Showing posts with label Baroque. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Baroque. Show all posts

12 August 2016

Giovanni Gabrieli – composer

Venetian musician inspired spread of the Baroque style

The tomb of Giovanni Gabrieli in the Church of Santo Stefano in the San Marco district of Venice
The tomb of Giovanni Gabrieli in the Church of
Santo Stefano in the San Marco district of Venice
Giovanni Gabrieli, composer and organist, died on this day in 1612 in Venice.

He had been a major influence behind the transition from Renaissance music to the Baroque style in Europe.

Born in Venice between 1554 and 1557, Giovanni grew up studying with his uncle, the composer Andrea Gabrieli, for whom he always had great respect.

He also went to Munich to study with the musicians at the court of Duke Albert V, which had a lasting influence on his composing style.

After his return to Venice he became principal organist at St Mark’s Basilica in 1585. Following the death of his uncle, he took the post of principal composer at St Mark’s as well and spent a lot of time editing his uncle’s music for publication, which would otherwise have been lost.

Listen to Gabrieli's Canzon XVI for 12 parts

He took the additional post of organist at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, which was second only to St Mark’s in prestige at the time.

The English writer Thomas Coryat wrote about musical performances there in his travel memoirs.

The Scuola Grande di San Rocco (left) adjoins the  Church of San Rocco in Venice in the San Polo district
The Scuola Grande di San Rocco (left) adjoins the
Church of San Rocco in Venice in the San Polo district
Composers from all over Europe came to Venice to study after the publication of Giovanni’s Sacred Symphonies (Sacrae Symphoniae) in 1597.

Using the acoustics of St Mark’s to full advantage, he wrote music for separated choirs, but specified which instruments were to be used and which choirs were to use soloists as well as full choir, in order to distinguish between the musical style of each. This was a new approach to orchestration.

Giovanni made his pupils study Madrigals as well as the Venetian style of music and they took back the early Baroque style to their own countries, which profoundly affected the course of music history.

In Germany, the music of Johann Sebastian Bach was founded on the early Baroque tradition, which had its roots in Venice.

Giovanni Gabrieli died as a result of complications with a kidney stone in 1612 and he is buried in the Church of Santo Stefano in Campo Santo Stefano in Venice.

Easy to see why the Basilica of St Mark is sometimes known as the Chiesa d'Oro - the Church of Gold
Easy to see why the Basilica of St Mark is sometimes
known as the Chiesa d'Oro - the Church of Gold
Travel tip:

St Mark’s Basilica is the Cathedral Church of Venice and one of the best examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture in existence. Because of its opulent design and gold ground mosaics it became a symbol of Venetian wealth and power and has been nicknamed Chiesa d’Oro (Church of Gold). The spacious interior with its multiple choir lofts inspired the development of the Venetian polychoral style used by the Gabrielis, uncle and nephew, and Claudio Monteverdi.

Travel tip:

The Scuola Grande di San Rocco was established in 1478 by a group of wealthy Venetians next to the Church of San Rocco as a charitable institution to give money to the sick and needy and their families. Tintoretto decorated the walls and ceilings of the Scuola with a remarkable cycle of paintings in 1564. The Scuola is a few minutes walk from the San Tomà vaporetto stop on the Grand Canal.

(Photo of the tomb by Giovanni Dall'Orto)
(Photo of Scuola di San Rocco by MarkusMark  CC BY-SA)


1 July 2016

Claudio Saracini – musician

Baroque songs have survived till modern times

Composer Claudio Saracini was born on this day in 1586 in or close to Siena in Tuscany.

He is one of the most highly regarded composers of his time and is known also to have played the lute and been a singer.

An example of Saracini's surviving music:

He became famous for composing monody, which is secular music for a single voice, and 133 of the songs he wrote in this style have survived till today.

Some of Saracini’s compositions are still recorded, often in collections along with works by other composers of the same era, such as Monteverdi, who is said to have admired him.

