UNICO WILHELM VAN WASSENAER (1692 - 1766)
The composer of the beautiful music on this recording was unknown for over two centuries. This was not through bad fortune, but rather because the author took active steps to remain anonymous. Before it was established that the Dutch nobleman Count Unico Wilhelm van Wassenaer was the creator of these works, they were attributed to the Italian Carlo Ricciotti, before being included and renamed Concertini in the Collected Edition of Pergolesi. For over a hundred years these Pergolesi Concertini have been enjoyed and performed, bringing great credit to that composer. Indeed, when Igor Stravinsky wrote his Pulcinella suite and made use of the music of Pergolesi he included a Tarantella based on the last movement of Concerto No.2.
Unico Wilhelm, Count of Wassenaer, was born on 2nd November, 1692, into one of the oldest noble families of the Province of Holland, the seventh child of the family, although only five survived to adulthood. He spent his early years in the family house in The Hague and the Castle of Twickel. His father Jacob van Wassenaer (1645-1715), however, served as ambassador of the Dutch Republic to Berlin (1699- 1702) and to the court at Dsseldorf (1707-1709). Whether or not Unico Wilhelm joined his father is unknown. From 1710-1713 he was a student of law at Leiden University. The family obviously moved in the highest circles, for in April 1714 the Castle of Twickel was visited by the Elector of Hanover, who paid another visit in 1727, this time as the crowned king of England, George I. At his fathers death Unico Wilhelm inherited the
Twickel estate and the title of ridderschap (knighthood) of Overijssel. Shortly after this, as was the custom, the young nobleman embarked on his Grand Tour. Although his itinerary is not known, typical routes included Paris, Italy, perhaps Rome, Florence and Venice, Vienna, and Prague.
Although no formal records exist to show that Unico Wilhelm was a student of music, we can see from his later life that he was an accomplished musician. We can only begin to contemplate what were the effects to a musically inspired youth of growing up in court and the stimulus of the Grand Tour. The court at Dsseldorf had associations with Agostino Steffani, Arcangelo Corelli, Attilio Ariosti, Antonio Draghi, and George Frederick Handel. We know too, the contents of the Counts library. Included were dramatic works by the French composers Destouches, Lully and Campra, as well as instrumental works by Handel, Bononcini, Corelli, Telemann, Tartini, Geminiani, Locatelli and Senaill. Many of the works were copied in Unico Wilhelms own hand.
After leading the relatively carefree early life of an aristocrat Unico Wilhelm was married in 1723 and had three sons. He assumed diplomatic appointments as ambassador in Paris (1744) and in Cologne (1746), while he represented The Netherlands at the Congress of Breda. He died on 9th November, 1766, and was buried in The Hague.