Benedetto Marcello (1686 – 1739) was an Italian composer, writer, advocate, magistrate, and teacher. Benedetto was the brother of Alessandro Marcello, also a notable composer.
Composer full Name: Benedetto Giacomo Marcello
Date of Birth: 31 July or 1 August 1686
Date of Death: 24 July 1739
Period/Era/Style: Late Baroque & Early Gelante
Biography: Born in Venice, Benedetto Marcello was a member of a noble family and his compositions are frequently referred to as Patrizio Veneto. Although he was a music student of Antonio Lotti and Francesco Gasparini, his father wanted Benedetto to devote himself to law. Benedetto managed to combine a life in law and public service with one in music. In 1711 he was appointed a member of the Council of Forty (in Venice’s central government), and in 1730 he went to Pola as Provveditore (district governor). Due to his health having been “impaired by the climate” of Istria, Marcello retired after eight years in the capacity of Camerlengo to Brescia where he died of tuberculosis in 1739.
Benedetto Marcello was the brother of Alessandro Marcello, also a notable composer. On 20 May 1728 Benedetto Marcello married his singing student Rosanna Scalfiin a secret ceremony. However, as a nobleman his marriage to a commoner was unlawful and after Marcello’s death the marriage was declared null by the state. Rosanna was unable to inherit his estate, and filed suit in 1742 against Benedetto’s brother Alessandro Marcello, seeking financial support.
Composer full Name: Tomaso Giovanni Albinoni
Date of Birth: 08 June 1671
Date of Death: 17 January 1751
Period/Era/Style: Middle Baroque
Contribution(s): Albinoni was an Italian Baroque composer. While famous in his day as an opera composer, he is known today for his instrumental music, especially his concertos. He is also remembered today for a work called “Adagio in G minor”, supposedly written by him, but probably written by Remo Giazotto, a modern musicologist and composer, who was a cataloger of the works of Albinoni.
Biography: Born in Venice, Republic of Venice, to Antonio Albinoni, a wealthy paper merchant in Venice, he studied violin and singing. Relatively little is known about his life especially considering his contemporary stature as a composer, and the comparatively well-documented period in which he lived. In 1694 he dedicated his Opus 1 to the fellow-Venetian, Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni (grand-nephew of Pope Alexander VIII). His first opera, Zenobia, regina de Palmireni, was produced in Venice in 1694. Albinoni was possibly employed in 1700 as a violinist to Charles IV, Duke of Mantua, to whom he dedicated his Opus 2 collection of instrumental pieces. In 1701 he wrote his hugely popular suites Opus 3, and dedicated that collection to Cosimo III de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany.
In 1705, he was married; Antonino Biffi, the maestro di cappella of San Marco was a witness, and evidently was a friend of Albinoni. Albinoni seems to have no other connection with that primary musical establishment in Venice, however, and achieved his early fame as an opera composer at many cities in Italy, including Venice, Genoa, Bologna, Mantua, Udine, Piacenza, and Naples. During this time he was also composing instrumental music in abundance: prior to 1705, he mostly wrote trio sonatas and violin concertos, but between then and 1719 he wrote solo sonatas and concertos for oboe.
Unlike most composers of his time, he appears never to have sought a post at either a church or noble court, but then he was a man of independent means and had the option to compose music independently. In 1722, Maximilian II Emanuel, Elector of Bavaria, to whom Albinoni had dedicated a set of twelve concertos, invited him to direct two of his operas in Munich.
Around 1740, a collection of Albinoni’s violin sonatas was published in France as a posthumous work, and scholars long presumed that meant that Albinoni had died by that time. However, it appears he lived on in Venice in obscurity; a record from the parish of San Barnaba indicates Tomaso Albinoni died in Venice in 1751, of diabetes mellitus.
Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
Date of Birth: 31 March [O.S. 21 March] 1685
Date of Death: 28 July 1750
Contribution(s): J. S. Bach was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. He is known for instrumental compositions such as the Brandenburg Concertos and the Goldberg Variations, and vocal music such as the St Matthew Passion and the Mass in B minor. Since the 19th-century Bach Revival he has been generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time.
