I looked into this subject a little bit. Source: http://archiviostorico.corriere.it/2002/ottobre/09/grande_affare_sole_mio__co_0_0210092644.shtml
da anni, lo spartito originale di 'O sole mio recava, tra gli autori, pure il nome di Alfredo Mazzucchi. Perché? (...) Mazzucchi era uno dei musicisti che, per conto degli editori, apportava qualche ritocco alle musiche originali. Modifiche minime che, però, consentivano di rinverdire i diritti d' autore in scadenza.
since several years, the original score of 'O sole mio showed the name of Alfredo Mazzucchi among the authors. Why? (...) Mazzucchi was one of the musicians that, on behalf of publishers, gave some touch to the original music. Minor modifications that, however, allowed to refresh the author's rights close to expire.
So, early editions of this work not showing Mazzucchi among the authors might be public domain everywhere.
Owing to the omission of several important details, this quotation gives a very misleading impression of what the newspaper article actually says, and I believe Choralia has badly misinterpreted it. The quotation comes from a passage at the end of the article where Vittorio Paliotti
, a journalist, and author of a book on the history of Neapolitan songs, offers a somewhat cynical (but not necessarily inaccurate) view of the role played by the publisher in the sequence of events described in the article. Here is a more complete quotation:
Enzo D'Errico of Corriere della Sera wrote: Ma i conti non scioglieranno un piccolo mistero: da anni, lo spartito originale di 'O sole mio recava, tra gli autori, pure il nome di Alfredo Mazzucchi. Perché? «La risposta si trova in tutti i libri sulla storia della canzone napoletana, compreso il mio - risponde Vittorio Paliotti -. Mazzucchi era uno dei musicisti che, per conto degli editori, apportava qualche ritocco alle musiche originali. Modifiche minime che, però, consentivano di rinverdire i diritti d' autore in scadenza. Questa è la verità storica. Che, com' è noto, non sempre coincide con quella processuale. E tantomeno con le favole»
But the accounts will not clear up a small mystery: for some years, the original score of ' O sole mio has been carrying the name of Alfredo Mazzucchi as one of the authors. Why? "The answer is found in all books on the history of Neapolitan song, including mine" replies Vittorio Paliotti . "Mazzucchi was one of the musicians who added some finishing touches to original music on behalf of publishers. Very small changes that nevertheless would allow copyright to remain in force when it would otherwise have expired. This is the historical reality. Which, as everyone knows, doesn't always coincide with that of legal processes. And even less with fables."
The fact that Mazzucchi was employed in the way described here is not in dispute, but note that Paliotti does not
say that this is what happened in the case of 'O sole mio
, and the insinuation
that it might
have been is flatly contradicted by statements made earlier in the article—according to which it was Mazzucchi
who produced the initial
versions of various tunes, which were then later
refined by Di Capua, and incorporated into the scores of some of his published songs:
Enzo D'Errico of Corriere della Sera wrote: … nel verdetto emesso a marzo ed ora passato in giudicato, il giudice Maria Alvau scrive: «Mazzucchi frequentava con assiduità la casa di Di Capua per imparare e anche per collaborare alla creazione di brani musicali». A farla breve, il primo offriva il materiale grezzo e il secondo, facendo leva su una maggiore esperienza, limava lo spartito.
… in the verdict issued in March, which has now become absolute, judge Maria Alvau writes "Mazzucchi regularly visited Di Capua's house to learn, and also to collaborate in the production of pieces of music." In short, the former [viz. Mazzucchi] produced the raw material, and the latter [viz. Di Capua], applying the tools of his greater experience, refined the score.
More details of the case can be found in two books published subsequently: 'O sole mio. La storia della canzone più famosa del mondo
by Paquito del Bosco, published in 2006, and Forse non tutti sanno che a Napoli...
by Maurizio Ponticello, published in 2015. I haven't seen the first of these, but I own a copy of the second, whose final chapter is devoted to 'O sole mio
According to Ponticello's account, one of the pieces of evidence produced during the case was an attestation, signed by Mazzucchi, and dated June 30, 1897, more than a year before Di Capua published 'O sole mio
by entering it in the competition at the festival of Piedigrotta. In this document, Mazzucchi acknowledged having received a total of 57.5 lira in return for transferring 23 tunes he had composed to Di Capua's possession, and authorising the latter to make free use of them. Di Capua subsequently incorporated these tunes into 19 of his published works, including 'O sole mio
Thus, the fact that a score of 'O sole mio
might happen to be an early one which credits only Capurro and Di Capua as authors is totally irrelevant for determining whether or not its contents are still under copyright in any particular country. I can confirm from personal experience that the Australasian Performing Right Association
considers the song to be still under copyright in Australia, where I live. When a choir to which I belong issued a CD in 2010, 'O sole mio
was one of the songs for which we were required to pay royalties.
The 19 songs judge Alvau determined as having been co-authored by Mazzucchi are the following:'O sole mio
, Valse Rouge, Cunzolame accussì, Primmavera, ’O farenella, ’E tacche d’alluminio, Ammore dispettuso, Cosa bella, L’urdema canzone mia, Canzone bella, Torna maggio, Chitarrata, I’ te vurria vasà, ’A serenata d’ ’e rose, Maria Marì, ’O sbruffone, Terè Terè Terè, ’O destino, ’A femmena ’e core