Home » Uncategorized » Pietro Locatelli and his violin concertos

Pietro Locatelli and his violin concertos

Pietro Antonio Locatelli (September 3, 1695-March 30, 1764) was an Italian Baroque composer and violinist, one of the first great violinists who practiced virtuosity for virtuosity’s sake, thereby extending the technical vocabulary of the violin. He was born in Bergamo, Republic of Venice, now part of Italy. Little is known about Locatelli’s childhood. He was still a young boy when his astonishing talent for playing the violin revealed itself. In his early youth, by age fourteen, he was the third violinist and held the title of virtuoso in the cappella musicale or musical establishment of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergamo. His first violin teachers were probably Ludovico Ferronati and Carlo Antonio Marino, both of whom were members of the cappella. The maestro di cappella, Francesco Ballarotti, may have taught him composition. In autumn 1711 Locatelli at the age of sixteen went to Rome to seek greater recognition. For a violinist on the threshold of his career, Rome was the place to be.

Locatelli began studying in Rome in autumn 1711, probably under Giuseppe Valentini and perhaps for a short time under Arcangelo Corelli, who died in January 1713. In a letter of March 1714 Locatelli wrote to his father in Bergamo that he was a confirmed member of the compita accademia di varj instrumenti, the household musicians of Prince Michelangelo I Caetani, where Valentini had worked as a violinist and composer since around 1710. Between 1716 and 1722, Locatelli was also a member of the congregazione generale dei musici di S. Cecilia, and thus under the protection of the noble prelate and future cardinal Camillo Cybo. He also assisted other Roman noble houses, often including that of cardinal Pietro Ottoboni in the church of San Lorenzo e San Damaso, until around February 1723. While in Rome, Locatelli debuted as a composer. In 1721 his XII Concerti grossi, Op. 1, dedicated to Camillo Cybo, was published in Amsterdam.

From 1723 to 1728 Locatelli travelled through Italy and Germany. Mantua, Venice, Munich, Dresden, Berlin, Frankfurt and Kassel are the places he is known to have visited. Most of his concert compositions, including the violin concertos and the capricci, were probably written in this period. They were published later in Amsterdam. It is believed that his performances made him famous. Locatelli’s activity at the court of the regent of Mantua, the landgrave Philipp von Hessen-Darmstadt, is attested by a 1725 document in which the landgrave refers to him as “our virtuoso.” How often and in what capacity Locatelli performed at that court is not known. Also unknown is the time of his activity in Venice, although he certainly went there. One notice describes Locatelli’s visit to Munich on June 26, 1727.

Just one year later, in May 1728, Locatelli visited the Prussian court in Berlin. He moved from Dresden to Potsdam with Augustus II and the elector’s escort of about 500 people, including Johann Georg Pisendel, Johann Joachim Quantz and Silvius Leopold Weiss. According to an entry in a rich autograph collector’s records, Locatelli was living in Frankfurt on October 20, 1728. The entry includes a miniature version of the Andante from Sonata III, Op. 2, for piano. Locatelli’s last known stop was in Kassel, where he received the very high payment of 80 reichsthaler after his visit to Charles I, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, on December 7,1728. The organist Jacob Wilhelm Lustig stated in 1728 that Locatelli had astonished his listeners with hugely difficult passages while scraping at his violin.

In 1729 Locatelli moved to Amsterdam, where he stayed until his death. He did not compose so much as previously, but gave violin lessons to amateurs and edited his opp. 1–9 and the works of other musicians, such as Giovanni Battista Martini’s Op. 2. His sparsely documented public and semi-public performances were open only to amateur music lovers, not to professional musicians. Some rich music lovers, who would play as amateurs with Locatelli, helped him to become affluent. In aristocratic circles he was a recognized, admired, and supported virtuoso and composer. In 1741 he set up a business selling violin strings from his home. It is unknown why from 1744, when he released Op. 8, to 1762, when he released Op. 9, there were no reports of him from lexicographers, listeners or national and international music journalists. Locatelli died on March 30, 1764, in his house in Amsterdam. Johann Sebastian Bach copied a set of parts to Locatelli’s Concerto Grosso opus. 1 (1721) which he presumably performed with the Leipzig Collegium Musicum.

Pietro Locatelli’s works are mainly for the violin, an instrument on which he was a virtuoso. As a composer, Locatelli was most drawn to the sonata and concerto forms. Both reveal him to have been capable of elegant and expressive melody.When Locatelli went to Amsterdam in 1729, he discovered the centre of European music publishing. He published his Opp. 2–6, 8 and 9 and a new edition of Op. 1 in Amsterdam, and Op. 7 in the neighboring city of Leiden. He took great care to achieve flawless editions. Locatelli gave the well-arranged works to different publishers, and he edited and sold the less-arranged works. Locatelli’s works can be divided into three categories: works for his own performances as a virtuoso; representative works for larger ensembles; chamber music and small works arranged for small ensembles. Examples of virtuoso works are the Violin Concertos Op. 3 with their associated Capricci, and the Violin Sonata Op. 6 with one Capriccio. He also wrote violin sonatas, a cello sonata, trio sonatas, concerti grossi and a set of flute sonatas (his Op. 2).

My collection includes the following work by Pietro Locatelli:

Violin Concerto in cm

—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources


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