The Bach family already counted several composers when Johann Sebastian was born as the last child of a city musician in Eisenach. Having become an orphan at age 10, he lived for five years with his eldest brother, after which he continued his musical formation in Lüneburg. From 1703 he was back in Thuringia, working as a musician for Protestant churches in Arnstadt and Mühlhausen and, for longer stretches of time, at courts in Weimar—where he expanded his repertoire for the organ—and Köthen—where he was mostly engaged with chamber music. From 1723 he was employed as Thomaskantor (cantor at St. Thomas) in Leipzig. He composed music for the principal Lutheran churches of the city, and for its university’s student ensemble Collegium Musicum. From 1726 he published some of his keyboard and organ music. In Leipzig, as had happened in some of his earlier positions, he had a difficult relation with his employer, a situation that was little remedied when he was granted the title of court composer by the Elector of Saxony and King of Poland in 1736. In the last decades of his life he reworked and extended many of his earlier compositions. He died of complications after eye surgery in 1750.
Bach enriched established German styles through his mastery of counterpoint, harmonic and motivicorganisation, and his adaptation of rhythms, forms, and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France. Bach’s compositions include hundreds of cantatas, both sacred and secular. He composed Latin church music, Passions, oratorios and motets. He often adopted Lutheran hymns, not only in his larger vocal works, but for instance also in his four-part chorales and his sacred songs. He wrote extensively for organ and for other keyboard instruments. He composed concertos, for instance for violin and for harpsichord, and suites, as chamber music as well as for orchestra. Many of his works employ the genres of canon and fugue.
Throughout the 18th century Bach was primarily valued as an organist, while his keyboard music, such as The Well-Tempered Clavier, was appreciated for its didactic qualities. The 19th century saw the publication of some major Bach biographies, and by the end of that century all of his known music had been printed. Dissemination of scholarship on the composer continued through periodicals and websites exclusively devoted to him, and other publications such as the Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis(BWV, a numbered catalogue of his works) and new critical editions of his compositions. His music was further popularised through a multitude of arrangements, including for instance the Air on the G String, and of recordings, for instance three different box sets with complete performances of the composer’s oeuvre marking the 250th anniversary of his death.
Composer: Georg Philipp Telemann
Date of Birth: 24 March [O.S. 14 March] 1681
Date of Death: 25 June 1767
Period/Era/Style: Late Baroque / Early Gelante
Contribution(s): Telemann was a German Baroque composer and multi-instrumentalist. Almost completely self-taught in music, he became a composer against his family’s wishes. After studying in Magdeburg, Zellerfeld, and Hildesheim, Telemann entered the University of Leipzig to study law, but eventually settled on a career in music. He held important positions in Leipzig, Sorau, Eisenach, and Frankfurt before settling in Hamburg in 1721, where he became musical director of the five main churches. While Telemann’s career prospered, his personal life was always troubled: his first wife died only a few months after their marriage, and his second wife had extramarital affairs and accumulated a large gambling debt before leaving Telemann.
Telemann is one of the most prolific composers in history (at least in terms of surviving oeuvre) and was considered by his contemporaries to be one of the leading German composers of the time—he was compared favorably both to his friend Johann Sebastian Bach, who made Telemann the godfather and namesake of his son Carl Philipp Emanuel, and to George Frideric Handel, whom Telemann also knew personally. Telemann’s music incorporates several national styles (French, Italian, German) and is even at times influenced by Polish popular music. He remained at the forefront of all new musical tendencies and his music is an important link between the late Baroque and early Classical styles.
Composer: Antonio Lucio Vivaldi
Date of Birth: 04 March 1678
Date of Death: 28 July 1741
Period/Era/Style: Middle Baroque
Contribution(s): Vivaldi was an Italian Baroque composer, virtuoso violinist, teacher and cleric. Born in Venice, he is recognized as one of the greatest Baroque composers, and his influence during his lifetime was widespread across Europe. He composed many instrumental concertos, for the violin and a variety of other instruments, as well as sacred choral works and more than forty operas. His best-known work is a series of violin concertos known as the Four Seasons.
