David Kellner's Popular Eighteenth-Century Thoroughbass Manual
David Kellner. Treulicher Unterricht im
General-Bass, worinnen alle Weitläuftigkeit vermieden, und
dennoch gantz deutlich und umständlich vielerley neuerfundene
Vortheile an die Hand gegeben werden, vermöge welcher einer in
kurtzer Zeit alles, was zu dieser Wissenschafft gehöret, sattsam
begreifen kann...Mit einer Vorrede des Herrn Daniel
Solanders...Vierte Auflage. Hamburg: Zu finden bey Christian
Herolds sel. Wittwe, 1767. Fourth edition (first published in
1732). Small quarto (8.4375 x 7 inches; 214 x 179 mm.). , 98,
[6, "Register"] pages (signature collation: )(3 A-N4). Two large
engraved diagrams (on pages 6 and 60) and two smaller woodcut
diagrams (on pages 58 and 73) in the text. The wheel for the
volvelle on page 6, depicting the "circle of fifths," is lacking
(no volvelle wheels called for on pages 58, 60, and 73). Woodcut
musical notation. Decorative woodcut head- and tail-pieces and
Contemporary half calf, ruled in blind, over drab boards; spine decoratively tooled in blind in compartments with four raised bands; edges sprinkled red. The binding is worn, with some small areas of surface loss; the boards, which appear to have been decorated at one time, are rubbed and stained. The text is quite browned; staining in the upper margin through most of the text, heaviest at the beginning; an additional faint dampstain in the outer blank margin throughout. Worming to the front free endpaper and first five leaves, including the title, affecting one word; three additional small holes in blank portions of the title, one neatly filled in, just touching the upper edge of one word in the imprint; another small hole through page 6, touching a couple of letters in the catchword on )(3v and the last line on A1v; worming to the rear free endpaper and last five leaves (pages 95-98 and the six pages of the "Register"), touching a few letters or numbers; a few tiny wormholes in the outer blank margin throughout. The hole where the volvelle would be attached on page 6 has resulted in the loss of two letters on page 5, and a short split around the circular support for the volvelle is also affecting a couple of letters (with no loss). Small rust hole in the lower blank margin of B1 (pages 9/10); a few additional small rust spots or stains, and an occasional ink smudge. A good, sound copy of this scarce edition. No copies of any edition have sold at ABPC in the last forty years, and only four copies of this edition are located in WorldCat, with an additional three in the Karlsruhe Virtual Catalog. Pencilled ownership inscription, dated 1822, on the front pastedown. From the library of John Carroll Collins, with his booklabel on front pastedown.
Few details are known about the life of German organist, lutenist, composer, and theorist David Kellner (ca. 1670-1748) before 1711 when he was in Stockholm. He was born in the small village of Liebertwolkwitz near Leipzig. He studied briefly in Turku (Åbo) in Finland, then a Swedish province, where his brother Christian was organist at the cathedral, and then, in 1694, he moved to Tartu (Dorpat), in another Swedish province, Livonia (today Estonia and Latvia), where his brothers Philip and later Johann, were living. It was primarily as an occasional poet and not as a musician that Kellner was known during his stay in Livonia. In 1700 the Great Northern War broke out and Kellner enlisted in the Swedish army. This period of his life comprised nearly ten years and he had both been prisoner of war and also injured. As his publisher Kissner states in his preface to the first edition of the Treulicher Unterricht, "Kellner had die besten Jahre seiner Jugend im Kriege gebracht (spent the best years of his youth at war)." See Kenneth Sparr, David Kellner - A Biographical Survey (Stockholm, Sweden: 1997), for this and other details of Kellner's life.
At the end of 1710 Kellner was in Stockholm, which had been ravaged by bubonic plague between August 1710 and April 1711. In January 1711 he was appointed organist at Jacobskyrka (St. Jacob's church) and carillonneur at the German Church (St. Gertrud's church), and by the 1720s, Kellner had begun to prepare his thoroughbass manual, based upon practical experience. The full title reads: Treulicher Unterricht im General-Bass, worinnen alle Weitläuftigkeit vermieden, und dennoch gantz deutlich und umständlich vielerley neuerfundene Vortheile an die Hand gegeben werden, vermöge welcher einer in kurtzer Zeit alles, was zu dieser Wissenschafft gehöret, sattsam begreifen kann. Zum Nutzen, nicht allein derer, so sich im General-Bass üben, sondern auch aller andern Instrumentisten und Vocalisten, welche einen rechten Grund in der Music zu legen sich befleissigen ("A true method of thorough-bass in which all diffuseness is avoided, and, many newly-invented devices are quite fully and clearly given, by means of which anyone can in a short time fully master everything that pertains to this science. To the benefit not only of those who practise thorough-bass, but also of all instrumentalists and vocalists who take pains to lay a proper foundation in music").
"Kellner's primary fame rests on his popular thoroughbass manual, Treulicher Unterricht im General-Bass, published in Hamburg in 1732, and reissued in numerous editions until as late as 1796, including Swedish (1739) and Dutch (1741) translations...The long-lived popularity of Kellner's treatise, especially in Sweden, where it was almost the only instructional work of its type in use for a long period, can be explained by its brevity (less than 100 pages) and the conciseness of the explanations. The work stands in marked contrast to the more important thoroughbass works of the period by [Johann] Mattheson and [Johann David] Heinichen, which were exceedingly complex, lengthy and undoubtedly expensive. Kellner divided his book into seven chapters: 1. On intervals, chords, regulating the parts; 2. On the use of the figures; 3. On the natural Ambitus of keys and the accompaniment; 4. On unusual progressions which deviate from natural ones; 5. On the modulation [Ausweichungen] of keys; 6. On the nature of consonances; 7. On the use of dissonances" (George J. Buelow in Grove Music Online).
Kellner's diagram of the circle of fifths is the earliest example of the modern layout with major keys and minor keys in two concentric circles, the major immediately outside its relative minor. "Johann David Heinichen constructed the earliest known circle of fifths in 1728 [in his Der General-Bass in der Composition]...Each major key is paired with its relative minor, with the odd result that major seconds appear between the alternate pairs of keys. Johannes Mattheson, a few years later [in his 1731 Grosse General-Bass-Schule], tried the alternate configuration...The major seconds are gone in Mattheson's scheme, but are replaced by even stranger goings-on...The problem with both of these schemes lies in the attempt to depict two different types of relationship (circle-of-fifths and relative major/minor) in one dimension (around the perimeter of the circle). David Kellner, in 1737, was apparently the first to solve the problem neatly by nesting a circle of minor keys inside a circle of major keys so that relative keys align...Kellner's circle accurately models the modern conception of 'closely related keys': the keys directly adjacent to C major around the outer circle or directly or diagonally adjacent to it on the inner circle are exactly the five other keys having no more than one sharp or flat in their key signature" (Julian L. Hook, "Hearing With Our Eyes: The Geometry of Tonal Space," page 130).
Eitner V, page 340. Gregory & Bartlett, Catalogue of Early Books on Music, pages 134-135.
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