Locatelli, Pietro Antonio
(b Bergamo, 3 Sept 1695; d Amsterdam, 30 March 1764). Italian composer and violinist. His importance lies particularly in his L\\\'arte del violino: 12 violin concertos, with altogether 24 caprices for solo violin in the first and last movements of each concerto. This collection had an immense influence on the development of violin technique, especially in France, where violin teaching continued to bear signs of his style of virtuosity until the beginning of the 19th century. Locatelli must be considered the founding-father of modern instrumental virtuosity, and he also left a body of work whose idiom, from his op.2 onwards, reflects aspects of the most advanced style of his day.
His parents were Filippo Locatelli and Lucia Crocchi (or Trotta). A document in the Locatelli archive (I-BGc) indicates that Pietro Antonio was the first of seven sons. He would have learnt the rudiments of music in the choir of S Maria Maggiore in Bergamo, possibly under Ludovico Ferronati or Carlo Antonio Marino, two of the city\\\'s leading musicians. In April 1710 the 14-year-old violinist appeared as a member of the basilica\\\'s instrumental ensemble, and the following January he acquired the official position of third violin. In the same year, 1711, the young Locatelli was granted permission to go to Rome. The tradition that he was one of Corelli\\\'s pupils is true only in the broad sense that he belonged to the Corelli ‘school’. In fact, Locatelli polished his skills as a violinist under the wing of a recognized representative of the prestigious circle of virtuosos associated with Corelli. Possibly it was Giuseppe Valentini (who is known to have played alongside Locatelli in 1714 at performances promoted by the aristocratic Caetani family in Sermoneta) who took care of his training when he was first in Rome, but it is equally likely that Locatelli sought assistance from someone in the Ottoboni circle of the calibre of Franceso (Antonio) Montanari or Domenico Ghilarducci. Between 1717 and 1723 Locatelli was frequently called upon for performances sponsored by Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni at S Lorenzo in Damaso, and during the same period he took part on a fairly regular basis in the Congregazione dei Musici di S Cecilia and performed with this society in Rome on several occasions. It is not known exactly when Locatelli came into contact with the pope\\\'s major-domo Monsignor Camillo Cybo, the dedicatee of his XII concerti grossi opera prima (1721), but he must certainly have been under the protection of this noble prelate fairly early on, possibly from the time of his affiliation with the Congregazione (1716). After February 1723, the date of his last documented appearance at Ottoboni\\\'s residence, information about Locatelli becomes scarce. Perhaps he is the ‘bergamasco’ who played at S Giacomo degli Spagnoli in Rome in July that year. One fact is certain: Locatelli\\\'s name disappears from Roman documents in 1723, at the same time that his protector, Monsignor Cybo, left the city.
The title of virtuoso da camera which the Landgrave Philipp von Hesse-Darmstadt, Habsburg Governor of Mantua, conferred on Locatelli in 1725 does not in itself constitute evidence of his having stayed for any length of time at the landgrave\\\'s court: no trace of Locatelli\\\'s visit has yet been discovered in Mantuan archives. Nor do Venetian archives show that Locatelli resided in that city, although that he spent some time in Venice between 1723 and 1727 can be deduced from the letter of dedication to the Veneto patrician Girolamo Michiel Lini at the head of the concertos in his Arte del violino op.3. On 26 June 1727 Locatelli was in Munich, at the court of the Prince-Elector Karl Albert, where he received 12 gold florins for a performance, and the following year he was in Berlin, as is confirmed in a report by the ambassador from Brunswick to the Prussian court, referring to the violinist\\\'s appearance at the palace of Monbijou in the presence of the Queen Sophie Dorothea. Tradition has it that Locatelli came to the court of Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia from Dresden in the retinue of the Prince-Elector Augustus the Strong, and that he gave two performances before the King of Prussia and received from him a gift of ‘eine schwere goldene Dose mit Ducaten’. The problem with this legend is the precise relationship between Locatelli and the Dresden court: the only indication of a link between Locatelli and the Elector of Saxony, King of Poland, at that time is the presence of some of the composer\\\'s works in the archive of the Dresden Kapelle. Evidence for his presence in Frankfurt in 1728 is provided by his signature on a page – showing an Andante later published in the Sonata for flute op.2 no.3 (1732) – in a personal album belonging to Hendrik van Uchelen, a Dutch-born businessman living there. In December that year Locatelli was in Kassel, where he received a fee of 80 imperial thaler for ‘services rendered’ at the court of the Landgrave Carl von Hessen-Kassel. It is indeed because of Locatelli\\\'s contacts with the Kassel court that we are able to make a fair approximation of the date on which he arrived in Amsterdam: from a letter of December 1729 to Prince Maximilian von Hessen we learn that he had been in Amsterdam for at least four months and that he intended to remain there for the whole winter.
