GIOVANNI BATTISTA VIOTTI (1755 - 1824)
A pupil of Pugnani, Giovanni Battista Viotti could claim to represent the continuing tradition of Italian violin playing that started in the last quarter of the 17th century with Corelli. Pugnani had been a pupil of Somis, who had been a pupil of Corelli. Viotti made his first concert tour abroad with his teacher in 1780, moving thereafter to Paris, where he made a strong impression with his playing, entered the service of Marie Antoinette and concerned himself with operatic administration. The Revolution in 1792 caused him to seek refuge in London, where he played at the concerts organized by Salomon, performances in which Haydn was involved during his two visits to London in the 1790s. Political exile from London took him for eighteen months to Germany, and on his return to London at the beginning of the new century he occupied himself chiefly with the wine trade, rarely playing in public. The failure of his business was followed by appointment in 1819 as director of the Paris Opéra, a position he was compelled to relinquish two years later when he returned to stay with friends in London, dying there in 1824. His career as a performer was relatively short, but his influence on violin playing was very considerable, witnessed notably by the younger generation of players that included Rode, Kreutzer and Baillot.
Viotti’s orchestral music consists principally of his 29 violin concertos, in a style that develops from the compositions of the early 1780s to the romantic lyricism of the later concertos, works that strongly influenced the concertos of younger violinist-composers.
Viotti’s chamber music includes fifteen quatuors concertants; a number of trios for two violins and cello; duos, many of them for two violins; and works for solo violin. These exhibit, in general, the particular features of Viotti’s style of playing, with the violin usually enjoying prominence.