Many of his compositions were written for the all-female music ensemble of the Ospedale della Pietà, a home for abandoned children where Vivaldi (who had been ordained as a Catholic priest) was employed from 1703 to 1715 and from 1723 to 1740. Vivaldi also had some success with expensive stagings of his operas in Venice, Mantua and Vienna. After meeting the Emperor Charles VI, Vivaldi moved to Vienna, hoping for preferment. However, the Emperor died soon after Vivaldi’s arrival, and Vivaldi himself died, in poverty, less than a year later.
Composer: George Frideric (or Frederick) Handel born Georg Friedrich Händel
Date of Birth: 23 February 1685
Date of Death: 14 April 1759
Period/Era/Style: Late Baroque
Contribution(s): Handel was a German, later British, baroque composer who spent the bulk of his career in London, becoming well known for his operas, oratorios, anthems, and organ concertos. Handel received important training in Halle and worked as a composer in Hamburg and Italy before settling in London in 1712; he became a naturalised British subject in 1727. He was strongly influenced both by the great composers of the Italian Baroque and by the middle-German polyphonic choral tradition.
Within fifteen years, Handel had started three commercial opera companies to supply the English nobility with Italian opera. Musicologist Winton Dean writes that his operas show that “Handel was not only a great composer; he was a dramatic genius of the first order.” As Alexander’s Feast (1736) was well received, Handel made a transition to English choral works. After his success with Messiah (1742) he never composed an Italian opera again. Almost blind, and having lived in England for nearly fifty years, he died in 1759, a respected and rich man. His funeral was given full state honours, and he was buried in Westminster Abbey in London.
Born the same year as Johann Sebastian Bach and Domenico Scarlatti, Handel is regarded as one of the greatest composers of the Baroque era, with works such as Water Music, Music for the Royal Fireworks and Messiahremaining steadfastly popular. One of his four Coronation Anthems, Zadok the Priest (1727), composed for the coronation of George II, has been performed at every subsequent British coronation, traditionally during the sovereign’s anointing. Another of his English oratorios, Solomon (1748), has also remained popular, with the Sinfonia that opens act 3 (known more commonly as “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba”) featuring at the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony. Handel composed more than forty operas in over thirty years, and since the late 1960s, with the revival of baroque music and historically informed musical performance, interest in Handel’s operas has grown.
Composer: Arcangelo Corelli
Date of Birth: 17 February 1653
Date of Death: 08 January 1713
Period/Era/Style: Middle Baroque
Contribution(s): Corelli was an Italian violinist and composer of the Baroque era. His music was key in the development of the modern genres of sonata and concerto, in establishing the preeminence of the violin, and as the first coalescing of modern tonality and functional harmony.
Biography: Baptismal records indicate that Corelli was born on 17 February 1653 in the small Romagna town of Fusignano, then in the diocese of Ferrara, Papal States. His family were land-owners who had lived in Fusignano since 1506 (a Corelli moved to the area from Rome in the fifteenth century). Although apparently prosperous, they were almost certainly not of the nobility, as several fanciful accounts of the composer’s genealogy subsequently claimed. Corelli’s father, from whom he took the name Arcangelo, died five weeks before the composer’s birth. Consequently, he was raised by his mother, Santa (née Ruffini, or Raffini), alongside four elder siblings.
The wealth of anecdotes and legends attached to Corelli contrast sharply with the paucity of reliable contemporary evidence documenting events in his life. This gap is especially pronounced for his formative years, including his musical education, even though traditional accounts of a highly idealized childhood have long been debunked. According to the poet Giovanni Mario Crescimbeni, who presumably knew the composer well, Corelli initially studied music under a priest in the nearby town of Faenza, and then in Lugo, before moving in 1666 to Bologna.
