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Pertinent discussion from User talk:SemperBlotto[edit]

This entry was discussed on SemperBlotto’s talk page; here is the discussion that ensued:

Hi there.

From "Grove Music Online" - The word is not genuine Italian and has been little used by Italian composers. It was apparently coined by Joachim Raff, whose Sinfonietta in F for ten wind instruments, op.188, was published in 1874.

From "The Oxford Companion to Music" - Since the early 20th century the Italian form ‘sinfonietta’ has been preferred (the word is not genuinely Italian, however).

Cheers. SemperBlotto 13:37, 16 June 2010 (UTC)

I and the entry stand corrected. Could you furnish us with publication information and/or links for those two authorities, please?  — Raifʻhār Doremítzwr ~ (U · T · C) ~ 14:06, 16 June 2010 (UTC)
Well - I access them through my local library's "Online Reference Library". This supposedly needs a library card number to obtain access - but, in fact, the websites only seem to check the format of the number supplied. Herts library card numbers have the format B123456789 (that information is not secret as far as I know). SemperBlotto 14:37, 16 June 2010 (UTC)
I've added that information. The sources seem to contradict each other, however, with Grove saying that it is the German-Swiss composer Joachim Raff's coinage (though in which form it does not specify) from 1874, and the OCM saying that it is the Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's French coinage from 1880–7. Do you know of a list of cognates and calques? Wikipedia has w:de:Sinfonietta, w:ja:シンフォニエッタ (shinfonietta), and w:sv:Sinfonietta. To ensure a correct etymology, we need to know which language first spawned this term, and what form the term took (French? Italian? Something else?)…  — Raifʻhār Doremítzwr ~ (U · T · C) ~ 16:03, 16 June 2010 (UTC)
This seems to be a use of the French symphoniette (in French) from 1872, which is two years before Raff's composition. I have not been able to find any pre-1874 uses of sinfonietta in any language. That said, there were so many incorrectly-dated pre-1874 hits for sinfonietta that I'm reluctant to take that single hit as conclusive until I've seen clearly the date of publication on its title page.  — Raifʻhār Doremítzwr ~ (U · T · C) ~ 16:16, 16 June 2010 (UTC)
OK, this confirms that that French source is from 1872.  — Raifʻhār Doremítzwr ~ (U · T · C) ~ 16:28, 16 June 2010 (UTC)
This is outside of my comfort zone - I have always assumed that etymology was just guesswork! However, in my Italian dictionaries are - sinfonia, sinfoniale, sinfonicamente, sinfonico, sinfonismo, sinfonista - and even sinfonietta in one of them. The only Italian etymology website that I know of has sinfonia only.SemperBlotto 16:18, 16 June 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for creating the Italian entry. I've asked Mglovesfun to create an entry for the French symphoniette. The Italian sinfonietta and its plural sinfoniette are both attested from 1884, if you trust these two; I'll attempt to verify their publication dates soon. I'll also try to find the earliest attestion date for the English sinfonietta; if it is prior to the first attestion date of the Italian term, then it's very unlikely that the former derives from the latter. Could you add those two 1884 citations (with translations) to the Italian entry please? I'm especially curious to know why the citation of the singular italicises the term. Right now, I need to give Wiktionary a rest and go off to do some IRL work.  — Raifʻhār Doremítzwr ~ (U · T · C) ~ 17:26, 16 June 2010 (UTC)
I've now collected citations of the earliest instances of sinfonietta and its plurals in English (see Citations:sinfonietta). The dates of first attestation in four languages are:
  1. French (as symphoniette) — 1872
  2. German — 1874
  3. English — 1881
  4. Italian — 1884
