The Francesco Molino project

The Collected Music for Guitar Solo by Francesco Molino

Edited by Jan W.J. Burgers

Francesco Molino (1768–1847) was an Italian violinist, guitarist and composer who from 1820 was living in Paris, where he published most of his music. His guitar concerto and his ensemble works with guitar are mostly available in modern editions, but this is not the case with his many fine pieces for guitar solo. These are now collected in the present edition by Jan Burgers.

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Molino's Life

Giovanni Francesco Molino was born in Ivrea on June 4, 1768, into a Piedmontese family of musicians. His father Giuseppe Ignazio Molino was an oboist in the military band of the Reggimento Piemonte, and at first the son took his footsteps by enlisting in 1783 in the same regiment, also as an oboist; he took his leave of the military in 1793. Probably c.1780 he studied the violin with the famous virtuoso Pugnani, and in 1786–89 he held a position as violist in the Teatro regio in Turin. Not much is known of Molino’s whereabouts in the 1790s, when life in Turin became harder for a professional musician because of economic headwind and the French occupation in 1798, which put an end to the lavish court life. Molino probably went to live in Genoa, where he is found with certainty from 1807 onward.

During the Genoese years, he was not only active as a violinist (as is testified by the his first violin concerto, published in 1803 in Paris by Pleyel) but also as a guitarist, as can be induced from the works for that instrument that he published in the 1810s, which were dedicated to aristocratic and bourgeois persons from Genoa. These first works were published by the firm of Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig. The series opened in 1812–13 with the Nouvelle Méthode and coninued until 1817, with thirteen separate works for solo guitar or for guitar and violin, as well as one work with trios for flute, viola and guitar. Perhaps only twelve opus numbers were published; Op. 8 could not be located, so it is either lost or it never appeared.

In the mean time the French occupation of Piemont had ended in 1814, and the new King Victor Emanuel I set up court again in Turin. He quickly established the orchestra of the Capella regia, which had been disbanded in 1798. Francesco Molino was appointed in this ensemble as a violinist with a salary of 400 lires a year, in 1816 raised with another 100 lire. However, in 1818, at the already advanced age age of fifty, he apparently decided that it was time for a change and he took his leave from the coveted and prestigious position at the Capella. He went to Paris to earn his living there as a guitarist. In this he was perhaps spurred by the success of his Leipzig publications, and especially his Nouvelle Méthode, which had been published in new editions in 1817–18 in Turin (by Reycend) and in 1817 in Paris, by Gambaro.

It is not certain when Molino arrived in Paris. In a biographical sketch from 1840 by the mostly well-informed Fétis, it is mentioned that Molino first travelled extensively in Spain. It is indeed a fact that Molino’s nine or ten Paris publications from the years 1818–19 were published by Gambaro. But from 1820 onward he is living in the French capital, as a guitarist, violinist, music teacher and composer. He also started to publish his own works, initially six works together with Gambaro, but from Opus 23 (1820–22) on his own or in cooperation with other publishers. In this decade, Molino published some thirty works, the Opus numbers 23 to 50-55 (the latter cannot be exactly dated). These include, apart from a solmisation method and a violin concerto, works for solo guitar, guitar duos and trios with various instruments (flute, viola, piano), and seven guitar methods. Nine or ten of the works for solo guitar and the duos and trios were in 1824–27 also edited by Breitkopf & Härtel, probably shortly after their Paris publication; Molino evidently had re-established contact with the Leipzig firm.

In the early 1830s Molino published a series of another ten works, Opera 56-65 (but nos. 62-64 are missing), for guitar, guitar duo with another instrument (piano and flute ot violin) and a guitar concerto. Hereafter it seems that his creative years were over. He probably earned a living with teaching and giving concerts; we hear for instance that in February 1835 he performed in England at the birthday party of the Countess of Newburgh, where he ‘delighted the company by his exquisite and unique execution, on the guitar and violin’. Probably after a break, so perhaps in the second half of the decade, Molino published his last three known works: Opera 65 (again using that number!) and 66 for guitar and 68 for violin solo; no. 67 is missing. After that he probably lived a quiet life in retirement in Paris, where he died in 1847.


Presumed portrait of Francesco Molino, drawing by Bonifacio Jacopo Donato(?), 1822. Private collection. From: Mario Dall’Ara, Francesco Molino: Vita e opere (Savigliano, 2014), vol. I, p. 30.


Molino’s works for guitar solo

Molino’s music appeared almost exclusively in printed editions of the period, many of them published by the author alone or in cooperation with others; only his first works from the 1810s were published by others, namely Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig and Gambaro in Paris (and one Method by Reycend in Turin). A few stray works are only known from publications in the United States, England and Germany. Moreover, Molino published many pieces for guitar solo in his guitar Methods. These works have all been included in the present edition, except for the exercises (scales, chord breakings, right hand exercises etcetera).