A major centre of musical culture of the time, Bologna had a flourishing school of violinists associated with Ercole Gaibara and his pupils, Giovanni Benvenuti and Leonardo Brugnoli. Reports by later sources link Corelli’s musical studies with several master violinists, including Benvenuti, Brugnoli, Bartolomeo Laurenti and Giovanni Battista Bassani. Although historically plausible, these accounts remain largely unconfirmed, as does the claim that the papal contralto Matteo Simonelli first taught him composition. A remark Corelli later made to a patron suggests that his musical education focused mainly on the violin.
Chronicles of the Accademia Filarmonica of Bologna indicate that Corelli was accepted as a member by 1670, at the exceptionally young age of seventeen. The credibility of this attribution has been disputed. Although the nickname Il Bolognese appears on the title-pages of Corelli’s first three published sets of works (Opus 1 to 3), the duration of his stay in Bologna remains unclear. Anecdotes of trips outside Italy to France, Germany and Spain lack any contemporary evidence. For example, the anecdote that Corelli’s continental fame stemmed from a trip to Paris at the age of nineteen, where he was chased away by an envious Jean-Baptiste Lully, seems to have originated with Jean-Jacques Rousseau. It was also claimed that Corelli spent time in Germany in the service of Maximilian II Emanuel, Elector of Bavaria (supposedly in 1681), as well as in the house of his friend and fellow violinist-composer Cristiano Farinelli (between 1680 and 1685).
Although it is unclear quite when Corelli arrived in Rome, he was certainly active there by 1675, when “Arcangelo Bolognese” (as he was referred to) was engaged to play as one of the supporting violinists in lenten oratorios at the church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, as well as in the French national celebrations held each year on 25 August at San Luigi dei Francesi and during the ordination of a member of the powerful Chigi family at Santi Domenico e Sisto. In August 1676, he was already playing second violin to the renowned Carlo Mannelli at San Luigi dei Francesi. Although Rome did not have any permanent orchestra providing stable employment for instrumentalists, Corelli rapidly made a name for himself, playing in a variety of ensembles sponsored by wealthy patrons, such as Cardinal Benedetto Pamphili, for whom he played in Lenten oratorios at San Marcello from 1676 to 1679.
In 1687 Corelli led the festival performances of music for Queen Christina of Sweden. He was also a favorite of Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, grandnephew of another Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, who in 1689 became Pope Alexander VIII. From 1689 to 1690 he was in Modena. The Duke of Modena was generous to him. In 1708 he returned to Rome, living in the palace of Cardinal Ottoboni. His visit to Naples, at the invitation of the king, took place in the same year.
The style of execution introduced by Corelli and preserved by his pupils, such as Francesco Geminiani, Pietro Locatelli, Pietro Castrucci, Francesco Gasparini, and others, was of vital importance for the development of violin playing. It has been said that the paths of all of the famous violinist-composers of 18th-century Italy led to Arcangelo Corelli, who was their “iconic point of reference”.
However, Corelli used only a limited portion of his instrument’s capabilities. This may be seen from his writings. The parts for violin very rarely proceed above D on the highest string, sometimes reaching the E in fourth position on the highest string. The story has been told and retold that Corelli refused to play a passage that extended to A in altissimo in the overture to Handel’s oratorio The Triumph of Time and Truth (premiered in Rome, 1708), and felt seriously offended when the composer (32 years his junior) played the note.
Nevertheless, his compositions for the instrument mark an epoch in the history of chamber music. His influence was not confined to his own country. Johann Sebastian Bach studied the works of Corelli and based an organ fugue (BWV 579) on Corelli’s Opus 3 of 1689. Handel’s Opus 6 Concerti Grossi take Corelli’s own older Opus 6 Concerti as models, rather than the later three-movement Venetian concerto of Antonio Vivaldi favoured by Bach.
Musical society in Rome also owed much to Corelli. He was received in the highest circles of the aristocracy, and for a long time presided at the celebrated Monday concerts in the palace of Cardinal Ottoboni. Corelli died in Rome in possession of a fortune of 120,000 marks and a valuable collection of works of art and fine violins, the only luxury in which he had indulged. He left both to his benefactor and friend, who generously made over the money to Corelli’s relatives. Corelli is buried in the Pantheon at Rome.