I conclude that it is very unlikely that the English sinfonietta derives from the Italian. AFAICT, the French citation from 1872 looks like a non-technical use — perhaps a belittling diminutive — but I'll wait until I get a translation of the quotation before making a decision either way. ATM, my best guess is that the English term was adopted from the German; however, both of the 1881 English citations treat the word as a novel coinage. Knowing more about Mr. F.H. Cowen's biography would help, I think. I'll search for the first technical use of the French symphoniette in due course (The Oxford Companion to Music asserts that it was Rimsky-Korsakov’s 1880 Symphoniette sur des thèmes russes, but since it wasn't published until 1887, that makes symphoniette an extremely unlikely candidate for etymonship if Rimsky-Korsakov’s is the first technical use of the term in French).  — Raifʻhār Doremítzwr ~ (U · T · C) ~ 23:16, 16 June 2010 (UTC)
Feel free to add the Italian citations. I'll then follow on with a translation. SemperBlotto 06:55, 17 June 2010 (UTC)
I've added them to the citations page.
AFAICT, the 1884 citation of sinfonietta (italicised) is a personal letter from 1810. The source is here. The headings to the first few letters (up to the one quoted) in that part VI (if that's what it is) are "Benedetto Giovio al cav. Ugo Brunetti da Milano", "Il conte Giov. Battista Giovio da Como al cav. Brunetti", followed by six headings which are identically "Lo stesso da Como", in case they're important. This is interesting in that it drags the first attestation date back 74 years; however, since the letter was not published until 1884, it could not have been an influence upon other languages before that date. Pertinently, I need you to tell me whether it seems like a technical or non-technical use to you, which is why I included so much context.
I could not verify the date of the 1884? citation of sinfoniette; however, that isn't much of a problem, given that that is also the publication date of the verified 1810 citation of sinfonietta. I may need to gather more citations for the Italian term. Any context you can give me on this one would be much appreciated.
Let me know what you make of those. I didn't add them to the entry because they need to presented in an abbreviated form in the entry itself, and since I don't speak Italian, I reckoned that you'd do a better job of that than I would.  — Raifʻhār Doremítzwr ~ (U · T · C) ~ 15:00, 17 June 2010 (UTC)
I've added (not without some difficulty) an attempt at a translation. Barmar would do better but she's offline this week. The first text uses informal, almost playful language - sinfonietta is in italics to emphasise this playful use of language. In that last short quotation, I'm not at sure of how to translate ordinario. It can mean ordinary (as a noun) but also professor (at a university). SemperBlotto 19:40, 17 June 2010 (UTC)
Thank you for your efforts.
  1. Are you sure that the sinfonietta of the Italian 1810 citation should remain sinfonietta in the translation? In English, sinfonietta is a technical term only, and doesn't have a playful or diminutive usage as it might have in Italian. English doesn't form diminutives nearly as easily as other languages (such as Dutch); instead, the diminished noun tends to be prepended with an adjective, usually little. That said, "little symphony" sounds a bit strange (probably because it, too, is a technical term). Am I correct in thinking that the use of sinfonietta in that letter is meant to have a diminutive quality similar to that which the English ditty might have?
  2. I've added more context to that 1884? Italian citation, in case that helps. Moreover, please note this exciting find, which I think is the same source; am I right in concluding that the source is a letter written on the 15ᵗʰ of February in 1620 from Claudio Monteverdi to Count Allessandro Striggio qua advisor to H.S.H. Duke Ferdinand I Gonzaga of Mantua?
Thanks again for your help.  — Raifʻhār Doremítzwr ~ (U · T · C) ~ 17:25, 20 June 2010 (UTC)

Hi SB. Are you able to verify the context of that 1620 cite?  — Raifʻhār Doremítzwr ~ (U · T · C) ~ 09:57, 17 July 2010 (UTC)

Far too much talk about a little word - I've moved on. SemperBlotto 10:00, 17 July 2010 (UTC)
No problem; thanks for letting me know. (Now I can take your talk page off my watchlist.) I'll copy this discussion to Talk:sinfonietta where it can serve as a basis for future research.  — Raifʻhār Doremítzwr ~ (U · T · C) ~ 11:19, 17 July 2010 (UTC)