Saturday, 11 July 2015


“Who hears music feels his solitude peopled at once.” - Robert Browning

Francesco Saverio Geminiani (baptised 5 December 1687 – 17 September 1762) was an Italian violinist, composer, and music theorist. Born at Lucca, he received lessons in music from Alessandro Scarlatti, and studied the violin under Carlo Ambrogio Lonati in Milan and afterwards under Arcangelo Corelli. From 1707 he took the place of his father in the Cappella Palatina of Lucca.

From 1711, he led the opera orchestra at Naples, as Leader of the Opera Orchestra and concertmaster, which gave him many opportunities for contact with Alessandro Scarlatti. After a brief return to Lucca, in 1714, he set off for London in the company of Francesco Barsanti, where he arrived with the reputation of a virtuoso violinist, and soon attracted attention and patrons, including William Capel, 3rd Earl of Essex, who remained a consistent patron.

In 1715 Geminiani played his violin concerti for the court of George I, with Handel at the keyboard. Geminiani made a living by teaching and writing music, and tried to keep pace with his passion for collecting by dealing in art, not always successfully. Many of his students went on to have successful careers, such as Charles Avison, Matthew Dubourg, Michael Christian Festing, Bernhard Joachim Hagen and Cecilia Young.

After visiting Paris and residing there for some time, he returned to England in 1755. In 1761, on one of his sojourns in Dublin, a servant robbed him of a musical manuscript on which he had bestowed much time and labour. His vexation at this loss is said to have hastened his death. He appears to have been a first-rate violinist. His Italian pupils reportedly called him Il Furibondo, the Madman, because of his expressive rhythms.

Geminiani’s most well-known compositions are three sets of concerti grossi; his Opus 2 (1732), Opus 3 (1733) and Opus 7 (1746), (there are 42 concerti in all) which introduce the viola as a member of the concertino group of soloists, making them essentially concerti for string quartet. These works are deeply contrapuntal to please a London audience still in love with Corelli, compared to the galant work that was fashionable on the Continent at the time of their composition. Geminiani also reworked his teacher Corelli’s Opp. 1, 3 and 5 into concerti grossi.

Here are his 6 Concerti Grossi Op.II, performed by the Auser Musici:
“Concerti Grossi con Due Violini, Violoncello, e Viola di Concertino obligati, e Due Altri Violini, e Basso di Concerto Grosso ad arbitrio il IV. V. e VI. si potranno suonare con Due Flauti Traversieri, o Due Violini, con Violoncello. Opera Seconda” [London, 1732]

I. Concerto Grosso No.III [Presto/Adagio/Allegro] 0:08
II. Concerto Grosso No.II [Adagio/Allegro/Adagio/Allegro] 6:57
III. Concerto Grosso No.V [Grave/Allegro/Adagio/Allegro] 16:20
IV. Concerto Grosso No.VI [Andante/Allegro-Adagio/Allegro] 23:35
V. Concerto Grosso No.I [Andante/Allegro/Adagio/Allegro] 30:10
VI. Concerto Grosso No.IV [Andante/Allegro/Adagio/Allegro] 37:27

1 comment:

  1. I don't know Francesco Geminiani's music, even though he played his violin concerti for the court of George I, with Handel at the keyboard in 1715. This event alone should have brought him to my attention - Queen Anne and King George I's reigns are very important in my writing.

    But the portrait is terrific. It seems to be by Soldi, but I cannot see where the portrait hangs.