Saracini travelled widely and seems to have established useful connections abroad as he dedicated a lot of his music to foreign aristocrats. He also appeared to have absorbed some of the musical styles of the lands he visited in his own compositions.

A unique feature of his work is the influence of folk music, particularly music from the Balkans, which is rarely heard in early Baroque music. 

Saracini’s music was all published in Venice between 1614 and 1624, before his death in 1630.

During the 20th century there was renewed interest in his work after it had been neglected for a long time.

Photo of Piazza del Camp in Siena
The Piazza del Campo in Siena
Travel tip:

Siena is a beautiful old Tuscan town with a fan-shaped, central piazza, the Piazza del Campo, where the famous Palio, or horse race, is held twice every year. 

Travel tip:

When visiting Venice there are many opportunities to hear Baroque music played by orchestras in concerts held in some of the churches. To find out about concerts in Venice during your stay visit

(Photo of Siena by Ricardo André Frantz CC BY-SA 3.0)


11 June 2016

Antonio Cifrondi – painter

Artist who has preserved images of everyday life for us

Cifrondi's painting of An Old Woman with
a Stick can be seen at the Civic Museum
 of Art and History in Brescia
Baroque artist Antonio Cifrondi was born on this day in 1655 in Clusone, just north of Bergamo, in Lombardy.

He is known for his religious works and his genre paintings of old men and women and of people at work, in which he depicts their clothing in great detail. 

Some of his work is on display in the Accademia Carrara in Bergamo. A self-portrait can be seen in the church of Sant' Alessandro della Croce in Via Pignolo in Bergamo.

Cifrondi was born into a poor family in Clusone, the main town in Val Seriana to the north east of Bergamo.

After training as a painter locally he moved to Bologna, and then to Turin and to Rome, where he stayed for about five years. He also worked briefly at the Palace of Versailles near Paris.

He came back to live in the Bergamo area in the 1680s, after which he painted many of his major works. He lived for the last years of his life in a convent near Brescia, the city where he died in 1730.

Travel tip:

Bergamo in Lombardy is a beautiful city with an upper and lower town that are separated by impressive fortifications. The magical upper town has gems of medieval and Renaissance architecture surrounded by the impressive 16th century walls, which were built by the Venetians who ruled at the time. Outside the walls, the lower town has art galleries, churches and theatres and a wealth of good restaurants and smart shops to enjoy. For more information visit

The Accademia Carrara in Bergamo has a number of
paintings by the artist Antonio Cifrondi
Travel tip:

One of the biggest jewels in Bergamo’s crown, the prestigious art gallery Accademia Carrara, was reopened to the public in 2015 after having had extensive renovation work. It is the only museum in Italy to be entirely stocked with donations and bequests from private collectors and has many works by Venetian and Lombardian Renaissance artists. The gallery is located in Piazza Giacomo Carrara just outside the walls of the upper town, a short walk from Porta Sant’Agostino. For more information visit


4 June 2016

Cecilia Bartoli – opera singer

Soprano put the spotlight back on ‘forgotten’ composers and singers 

Photo of Cecilia Bartoli
Cecilia Bartoli, who was born in
Rome on this day in 1966

Mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli celebrates her 50th birthday today, having been born on this day in 1966 in Rome.

Bartoli is renowned for her interpretations of the music of Mozart and Rossini and for her performances of music by some of the lesser-known Baroque and 19th century composers.

Her parents were both professional singers and gave her music lessons themselves and her first public performance was at the age of eight when she appeared as the shepherd boy in Tosca.

Bartoli studied at the Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia in Rome and made her professional opera debut in 1987 at the Arena di Verona.

The following year she earned rave reviews for her portrayal of Rosina in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville in Germany and Switzerland.

Bartoli made her debut at La Scala in 1996, followed by the Metropolitan Opera in 1997 and the Royal Opera House in 2001.

