Michael Skinner, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden


« ... endlich werden viele Mythen, Ungereimtheiten und Missverständnisse klar, verständlich und fundiert abgehandelt. ist eine Freude das Buch zu lesen. »
[« ... finally, many myths, nonsense, and misunderstandings, are considered in a clear, intelligent, and well-substantiated manner. ...the book is a pleasure to read. »]

— Oliver Madas, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Vienna State Opera


« There has never been anything with the authority and expertise that this small volume commands. I'll refer to it often when writing my column “Terms Used in Percussion” »

— Michael Rosen, Oberlin College Conservatory, Columnist “Percussive Notes”


« ... totally fascinating. The whole sistro and sistri discussion is of great interest. »

— Frank Epstein, Boston Symphony Orchestra


« ... a definitive work on the instruments and performance practices of this period. ...Meucci's research is by far the most extensive and profusely documented. »

— Gary Cook, University of Arizona, Past President, Percussive Arts Society


« ... this book is essential reading for anyone involved in playing, conducting, editing, or just interested in, Italian music of the nineteenth century ... »

— Jeremy Montagu, The Galpin Society Journal


« ... includes excellent descriptions of the instruments and their use in performance ... »

— George Frock, Percussive Notes

To contact the translator write to: