Saturday, 29 July 2017


“The violin sings.” - Joshua Bell 

Giovanni Battista Somis, (also Giambattista Somis; 25 December 1686 in Turin – 14 August 1763) was an Italian violinist and composer of the Baroque era. Like his younger brother Giovanni Lorenzo Somis, he received his first musical training from their father Francesco Lorenzo Somis (1663-1736). Then Following in his father’s footsteps, he became a member of the Court Chapel of the Duke of Savoy in Turin.

From 1703 to 1706 Somis stayed in Rome, where he learned and deepened new bowing techniques and the art of ornamentation with his teacher, Arcangelo Corelli. It was from this time that he became acquainted with Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, to whom his Op. 4 is dedicated. Further travels took him to Novara and Sicily.

He then went to Paris in 1731, giving several concerts at the Paris residence of the Prince of Carignan. In Paris, Somis appeared in 1733 twice as a soloist, at the Concerts Spirituels; a report in the April 1733 “Le Mercure” praised his playing. On his return to Turin, he became the first soloist of the Hofkapelle, to which he belonged until his death. He remained with the chapel of Prince Carignan’s Turin residence all his life.

His most famous pupil was Jean-Marie Leclair, who introduced Somis to the French violin school. He also taught Gaspard Fritz, Jean-Pierre Guignon, Louis-Gabriel Guillemain, Gaetano Pugnani, and his nephew, Carlo Chiabrano, all of whom also made a name for themselves as violinists and composers. From Op. 5 Somis increasingly uses elements of the gallant style and French ornaments (agrémens).

His younger sister was the soprano and vocal teacher Anne Antonia Christina Somis (1704-1785) and later wife of the French painter Charles André van Loo. They had met each other in Turin during a stay of the painter in Turin.  The couple had two children, Marie-Rosalie van Loo (1741-1762) and Jules César Denis van Loo (1749-1821).

It is recorded that he composed 152 violin concertos, which are largely lost as they were not published. More than 80 violin and trio sonatas were published in groups within eight Opus numbers. These works were published by publishers in Turin, Paris and Amsterdam.

Here are the Violin Sonatas of his Opus 1, performed by Kreeta-Maria Kentala, violin; Lauri Pulakka, violoncello; Mitzi Meyerson, harpsichord.
Sonata no. 6 [D major]: 1 Adagio; 2 Allegro; 3 Allegro
Sonata no. 9 [G minor]: 4 Adagio; 5 Allegro; 6 Allegro
Sonata no. 5 [B flat major]: 7 Adagio; 8 Allegro; 9 Allegro
Sonata no. 7 [E flat major]: 10 Adagio; 11 Allegro; 12 Presto
Sonata no. 10 [C major]: 13 Adagio; 14 Allegro; 15 Allegro
Sonata no. 2 [E minor]: 16 Adagio; 17 Allegro; 18 Allegro
Sonata no. 1 [G minor]: 19 Adagio; 20 Allegro; 21 Allegro
Sonata no. 12 [E major]: 22 Adagio; 23 Allegro; 24 Allegro
Sonata no. 8 [A major]: 25 Adagio; 26 Allegro; 27 Allegro
Sonata no. 4 [D minor]: 28 Adagio: 29 Allegro; 30 Allegro
Sonata no. 3 [A minor]: 31 Adagio; 32 Allegro; 33 Allegro
Sonata no. 11 [F major]: 34 Adagio; 35 Allegro: 36 Allegro

The painting above is Gerrit van Honthorst's "Concert"

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