This song fragment shares the distinction of being the most recent find of the series alongside the Pichler setting Die Nacht
. Neither song is mentioned in the second Deutsch catalogue (1978). There, D990F, a companion piece to D990E, is wrongly listed as an early version of the 1827 song for bass, Il traditor deluso
. Fragments are notoriously difficult to identify, but this confusion was caused by the disappearance of the autograph which had been sold in Berlin in 1933, and then again in Bern in 1950. Only the first page of the oblong double leaf had been photographed for a sales catalogue. Eventually, in 1988, this manuscript came into the possession of the Viennese collector H P Wertitsch. The first song on the double leaf was the first version of L’incanto degli occhi
D990E. Then there was a second aria without title (vocal part only) beginning with words that were identified as belonging to Metastasio’s cantata Angelica
with the subtitle La serenata
. This was actually a lyric that Salieri himself had set as part of his 28 Divertimenti.
The aria in 6/8 shows a developed feel for Italianate melodic line and a sensitivity for the atmosphere of the words (as far as it is possible to tell from the vocal line alone). The autograph is extremely difficult to date, although this must be within the period of Salieri’s tuition. D2 and Hoorickx place D990E and D990F right at the very end of this period in 1816/17, but it is possible that they are earlier works and belong with the other exercises of 1813. There is nothing in either L’incanto degli occhi or Ombre amene which shows much advance in style and skill on the highly accomplished aria for soprano, Son fra l’onde D78 (1813). More significantly, apart from some florid coloratura in D990E, there is little that seems to be on the same level of sophistication which marks out the Didone abbandonata of 1816 (D510).
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1999