Giovanni Battista Viotti
Giovanni Battista Viotti
He was an instant sensation and served for a time at Versailles before founding a new opera house, the Théâtre de Monsieur in 1788, under the patronage of the comte d'Artois, the king's brother; there he mounted operas of his friend Luigi Cherubini among less lights. When the French Revolution took a radical turn and, though his opera house was renamed the Théâtre Feydeau, former royal connections became a dangerous liability, he moved in 1792 to London, making his début at Johann Peter Salomon's Hanover Square Concert, 7 February 1793. In London he went from success to success, as a featured violinist for Salomon's concert series, 1793-1794; as musical director of the new Opera Concerts in 1795; as a star in the benefit concerts for Haydn, 1794 and 1795; as acting manager of Italian opera at the King's Theatre, 1794-1795; and as leader and director of the orchestra, 1797. He was invited to perform in the houses of the London bon ton, including for the Prince of Wales. Then he was ordered to leave the country, under suspicion of Jacobin sympathies.
He later returned to Paris and London, but gave up giving concerts to run a wine business. In 1813 he was one of the founders of the Philharmonic Society of London. His wine business failed however, and he returned to Paris to work as director of the Académie Royale de Musique, from 1819 to 1821. He died on a visit to friends in London. In spite of his few direct pupils, Viotti was a very influential violinist.
The teacher of both Pierre Rode and Pierre Baillot and an important influence on Rodolphe Kreutzer, all of whom became notable teachers themselves, he is considered the founding father of the 19th century French violin school. He also taught August Duranowski, who was an influence on Niccolò Paganini. Viotti owned a violin fabricated by Antonio Stradivari in 1700 that would eventually become known as the Viotti Stradivarius. It is said that Viotti received the violin as a love token from Catherine the Great. He is also thought to have commissioned the construction of at least one replica of this violin.
The Viotti ex-Bruce, renamed in honour of its previous owner, was purchased by the Royal Academy of Music in September 2005. Funding was provided by HM Government in lieu of Inheritance Tax, the National Art Collections Fund, the National Heritage Memorial Fund and many private donors. The instrument will be displayed in the York Gate Collections, the Academy's free museum and research centre. The Viotti ex-Bruce will be heard as well as seen: the instrument will be played sparingly, under very controlled circumstances, at research events and occasional performances elsewhere. Viotti's most notable compositions are his twenty-nine violin concertos, which were an influence on Ludwig van Beethoven.
One in particular, No. 22 in A minor (1792), is still very frequently performed--especially by advanced student players. The other concertos are of similar quality but almost never heard; however in 2005 violinist Franco Mezzena released an integral set on the Dynamic Italy label. His music generally features the violin prominently: most of his string quartets largely ignore the balanced texture pioneered by Haydn, giving a "solo" role to the first violin and as such may be considered Quatuors Brillants.
However, his Tre Quartetti Concertanti, G.112, 113 and 114 (after Giazotto who has catalogued Viotti's works), composed in 1815 and published in Paris in 1817, are true concertante works offering extensive solos for each instrument and not just the first violin. Viotti often wrote chamber music for more traditional combinations such as two violins and cello. The Opp.18 and 19 are perhaps the best known of these and are still in print today. He also wrote sonatas, songs, and other works. Read more on Last.fm.
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