Manchester, 14th-18th July 2004


Guido Olivieri (University of California, Santa Barbara, USA)

Rethinking center and periphery: string sonatas in Naples at the turn of the eighteenth century

Naples, together with Rome and Venice, has frequently been regarded as a major center in the development of Baroque opera. Scholars, accordingly, have emphasized the importance of vocal production, overlooking other crucial aspects of Neapolitan musical activity. The existence of an instrumental tradition has been considered as a marginal phenomenon, and has only rarely discussed. The standard musicological literature has by and large ignored the development of the string sonata in Naples.

The purpose of my paper is to question this viewpoint offering new evidence of a significant and vigorous production of string sonatas in Naples. Drawing on previously unknown archival material and music, I situate the sonata repertoire in the cultural context of the period, thus illuminating the circumstances in which it was created. The paper examines the activity and output of the Neapolitan musicians who contributed to the creation of a string sonata repertoire. Looking specifically at the careers of three virtuosi — Pietro Marchitelli (1643-1729), first violinist of the Royal Palace Chapel; Giovanni Carlo Caiḷ (c.1659-1722), violin teacher in two of the four conservatories; and Giuseppe Antonio Avitrano (1670-1756), the first composer to publish three collections of sonatas in Naples — I provide new insights into the social status of musicians, the use of sonatas as a didactic tool, the state of the music printing industry, and systems of patronage in Naples.

Last updated on 10 May 2004