Showing posts with label Albinoni. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Albinoni. Show all posts

24 December 2018

Domenico Sarro – composer

Court choirmaster wrote several important operas

Domenico Sarro, as depicted by Nicolò Maria Rossi
Domenico Sarro, as depicted
by Nicolò Maria Rossi
Opera composer Domenico Sarro was born on this day in 1679 in Trani, a seaport north of Bari in Apulia.

He was given the middle name, Natale, which is the Italian word for Christmas.

Sarro is famous for being the composer of Achille in Sciro, the opera chosen for the opening night of the new Teatro San Carlo in Naples in 1737.

He studied music from the age of six at Sant’Onofrio, a church near Porta Capuana, one of the ancient city gates of Naples, which at the time was the location of the city’s music conservatory. His first opera, L’opera d’amore, was performed in Naples in 1702.

He was appointed assistant choirmaster to the Neapolitan court in 1702 and by 1706 was having his religious music performed in churches in Naples. He wrote several of what were then referred to as three-act musical dramas, which were performed in theatres and private palaces throughout the city.

Sarro’s opera, Didone abbandonata, was premiered on February 1, 1724 at the Teatro San Bartolomeo in Naples. It was the first setting of a major libretto by the writer Pietro Metastasio, who would become the most celebrated librettist of the 18th century. The intermezzo, Dorina e Nibbio or L’impresario delle canarie, has been performed extensively by orchestras since then, right up to the present day. It has also been imitated by composers such as Tomaso Albinoni, Francesco Gasparini, Leonardo Leo and Martini il Tedesco.

The title page of Sarro's opera Didone Abbandonata
The title page of Sarro's opera
Didone Abbandonata
Sarro’s 1726 opera, Valdemaro, is considered important because it demonstrates Sarro’s interest in the upper voice, as in this opera the melodic lines are dominant in the upper voices.

Sarro, sometimes called Sarri, also wrote many vocal cantatas, which have been admired by music experts for their charm and inventiveness.

The only known portrait of Domenico Sarro is part of a painting called The Viceroy at the Festa of the Quattro Altari by Nicolò Maria Rossi. Sarro is one of the many composers depicted by the artist as part of the Neapolitan Court.

Domenico Sarro died in Naples in 1744, aged 65.

Trani's 12th century duomo - the Cattedrale di San Nicola Pellegrino - stands on a platform on the sea
Trani's 12th century duomo - the Cattedrale di San Nicola
Pellegrino - stands on a platform on the sea
Travel tip:

The port of Trani, where Domenico Sarro was born, is about 40km (25 miles) to the northwest of Bari. It was a flourishing port as early as the 11th century because of its location on the Adriatic Sea. In 1063 Trani issued a maritime law code, believed now to be the oldest in western Europe. Trani has lost its old walls and bastions but still has a 13th century fort,  which has been restored as a museum and performance venue. The 12th century Cathedral on a raised site over the sea is dedicated to St Nicholas the pilgrim, a Greek who died there in 1094 while on the way to Rome.

Search tripadvisor for a hotel in Trani

The church of San Pietro a Majella, looking along Via dei Tribunali
The church of San Pietro a Majella, looking
along Via dei Tribunali
Travel tip:

Sarro studied at the Music Conservatory when it was in Sant’Onofrio in Naples. Today, the Music Conservatory is in the complex of San Pietro a Majella, close to Via dei Tribunali, one of the main thoroughfares in the heart of the centro storico in Naples. It is the last of a string of establishments that were once music conservatories in Naples, dating back to when the Spanish ruled the city in the 16th century. One of the earliest, I Poveri di Gesù Cristo, was founded in 1589 by Marcello Fossataro, a Franciscan monk. It was next to the Church of Santa Maria a Colonna on Via dei Tribunale, but in 1743 it was converted into a church seminary.

