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Giuseppe Torelli (1658 1709): Concerti Opus 8 Simon Standage, Collegium Musicum 90

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Name:Giuseppe Torelli (1658 1709): Concerti Opus 8 Simon Standage, Collegium Musicum 90

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Born in Verona in the parish of S Maria in Chiavica, he was the son of Stefano and Anna (Boninsegna) Torelli. He was the sixth of nine children, of whom the youngest, Felice, became famous as a painter. His father was a health inspector for the local customs office and supported his family comfortably. Giuseppe's early musical training, if any, may have come from the Veronese musician Giuliano Massaroti, who lived in the same part of the city. On 15 May 1676 he played the violin in a vesper service at the church of S Stefano in Verona, and between summer 1683 and late August 1684 he was a violinist at Verona Cathedral. He was admitted as a suonatore di violino to the Accademia Filarmonica in Bologna on 27 June 1684, by a vote of 27 to 3, and moved to that city probably in early September 1684. Padre Martini's Catalogo degli aggregati dell'Accademia filarmonica di Bologna lists him as ‘Giuseppe Torelli Veronese Compositore Maestro di Cappella del Duomo d'Imola’; he may have served in that capacity between leaving Verona and arriving in Bologna. It is also recorded that he composed several sinfonias for the Accademia's annual patronal feast in 1692–1700, 1703–4 and 1708; probably he had been raised to the rank of compositore in 1692.

It is not known with whom Torelli studied the violin (perhaps Leonardo Brugnoli or Bartolomeo Laurenti, both S Petronio violinists), but he is known to have been a composition pupil of G.A. Perti, three years his junior. On 28 September 1686 he was admitted to the regular cappella musicale at S Petronio, having been engaged there as extra player the two previous years for the patronal feast on 4 October. The position was advertised as for a violetta player, but Torelli succeeded Geminiano Buosi as a tenor viola player. From 1 January 1687 until 20 November 1689 his name appears in the mandati mensili as a regularly paid member of the cappella; his salary was increased on 23 March 1688. His presence is also documented intermittently between 1690 and 1695. His frequent absences (altogether about 18 months during a nine-year period), noted with some displeasure in the records, were due to performances in other places such as Parma and Modena, always as a violinist.

Shortly after the disbanding of the S Petronio orchestra for economic reasons in January 1696, Torelli left Bologna to seek employment elsewhere. He is mentioned as having played the violin for two feasts early in 1696 (musicians were engaged ad hoc during this period); evidently he left Bologna shortly afterwards. The castrato Francesco Antonio Pistocchi, whom Torelli had known in Bologna, was then in Parma, and left about this time for Ansbach, where Torelli's former pupil Pietro Bettinozzi was a violinist in the Margrave of Brandenburg's orchestra. Torelli may have gone with Pistocchi or joined him there. Both Torelli and Pistocchi may have gone to Berlin in May 1697 to perform for the Electress Charlotte Sophie: both subsequently dedicated works to her, Pistocchi his pastorale Il Narciso and Torelli his op.6. By 1698 Torelli had become maestro di concerto for the Margrave of Brandenburg at Ansbach, where Pistocchi was maestro di cappella. They remained there until the end of 1699, during which time Torelli conducted the orchestra for an idea drammatica by Pistocchi, Le pazzie d'amore e dell'interesse. By December 1699 both were in Vienna, according to letters (now in I-Bc) from Torelli and Pistocchi to Perti in Bologna. In a letter of 17 February 1700, Torelli reported that he had written an oratorio to be sung in the emperor's chapel on Laetare Sunday (mid-Lent). Pistocchi commented that the piece was ‘pretty as a springtime, skilfully written’. The oratorio in question may well be Adam auss dem irrdischen Paradiess verstossen, of which only the libretto survives (A-Wn).

During this period Torelli made serious efforts to effect long-overdue recognition of Perti for some cantatas (Cantate morale e spirituali op.1) which Perti had dedicated to the emperor in 1688. Torelli located them and had them performed, evidently amid much court intrigue, but had to be satisfied with obtaining for Perti a gold medallion of Leopold I.

