Showing posts with label 1685. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1685. Show all posts

26 October 2019

Domenico Scarlatti - composer

Neapolitan famous for his 555 keyboard sonatas

A portrait of Domenico Scarlatti, painted by  Domenico Antonio Valasco in 1738
A portrait of Domenico Scarlatti, painted by
Domenico Antonio Velasco in 1738
The composer Giuseppe Domenico Scarlatti, known as Domenico Scarlatti, was born in Naples on this day in 1685.

Born in the same year as Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel, Scarlatti was the sixth of 10 children fathered by the composer Alessandro Scarlatti.

Like his father, Domenico composed in a variety of musical styles, making the transition in his lifetime from Baroque to traditional Classical. Today, he is known mainly for his 555 keyboard sonatas, which expanded the musical possibilities of the harpsichord.

Although he began his career in Naples, Scarlatti spent a large part of his life in the service of the Portuguese and Spanish royal families. In fact, he died in Madrid in 1757.

Early in 1701, at the age of just 15, Scarlatti was appointed as composer and organist at the royal chapel in Naples. At 17, his first operas, L’Ottavia restituita al trono and Il Giustino, were produced there.

In 1705 his father sent him to Venice, reputedly to study with the composer Francesco Gasparini, although nothing is known with certainty about his life there. It is thought he may have met a young Irishman, Thomas Roseingrave, who later described Scarlatti’s advances in harpsichord music to the English musicologist Charles Burney, although other accounts of his life suggest he may have first encountered Roseingrave in Rome.

Alessandro Scarlatti passed on his musical versatility to his son, Domenico
Alessandro Scarlatti passed on his musical
versatility to his son, Domenico
Scarlatti is known to have been in Rome from 1709, having entered the service of the exiled Polish queen Marie Casimire. In Rome, Scarlatti is believed to have developed a friendship with Handel, against whom, legend has it, he featured in a trial of skill on harpsichord and organ at the palace of Cardinal Ottoboni in Rome. Handel is said to have been judged the better organ player but outperformed by Scarlatti on the harpsichord. He became known as the "greatest Italian harpsichord composer of all time".

While in Rome, Scarlatti was maestro di cappella at St. Peter's from 1715 to 1719. Also in Rome, he produced his last opera, Ambleto and collaborated with Nicola Porpora in Berenice, regina di Egitto.

His Rome adventure also brought a commission from the Portuguese embassy, for which in 1714 he composed a cantata in honour of the birth of a crown prince of Portugal. A few years later, he quit his position at the Vatican to move to Lisbon, where his serenata La Contesa delle Stagioni was performed at the royal palace.

Scarlatti became musical director to King John V of Portugal, as well as music master to the king’s younger brother Don Antonio and to Princess Maria Bárbara de Bragança, who was to remain his patroness and for whom most of the harpsichord sonatas were written.

In 1728, after his father had died, Scarlatti returned to Italy, where he married a Roman girl, Maria Caterina Gentili, who was much younger than him and who bore him six children.  In the same year, after his pupil, Maria Bárbara, married the Spanish crown prince, the future Ferdinand VI, he followed the newlywed royal couple to Spain.

The castrato singer Farinelli, like Scarlatti, enjoyed the patronage of the court of Madrid
The castrato singer Farinelli, like Scarlatti, enjoyed
the patronage of the court of Madrid
Initially based in Seville, Scarlatti moved to Madrid in 1733 to be music master to Maria Bárbara. He stayed in Spain for the last 25 years of his life.  After the death of his first wife in 1742, he married a Spaniard, Anastasia Maxarti Ximenes, with whom he had five more children.

Among his compositions for the Spanish court were most of his 555 keyboard sonatas.  While in their service, he befriended the Neapolitan castrato singer Farinelli, who also enjoyed royal patronage in Madrid.

Scarlatti died in Madrid at the age of 71. His residence on Calle Leganitos is designated with a historical plaque. His descendants still live in the Spanish capital.

His music, the sonatas in particular, had a profound influence on the compositions of contemporary and subsequent composers. Among his admirers, apart from Handel and Bach, were Bartók, Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt, Brahms, Chopin and Debussy.

