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8.557573 - ARIOSTI: 6 Cantatas / LOCATELLI: Trio Sonata in E Minor / VIVALDI: Trio Sonata in D Major
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Attilio Ariosti (1666–1729)
Six Cantatas (1724)

Attilio Ariosti was born in Bologna in 1666 into an illegitimate branch of a noble family. He joined the Servite order in 1688, taking his vows and lower orders the following year, to be ordained deacon in 1692. He left the monastery in 1696 and entered the service of the Duke of Mantua and Monferrato. His earlier compositions had included, in 1693, the oratorio La passione, and 1696 brought the first performance of his pastoral opera Tirsi, with a libretto by Apostolo Zeno, at Carnival in Venice. The following year he went to Berlin at the request of Sophie-Charlotte, Queen of Prussia, a great-granddaughter of James I of England and daughter of the Electress Sophie of Hanover, an enlightened patroness of the arts, with a keen interest in music. Ariosti, who enjoyed the particular favour of the Queen, wrote or collaborated in the writing of a number of stage works performed for the court in Berlin.

Service at a Protestant court led Ariosti’s religious superiors to recall him to Italy, but he delayed his departure, and on his way back spent time in Vienna, where he provided in 1703 a poemetto drammatico for the name-day of the Emperor Leopold I, La più gloriosa fatica d’Ercole (The Most Glorious Labour of Hercules). His connection with the Habsburg court continued, with the office of minister and agent to all the courts of Italy, bestowed by the Emperor Joseph I. In 1708 he returned to Vienna, but on the death of the Emperor in 1711 he found himself banned for religious reasons from all Austrian territories by the Empress, who asked the Pope to have him expelled from his order. It is not clear whether this last actually happened.

By 1716 Ariosti was in London, where he played the viola d’amore at performances of Handel’s opera Amadigi di Gaula. His own opera Tito Manlio was staged there in 1717, and he continued to write for the stage, his name joined with those of Handel and Bononcini. An American writer of the time distinguishes the particular qualities of each, suggesting that Ariosti can give expression to ‘good Dungeon Scenes, Marches for a Battel, or Minuets for a Ball, in the Miserere’ (quoted by Christopher Hogwood: Handel, 1984). The ‘dungeon scenes’ seem to allude to Ariosti’s most successful work for the London stage, Coriolano, the prison scene in which is praised by Sir John Hawkins as ‘wrought up to the highest degree of perfection that music is capable of’. The opera Vespasiano, staged in 1724, contained not only a diplomatic preponderance of arias for Anastasia Robinson, soon secretly to marry the Earl of Peterborough, but provides evidence of the other characteristics noted above; one performance of the opera caused an uproar, when Anastasia Robinson objected to the too close proximity on stage of the castrato Senesino, leading to the violent intervention of her elderly beau. Mainwaring, in his 1760 Memoirs of the Life of the late George Frederic Handel indulges in an imaginative account of Ariosti’s earlier acquaintance with Handel in Berlin, when he showed the latter much kindness, encouraging him to play the harpsichord and seating him on his knee. It was in 1724 that Ariosti published his Six Cantatas and a collection of six lessons for the viola d’amore, dedicated to King George I, brother of Queen Sophie-Charlotte who had died in 1705 at the early age of 36. The work attracted a distinguished list of royal and noble subscribers, fraudulently included, if Sir John Hawkins’s later report is to be believed. Ariosti’s contribution to the repertoire of the viola d’amore is extensive, including a large number of sonatas and other compositions for the instrument. His final years brought less success, with the apparent failure of the last opera with which he was concerned, Teuzzone, in 1727. He died in London in early September, 1729.

The composers of the trio sonatas here included need less introduction. The trio sonata itself, a form that owed much to the example of Arcangelo Corelli, a leading Italian composer of the preceding generation, generally involves four players, two performers on melody instruments, most often two violins, and a chordal accompaniment on a keyboard or plucked instrument, with a bass line contributed by an instrument of suitable register, most usually the cello or viola da gamba. It often reflects the pattern of the concerto grosso.

Pietro Antonio Locatelli was born in Bergamo in 1695. He was employed there as a violinist at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, before being sent to Rome, where he was able to study with Corelli’s disciple Giuseppe Valentini, a composer and violin virtuoso, and to work together with other musicians of Corelli’s circle under the patronage of Cardinal Ottoboni. His first set of concerti grossi was published in Amsterdam in 1721. He seems to have spent time in Venice and in 1725 was given the title virtuoso da camera in the service of Vivaldi’s patron, Landgrave Philipp of Hessen- Darmstadt, Habsburg ruler of Mantua. He spent the following period at various courts in Germany, including Berlin. In 1729 he settled in Amsterdam, where he was able to take advantage of the city’s effective musicpublishing business to arrange for the publication of his own works, remaining there until his death in 1764. His published compositions include a set of trio sonatas, Opus 5, issued in 1736.

Antonio Vivaldi, a native of Venice, where he was ordained priest, for years intermittently directed the music of the famous Ospedale della Pietà, one of the institutions for the education of illegitimate, orphan or impoverished girls which enjoyed a distinguished musical reputation. He was also active in the composition and direction of operas in Venice, and was himself among the great virtuoso violinists of his day. His achievement as a composer is reflected particularly in the five hundred or more concertos he wrote, and his pioneering work in the establishment of the form of the Italian solo concerto.

Keith Anderson


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