Francesco Mancini enjoyed considerable fame and success during his lifetime, but his figure has progressively faded into oblivion; it is therefore a praiseworthy undertaking that of bringing some of his finest instrumental works to light, with the aim of fostering our contemporary appreciation of this Neapolitan master.
Born in 1672, he was the son of Nicola, an organist, to whom probably the first musical education of Francesco is to be ascribed. Following the premature death of his father, Francesco continued his musical studies at one of the best-known Conservatories of the city of Naples, that of the Pietà dei Turchini. Upon completing his education there, and having served for six years as an organist at the same institution, Mancini embarked on a successful career as a court musician.
Towards the end of the century, he had already established himself as an appreciated composer, particularly in the field of vocal music, where he was to become one of the main figures of the Neapolitan panorama. His oratories, unfortunately largely lost, were performed throughout the Peninsula; his operas followed each other regularly in the first decade of the eighteenth century.
At the same time, Mancini nourished high hopes to obtain the much-desired appointment as Chapel Master in the court orchestra. The propitious opportunity seemed to come in July 1707, when two unforeseen circumstances appeared to favour the composer. During a leave of the titular, Alessandro Scarlatti, Naples fell under Austrian jurisdiction, and a viceroy took office. Sparing no efforts, Mancini composed a festive Te Deum celebrating the new rulers and thus positioning himself in the most favourable light. The expected results came soon, and Mancini obtained the appointment; however, approximately one and a half year later, Scarlatti reacted to the usurpation and was reinstalled in his previous role. In spite of this, the whole enterprise had actually brought some lasting improvements in Mancini’s career, and had consolidated his status as the designated successor of Scarlatti.
In the following years, Mancini kept writing successful operas, some of which were premiered in Rome, a city he regularly visited. He was also gifted with a comical vein, which counterbalances the earnestness of his opera serie and oratorios. His pedagogical activity was also fundamental for the education of younger musicians, and was acknowledged publicly with important appointments. Moreover, Mancini established lasting relationships with the numerous confraternities of the city, participating as a composer and musician in their festivities and celebrations. His overall production bears witness to his multifaceted talent, which expressed itself in almost all genres practised by the composers of his era. His predilection for vocality, however, emerges clearly also in his instrumental music, characterized by beautiful cantabile lines and sustained melodies.
In 1725, at Scarlatti’s death, Mancini obtained the role of Chapel Master, for which he had so actively fought. Nine years later, however, another political earthquake hit the city: the Austrians lost Naples to the Bourbons. Demonstrating uncommon political ability, Mancini was capable of maintaining his status and privileges under the new rulers, whom he greeted, once more, with a festive Te Deum. Unfortunately, however, he was able to fulfill his duties as a Chapel Master only for one more year, since in 1735 he lost all of his faculties and remained paralysed for the following two years, until his death in 1737.
The extent of his fame and influence is testified by the widespread dissemination of his works, both handwritten and printed, throughout Europe: the reprint of the Sonatas recorded in this and in another Da Vinci Classics album was edited by a musician of the standing of Geminiani, and many documents attest that Mancini was widely appreciated and highly considered.
This complete recording of one of his finest instrumental collections, therefore, is a milestone in the path towards the recognition of Mancini’s standing in the history of eighteenth-century music.
Chiara Bertoglio © 2021
NOTE ON INTERPRETATION
With this CD we are accomplishing the complete recording of the twelve Sonatas (Solos) for flute and continuo by Francesco Mancini.
Within a musical panorama such as that of Naples at the beginning of the eighteenth century, dominated by the figure of Alessandro Scarlatti, Mancini had a non-peripheral role. Among his other roles, he was also the Director of the Conservatory of Santa Maria di Loreto for a few years. The fates of Scarlatti and Mancini intertwined when they both worked at the Vice-royal Chapel: the composer from Palermo as chapel master, and Mancini as his deputy. At Scarlatti’s death, the Neapolitan succeeded him as the titular of this job, in a position he maintained for almost a decade. In particular, the years of the Austrian viceroy (1707-1734) saw Mancini as an increasingly authoritative figure in the Neapolitan musical world.
Whilst he was active mainly as an operatic and church music composer, Francesco Mancini ventured also in the field of instrumental music. This includes the twelve Sonatas collected in the Solos for a violin or flute. This undated publication saw the light in London, in the 1720s. For the recording of the first six Sonatas (Da Vinci Classics 7.46160911922) we limited the performing forces to just two instruments, the recorder and the harpsichord, exploring the expressive possibilities of such a small ensemble. In this second part we wished to add the cello and, in two out of the six sonatas, the organ, in order to enrich the instrumental colour and the contrapuntal texture.
What remains the same is the intention which brought us to propose these works. We wished to consider them as musical objects from which we could extract, with a good amount of expressive freedom, an interpretation which had to be mainly the result of a fecund dialogue between our sensitivity and that of our ancestors of three centuries ago. In order for this freedom not to become arbitrariness, we count on our capability for discernment: we presume to have matured it thanks to our long years of acquaintance with historical research on the performance practices of the time. In the end, we are inspired mainly by the quest for a common place of encounter, the “fusion of horizons” theorized by Gadamer’s hermeneutics. This leads us to believe that so-called “authenticity” cannot and should not be the result of interpretation (since no aural incarnation of a musical text can rightfully boast such a title) but is rather just a presupposition which should be built prior to the interpretive act, conceiving it as an “authentic” relationship with the music and musicians of the past.
Let us point out that the XII Solos for a violin or flute were primarily conceived for a public of amateurs, the “amatori dell’harmonia”, as they are defined in the Preface. Certainly, John Fleetwood, the collection’s dedicatee, was one of them. He was the General Consul of England to the Kingdom of Naples. Since we are not amateurs, however, we pondered about the best way to serve this music through our knowledge and skill. We got to the conclusion that a correct appropriation of these works by virtuosos could, or perhaps should, include their substantial rewriting. We thought of ourselves as virtuosos in the eighteenth-century meaning of the word: not as a presumptive excellency, but as a simple acknowledgement of the different relationship that a professional musician has with the musical text, yesterday as is today. Therefore, along with the addition of a rich ornamentation by the recorder, and with the emancipation of the harpsichord from its role as a mere accompanying instrument, transforming it into a concertante instrument (these practices had been already experimented in the first album dedicated to this collection), we decided to establish a more important role for the cello as well. On numerous occasions, the cello was freed by the task of performing the continuo, in order to be able to spontaneously enter in a dialogue with the other instruments .
The habit to add written part to a pre-existing bass line has, in fact, a precise reference in the practice of disposizioni. These were one of the pedagogical instruments employed for educational purposes in the Neapolitan Conservatories of the eighteenth century. Regarding this, it should be emphasized once more that Mancini himself had an important role within the prestigious Neapolitan schools of music, as the director of one of them, the Conservatory of Santa Maria di Loreto . In the early 1700s, Naples was a centre of great importance for the technical and musical development of the cello. The city contributed, with its famous soloists, to the dissemination of the vogue of this instrument throughout Italy and in the remainder of Europe. The most celebrated names are those by Francesco Scipriani, Francesco Alborea (aka Francischello), and Salvatore Lanzetti. In particular, Alborea was a virtuoso admired throughout Europe. He had such a talent for the instrument that he earned almost legendary fame. In a painting by Nicola Maria Rossi, representing the holiday of the “Four Altars” (1732), to which the Austrian Viceroy, Aloys Thomas Raimund Harrach took part, Alborea is portrayed in a group of musicians led by Mancini, who, at the time, was master of the Viceroy’s Chapel. When we decided to dedicate to the cello a part composed ex novo, a concertante part, we thought also of the proximity between the two musicians. We imagined such a skilled virtuoso as Francischello champing at the bit, had he been restrained to the performance of the bass line alone.
Maria de Martini and Salvatore Carchiolo © 2021
Alberto Martini: He graduated brilliantly in violin at the Music Conservatory of Verona in 1983 and went on to study with Corrado Romano at the Geneva Conservatoire. Since then he has worked with many orchestras in Italy and abroad acting as leader and conductor and reviving the figure of the concertmaster.
As leader he has worked regularly with many important orchestras, including the Pomeriggi Musicali of Milan, the Teatro Comunale of Bologna, the Teatro Lirico of Cagliari and La Scala of Milan, collaborating with the leading orchestral conductors. In June 2009 he made his debut as a soloist in the prestigious Isaac Stern Auditorium at the Carnagie Hall of New York playing Mozart’s Violin Concertos and achieving a resounding success in a fully sold-out auditorium.
He is regularly invited to the most important festivals in Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Great Britain, United States, Japan, Russia, China and Korea. Since 2006 he has been artistic director and concertmaster of the Virtuosi Italiani, which has been performing its highly regarded concert activities in the Sala Maffeiana of the Teatro Filarmonico in Verona for 20 seasons.
In 2016 he was appointed artistic director of the Teatro Ristori in Verona and violin professor at the Music Conservatory of Brescia. He has curated the critical revision and the complete recordings of the works of Veracini, Bonporti and Bottesini.
He has recorded over 60 CDs for the world’s major record labels, such as Deutsche Grammophon, Warner Classics-Erato, Chandos, EMI, Naxos, Brilliant, Dynamic, Verany and Tactus.
He is regularly invited on juries of prestigious international competitions for both violin and chamber music and holds masterclasses at various Italian and international institutions.
He plays a valuable instrument, which is perfectly preserved and original in all its parts, built by Enrico Ceruti in Cremona in 1840, with a “Grand Adam” bow by Jean Adam of 1850 that belonged to the great violinist Philippe Hirschhorn, as well as magnificent violin built by Ferdinando Gagliano in Naples in 1765.
Si è diplomata in violoncello al Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia con M. Gambini. Ha studiato flauto dolce con A. Carideo e M. De Martini, perfezionandosi con K. Boeke, M. Schneider, H. Tol. Dal 1987 al 1995 si è classificata, con i due strumenti, sempre ai primi posti nei concorsi annuali “Jugend musiziert”. Ha approfondito lo studio del violoncello barocco con A. Bylsma, G. Darmstadt, R. Dieltiens, B. Maté, S. Veggetti. E’ stata borsista della “Fondazione Yehudi Menuhin - live music now” in Germania. Ha studiato, dal 1999 al 2003, con J. ter Linden alla “Hochschule für Musik Würzburg”, dove si è diplomata in violoncello barocco. Nel giugno 2007, con K. von der Goltz, alla “Hochschule für Musik und Theater München”, ha conseguito, a pieni voti, la “Meisterklasse” di violoncello barocco. Fa parte degli ensembles: “L’Astrée”, “A l’Antica”, “Academia Montis Regalis”, “Ensemble Baroque du Léman”, "Gli Incogniti", "Ensemble 1800", “Divino Sospiro”, “Accademia Ottoboni”, "Concerto Romano", “A Musicall Banquet”, “Sogno Barocco”, “Soavi Affetti”, “La Selva”, “Esterhazy Hofkapelle” ed altri. Registra per Opus 111, Glossa, Sony, Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, Tactus, Carus, Brillant, Amadeus, Eloquentia, Dynamic.
Salvatore Carchiolo is an italian harpsichordist, continuo player and musicologist. He was born in Catania (Sicily). He is graduated at the “Sweelinck Conservatorium" in Amsterdam, where he studied under Bob van Asperen. He is graduated as well in literature and music history at the University of Catania and his activity covers also musicological research. He has collaborated and recorded with the most renowned italian early music ensembles and has performed in countless prestigious concert venues all over the world.
Salvatore Carchiolo is harpsichord professor in Catania Conservatory and has taught thoroughbass in the Conservatories of Verona, Trapani and Torino. He is active as well as a musicologist and is the author of the most comprehensive essay on italian continuo performance practice as Una perfezione d’armonia meravigliosa. Prassi cembalo-organistica del basso continuo italiano dalle origini all’inizio del Settecento published by LIM.
Francesco Mancini: (b Naples, 16 Jan 1672; d Naples, 22 Sept 1737). Italian composer. He entered the Conservatorio di S Maria della Pietà dei Turchini in 1688 as a student of organ, where he studied with Provenzale and Ursino; after six years he was employed as an organist. At the beginning of the 18th century he entered the service of the viceroy and in 1704 became the principal organist of the royal chapel. He was appointed maestro di cappella there in 1708 but by December of that year the post was returned to Alessandro Scarlatti and Mancini became his deputy (in 1718 he obtained a guarantee that he would succeed Scarlatti). In 1720 he became Director of the Conservatorio di S Maria di Loreto, and so played an important part in the training of a new generation of composers. Mancini succeeded Scarlatti in 1725, remaining in the post until his death. In 1735, however, he suffered a stroke and remained semi-paralysed until his death two years later.
As far as is known, Mancini’s first composition was the pastoral opera Il nodo sciolto e ligato dall’affetto, written for Rome. From 1702 onwards Mancini worked almost continuously at composing and arranging operas. He was most productive when he was Scarlatti’s deputy; his creative output slowed down following his appointments as Director of S Maria di Loreto and then as maestro of the royal chapel. While Mancini composed serenades, pieces for special occasions and cantatas throughout his life, his oratorios are concentrated in the period 1698–1708, with several later exceptions, including his last oratorio, Il zelo animato, which appears to have been intended as an exercise for his pupils at S Maria di Loreto.
Mancini’s contribution to sacred music was considerable, and the wide distribution of his music in libraries throughout Europe is a reflection of its popularity. Instrumental music was not of primary concern to Mancini, and that which remains appears to have been intended for teaching purposes (for example the two toccatas for harpsichord). The peculiarity of his instrumental writing can be seen in his sonatas, for example the rich harmonies accompanying the melodies and the contrapuntalism of the second movements, which are often almost proper fugues (see Giani).
While Mancini did not travel far from Naples, except for the occasional trip to Rome, stylistically his music fits into the transition between Scarlatti’s generation and the era of the spread of Neapolitan opera across Europe. His operas, which display a preference for the pathetic style (but he was no stranger to the comic), make simultaneous use of archaic features, such as a thick contrapuntal texture, swift rate of harmonic change and fast-moving bass line, as well as more modern features, such as the precise delimitation and greater extension of the sections of his arias and the use of the harmonic pedal. Mancini’s instrumentation is varied and colourful; the many directions for the bass part, which often indicate detailed orchestration and which may vary within a single aria, are also of importance. He was a skilful writer of melodies, able to achieve a perfect balance between words and intonation, even in recitatives, and able to shape the vocal line effectively as well as simply.