The present series comprises 49 volumes, chronologically arranged. We give an overview, in which the works that appeared without an opus number have a WO number. The additions of a P and L to opus numbers indicate the place of publication, Paris or Leipzig, to distinguish the numbers that where used twice. Reprints by other publishers are not mentioned.

1     WO 3          Nouvelle Méthode, Leipzig 1812–13
2     Op. 1          Trois Sonates faciles, Leipzig 1812
3     Op. 5          Six Thêmes de J. Pleyel, Leipzig 1812
4     Op. 6          Trois Sonates, Leipzig 1812
5     Op. 9L         XII Walses, Leipzig 1817
6     Op. 11L       Six Rondeaux, Leipzig 1817
7     Op. 12L       Six Themes avec variations, Leipzig 1817
8     Op. 13L       Deux Fantaisies, Leipzig 1817
       WO 4          Metodo per Chitarra, Turin 1817–18. Contents = WO 3
       WO 5a        Nouvelle Méthode, Paris 1817. Contents = WO 3
9     WO 5b        Nouvelle Méthode, 2nd, enlarged edition, Paris 1819
10   Op. 9P-1     Douze Thèmes variés 1, Paris 1818
11   Op. 9P-2     Douze Thèmes variés 2, Paris 1819
12   Op. 9P-3     Douze Thèmes variés 3, Paris 1819
13   Op. 10P-2   Vingt-quatre Valtz 2, Paris 1819 (first volume missing)
14   Op. 11P      Divertissements faciles, Paris 1820
15   Op. 12P      La Terpsicore des Sociétés, Paris 1820
16   Op. 13P      Sonatine suivie de Romances..., Paris 1820
17   Op. 14        Receuil de Sicilienne..., Paris 1820
18   Op. 15        Trois Sonates, Paris 1820–22
19   Op. 17        Grande Ouverture..., Paris 1820–22
20   Op. 18        Quatre Thèmes variés, Paris 1820–22
21   Op. 20        La Terpsicore des Societés 2, Paris 1820–22
22   Op. 21        Quatre Thèmes variés, Paris 1820–22
23   Op. 23        Variations sur Au clair de la lune, Paris 1820–22
24   Op. 24        Le maître de guitare, Paris 1822. Method
25   Op. 26        Nouveau Divertissement de morceaux, Paris 1822–23
26   Op. 27        Recueil de six petites pièces, Paris 1823
27   Op. 28        Trois Rondeaux brillants, Paris 1823
28   Op. 29        Trois Sonates très brillantes for guitar and violin, Paris 1823 (two solos)
29   Op. 31        Douze variations sur Oh dolce concento, Paris c.1823
30   Op. 33        Grande Méthode complette, Paris 1823
31   Op. 34        Grande polonaise et deux rondeaux..., Paris c.1824
32   Op. 35        Le plaisir de tous les gouts, Paris c.1824
       Op. 40        Le maître de guitare, extrait, Paris 1825–26. Extract of Op. 33
33   Op. 41        Variations brillantes sur Nel cor più non mi sento, Paris 1825–26
34   Op. 42        Choeur et walse de l’Opéra Robin des Bois, Paris 1825–26
35   Op. 43        Air de la cendrillon..., Paris 1826
36   Op. 46        Grande Méthode complette, Paris 1826–27. Revised ed. of Op. 33
37   Op. 47        Supplement à la Méthode, Paris 1826–27. Supplement to Op. 46
38   Op. 49        Método completo, Spanish, Paris 1827–28. Based on Op. 33
39   Op. 50        Le bouquet de noces..., Paris c.1828–31 (c.1828–29?)
40   Op. 51        Grande Sonate très brillante, Paris c.1828–31 (c.1828–29?)
41   Op. 52/54   Le goût Espagnol, Paris c.1828–31
42   Op. 55        Deux Fandangos Espagnols variés, Paris c.1828–31
43   Op. 58        Robin Adair, Paris c.1832–35?
44   Op. 59        Grand Introduction, God save the King, Paris c.1832–35?
45   Op. 60        Cinq morceaux faciles..., Paris c.1832–35?
46   Op. 65        Ma Zétulbé..., Paris c.1832–35?
47   Op. 65bis    Variations brillantes sur une thême Espagnol, Paris c.1837–38?
48   Op. 66        La fête de village interrompue, Paris c.1837–38?
49   WO 11        Six Waltzes, Baltimore: John Cole, 1822–39
49   WO 12        Waltz, in a method by Carl Eulenstein, London: Johanning & Co. c.1837–43
49   WO 13        Scherzo, in the guitar journal Hebe, Cologne: Tonger 1839

In his guitar Methods and also in his works from the 1810s, Molino often re-uses pieces in later publications, mostly in a somewhat reworked version. All opus numbers, including those reiterating earlier materials, but excluding unchanged complete reprints by other publishers, are in the present edition printed as they appear in the sources. In the case of the many repeated pieces in the Methods, only those are reprinted in the present edition if they show some – superficial or more substantial – changes. If a reprint is essentially identical, the piece is not repeated in the edition, but at its first appearance all differences compared to the later version(s) are listed in the Commentary.