By March 1700 Torelli was tired of Vienna and wrote of returning to Italy. He spoke of wishing to make a pilgrimage to Loreto, and of wanting to drink the waters at S Marino ‘having been so advised by the doctors here because of my cursed hypochondria and melancholy, which torments me greatly, though I have the look of a prince’. On 5 May 1700 Pistocchi wrote that he and Torelli were returning to Ansbach, hoping to obtain permission from the margrave to return to Italy. Nothing is known of Torelli's travels until February 1701, when he was listed as a violinist in the newly re-formed S Petronio cappella musicale, directed by Perti. In the decree marking the end of the suspension of that group, special mention was made of Torelli and Pistocchi, who were to be paid for each function at which they performed when they were in the city rather than being held to regular, continual service. The exception was probably made because of their friendship with Perti, and because both were at the peak of their fame as performers: to try to confine them to regular positions would have been to lose their services altogether.

Torelli died on 8 February 1709 and was buried by the Confraternity of the Guardian Angel, of which he was a member; after eight days the Accademia Filarmonica held its customary memorial service for a deceased member at S Giovanni in Monte. Torelli was well known for his virtuosity on the violin both in and outside Italy, and had many pupils, among them Girolamo Nicolò Laurenti, Pietro Bettinozzi and Francesco Manfredini. He was described by his contemporaries as ‘a man not only of docile and humble habits but also erudite and eloquent’.

Born in Verona in the parish of S Maria in Chiavica, he was the son of Stefano and Anna (Boninsegna) Torelli. He was the sixth of nine children, of whom the youngest, Felice, became famous as a painter. His father was a health inspector for the local customs office and supported his family comfortably. Giuseppe's early musical training, if any, may have come from the Veronese musician Giuliano Massaroti, who lived in the same part of the city. On 15 May 1676 he played the violin in a vesper service at the church of S Stefano in Verona, and between summer 1683 and late August 1684 he was a violinist at Verona Cathedral. He was admitted as a suonatore di violino to the Accademia Filarmonica in Bologna on 27 June 1684, by a vote of 27 to 3, and moved to that city probably in early September 1684. Padre Martini's Catalogo degli aggregati dell'Accademia filarmonica di Bologna lists him as ‘Giuseppe Torelli Veronese Compositore Maestro di Cappella del Duomo d'Imola’; he may have served in that capacity between leaving Verona and arriving in Bologna. It is also recorded that he composed several sinfonias for the Accademia's annual patronal feast in 1692–1700, 1703–4 and 1708; probably he had been raised to the rank of compositore in 1692.

It is not known with whom Torelli studied the violin (perhaps Leonardo Brugnoli or Bartolomeo Laurenti, both S Petronio violinists), but he is known to have been a composition pupil of G.A. Perti, three years his junior. On 28 September 1686 he was admitted to the regular cappella musicale at S Petronio, having been engaged there as extra player the two previous years for the patronal feast on 4 October. The position was advertised as for a violetta player, but Torelli succeeded Geminiano Buosi as a tenor viola player. From 1 January 1687 until 20 November 1689 his name appears in the mandati mensili as a regularly paid member of the cappella; his salary was increased on 23 March 1688. His presence is also documented intermittently between 1690 and 1695. His frequent absences (altogether about 18 months during a nine-year period), noted with some displeasure in the records, were due to performances in other places such as Parma and Modena, always as a violinist.

