18 August 2020

18 August

NEW
- Francesco Canova da Milano – lutenist and composer

Brilliant virtuoso performed for popes and noblemen

Lute player and composer Francesco Canova da Milano was born on this day in 1497 in Monza near Milan in Lombardy.  Nicknamed il Divino by his contemporaries, Francesco Canova da Milano was known throughout Europe as the leading composer of his time for the lute. More of his work has been preserved than that of any other lutenist from the period and he influenced the work of other composers for more than a century after his death.  Francesco’s father, Benedetto, and his older brother, Bernardino, were both also talented musicians.  Francesco studied the lute as a child and by 1514 he was known to be a member of the papal household in Rome. He and his father became private musicians to Pope Leo X in 1516.  His father was employed until 1518, but Francesco stayed with Leo X till the pope’s death in 1521. Francesco was still in Rome in 1526, when he and another lutenist performed for Pope Clement VII. At the time he was considered one of the greatest virtuoso performers on the lute.  In 1528 he obtained a position at a church in Milan and between 1531 and 1535 he was in the service of Cardinal Ippolito de’ Medici. He became lute teacher to Ottavio Farnese, Duke of Parma, the grandson of Pope Paul III, in 1535.  Read more…

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Antonio Salieri - composer

Maestro of Vienna haunted by Mozart rumours

Antonio Salieri, the Italian composer who in his later years was dogged by rumours that he had murdered Mozart, was born on this day in 1750 in Legnago, in the Veneto.  Salieri was director of Italian opera for the Habsburg court in Vienna from 1774 to 1792 and German-born Mozart believed for many years that “cabals of Italians” were deliberately putting obstacles in the way of his progress, preventing him from staging his operas and blocking his path to prestigious appointments.  In letters to his father, Mozart said that “the only one who counts in (the emperor’s eyes) is Salieri” and voiced his suspicions that Salieri and Lorenzo Da Ponte, the poet and librettist, were in league against him.  Some years after Mozart died in 1791 at the age of just 35, with the cause of death never definitively established, it emerged that the young composer - responsible for some of music’s greatest symphonies, concertos and operas - had told friends in the final weeks of his life that he feared he had been poisoned and suspected again that his Italian rivals were behind it. Salieri was immediately the prime suspect.  Read more…

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Gianni Rivera - footballer and politician

Milan legend served in the Italian Parliament and as MEP

Gianni Rivera, a footballer regarded as one of Italy's all-time greats, was born on this day in 1943 in Alessandria, a city in Piedmont some 90km east of Turin and a similar distance south-west of Milan.  Rivera played for 19 years for AC Milan, winning an array of trophies that included the Italian championship three times, the Italian Cup four times, two European Cup-Winners' Cups and two European Cups.  He won 63 caps for the Italian national team, playing in four World Cups, including the 1970 tournament in Mexico, when Italy reached the final.  Later in life, he entered politics, sitting in the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Parliament from 1987 to 2001 and serving as a Member of the European Parliament from 2005 to 2009.  Rivera had a tough upbringing in Alessandria, which suffered heavy bombing during the later stages of the Second World War, with hundreds of residents killed.  His family were not wealthy but Rivera found distraction playing football with his friends in the street and it was obvious at an early age that he had talent.  His father, a railway mechanic, arranged for him to have a trial with the local football club.  Read more…

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Umberto Guidoni - astronaut

First European to step on to the International Space Station

The astronaut Umberto Guidoni, who spent almost 28 days in space on two NASA space shuttle missions, was born on this day in 1954 in Rome.  In April 2001, on the second of those missions, he became the first European astronaut to go on board the International Space Station (SSI).  After retiring as an active astronaut in 2004, Guidoni began a career in politics and was elected to the European Parliament as a member for Central Italy.  Although born in Rome, Guidoni’s family roots are in Acuto, a small hilltown about 80km (50 miles) southeast of the capital, in the area near Frosinone in Lazio known as Ciociaria.  Interested in science and space from a young age, Guidoni attended the Gaio Lucilio lyceum in the San Lorenzo district before graduating with honours in physics specializing in astrophysics at the Sapienza University of Rome in 1978, obtaining a scholarship from the National Committee for Nuclear Energy, based outside Rome in Frascati.  He worked in the Italian Space Agency as well as in the European Space Agency. One of his research projects was the Tethered Satellite System, which was part of the payload of the STS-46 space shuttle mission.  Guidoni moved to Houston, Texas and trained for a year as an alternate payload specialist for that mission, for which he was part of the group of scientists coordinating the scientific operations of the Space Shuttle Atlantis from the ground.  Read more…


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