This posed another issue – verification of authorship. How does one determine that a 19th-century manuscript really belongs to Gaetano Donizetti? The easiest way to do so, says Professor Parker, is by handwriting, if the source in question is written by the composer himself. Otherwise, though, authorship can be verified based on internal evidence within songs, or occasionally by mentions of them in Donizetti’s private correspondence.
‘I have been quite careful verifying that these songs are actually by Donizetti', says Professor Parker. 'For example, I have found that about 10 songs ascribed to him are forgeries. Most date back to the late 19th century, when Donizetti was a famous opera composer, and unscrupulous publishers would often invent something and claim it to be a forgotten song by Donizetti’.
For Professor Parker, one of the most memorable of Donizetti’s newly discovered songs is a work written for soprano, piano and an early version of the harmonium. It tells a story of a woman who is disappointed in love and decides to join a religious institution. The monologue about her unhappy love life is overtaken by strains of the harmonium, the sound of which resembles the sound of an organ, taking the woman into religious consolation. The six-minute piece was incredibly difficult to decipher owing to Donizetti’s cramped handwriting, but its unusual composition makes it a complex and interesting song, says Professor Parker.