She has performed and recorded Baroque music by composers such as Gluck, Vivaldi, Haydn and Salieri.

Photo of Cecilia Bartoli after a performance in Paris
Cecilia Bartoli takes the applause after a performance
of Rossini's La Cenerentola in Paris
She has sold more than ten million copies of her albums, received numerous gold and platinum certificates and been given many awards and honours.

In 2012 Bartoli became artistic director of the Salzburg Whitsun Festival and her personal programme choices immediately resulted in record ticket sales. She has since sung Cleopatra in Handel’s Giulio Cesare and the title roles in Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma and Rossini’s La Cenerentola there.

The singer has a particular interest in early 19th century music, the age of Romanticism and bel canto, and has developed a fascination with the singer Maria Malibran. She marked the bicentenary of Maria Malibran’s birth in March this year with the release of Maria, a new album devoted to the singer. 

Bartoli lives with her husband, the Swiss baritone Oliver Widmer, on the shores of Lake Zurich in Switzerland and also in Rome.

Photo of entrance door to Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia
The entrance to the Conservatorio di Santa
Cecilia in Via dei Greci in Rome

Travel tip:

The Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia, where Cecilia Bartoli was educated, dates back to 1875. It was set up under the auspices of one of the oldest musical institutions in the world, now known as the National Academy of Santa Cecilia, which was established in 1565. The Conservatorio can be found in Via dei Greci, not far from the Spanish Steps in central Rome. The Academy is located at the Parco della Musica in the northern part of Rome in Viale Pietro de Coubertin in the Flaminio district, close to the location of the 1960 Summer Olympic Games.

Travel tip:

Cecilia Bartoli’s debut at La Scala in Milan as Isolier in Le Comte Ory in 1991 helped establish her as one of the world’s leading Rossini singers. The opera house has a fascinating museum displaying costumes and memorabilia from the history of opera that is well worth visiting. The entrance is in Largo Ghiringhelli, just off Piazza della Scala. It is open every day except the Italian Bank Holidays and a few days in December. Opening hours are from 9.00 to 12.30 and 1.30 to 5.30 pm.

More reading:

The amazing talent of opera composer Rossini

The success and sadness of Antonio Vivaldi

(Photo of Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia by Lalupa CC BY-SA 3.0)


4 March 2016

Antonio Vivaldi – Baroque composer

The success and the sadness in the life of musical priest 

This portrait by an unknown artist is believed to have been painted in 1723
A portrait of Antonio Vivaldi painted by an
anonymous artist in around 1723
Violinist, teacher, composer and cleric Antonio Lucio Vivaldi was born on this day in Venice in 1678.

Widely recognised as one of the greatest Baroque composers, he had an enormous influence on music throughout Europe during his own lifetime.

His best-known work is a series of beautiful violin concertos called The Four Seasons.

Vivaldi was a prolific composer who enjoyed a lot of success when his career was at its height.

As well as instrumental concertos he composed many sacred choral works and more than 40 operas.

Vivaldi’s father taught him to play the violin when he was very young and he became a brilliant performer. At the age of 15 he began studying to be a priest and he was ordained at the age of 25. He soon became nicknamed ‘Il Prete Rosso’, the red priest, because of his red hair.

He became master of violin at the Ospedale della Pietà, an orphanage in Venice, and composed most of his works while working there during the next 30 years.

The orphaned girls received a musical education and the most talented pupils stayed on to become members of the Ospedale’s orchestra or choir. Vivaldi wrote concertos, cantatas and sacred vocal music for them to perform.

Listen to Vivaldi's 'Summer' concerto from The Four Seasons, performed by the Italian chamber orchestra I Musici

His first opera was produced in Vicenza in 1713 and he was invited to Mantua to be director of music for the city’s governor in 1718.

At the height of his career, Vivaldi received commissions from European nobility and royalty. After meeting the Emperor Charles VI he moved to Vienna with the intention of staging some of his operas there. But Charles VI died shortly after his arrival, leaving the composer with no income or royal protection.