Shortly after the disbanding of the S Petronio orchestra for economic reasons in January 1696, Torelli left Bologna to seek employment elsewhere. He is mentioned as having played the violin for two feasts early in 1696 (musicians were engaged ad hoc during this period); evidently he left Bologna shortly afterwards. The castrato Francesco Antonio Pistocchi, whom Torelli had known in Bologna, was then in Parma, and left about this time for Ansbach, where Torelli's former pupil Pietro Bettinozzi was a violinist in the Margrave of Brandenburg's orchestra. Torelli may have gone with Pistocchi or joined him there. Both Torelli and Pistocchi may have gone to Berlin in May 1697 to perform for the Electress Charlotte Sophie: both subsequently dedicated works to her, Pistocchi his pastorale Il Narciso and Torelli his op.6. By 1698 Torelli had become maestro di concerto for the Margrave of Brandenburg at Ansbach, where Pistocchi was maestro di cappella. They remained there until the end of 1699, during which time Torelli conducted the orchestra for an idea drammatica by Pistocchi, Le pazzie d'amore e dell'interesse. By December 1699 both were in Vienna, according to letters (now in I-Bc) from Torelli and Pistocchi to Perti in Bologna. In a letter of 17 February 1700, Torelli reported that he had written an oratorio to be sung in the emperor's chapel on Laetare Sunday (mid-Lent). Pistocchi commented that the piece was ‘pretty as a springtime, skilfully written’. The oratorio in question may well be Adam auss dem irrdischen Paradiess verstossen, of which only the libretto survives (A-Wn).

During this period Torelli made serious efforts to effect long-overdue recognition of Perti for some cantatas (Cantate morale e spirituali op.1) which Perti had dedicated to the emperor in 1688. Torelli located them and had them performed, evidently amid much court intrigue, but had to be satisfied with obtaining for Perti a gold medallion of Leopold I.

By March 1700 Torelli was tired of Vienna and wrote of returning to Italy. He spoke of wishing to make a pilgrimage to Loreto, and of wanting to drink the waters at S Marino ‘having been so advised by the doctors here because of my cursed hypochondria and melancholy, which torments me greatly, though I have the look of a prince’. On 5 May 1700 Pistocchi wrote that he and Torelli were returning to Ansbach, hoping to obtain permission from the margrave to return to Italy. Nothing is known of Torelli's travels until February 1701, when he was listed as a violinist in the newly re-formed S Petronio cappella musicale, directed by Perti. In the decree marking the end of the suspension of that group, special mention was made of Torelli and Pistocchi, who were to be paid for each function at which they performed when they were in the city rather than being held to regular, continual service. The exception was probably made because of their friendship with Perti, and because both were at the peak of their fame as performers: to try to confine them to regular positions would have been to lose their services altogether.

Torelli died on 8 February 1709 and was buried by the Confraternity of the Guardian Angel, of which he was a member; after eight days the Accademia Filarmonica held its customary memorial service for a deceased member at S Giovanni in Monte. Torelli was well known for his virtuosity on the violin both in and outside Italy, and had many pupils, among them Girolamo Nicolò Laurenti, Pietro Bettinozzi and Francesco Manfredini. He was described by his contemporaries as ‘a man not only of docile and humble habits but also erudite and eloquent’.

Between 1686 and 1692, while he was in Bologna, Torelli published five collections of works entitled sonatas, sinfonias and concertos. In spite of this diversity of nomenclature, these works are chamber music, meant for one performer to a part and lacking the tonal contrasts of the later concerto style. Dedicated to noble patrons, the first two sets are written in an unpretentious, conventional style, perhaps to call attention to himself as composer as well as virtuoso violinist. Both appeared in 1686, the year of his entry into the S Petronio orchestra. Op.1 is a collection of ten trio sonatas, of which seven possess the by now standard sonata da chiesa arrangement of slow–fast–slow–fast. First movements are chiefly chordal with many suspensions; second movements are imitative, often in a related key; third movements vary between those two textures; and fourth movements are dance-like, in triple or compound metre, often employing imitation. Op.2 (Concerto da camera à due violini e basso) follows a sonata da camera arrangement of dance pieces in binary form, though Torelli shows a wide variety of style under each dance title. Each suite ends with a diminutive sarabande, gavotte or minuet. Other dances include allemande, corrente, balletto and giga. It is worth noting that Torelli made tentative steps towards a ritornello principle in six of these dances by bringing back snatches of the subject material in its original key towards the end of the second half as well as at its beginning, where it often appears on the dominant.