The reason for Locatelli\\\'s presence there is explained not by concert-giving in the Dutch Republic or, more precisely, in Amsterdam, but by the country\\\'s flourishing music-publishing firms, which, with their advanced technology and efficient commercial network, guaranteed wide international circulation. In Amsterdam Locatelli\\\'s collaboration with the publishing house of Roger and Le Cène, which had begun with his op.1 in 1721, continued with the publication of his orchestral works, while he issued at his own expense the collections of chamber music opp.2, 5 and 8, personally taking charge of sales from his own home. In 1731 he obtained from the States of Holland and East Friesland a privilege to print his own works which lasted for 15 years and was renewed in 1746, demonstrating cautious planning and practice in the publication of his works.
On the basis of Locatelli\\\'s own testimony and that of his contemporaries, he avoided the public, ‘and he never will Play any where but with Gentlemen’. His regular Wednesday concerts in his own home were probably for a small circle of prosperous amateurs. His estate at the time of his death demonstrates clearly that in the 35 years he spent in Amsterdam he enjoyed a certain prosperity. Among the possessions in his house were large collections of works of art and old books (covering various fields and in various languages), sometimes in multiple copies, suggesting that he was engaged in commercial activities in the northern Netherlands, where there were at the time numerous collectors.
Two aspects sit side by side in Locatelli\\\'s musical personality: as a composer spanning two eras he showed himself receptive to changes in the air, while as a performer his stance might even be described as provocative. The dichotomy this reveals has caused confusion in musicological writings: the questionable taste of many of the 24 caprices in the Arte del violino for a long time blinded critics to the historical value of a work whose exceptional technical demands placed Locatelli as the founding-father of the 19th-century virtuoso concerto. In his psychological make-up Locatelli also seems to be a prototype of the modern virtuoso. Whether as performer or – slightly later – as composer, he leaves the historian with the impression of developments prematurely stranded in the prosperity and isolation of a commercial city such as Amsterdam.
As a violinist Locatelli explored uncharted territory, particularly in conquering the very top register of the instrument: his almost systematic exploration reaches, in the Arte del violino, c\\\'\\\'\\\'\\\' (16th position), while in the ‘Capriccio, prova dell\\\'intonazione’ in the Sonata op.6 no.12 Locatelli reaches b\\\'\\\'\\\'\\\'\\\'\\\' (22nd position). Left-hand extensions, double and triple stopping, polyphonic passages, trills and double trills are explored in various ways, almost systematically. Frequent employment of the so-called staccato-legato, on the other hand, exemplifies the exploration of new possibilities for the right arm. Altogether these innovations earned Locatelli much criticism during his lifetime, in relation to beauty of sound, and contemporary critics compared him unfavourably with violinists who were certainly less innovative and influential. Locatelli\\\'s violin technique as a whole remains to this day a challenge for the player.
Locatelli\\\'s works comprise concerti grossi, solo concertos, trio sonatas and sonatas for one melody instrument and bass. The op.1 concerti grossi, following the model of Corelli\\\'s op.6, are divided into eight da chiesa and four da camera concertos. They are distinguished by the vitality of their counterpoint: the fugatos, fugues and double fugues generally go beyond the Corelli model and reveal a familiarity with the Roman contrapuntal tradition. Their density of texture is further intensified by the use of a viola in the concertino group. The severity of these concertos is mostly abandoned in the concertos opp.4 and 7: in many of these there is a clear tendency towards the solo concerto. The flute sonatas op.2 were widely known in the composer\\\'s day; their structures already show features which would later contribute to the formation of sonata form. They also show a movement towards the galant style: the flute\\\'s melodic line is characterized by numerous decorations including lombardic rhythms, sighs, appoggiaturas, syncopations and a huge variety of rhythmic values over a bass whose sole function is to articulate the harmony. The trio sonatas op.5 aim to create a pleasant mood, while the violin sonatas opp.6 and 8 represent the peak of Locatelli\\\'s work (fig.2), showing a highly personal fusion of the abilities of a virtuoso violinist with those of a composer at the forefront of the latest stylistic trends.
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J.H. Calmeyer: The Life, Times and Works of Pietro Antonio Locatelli (diss., U. of North Carolina, 1969)
Pietro Antonio Locatelli: Bergamo 1969
A. Meli: Gli esordi in patria di Pietro Antonio Locatelli (Bergamo, 1970)
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M. Eynard: Il musicista Pietro Antonio Locatelli: un itinerario artistico da Bergamo a Amsterdam (Bergamo, 1995)