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Francesco Manfredini and his Concerti Grossi


Francesco Onofrio Manfredini (June 22, 1684–October 6, 1762) was an Italian Baroque composer, violinist, and church musician.   He was born on June 22, 1684, at Pistoia, Italy, to a trombonist in the parish church of Pistoia.  As a teenager he was sent to Bologna, then a part of the Papal States, to study violin with Giuseppe Torelli, who was a leading figure in the development of the concerto grosso.   Francesco also took instruction in composition and counterpoint from Giacomo Antonio Perti, maestro di capella of the Basilica of San Petronio from 1696 when the orchestra was temporarily disbanded.

In 1700, the 16-year-old Manfredini went to Ferrara to take a job as first violinist in the orchestra of the Church of San Spirito (Church of the Holy Spirit).  In 1704, however, he returned to Bologna, employed again in the re-formed orchestra of San Petronio.  In the same year he became a member of the Accademia Filarmonica and published his first compositions, a set of twelve chamber sonatas he named Concertini per camera, Op. 1. In 1707, as Manfredini was preparing to visit or move to Venice, a friend named Aldrovandini, with the intent of traveling to Venice with him, accidentally drowned on his way to joining Manfredini. It’s not clear whether Manfredini went ahead with his planned trip, nor is much known about Manfredini’s doings for the next 20 years. In 1709, he also published Sinfonie da chiesa, Op. 2; ostensibly chamber pieces, they, in fact, complemented the earlier chamber sonatas.

After 1711, Manfredini spent an extended stay in Monaco, apparently in the service of Prince Antoine I. The prince had been a pupil of Louis XIV’s favorite composer Jean Baptiste Lully, whose conductor’s baton he had inherited. The precise nature of his relationship to the court of Monaco, and the length of his stay, are not known. Manfredini is first mentioned in court records in 1712. During these years, he published additional sets of incidental music.  In 1718 he would publish, in Bologna, his Concerti Grossi for two violins and basso continuo, Op. 3, Nos. 1-12 which are dedicated to that ruler. Also copies of his 12 Sinfonie da chiesa, Op. 2 were found in the princely library. He also wrote an oratorio, Tommaso Moro.  One indication of the nature of the relationship is that Prince Antoine stood as godfather to Manfredini’s son Antonio Francesco; four other children were born to him during his stay in the principality.

Given even this slim evidence, it can be inferred that both Manfredini and the Prince were satisfied by the arrangement since the composer does not reappear in the historical records until the year 1727, when he had returned to Pistoia in 1724 as maestro di capella at St. Phillip’s Cathedral.  Shortly afterwards, he published four oratorios, presumably all written in the years 1725-1728.  He held this post for 35 years until his death on October 6, 1762.   Much of his music is presumed to have been destroyed after his death; only 43 published works and a handful of manuscripts are known.  Two of his sons, Vincenzo and Giuseppe, had careers of some note. The former was appointed maestro di capella of the Italian opera in St. Petersburg. Giuseppe became a castrato singer.  It has been said that his name “may have…disappeared had he not composed a Christmas Concerto (No. 12 of Op. 3).”

Manfredini was born during a particularly fertile period for the production of great composers. Born within 16 months of him were Rameau, Walther, Handel, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Domenico Scarlatti. Against the glare of these first-magnitude stars (and the not much older Telemann and Vivaldi), the lesser but noteworthy talent of Manfredini is easy to overlook.  Manfredini was not a prolific composer, or if he was, an undue amount of his work has been lost, but there are 43 published instrumental works, nine oratorios (music lost), and a couple of unpublished works.  Manfredini’s principal compositions reflect his training with Torelli in Bologna. They include sets of concerti grossi, in chamber and church form, and trio sonatas. His oratorios include S Filippo Neri trionfante and Tommaso Moro.  Although he composed oratorios, only his secular works remain in the repertoire. A contemporary of Johann Sebastian Bach and Antonio Vivaldi, his extant work shows the influence of the latter.

The following works by Francesco Manfredini are contained in my collection:

Concerto Grosso, op. 3 no. 1, in FM.

Concerto Grosso, op. 3 no. 2, in am.

Concerto Grosso, op. 3 no. 3, in em.

Concerto Grosso, op. 3 no. 4, in BbM.

Concerto Grosso, op. 3 no. 5, in dm.

Concerto Grosso, op. 3 no. 6, in DM.

Concerto Grosso, op. 3 no. 7, in GM.

Concerto Grosso, op. 3 no. 8, in FM.

Concerto Grosso, op. 3 no. 9, in DM.

Concerto Grosso, op. 3 no. 10, in gm.

Concerto Grosso, op. 3 no. 11, in cm.

Concerto Grosso, op. 3 no. 12, in CM.

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

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