Hidden Treasures of Italy

Rediscovered Treasures

The history of the Italian concerto for solo violin, although already well-known, still contains many hidden gems. As specialists, musicians and the general public have become familiar with the repertoire, we continue to discover more diverse figures and patterns in this music. Besides the musical giants Corelli and Vivaldi, we discover some atypical artistic personalities such as the Neapolitan Nicola Fiorenza, and the Paduan Giuseppe Tartini. With its rich musical tradition, and its parallel rich vocal developments, 18th century Italy evokes the image of intricate lace.

This  program focuses on two distinct generations of violinist composers: firstly, that of Razetti and Montanari, whose models were contemporary composers Vivaldi and Corelli; the second generation being that of Nardini, Lombardini and Lidarti, all born after the wane in influence of these giants – the two first, Nardini and Lombardini, were closely linked to the Tartini “School of Nations”. Italy had, by that time, assimilated the most significant innovations brought on by changes in musical taste, as well as by the influence of the generation of Neapolitan composers, Porpora, Leo and Vinci. The musical evolution resulting from this, slowly took the form of the stylistic elements that eventually gave way to Classicism, a movement that is usually associated with Haydn and Mozart.

Very little information can be found on Carlo Alezio Razetti beyond the fact that he was hired in 1727 as a violinist in Turin, and that he wrote the Concerto in F minor, kept in Reserve Blancheton at the Paris Conservatory. This concerto displays the evident direct or indirect influence of Vivaldi’s aesthetic on the composer.

We know much more about Antonio Maria Montanari’s biographical details. Born in Modena in 1676, and later Corelli’s student, he was very involved in Roman musical life where he was known to be an excellent musician. As a member of Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni’s orchestra, Montanari was highly regarded by Torelli, Pisendel, and Vivaldi himself. It seems likely that he took part in the performance of La Risurrezione by Haendel at the Ruspoli Palace in 1708, under the direction of the composer.
His orchestral repertoire, edited in Amsterdam around the end of the 1720’s, shows both a clear assimilation of the Corellian model and its transcendence in a new and original form.

Maddalena Lombardini was born in Venice in 1735 and married violinist Ludovico Sirmen. She was known for the fact that she was the beneficiary of Giuseppe Tartini’s famous letter explaining bow usage and techniques. She was brought up at the renowned Ospedale dei Mendicanti in Venice, one of the city’s four institutions where orphans and troubled girls were given a high quality musical education. Maddalena Lombardini dreamed of a career as a solo violinist, but customs of the time restricted her movements to that of her husband, who was touring across Europe. Their double concerto received high praise for its performance in Paris on August 15, 1768. Her brilliant and elegant music shows a strong influence of Northern Italian composers of the second half of the 18th century.

Born in 1722, famed composer Pietro Nardini was also a student of Tartini. His friends, Leopold and Wolfgang Mozart, admired him. He was very active at the court of Stuttgart, and from 1770 on, worked under the Grand Duke of Tuscany. Very appreciated for the beauty of his sound, for his rigorous intonation and the impact of his poignant cantabile, he leaves behind a considerable corpus of compositions characterized by aesthetic qualities such as high energy, grace and sentimental expressivity while avoiding extreme pathos.

To conclude, special mention must go to Christian Joseph Lidarti. Born in 1730 in Vienna to an Italian family related to the composer Giuseppe Bonno, he studied composition with the incomparable Jommelli, who strongly influenced his virtuosic style. Close attention to the violin parts he wrote for himself in his concerti can attest to this. Lidarti is an example of Italian composers working outside of Italy having an influence on musicians of the rest of Europe in the 18th century. His international career gave him several priceless opportunities, one of which was the invitation by the Amsterdam’s synagogue to compose the oratorio Esther, which follows the Hebrew text.

These great musical treasures borne from the quill of Italian musicians were rediscovered with pleasure and delight in the archives of libraries. These famous and less famous composers show the ingenuity that characterizes the different currents present in the Italian Peninsula and their substantial contribution to the evolution of musical language.

© Stefano Aresi
Translated from the French by Alexia Jensen.