In 1755 James Oswald (1710-1769) began self-publishing a series of pieces he titled Airs for the Seasons. Each Air was printed on a single page with the melody on one staff and a bass line (with figures) on a second staff. Each piece was named after a plant and the Airs were organized into groups of twelve for each season, forty-eight in all. For whatever reason, Oswald repeated this process a couple of years later with all new music and all new plant titles, resulting in a total of ninety-six Airs.
Each individual Air included from two to four separate movements in different time signatures and tempos, almost always in the same key. The result is a cornucopia of beautiful melodies, many of which sound complete even without their figured bass parts, and are well-suited for playing as solos on the modern mandolin.
For this book I have chosen twenty-four of these Airs, six from each season of the year, and arranged them for solo mandolin. In most cases I have changed the key to make them more accessible to intermediate players and, in a few cases, I have added a note or two from the bass parts to suit my taste. The result, I hope, is a collection that will bring pleasure to both players and listeners.
Oswald himself did not leave any explanation for his choice of plant titles but a few learned scholars have offered various theories. The titles may be related to Oswald's own interest in horticulture or perhaps the music itself is meant to refer to the medicinal qualities of the plants. Feel free to do your own research and develop your own theories.
While these Airs were probably intended primarily for players of the violin and flute I believe they are very suitable for mandolin in these arrangements. In addition to this collection, Mel Bay, Inc. has published my adaptation of Oswald's Twelve Divertimentis for the Guittar (c.1759) under the title 12 Divertimentos for Solo Mandolin (MB30537).
Over the last couple of years I have spent many, many hours playing through all 96 of Oswald's Airs. I have derived enourmous pleasure from playing many of them during my local solo mandolin gigs. This collection of 24 of my favorites is offered here free of charge for your own pleasure. If you find this book to be a worthwhile addition to your collection and you feel inclined to make a donation in support of my work you can use the PayPal Donation button below. I would suggest a $5 donation but any amount is appreciated. Again, this is not required, I just hope that you enjoy the music.
If you would like me to print you a copy of the book and send it to you I would charge $15 plus postage or shipping. Just send me an email if that is your preference.
Published by Rosie and Earl Music (ASCAP)
John Goodin, October 18, 2017
Created on October 28, 2017