The Conservatorio di Musica San Pietro a Majella became  the centre of the 18th century music scene in Naples
The Conservatorio di Musica San Pietro a Majella became
the centre of the 18th century music scene in Naples
Travel tip:

The famous Conservatorio di Musica San Pietro a Majella, which became the centre of the city’s musical world in the years after Scarlatti, evolved from four institutions set up in the 16th century with the prime purpose of providing a refuge for orphan children.  The name ‘conservatorio’ relates to this original purpose, which was to conserve the lives of the children.  The oldest was the orphanage of Santa Maria di Loreto, situated in the poor fisherman’s district of the city. These institutions aimed to provide tuition in various skills, including music.  In time they acquired such a good reputation for providing a musical education that they began to be seen as music colleges primarily, and Naples eventually became one of the most important centres for musical training in Europe, nicknamed the “conservatory of Europe". Under the rule of Joachim Murat, the French cavalry leader Napoleon installed as King of Naples for a short period in the early 19th century, the original four conservatories were consolidated into a single institution, which was relocated in 1826 to the premises of the ex-monastery, San Pietro a Maiella.

The Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome was the home of Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, a patron of music in the city
The Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome was the home of
Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, a patron of music in the city
Travel tip:

The Palazzo della Cancelleria, the palace of Cardinal Ottoboni where Domenico Scarlatti’s musical trial against Handel is thought to have taken place, is situated between Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and the Campo de' Fiori. It is probably the earliest Renaissance palace to be built in Rome. It is the work of the architect Donato Bramante between 1489 and 1513, initially as a residence for Cardinal Raffaele Riario, who was the Camerlengo - treasurer - of the Holy Roman Church under Pope Sixtus V. It evolved as the seat of the Chancellery of the Papal States.  The Roman Republic used it as their parliament building.


8 December 2017

Johann Maria Farina - perfumier

Emigrant to Germany who invented Eau de Cologne

Johann Maria Farina gave his new  fragrance the name Eau di Cologne
Johann Maria Farina gave his new
fragrance the name Eau de Cologne
Johann Maria Farina, the Italian perfumier said to have created the world’s first Eau de Cologne, was born on this day in 1685 in the small town of Santa Maria Maggiore in Piedmont.

Farina’s family were masters in the art of distilling alcohol to carry fragrances, which involves different techniques to those used to distil alcohol to drink.

The method was developed in northern Africa, exported to Sicily and then on to the Italian mainland.  Farina’s antecedents brought it with them to Piedmont, where his grandmother established the family workshop in Santa Maria Maggiore, which is located about 130km (81 miles) northeast of Turin, not far from the border with Switzerland.

In his early 20s, Farina emigrated to Germany. Taking the name Johann Maria Farina - his given Italian name was Giovanni - he initially worked for an uncle who had moved to Cologne (Köln) some years earlier.

Feeling homesick, Farina began to dabble in experiments using the distilling techniques he had inherited. 

One day in 1708 he excitedly wrote a letter to his brother, Giovanni Battista Farina, exclaiming that he had produced a scent so pleasing to his nostrils that it was almost dreamlike in its qualities.

He wrote: “I have made a perfume reminiscent of an Italian spring morning, accompanied by a gentle freshness, where the scents of wild narcissus combine with sweet orange blossoms. The fragrance is refreshing and stimulative for my senses and imagination.”

Giovanni Paolo Feminis asked Farina to market his Aqua Mirabilis
Giovanni Paolo Feminis asked Farina to
market his Aqua Mirabilis
There have been suggestions that the recipe was not actually his but belonged to another product, Aqua Mirabilis, a medicinal mix that was the creation of Giovanni Paolo Feminis, a friend of the Farina family from Santa Maria Maggiore, which Farina had offered to market in Cologne.

Whatever the true story – and it is possible Farina used his distilling skills to give the formula his own twist - Farina was taken with the fragrance and gave it the name “Eau de Cologne” in honour of his adopted city.

