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Mauro Giuliani and his Guitar Concerto #1 in AM

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Mauro Giuseppe Sergio Pantaleo Giuliani (July 27, 1781 – May 8, 1829) was an Italian guitarist, cellist, singer, and composer, and is considered by many to be one of the leading guitar virtuosi of the early 19th century. Born in Bisceglie, Italy, Giuliani moved with his brother Nicola in the first years of his life to Barletta which became his center of study. His first instrumental training was on the cello—an instrument which he never completely abandoned—and he probably studied the violin. He also studied counterpoint, but on the six-string guitar he was entirely self-taught, and that became his principal instrument early on. Subsequently he devoted himself to the guitar, becoming a very skilled performer on it in a short time. The names of his teachers are unknown, and we cannot be sure of his exact movements in Italy.

Giuliani married Maria Giuseppe del Monaco, and they had a child, Michael, born in Barletta in 1801. After that he was probably in Bologna and Trieste for brief stays. Giuliani embarked on a successful tour of Europe when he was 19, and by the summer of 1806, fresh from his studies of counterpoint, cello and guitar in Italy, he had moved to Vienna , where he entered the musical circle of Diabelli, Moscheles, and Hummel and became acquainted with the classical instrumental style. In 1807 Giuliani began to publish compositions in the classical style. His concert tours took him all over Europe. Everywhere he went he was acclaimed for his virtuosity and musical taste. He achieved great success and became a musical celebrity, equal to the best of the many instrumentalists and composers who were active in the Austrian capital city at the beginning of the 19th century.

Giuliani solidified his reputation with the 1808 premiere of his Guitar Concerto in A major, Op. 30, and was soon heralded as the greatest living guitar virtuoso. Even Beethoven noticed Giuliani, and wrote of his admiration for him. Perhaps to return the favor, Giuliani played cello in the 1813 premiere of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7. In 1815 Giuliani appeared with Johann Nepomuk Hummel (followed later by Ignaz Moscheles), the violinist Joseph Mayseder and the cellist Joseph Merk, in a series of chamber concerts in the botanical gardens of Schönbrunn Palace, concerts that were called the “Dukaten Concerte.” This exposure gave Giuliani prominence in the musical environment of the city. Also in 1815, he was the official concert artist for the celebrations of the Congress in Vienna.

In Vienna, Giuliani had minor success as a composer. He worked mostly with the publisher Artaria, who published many of his works for guitar, but he had dealings with all the other local publishers, who spread his compositions all over Europe. He developed a teaching career here as well; among his numerous students were Bobrowicz and Horetzky. Around 1814, Giuliani was named virtuoso onorario di camera to Napoleon’s second wife, Empress Marie-Louise. But, in deep financial difficulties as his property and bank accounts were confiscated to pay his debtors, he left Vienna and returned to Italy in 1819, spending time in Trieste and Venice, and finally settled in Rome, where he did not have much success, publishing a few compositions and giving only one concert.

An 1823 trip to London brought Giuliani acclaim in the English-speaking world. In July 1823 he began a series of frequent trips to Naples to be with his father, who was seriously ill. In the Bourbon city of Naples Giuliani found a better reception to his guitar artistry, and there he was able to publish other works for guitar with local publishers. Settling in Naples, he enjoyed the patronage of the court of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies and became adept on an obscure instrument called the lyre-guitar. During this time, which is often called Giuliani’s Neapolitan period, he appeared frequently in concert as a guitarist. In 1826 he performed in Portici before Francesco I and the Bourbon court. Toward the end of 1827 his health began to fail, and he died in Naples on May 8, 1829.

Giuliani defined a new role for the guitar in the context of European music. He was acquainted with the highest figures of Austrian society and with notable composers such as Rossini and Beethoven, and cooperated with the best active concert musicians in Vienna, where he exercised strong influence over the progress of the guitar, as a teacher, performer and composer. Along with Fernando Sor, he was one of the last great classical proponents of his instrument until its revival in the early twentieth century. Giuliani wrote three Guitar Concertos, with a number of works for solo guitar, including the Grand Overture, Op. 61, and a series of six sometimes long-winded suites, Le Rossiniane, based on tunes by Gioacchino Rossini, and for two guitars. Other ensemble music includes works for guitar and string quartet, guitar and violin and guitar and piano. His songs also offer the option of guitar accompaniment. In all, Giuliani published more than 200 works.

My collection includes the following work by Giuliani:

Concerto for Guitar and String Orchestra No. 1 in AM, op. 30 (1808).

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