Title page of Nouvelle Méthode Complette, 1817 (WO 5a). Picture: München, Bayerische Staatsbibliotheek.


Editiorial method

The present edition is a so-called Urtext: the transcriptions give the same information as the original sources, no more , no less. Only the form of the information is sometimes adapted to modern convention or simply to the possibilities of the typesetting system used (Finale 2008b.r1). All editorial interventions by omitting, adding or moving notes, rests, slurs, fingerings, dynamics, double bars, repeats and other signs are mentioned in the commentary.

Some specific aspects of Molino’s music notation:

  • Page layout: in the original sources, page turns within pieces are avoided as much as possible, and necessary turns in long pieces fall mostly at fermatas or other suitable places. This practical layout is also adopted in the present edition.

Note stems: the direction of the stems is as in the original sources (unless an unusual stem direction in the source was clearly dictated by a lack of space). The original prints are also copied in the vertical connection or separation of notes in a chord, and in the beaming of successive eighth notes or smaller values. The only adaption to modern practice concerns ‘midway beams’: stems in a group of notes pointing in different direction, with the beam running between the high and low notes of the group:

In those instances, a beam above or below the note group was chosen



Rests are notated as in the sources. In Molino’s early works, most rests that are not necessary for the performer are omitted in the music, but in the 1820s they are more and more added in order to complete the voice leading of the different parts.

Triplets are in the original sources not always indicated with a number 3. In the edition, that number is always given, but in case of a passage of consecutive triplets only at the first occurence (just the first triplet(s), or the triplets in the first bar).

Harmonics: Molino uses natural harmonics (on the fifth, seventh and twelfth fret) but occasionally also artificial ones on the third and fourth fret. He uses different methods of indicating them, but mostly he gives the actual sounding note with indication of the string and the fret on which they should be plucked. In the edition, harmonics are indicated by small notes with oblique heads placed on the string on which they are to be played, with above the stave the fret, indicated with a roman numeral. As a consequence, the actual sounding note is not indicated.

Playing positions are in the sources indicated by an ordinal number and the abbreviation pos. for ‘position’ (such as 5me pos.). In the edition the modern system of roman numerals is used, normally placed under the stave. Dotted lines indicating how long a position should be held are as they are found in the source.

Fingering, for the right as well as left hand is indicated as found in the sources. Only in a few instances, when in a later version of a piece some fingerings were added, are those later indications included in the (first) version that is printed in the edition; these instances are always annotated in the Commentary. In his left hand fingering Molino follows the modern usance (1 for index finger, 2 for middle finger, etc.), but for the right hand he devised a system using numbers with dots over, under or next to them (1. = thumb, 2. is index finger, etc.). The latter are in the edition adapted to modern usage: p = thumb (sometimes indicated by Molino as pouce), i = index finger, m is middle finger and a is ring finger. The little finger of the right hand is never used; Molino advises to keep it fixed on the soundboard. 

Grace notes (appogiaturas) are in the sources normally in the form of small eighth notes, often, but not always, with a stroke through the stem. In the edition, they are rendered as small eighth notes, always crossed through. Double appogiaturas, always from below, are in the source as well as in the edition notated as small beamed sixteenth notes. Concerning their execution: appogiaturas should be played on and not before the beat, and slurred to the main note (also if a slur is not notated). Therefore, the accent falls on the (first) grace note, not the main note. In slow music the appogiaturas are typically to be played long, in quick tempos and dotted rhythms their execution should be short.

Glissandos are notated as in the source. Molino takes care to indicate a glissando by means of a slur between the two connected notes, and the word glissez (or abbreviated gliss.), ‘slide’; in the Spanish Op. 49 the term deslicese is used.

Hold signs, indicating that a (stopped) note should be held, were used by Molino in his Methods, first in Op. 24, and sparingly also in subsequent works of the 1820s. In the sources they are in the form of an asterisk * , but in the present edition they are indicated with a cross sign + (purely because of the limitations of Finale).

Slurs indicate that only the first note of a group should be struck by the right hand, and that the following notes are to be performed with a left hand ligado (without plucking them with the right hand). Long slurs, covering a succession of notes on two or more strings, imply that the first note of a new string should be plucked while the following note on the same string are played ligado. There is no connotation with the modern idea of a musical legato. Slurs are not always notated consisently; additions or changes by the editor are listed in the Commentary.

Dynamics and other playing instructions are as in the sources. Specific instructions (such as Pinces près du chevalet, meaning ‘Play near the bridge’) are given in the original French language, while the English translation is given in the Commentary.

Double barlines appear in the original sources in the form of two thick lines; in the present edition they are rendered as two thin lines.

Titles of the works are as in their original spellings.