His concerti grossi have often been popular in Western culture. For example, a portion of the Christmas Concerto, Op. 6 No. 8, is in the soundtrack of the film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, and Corelli’s Op. 6 No. 2 also provided the theme for Sir Michael Tippett’s Fantasia Concertante on a Theme of Corelli.
Opus 1: 12 sonate da chiesa (trio sonatas for 2 violins and continuo) (Rome 1681)
Opus 2: 12 sonate da camera (trio sonatas for 2 violins and continuo) (Rome 1685)
Opus 3: 12 sonate da chiesa (trio sonatas for 2 violins and continuo) (Rome 1689)
Opus 4: 12 sonate da camera (trio sonatas for 2 violins and continuo) (Rome 1694)
Opus 5: 12 Suonati a violino e violone o cimbalo (6 sonate da chiesa and 6 sonate da camera for violin and continuo) (Rome 1700) The last sonata is a set of variations on La Folia.
Opus 6: 12 concerti grossi (8 concerti da chiesa and 4 concerti da camera for concertino of 2 violins and cello, string ripieno, and continuo) (Amsterdam 1714)
Composer: Jean Hyacinthe Theodore Gilles
Date of Birth: 08 January 1668
Date of Death: 05 February 1705
Period/Era/Style: Late Baroque / Early galante
Contribution(s): Gilles was a French composer, born at Tarascon.
His choral works often alternate passages sung by the soloists with those sung by the chorus. In 1752, in Lettres sur les hommes célèbres du règne de Louis XIV, Pierre-Louis d’Aquin said that Gilles would doubtless have replaced Lalande if he had lived long enough. Gilles died suddenly at the age of 37 in Toulouse.
Composer: Giuseppe Francesco Gaspare Melchiorre Baldassare Sammartini (also Gioseffo, S Martini, St Martini, San Martini, San Martino, Martini, Martino)
Date of Birth: 06 January 1695
Date of Death: between 17 to 23 November 1750
Period/Era/Style: Late Baroque / Early Classical / Early Galante
Contribution(s): Sammartiniwas an Italian composer and oboist during the late Baroque and early Classical era. Although he was from Milan, most of his professional life was spent in London and with Frederick, the Prince of Wales. He is often confused with his brother, Giovanni Battista Sammartini, a composer with a similarly prolific output (and the same initials).
Biography: Personal life:Giuseppe Sammartini was born in Milan, Italy. He had a younger brother, Giovanni Battista Sammartini, who also became a particularly renowned composer and oboist. Both brothers took oboelessons from their French father Alexis Saint-Martin. Although born in Milan, Giuseppe found his success in other parts of Europe. His first trip was to Brussels, and from there he made his way to London where he would go on to spend the rest of his life. Giuseppe did return to Milan for his sister Madalena’s marriage on 13 February 1728. In July 1728 Giuseppe also travelled to Brussels with his pupil Gaetano Parenti.
Performer:Sammartini was an exceptionally skilled oboist. He could play the flute and recorder, as was customary at the time. Before moving to London, Giuseppe was the oboist at S. Celso in Milan around 1717. He then became the oboist at the Regio Ducal Teatro in 1720. He even gained fame in London as “the greatest [oboist] the world had ever known.” He performed in places such as Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Hickford’s Room, Castle concerts, and in the opera orchestra at the King’s Theatre. As an oboist, Giuseppe was unbelievably successful, and significantly advanced the level of oboe playing. Giuseppe was even able to make the oboe sound voice-like at times. One of his most notable students was the Englishman Thomas Vincent.