Vivaldi became impoverished and died in 1741 following an infection. He was given the equivalent of a pauper’s funeral in Vienna.

Vivaldi worked at La Pietà for 30 years
The Church of La Pietà. Photo:
Didier Descouens (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Travel tip:

Vivaldi was baptised by the midwife immediately after his birth at his family’s home in the Castello district of Venice. His official church baptism took place two months later at the simple Gothic-style Church of San Giovanni Battista in Bragora in Campo Bandiera e Moro in Castello.

Find a Venice hotel with Tripadvisor

Travel tip:

The Church of La Pietà, or Santa Maria della Visitazione, on Riva degli Schiavoni facing the lagoon, dates back to the 15th century. It started its life as a foundling home for orphans. From 1703 till 1740 Vivaldi directed the Pietà’s musical groups and composed music for the orchestra and choir. The church is now a regular venue for concerts featuring Vivaldi’s music. 

Venice hotels by

More reading:

How Giovanni Gabrieli inspired the spread of the Baroque music style

Tomaso Albinoni, Venetian who composed a famously haunting adagio

Francesco Gasparini, the musical director who took Vivaldi on at the Ospedale della Pietà

Also on this day:

1848: The first Italian Constitution is agreed

1943: The birth of singer-songwriter Lucio Dalla

Selected books:

The Vivaldi Compendium, by Michael Talbot

Vivaldi: Red Priest of Venice, by Susan Adams


17 February 2016

Arcangelo Corelli – musician

Baroque composer had a major influence on the development of music


The composer Arcangelo Corelli was famous for his concerti grossi
The composer Arcangelo Corelli
Violinist and composer Arcangelo Corelli was born on this day in 1653 at Fusignano, a small town near Ravenna.

He is remembered for his influence on the development of violin style and for his use of the genres of sonata and concerto. Corelli’s 12 Concerti Grossi established the concerto grosso as a popular medium of composition.

Named Arcangelo after his father, who died a few weeks before his birth, he studied music with the curate of a neighbouring village before going to the nearby towns of Faenza and Lugo to learn musical theory.

Corelli later studied with Giovanni Benvenuti, who was a violinist at the Basilica of San Petronio in Bologna and in 1670 he started at the Philharmonic Academy in Bologna.

He moved on to Rome where to begin with he played the violin at a theatre. It is known that by 1677 he had written his first composition, a Sonata for Violin and Lute.

By 1675 Corelli was third violinist in the orchestra of the chapel of San Luigi dei Francesi and by the following year he had become second violinist.In 1681 his 12 Trio Sonatas for two violins and a cello were published and the following year he became first violinist in the San Luigi dei Francesi orchestra.

In 1687 Corelli became musical director at the Palazzo Pamphili, where he performed, conducted and organised important musical occasions.

On one occasion he conducted a large orchestra of stringed instruments to entertain the British ambassador, who had been sent to Rome by King James II of England to attend the coronation of Pope Innocent XII.

Corelli was also a brilliant teacher and among his many students was the young Antonio Vivaldi.

Considered to be the best violinist of his time, Corelli was invited to Naples in 1702 to perform a composition by Alessandro Scarlatti in the presence of the King.

Corelli died in Rome in 1713 and his 12 Concerti Grossi were published the following year in Amsterdam. Both Bach and Handel are said to have studied his work and been influenced by him.

The Basilica of San Vitale is famous for its Byzantine mosaics
The Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna
Photo: 0mente0 (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Travel tip:

Fusignano, where Corelli was born, is a comune (municipality) in the province of Ravenna in the Emilia-Romagna region. Ravenna was the capital city of the Western Roman Empire from 402 until its collapse in 406. The city’s Basilica of San Vitale is famous for its wealth of Byzantine mosaics, the largest and best preserved outside Turkey, and the church is on the Unesco World Heritage list. Arguably, Fusignano's most famous citizen is football manager Arrigo Sacchi, who won two European Cups as manager of AC Milan.