In the summer of 1709, Giovanni Battista Farina arrived in Cologne, registered as a new resident at Cologne town hall, under the name of Johann Baptist Farina, and in August 1 of the same year signed a 12-year contract to rent a building opposite the Julichplatz in the street now known as Unter Goldschmeid.

With his brother-in-law, Franz Balthasar Borgnis, he founded Farina & Compagnie, which evolved into Gebrüder Farina & Compagnie - Farina Brothers and Co – after Johann Maria and another brother, Carlo Girolamo, joined the board.

The company is still operating more than 300 years later, from the same premises at the corner of Obenmarspforten, with the red tulip logo that was adopted at the very start.  It is the world’s oldest perfume factory. The current owners are the eighth generation of Giovanni’s family.

The perfume was originally sold in long, slender bottles called rosali
The perfume was originally sold in long,
slender bottles called rosali
The business initially sold a wide range of luxury items, such as lace, handkerchiefs, silk stockings, wigs, feathers, tobacco boxes, sealing wax and face powder.  After some wobbles at the start, resulting in the departures of Carlo Girolamo and Giovanni Battista’s brother-in-law and a renaming of the company to Fratelli Farina (Farina Brothers), business began to grow.

It was after the death of Giovanni Battista in 1924 that Johann Maria’s perfume became its focus.

In those days, when personal hygiene standards were a long way removed from those of today, it was normal for women and men to douse themselves liberally in scent and, once word of it spread, Farina’s fragrance became a sensation.

The exact recipe was a closely-guarded secret, naturally, and remains so. It contained a blend of the oils of many citrus fruits and flower essences, but most noticeable was the scent of Bergamot, the exotic citrus the size and shape of an orange with the colour of lime, grown in particular areas of southern Italy, Turkey and southern France.

The company was renamed again, this time simply as Johann Maria Farina, which has remained unchanged since.

From a small start – the first delivery of Eau de Cologne was for just 12 bottles in 1716 – Farina’s list of customers expanded rapidly. Between 1730 and 1739, around 3,700 of its distinctive long, slender bottles – named rosali - were delivered.

The company's Eau di Cologne - Acqua di Colonia - as packaged today
The company's Eau di Cologne - Acqua di
Colonia - as packaged today
Vitally, the fragrance soon became a royal and imperial favourite.  Frederick William I of Prussia, Clemens August of Bavaria, Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, Maria Theresa of Austria and Louis XV of France were all taken with the unique scent and by 1740 it was being sold in cities all over Europe.

It was the favoured perfume of royal families through the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Diana, Princess of Wales, enjoyed its delicate notes and deliveries were regularly made to her home in London. 

Other fans over the centuries included the composers Mozart and Beethoven, British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli, the writers Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde, the Indian prime minister Indira Gandi and the actresses Marlene Dietrich and Romy Schneider.

Other manufacturers attempted to copy Farina’s formula, some with greater success than others.  The most famous imitation is undoubtedly 4711, named after its location at Glockengasse No. 4711.

The French fragrance manufacturer Roger & Gallet produces a fragrance called Johann Maria Farina, having bought the rights to Eau de Cologne extra vieille when Jean Marie Joseph Farina, a grand grand nephew of Johann, sold the company’s Paris store in 1806.

Johann Maria Farina died in Cologne in 1766.

A wall plaque identifies Farina's birthplace in Santa Maria Maggiore
A wall plaque identifies Farina's
birthplace in Santa Maria Maggiore 
Travel tip:

Visitors to Santa Maria Maggiore, a small town of around 1,200 residents 25km (16 miles) north of Verbania, can look round the Casa del Profumo in Piazza Risorgimento, a new museum set up to celebrate the lives of both Giovanni Paolo Feminis and Johann Maria Farina. The museum has developed a relationship with the perfume museum at the original Farina headquarters in Cologne.

Verbania is the largest town on Lake Maggiore
Verbania is the largest town on Lake Maggiore
Travel tip:

Verbania is the largest town on Lake Maggiore, with a population of a little more than 30,000.  It was formed in 1939 by the merger of three smaller towns – Intra, Pallanza and Suna.  Pallanza, the middle of the three, has a pretty harbour. Attractions include the Villa Taranto, which has a magnificent botanical garden, and the Isolino di San Giovanni, a small islet separated from the mainland by a stretch of water no more than 15 metres wide, which was for many years the home of the great conductor and musical director, Arturo Toscanini.