Op.3 (1687) is entitled Sinfonie à 2.3.e 4. This collection is made up of six trio sonatas and sonate à due and àquattro, generally longer than those in previous collections. Five of the 12 are in a slow–fast–slow–fast arrangement, and the remaining seven have mostly fast movements in various arrangements, with slow movements functioning as brief links between them. Experiments in both form and instrumentation point to early attempts at concerto techniques, though the works remain essentially chamber music.

Op.4 (1688), a curious work dedicated to the Duke of Modena, Francesco II, is entitled Concertino per camera and scored for violin and cello without figured bass. If this is indeed its intended manner of performance, the result is the earliest duos for violin and cello by a Bolognese composer. The publication contains 12 sets of dance pieces, most of them preceded by an introductory movement. A significant feature is the expansion of Torelli's harmonic resources, both in the choice of chords and in internal key relationships.

After these four publications Torelli began to interest himself in trumpet music, probably because of the presence in Bologna of an excellent trumpeter, Giovanni Pellegrino Brandi, whose name appears in the payment lists as an extra player for the patronal feast of St Petronius each year from 1679 to 1699 and who undoubtedly inspired the festive sonatas for trumpet and strings by Torelli and his contemporaries Perti, Jacchini, Aldrovandini and Domenico Gabrielli. These works were used to open the celebration of Mass (one such work contains the indication ‘Chirie’ at the end of the sinfonia). Most of Torelli's solo trumpet works were probably composed during his first Bolognese period; the only two dated works in this genre, in fact, come from 1690 and 1693. The three works for one or two trumpets also come from this period; the works for two trumpets include one dated 1692.

In these works, all unpublished, the titles vary among sinfonia (see illustration), concerto and sonata. Probably because of the disparate timbres of trumpets and strings, and the consequent contrasting ensembles, concerto techniques are more discernible here. The ritornello principle is more clearly defined and the essence of conflict is evident in contrasting tonal levels, rhythms and textures. Many of the slow movements use the solo violin or violins in passages of considerable virtuosity. Although the trumpets imposed certain tonal restrictions, in the movements without trumpets Torelli ventured into tonal areas unexplored in previous works. Since these were intended not for publication but for festive performance at S Petronio, no economic limitations inhibited these experimental steps towards the mature concerto form. He developed the medium already well established by his predecessors, pitting contrasting timbres and tonal levels against one another to create the tension that made viable the return of previous material.

The contents of op.5 (1692) reflect some of the lessons learnt in the S Petronio repertory. In addition to the six trio sonatas (Sinfonie à tre), Torelli added six concertos (Concerti à quattro); here he deliberately and publicly turned towards orchestral performance as opposed to chamber music. In his prefatory advice he instructed the performers to multiply all the instruments. Six years later, in op.6, he asked that sections marked ‘solo’ be played on a single violin; the remaining parts could then be duplicated by three or four instruments. These instructions may be the first of such kind to appear in print; Muffat's similar admonitions were not published until 1701. Here, without the trumpet, he seemed less sure of his way; incipient ritornello–episodic design appears, but either the ritornello is too short or the episodes are too long. Some of the mature concerto elements appear, like the broken triad at the opening, but the design is not yet within his grasp.

By 1698 and the publication of op.6 (Concerti musicali, dedicated to the Electress of Brandenburg), Torelli had learnt how to write broader episodes in non-thematic figural patterns, along with more expansive ritornellos, which return midway and at the conclusion. The collection contains two concertos that require solo violin (possibly the first solo violin concertos in 17th-century literature); the remainder are without solo passages, but the same structure applies to both types. During his second stay in Bologna, Torelli prepared for the publication of op.8 (Concerti grossi con una pastorale, published posthumously by his brother, Felice) and probably composed op.7, of which no copy has survived. He also wrote some unpublished works including oboes for S Petronio, possibly for Pietro Bettinozzi, his former pupil, who had learnt the oboe in Ansbach and now played in the S Petronio orchestra, introducing the instrument there for the first time. One dated piece for trumpets and oboes comes from 1707. These works, often including dance movements, approach the orchestral suite. All the trumpet concertos including oboe parts (g27-31) can be dated to Torelli's second Bolognese period (after 1701).

