Manchester, 14th-18th July 2004


Peter Allsop (University of Exeter, UK)

A currency for cultural exchange: music and the Chinese mission in the eighteenth century

Among the most notable but least known instances of stylistic transmission must be the dissemination of European music at the Chinese court in the early eighteenth century.

Research undertaken by Dr Joyce Lindorff in China over a number of years has established the central role of a remarkable priest musician, Teodorico Pedrini, in this dissemination. Not only is his music preserved in manuscript in Beijing, but his life is uniquely documented in hundreds of pages of letters from 1702 until 1744. Copious references to music at court establish its role as currency in this cross-cultural milieu. Furthermore, they offer unparalled insights into diplomacy between East and West, and equally, they provide a most intimate and moving picture of this charismatic figure, of pivotal influence in both temporal and spiritual spheres.

As the first task in an extended collaborative project, an investigation has been made into the circumstances of Pedrini's music training and background, disclosing a tightly-knit web associated with Corelli's circle in Rome. Not only do the letters reveal that Pedrini frequented the Cancelleria, home of Corelli's patron, Cardinal Ottoboni, but he also had links with Cardinal Decio Azzolini, confidant of Corelli's first patron, Queen Christina of Sweden, and Giovanni Mario Crescimbeni, Custode Generale of the Arcadian Society and the first biographer of Corelli. These eminent persons were directly connected with the Collegio Piceno in Rome where Pedrini studied and by whom Corelli was employed to provide music for the patronal festival of its church of S. Maria di Loreto dei Marchigiani. Unexpectedly, the discovery of these ties has unearthed the precise reasons why Pedrini should have been singled out by Pope Clement XI for the Chinese mission.

Last updated on 10 May 2004