12 December 2016

Lodovico Giustini – composer

Church organist who wrote the first music for piano

Lodovico Giustini
Lodovico Giustini
Lodovico Giustini, composer and keyboard player, was born on this day in 1685 in Pistoia in Tuscany.

Giustini is the first composer known to write music for the piano and his compositions are considered to be late Baroque and early Classical in style.

Giustini was born in the same year as Bach, Scarlatti and Handel. His father, Francesco Giustini, was a church organist, his uncle, Domenico Giustini, was a composer of sacred music and his great uncle, Francesco Giustini, sang in the Cathedral choir for 50 years.

After the death of his father in 1725, Giustini took his place as organist at the Congregazione dello Spirito Santo in Pistoia, where he began to compose sacred music, mostly cantatas and oratorios.

In 1728 he collaborated with Giovanni Carlo Maria Clari on a set of Lamentations, which were performed later that year.

The dome of the Basilica of Santa Maria dell'Umiltà in Pistoia
The dome of the Basilica of Santa Maria dell'Umiltà in Pistoia
In 1734 he was hired as the organist at the Basilica of Santa Maria dell’Umiltà in  Pistoia. He was to hold this position for the rest of his life. In addition to playing the organ he also gave performances on the harpsichord, often playing his own music.

Giustini is mainly remembered for his collection of 12 Sonate da cimbalo di piano e forte detto volgarmente di martelletti, 12 sonatas written for the piano.

These were composed by Giustini specifically for the hammered harpsichord, or fortepiano, which had been invented by Bartolomeo Cristofori in around 1700.

The sonatas were published in Florence in 1732 and are dedicated to the younger brother of the King of Portugal, probably because the Portuguese court was one of the few places where the early piano was being regularly played.

They were written for the church and have alternating fast and slow sections. They predate all other music specifically written for the piano by about 30 years.

The 1720 Cristofori piano, the oldest surviving,  at the  Metropolitan  Museum of Art in New York
The 1720 Cristofori piano, the oldest surviving,  at the
 Metropolitan  Museum of Art in New York
Giustini uses all the capabilities of the piano in his music, effects that were not available on other keyboard instruments at the time. They are typical of pieces written during the transition from the late Baroque to the early Classical period.

It is considered surprising by some music experts that the sonatas were ever published at all as, at the time they were composed, there were only a few pianos in existence and these were owned mainly by royalty.

The oldest surviving Cristofori piano is a 1720 model, which is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Giustini died in 1743 and since then most of his sacred music has been lost, but his published piano sonatas have kept his memory alive and are well worth hearing.

Travel tip:

Pistoia, where Lodovico Giustini was born and worked as an organist, is a pretty medieval walled city in Tuscany to the north west of Florence. The city developed a reputation for intrigue in the 13th century and assassinations in the narrow alleyways were common, using a tiny dagger called the pistole, made by the city’s ironworkers, who also specialised in manufacturing surgical instruments.

Fresco of the Madonna at the Basilica
della Madonna dell'Umiltà

Travel tip:

The Basilica della Madonna dell’Umiltà, where Lodovico Giustini played the organ in the 18th century, is in Via della Madonna in Pistoia. It was built to replace an ancient church after a miracle involving a 14th century fresco of the Madonna. According to legend, in 1490 in the middle of a period of fighting between the local power factions, people noticed blood dripping from the forehead of the Madonna in the fresco, which was interpreted as a sign that the Virgin Mary was suffering because of the bloodshed in the region at the time. Important local families got together to build a new Basilica to house the Madonna fresco. The octagonal church was designed by architect Ventura Vitoni. A heavy dome was added to the Basilica in 1560, designed by architect Giorgio Vasari.

More reading:

How Bartolomeo Cristofori adapted a harpsichord to create the first piano

Alessandro Scarlatti - a prolific composer ahead of his time

How Giovanni Gabrieli inspired the spread of Baroque style

Also on this day: