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Francesco Bartolomeo Conti (Composer)

Born: January 20, 1681 - Florence, Italy
Died: July 20, 1732 - Vienna, Austria

Francesco Bartolomeo Conti was an eminent theorbist and dramatic composer. Although known to modern audiences from his compositions, in his day he was renowned as the greatest living interpreter on the theorbo and mandolin. Although not born before 1681, by 1700, Conti was already famous as a musician in the courts of Italy. In 1701 he was appointed as an assistant theorbist at the Habsburg court in Vienna. He resigned in 1705, but upon the death of his predecessor in 1708, Conti was named into the top spot and held this position. He was also, from 1713, the court composer, succeeding Johann Joseph Fux in this position. In this latter capacity, he was responsible for the single most important event of the year, namely the operea for the carnival season. He devoted himself with marked success to the composition of operas, especially the higher kind of comic operas. His best work was the tragi-comic opera Don Chisciotte in Sierra Morena, which is a model of its kind for the clear delineation of each separate character. It was performed first at the Carnival of 1719 in Vienna, and afterwards (1722) at Hamburg, in German. His first opera, Clotilde (Vienna, 1706), was produced in London (1709), and the songs published separately by Walsh. He relinquished his position of theorbist in 1726 on the grounds of ill-health, and had gone to Italy by 1729.

Francesco Bartolomeo Conti was an enormously prolific and highly respected musician in the Viennese court of his day. When he resigned, it took more than a year for Habsburg court officials to find a suitable replacement. In time, they settled on no less a talent than Antonio Caldara, but even he was required to step aside during the few months that Conti was able to return to his duties in 1732. Conti produced two new dramatic works before finally perishing that same year at age 50 or 51. He married Maria Landini, the most popular singer in the Viennese court of that day, in 1711. When Landini died in 1722, she was replaced by Maria Anna Lorenzani, whom Conti likewise married in 1725.

Works

The catalogue in Q.-L. comprises 16 grand operas, 13 serenades or Feste teatrali, and 9 oratorios, the scores of which are to be found almost entire in the Imperial Library and in the archives of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde at Vienna. Johann Mattheson, in his Vollkommene Kapellmeister (1739, p. 40), casts a grave slur on Conti's character through a confusion between him and his son Iguaz. The mistake was corrected by Quantz in Marpurg's Historisch-kritische Beyträge (1754, vol. i. p. 219), and by Gerber in his Neues Lexicon, but Fetis maintained the authenticity of the anecdote in the Revue musicale (1827, No. 3), and even repeated it in his Biographie universelle after the real facts had been made known by Molitor in the A.M.Z. (1838; p.153).

Francesco Bartolomeo Conti's surviving output is largely devoted to sacred and secular cantatas, masses, oratorios, and operas. A volume of his instrumental music published in London in 1707 is lost, but nine sinfonias, extracted from operas, still exist, along with what is likely the earliest known sonata for the mandolin. Conti's cantatas and oratorios are solid and thoughtful. One of them, the Cantata Languet anima mea, survives in a manuscript version from 1716 as arranged by J.S. Bach (BWV deest I 006). Conti's cantata output is of such quality that it is able to withstand comparison to similar works by J.S. Bach, Georg Philipp Telemann, and Antonio Vivaldi; however, many of his cantatas survive in a two-part texture consisting of vocal line and continuo only. His oratorios (about ten) were composed to librettos by Pariati (Galatea vindicata, 1719; revised 1724), Zeno (Griselda, 1725; the oratorio David, 1724) and others. Conti composed more than 30 operas (including intermezzos), of which the first, Clotida (1706), was the most popular during his lifetime. Unfortunately, this work is lost outside of excerpts drawn into other pasticcio; however, his Don Chiscotte in Sierra Morena (1719) has gained enough traction in modern times to become Conti's best-known work outside of Languet anima mea. He also composed chamber cantatas; Masses and other sacred works for voices with instruments; a few purely instrumental works, one for mandolin solo. Notwithstanding Conti's position as a theorbist, his compositions rarely make use of the instrument, even in the continuo ensemble.

Ignaz Conti

The younger Conti, Ignaz (b. 1699; d. March 28, 1759), whom Fetis is uncertain whether to call the son or the brother of Francesco, was really his son. He held the post of Rof-scholar from 1719 up to the time of his death, and composed several serenades and oratorios which bear no traces of his father's ability.

 

Source: Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1952 Edition, Author: C. Ferdinand Pohl); All Music Guide (Author: Uncle Dave Lewis); HOASM Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (July 2008)

Francesco Bartolomeo Conti: Short biography | Cantata Languet anima mea

Works arranged / performed by Bach

Cantata Languet anima mea, for soprano, two oboes, strings and basso continuo, survives in a manuscript version from 1716 as arranged by J.S. Bach (BWV deest I 006). J.S. Bach added 2 oboes (1718-1722) & BC (1724) - performed by J.S. Bach in Weimar 1716, in Köthen 1718-1722, and in Leipzig 1724

Links to other Sites

HOASM: Francesco Bartolomeo Conti
Francesco Bartolomeo Conti (Answers.com) [from AMG]

Conti, Francesco Bartolomeo (Hutchinson encyclopedia)
Francesco Bartolomeo Conti (Wikipedia) [Italian]

Bibliography

 

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Last update: ęDecember 5, 2008 ę08:28:12