When transcribing a fugue, a piece of music by Antonio Salieri (possibly meant for a Stammbuch, i.e.. a German friendship book, although it is a bit long for that) I was puzzled by its dedication:

H.! Tu b.e.n. Die m. ist ein s. der Text aber nicht

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My interpretation is that b.e.n. is some kind of abbreviation that plays on ben ("dear"), and that the rest of the text, which I take to be: Die Musik ist ein Schertz, der Text aber nicht (The music is a joke, but the text is not), is a comment on that.

The fugue that bears this dedication is indeed a very short and light piece of music (though very well-written), and I interpret the comment as saying: "the music is a joke , but when I write Tu b.e.n., I'm serious!". It may have been written at any time between 1775 (when Salieri started to work in Vienna) and 1825 (when he died)

My question:

  • Does Tu ben make any sense in Italian (without e.g. mio)?
  • Of what could b.e.n. be an abbreviation?

Salieri's use of both Italian an German would not be surprising as he was an Italian working in Vienna, but I'm not even sure that b.e.n. is an Italian abbreviation.

  • 1
    What makes you suppose that that particular section is in Italian? Anyway, tu means “you” in Italian and “do” (imperative mood) in German, so it could be both...
    – DaG
    Jul 19, 2022 at 13:55
  • Yes, I admit that I'm not certain about that. But around 1800 (and sometimes still today) German tu would have been written tue
    – Hans Lub
    Jul 19, 2022 at 14:01
  • Do you have any idea what the "H.!" in the beginning stands for? The initial of the dedicatee?
    – Easymode44
    Jul 19, 2022 at 14:02
  • Yes, that is what I think. But all of this is guesswork, of course. The piece was found in the library of the Hofmusikkapelle in Vienna, so it could have been meant for a fellow musician.
    – Hans Lub
    Jul 19, 2022 at 14:06
  • 1
    I see... So in German letters are not usually capitalised after an exclamation mark?
    – DaG
    Jul 19, 2022 at 19:27


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