Composer: He was well versed in the ways of counterpoint and proper harmony. This made him a very skilled composer of his time. One of Giuseppe’s first published collections was a set of 12 trio sonatas. It was published in London by Walsh & Hare. Sammartini’s career as a composer advanced when he was hired as the music master for the Prince of Wales, Frederick, and his wife Augusta. He worked for them and their children from 1736 until his death in 1750. While working for the family, Sammartini dedicated many works to the different members of the family. His 12 sonatas op. 1 were dedicated to Frederick, and his 12 trios op. 3 to Augusta. Sammartini was clearly very attached to this family, writing everything from these wonderful collections to simple birthday tunes for the children.
Most of Sammartini’s chamber music was played and re-published regularly during his life. However, many of the concertos and overtures that Sammartini wrote were not published until after his death, but then gained wide acceptance, even more than other Italian composers such as Corelli.
Musical style: Although Sammartini wrote in a later Baroque style, he also incorporated many Classical elements. Sammartini was forward thinking as a composer, and even used ideas such as a galant style and “Sturm und Drang,” (the idea of extreme and stormy emotions). Sammartini had other clearly forward thinking musical trends. An example of this would be the number of movements in some of his concertos and symphonies. Being primarily an instrumental composer, Sammartini wrote a significant amount of solo sonatas. Due to his professional instrument, many of these sonatas were written for the flute, recorder, and oboe. One of his unique idioms was starting a sonata with a slow movement. His larger orchestral works often featured four to five movements with slow transitional movements. Giuseppe Sammartini was one of the first composers to write keyboard concertos in England, causing him to be an exceptionally influential composer for his time.
Works: 24 sonatas for recorder and bass, 30 trios for flutes or violins, 24 concerti grossi, 4 keyboard concertos, oboe concertos, 16 overtures, some cello sonatas, some flute duets.
Sammartini’s most famous piece is without question his Recorder Concerto in F.
Composer: Giovanni Battista Draghi Pergolesi
Date of Birth: 04 January 1710
Date of Death: 16 March 1736
Period/Era/Style: Late Baroque
Contribution(s): Pergolesi, was an Italian composer, violinist and organist.
Among Pergolesi’s other operatic works are his first opera La Salustia (1732), Lo frate ‘nnamorato (The brother in love, 1732, to a text in the Neapolitan language), L’Olimpiade (January 1735) and Il Flaminio (1735, to a text in the Neapolitan language). All his operas were premiered in Naples, apart from L’Olimpiade, which was first given in Rome.
Pergolesi also wrote sacred music, including a Mass in F and three Salve Regina settings. It is his Stabat Mater (1736), however, for soprano, alto, string orchestra and basso continuo, which is his best-known sacred work. It was commissioned by the Confraternita dei Cavalieri di San Luigi di Palazzo, which presented an annual Good Friday meditation in honor of the Virgin Mary. Pergolesi’s work replaced one composed by Alessandro Scarlatti only nine years before, but which was already perceived as “old-fashioned,” so rapidly had public tastes changed. The Lenten Hymn ‘God of Mercy and Compassion’ by Redemptorist priest Edmund Vaughan is most commonly set to a tune adapted by Pergolesi.
While classical in scope, the opening section of the setting demonstrates Pergolesi’s mastery of the Italian baroque durezze e ligature style, characterized by numerous suspensions over a faster, conjunct bassline. The work remained popular, becoming the most frequently printed musical work of the 18th century, and being arranged by a number of other composers, including Johann Sebastian Bach, who reorchestrated and adapted it for a non-Marian text in his cantataTilge, Höchster, meine Sünden (Root out my sins, Highest One), BWV 1083.
Pergolesi wrote a number of secular instrumental works, including a violin sonata and a violin concerto. A considerable number of instrumental and sacred works once attributed to Pergolesi have since been shown to be misattributed. Much of Igor Stravinsky‘s balletPulcinella, which ostensibly reworks pieces by Pergolesi, is actually based on works by other composers, especially Domenico Gallo. The Concerti Armonici are now known to have been composed by Unico Wilhelm van Wassenaer. Many colorful anecdotes related by Pergolesi’s 19th-century biographer, Francesco Florimo, were later revealed as hoaxes, though they had furnished material for two 19th-century operas broadly based on Pergolesi’s career.