Corelli is buried in the Pantheon in Piazza della Rotonda in Rome . Considered to be Rome’s best preserved ancient building, the Pantheon was built in AD 118 on the site of a previous building dating back to 27 BC. It was consecrated as a church in the seventh century and many important people, including Victor Emanuel II, Umberto I and his wife, Queen Margherita, are buried there, along with the painters Raphael and Annibale Carracci, the architect Baldassare Peruzzi and the writers Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo and Émile Zola.

More reading:

Also on this day:

(Picture credits: Basilica of San Vitale by 0mente0; Pantheon by Roberta Dragan; via Wikimedia commons)

12 January 2016

Revolution in Sicily

January revolt meant the beginning of the end for the Bourbons

The Sicilian uprising on this day in 1848 was to be the first of several revolutions in Italy and Europe that year.

Ferdinand was the Bourbon ruler of Sicily
King Ferdinand II
The revolt against the Bourbon government of Ferdinand II in Sicily started in Palermo and led to Sicily becoming an independent state for 16 months.

It was the third revolution to take place on the island against Bourbon rule and signalled the end for the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

Naples and Sicily had been formally reunited to become the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in 1815. Back in medieval times they had both been part of a single Kingdom of Sicily.

The 1848 revolt was organised in Palermo and deliberately timed to coincide with King Ferdinand’s birthday.

News of the revolt spread and peasants from the countryside arrived to join the fray and express their frustration about the hardships they were enduring.

Sicilian nobles revived the liberal constitution based on the Westminster system of parliamentary government, which had been drawn up for the island in 1812.

The Bourbon army took back full control of Sicily by force in May 1849 but the revolt proved to be only a curtain raiser for the events to come in 1860 when Giuseppe Garibaldi ended Bourbon rule once and for all.

The island of Sicily became part of the new Kingdom of Italy in 1861.

Travel tip:
Palermo's magnificent Teatro Massimo
Photo: Bjs (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Palermo,  the capital of Sicily, is famous for its history, culture, architecture, food and wine. It has examples of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque churches and palaces. Palazzo dei Normanni, a marvellous example of Norman architecture, is the seat of the Sicilian Regional Assembly. The Teatro Massimo, the biggest theatre in Italy, has staged operas starring Enrico Caruso.

Travel tip:

Naples has been subjected to persistent foreign domination over the centuries. After the Spanish came the Austrians and in 1734 the Bourbon King, Charles I, renovated the city, building the Villa di Capodimonte and the Teatro di San Carlo. Napoleon conquered Naples in 1806 and made his brother the King, but the Bourbon King, Ferdinand, regained Naples in 1815. In 1861, Garibaldi’s army conquered the city and handed it over to the King of Sardinia, who later became King Victor Emanuel II, the ruler of the newly united Italy.


1 January 2016

Capodanno in Italy

Toasting the New Year the Italian way

New Year’s Day is called Capodanno in Italy, which literally means ‘head of the year’.

Rai Uno will be screening a New Year's Day concert from La Fenice
Teatro La Fenice in Venice

It is a public holiday, and schools, Government offices, post offices and banks are closed.

After a late start following the New Year’s Eve festivities, many families will enjoy another traditional feast together, either at home or in a restaurant.

Visitors and residents will attend church services throughout the country before sitting down to a festive meal and toasting 2016 with a glass of good Prosecco.

Rai Uno will be broadcasting a New Year’s Day concert live from La Fenice in Venice at 12.20 local time.

San Giuseppe Maria Tomasi

The Catholic Church remembers cardinal-priest Giuseppe Maria Tomasi di Lampedusa who died on this day in 1713.

He was the son of the Prince of Lampedusa in Sicily but he renounced his inheritance and joined a religious order.

Later in life he worked to reform the church and was created a cardinal-priest by Pope Clement XI who admired his sanctity.

