"That Awkward Scale": Verdi, Puccini, and the Scala enigmatica

Richard Burke
2015 unpublished
NOTE: The examples for the (text-only) PDF version of this item are available online at: http://www.mtosmt.org/issues/mto.15.21.2/mto.15.21.2.burke.php ABSTRACT: On August 5, 1888, the Gazzetta musicale di Milano challenged its readers to harmonize a curious scale that it had received from a famous Bolognese musician. Two weeks later, the journal's editors published several commendable solutions, including one by the scale's inventor, Adolfo Crescentini. The Gazzetta's "scala-rebus" (or
more » ... zzle) would likely have been forgotten were it not for the fact that Verdi wrote his own solution (not published in the journal), which formed the basis for his Ave Maria and later found its way into his Quattro Pezzi Sacri. This article examines several solutions to the "scala-rebus," focusing especially on Verdi's. Yet it goes even further, proposing that Crescentini's scale inspired not only Verdi but also Puccini. The opening measures of Puccini's Tosca bear striking similarities to the "scala