More reading:

Tomaso Albinoni, the Venetian most famous for his haunting Adagio in G Minor

How Pietro Metastasio progressed from street entertainer to great librettist

Francesco Gasparini, the musical director who gave Vivaldi a job

Also on this day:

Vigilia di Natale - Christmas Eve

1836: The birth of food canning pioneer Francesco Cirio

1897: The birth of Lazzaro Ponticelli, the longest surviving veteran of World War One


8 June 2016

Tomaso Albinoni - Venetian composer

Prolific writer of operas and instrumental music

Portrait of Tomaso Albinoni
Tomaso Albinoni
The composer Tomaso Albinoni, perhaps best known for the haunting and powerful Adagio in G Minor, was born on this day in 1671 in Venice.

Albinoni was a contemporary of two other great Venetian composers, Arcangelo Corelli and Antonio Vivaldi, and was favourably compared with both.

It is his instrumental music for which he is popular today, although during his own lifetime he was famous for his operas, the first of which was performed in Venice in 1694.  He is thought to have composed some 81 operas in total, although they were not published at the time and the majority were lost.

His first major instrumental work also appeared in 1694. With the support of sponsorship from noble patrons, he published nine collections - in Italy, Amsterdam and London - beginning with Opus 1, the 12 Sonate a Tre, which he dedicated to his fellow Venetian, Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, the grand-nephew of Pope Alexander VIII.

It was this work that established his fame.  He followed it with an other collection of instrumental pieces, dedicated to Charles IV, Duke of Mantua, who may have employed him as a violinist. His Opus 3, a collection of  suites, was sponsored by Cosimo III de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany.

His career output numbered 99 sonatas, 59 concertos and nine symphonies.  By his seventh Opus he was writing regular pieces for the oboe and is regarded as the first composer to include the instrument in concertos. His ninth Opus was his last.

Albinoni came from a privileged background.  His family manufactured playing cards and owned several shops in Venice, allowing Tomaso to indulge his musical talents - he was a talented singer and violinist as well as a composer - as an amateur, known as a Dilettante Veneto.

Photo of opera poster
A poster advertising the premiere
of an Albinoni opera in 1716
He would have expected, at some stage, to take over the running of the family business, but after the commercial success of his 12 Sonate a Tre, his father changed the terms of his will so that the business would be placed instead in the hands of his younger brothers.  This meant Tomaso could pursue a career in music.

In 1705, Albinoni married an opera singer, Margherita Raimondi. He always lived in Venice but travelled extensively as his works were performed around Italy and later in northern Europe.  He died in Venice in 1751, apparently of diabetes.

Ironically, given his prolific output, his best loved work - the Adagio in G Minor - was written largely by someone else.

A good deal of Albinoni's work was damaged or destroyed in the bombing of Dresden towards the end of the Second World War when it was being kept in the Dresden State Library.  The ruins were visited in 1945 by a musicologist from Rome, Remo Giazotto, who was catalogueing the composer's output.

When Giazotto later published the adagio, copyrighted in his own name, he claimed it had been based on what remained of manuscript discovered in the ruins, which consisted of just the bass line and six bars of melody from a church sonata that was possibly included in Albinoni's Opus Four, written in about 1704.

Giazotto said he had constructed the piece as a complete movement based on that fragment of manuscript, although the claim was never corroborated and no one else saw the scrap of paper.  The consensus among musical scholars is that it should be seen as Giazotto's work, yet the piece continues to be referred to as Albinoni's Adagio in G Minor.

Photo of Chiesa San Vidal
The former Chiesa San Vidal in Venice
Travel tip:

Performances of Albinoni's music form part of the season performed annually by the Interpreti Veneziani, a chamber music ensemble who specialise in Venetian music.  They perform at a former church, the Chiesa San Vidal, situated between the Accademia Bridge and Campo Santo Stefano, and sometimes at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, both in the San Marco district.  For more information, visit

Travel tip:

The Scuola di San Rocco was established in 1478 by a group of wealthy Venetian citizens, next to the church of San Rocco. In 1564 the painter Tintoretto was commissioned to provide paintings for the Scuola, and his most renowned works are to be found in the Sala dell'Albergo and the Sala Superiore.

More reading:

Where to see Tintoretto's work in Venice

Success and sadness of Antonio Vivaldi

How Arcangelo Corelli's music influenced others

(Photo of Chiesa San Vidal by Didier Descouens CC BY-SA 4.0)