He was buried in a church near his home after his death but his remains were later transferred to the Basilica of Sant’Andrea della Valle in Rome and he was canonised by Pope John Paul II in 1986.

Travel tip:

La Fenice (the Phoenix ) is Venice’s world famous opera house, originally built in 1790. The name reflects its role in permitting an opera company to rise from the ashes after their previous theatre burnt down.  La Fenice was itself destroyed by fire in 1836 and had to be rebuilt. It was severely damaged by fire again in 1996 and rebuilt at a cost of more than 90 million euros, reopening seven years later. La Fenice is in Campo San Fantin, a short walk from Piazza San Marco.

The Basilica of Sant'Andrea
della Valle in Rome
Travel tip:

There is a shrine to San Giuseppe Maria Tomasi in the baroque Basilica of Sant’Andrea della Valle in Corso Vittoria Emanuele II in Rome. The large church is also famous for being chosen by Puccini as the setting for the first act of his opera, Tosca.

Buon Anno e Tanti Auguri per 2016 (Happy New Year and best wishes for 2016) from all at Italy On This Day!


22 November 2015

Bernardo Pasquini - composer

Talented musician wrote music for a queen

Bernardo Pasquini was one of many composers supported by Queen Christina of Sweden
Bernardo Pasquini was one of many composers
supported by Queen Christina of Sweden
Baroque composer Bernardo Pasquini died on this day in Rome in 1710.

He is remembered as an important composer for the harpsichord and for his musical scores for operas.

Along with his fellow composers Alessandro Scarlatti and Arcangelo Corelli, Pasquini was a member of the Arcadian Academy (Accademia degli Arcadi) which was set up in Rome by one of his patrons, Queen Christina of Sweden.

Pasquini enjoyed Queen Christina’s protection while he was living in Rome and produced several operas in her honour. These were staged in Rome initially and then replayed in theatres all over Italy.

Queen Christina had abdicated from the throne of Sweden in 1654, converted to Roman Catholicism and moved to live in Rome.

While living in the Palazzo Farnese, she opened up her home for members of the Arcadian Academy to enjoy music, theatre, literature and languages with her.

She became a cultural leader and protector of many Baroque artists, composers and musicians.

The Trevi Fountain is an example of Rome's Baroque architecture
The Trevi Fountain is an example
of Rome's Baroque architecture
The Baroque period, which influenced sculpture, painting and architecture, as well as literature, dance, theatre and music, began in Rome around 1600. Rome's wealth of Baroque architecture includes the Trevi Fountain, built in 1762. It is the largest fountain in the style in the city.

Pasquini was born in what is now the municipality of Massa e Cozzile in Val di Nievole in Tuscany in 1637. He was a pupil of Marcantonio Cesti and Loreto Vittori before he went to live in Ferrara, where he was a church organist, and then moved on to Rome while he was still a young man.

He entered the service of Prince Borghese and, as a renowned virtuoso keyboard player, soon became the organist at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.

Pasquini was buried in the church of San Lorenzo in Lucina, which is in Piazza San Lorenzo, just off Via del Corso in Rome.

The church of San Lorenzo in Lucina in Rome, where Pasquini is buried
The church of San Lorenzo in Lucina in Rome,
where Pasquini is buried
Travel tip:

You can see Pasquini’s tomb in San Lorenzo in Lucina which bears a carved portrait of him. Three years after Pasquini’s death, his nephew Felice Bernardo Ricordati and one of his pupils, Bernardo Gaffi, commissioned Pietro Francesco Papaleo to sculpt a portrait of the composer in Carrara marble.

Travel tip:

Palazzo Farnese in Piazza Farnese in the Campo De’ Fiori area of Rome is now being used as the French Embassy. Queen Christina was allowed to lodge in this important renaissance building by Pope Alexander VII while it was standing empty following the death of Cardinal Odoardo Farnese.