The creation of op.8 with its concerti grossi and solo concertos represents the maturity of ideas of design and structure hinted at in earlier works. The concertos follow the three-movement fast–slow–fast order of the Italian opera overture. Here Torelli abandoned traditional Bolognese counterpoint in favour of a dominating top line, an articulated accompaniment, sequential progressions, clear cadences and well-defined tonal contrasts. Ritornellos and episodes are clearly contrasted, and the ritornello functions as both springboard and framework for the mature concerto form.

Bibliography:

G. Pasquetti : L'oratorio musicale in Italia (Florence, 1906, 2/1914)
R.M. Haas : Die estensischen Musikalien: thematisches Verzeichnis mit Einleitung (Regensburg, 1927)
F. Vatielli : Arte e vita musicale a Bologna (Bologna, 1927/R), 193–237
R. Brenzoni : ‘Giuseppe Torelli musicista veronese’, NA, xiii (1936), 22–37
F. Giegling : Giuseppe Torelli: ein Beitrag zur Entwicklungsgeschichte des italienischen Konzerts (Kassel, 1949)
J. Berger : ‘Notes on some 17th-Century Compositions for Trumpets and Strings in Bologna’, MQ, xxxvii (1951), 354–67
A.J.B. Hutchings : The Baroque Concerto (London, 1961, 3/1973)
S.E. Watts : The Stylistic Features of the Bolognese Concerto (diss., Indiana U., 1964)
M.N. Schnoebelen : The Concerted Mass at San Petronio in Bologna, ca. 1660–1730 (diss., U. of Illinois, 1966)
R.E. Norton : The Chamber Music of Giuseppe Torelli (diss., Northwestern U., 1967)
R.C. Van Nuys : The History and Nature of the Trumpet as Applied to the Sonatas of Giuseppe Torelli (diss., U. of Illinois, 1969)
E. Enrico : Giuseppe Torelli's Music for Instrumental Ensemble with Trumpet (diss., U. of Michigan, 1970)
M. Talbot : ‘The Concerto Allegro in the Early Eighteenth Century’, ML, lii (1971), 8–18, 159–72
D.L. Smithers : The Music and History of the Baroque Trumpet before 1721 (London, 1973)
E. Enrico : The Orchestra at San Petronio in the Baroque Era (Washington DC, 1976)
W.D. Förster : ‘Corelli e Torelli: sonata con tromba e concerto grosso’, Nuovissimi studi corelliani: Fusignano 1980, 329–46
M. Materassi : ‘Una nota sull'attività giovanile di Giuseppe Torelli a Verona’, Flauto dolce, (1983), 32–3
O. Gambassi : La cappella musicale di S Petronio: maestri, organisti, cantori e strumentisti dal 1436 al 1920 (Florence, 1987)
M. Talbot : Tomaso Albinoni: the Venetian Composer and his World (Oxford, 1990)
P. Allsop : The Italian Trio Sonata from its Origins until Corelli (Oxford, 1992)
O. Gambassi : L'Accademia filarmonica di Bologna (Florence, 1992), 284–6, 304
A. Schnoebelen : ‘Bologna, 1500–1700’, Man and Music: the Early Baroque Era, ed. C. Price (London, 1993), 103–20
M. Vanscheeuwijck : ‘Giuseppe Torelli and the Trumpet Concertos from the Archives of the Basilica [S Petronio]’, Giuseppe Torelli: the Complete Works for 1, 2, 4 Trumpets and Orchestra, Bongiovanni GB 5523/24/25-2 (1993) [disc notes]
M. Talbot : Benedetto Vinaccesi: a Musician in Brescia and Venice in the Age of Corelli (Oxford, 1994)
M. Vanscheeuwijck : De religieuze muziekproduktie in de San Petronio-kerk te Bologna ten tijde van Giovanni Paolo Colonna (1674–1698) (diss., U. of Ghent, 1995)

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