(b Leipzig, 16 March 1953). German conductor. He studied at the Musikhochschule in Weimar and the Leipzig Conservatory, then with Kubelík, Masur and Sanderling, winning first prizes at competitions in Poland and Denmark. His first appointment was as principal conductor of the Sühl PO, 1981–4, then with the Berlin SO, 1984–92 (from 1985 as music director), when he began to build a wider reputation. He made his American début with the Los Angeles PO in 1985 and first conducted the Berlin PO in 1988; the same year he toured Britain with the Berlin SO. He was principal guest conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, 1991–4, and conducted their 50th anniversary concert in 1995. In 1991 he was appointed principal guest conductor and artistic adviser of the Zürich Tonhalle Orchestra. An exuberant, voluble personality, Flor has also proved an invigorating conductor of opera, mainly in Berlin, Dresden, Hamburg and Munich. Flor's recordings of Mendelssohn's symphonies and music to A Midsummer Night's Dream have been much admired for their elegance and lucidity.
K.Brookes: ‘Full of Eastern Promise’, Classical Music (1 Oct 1988), 12–13
City in Italy. It stands at the natural boundary between the north and the south of the country, and owes its special cultural prestige to the fact that its dialect was raised to the dignity of national language by Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio; in different ways, these authors established unsurpassed models of artistic expression in which the essential characteristics of Italian life and temperament were perfectly mirrored. The city has traditionally been regarded as a national cultural centre, a place where artists and intellectuals from all over the world found their natural home. Economic prosperity, realized mainly through craftsmanship and international commerce, helped give support to an exalted level of achievement in every aspect of culture, from philosophy to architecture, from science to poetry, from visual arts to humanistic scholarship; and music is second to none of them.
1. To 1600.
3. After 1815.
FRANK A. D’ACCONE (1), JOHN WALTER HILL (2), LEONARDO PINZAUTI/JULIAN BUDDEN (3)
1. To 1600.
(i) Sacred music.
Documentary evidence of Florentine musical history is slender before 1200, though recent research on the cathedral’s surviving chant manuscripts points to a rich repertory reflecting both local and Roman traditions. Developments after 1310 saw the inclusion in its liturgy of apparently unique chants dedicated to city-patron saints Reparata and Zanobi as well as to Mary Magdalen and Nicholas of Bari whose relics were kept there. Ecclesiastical singers are mentioned in Florence from 941; Rozo, cantorum praepositus, was active at the cathedral from 1026 to 1057 and was succeeded by his son Theodaldus, called cantor dulcissimus in a document of 1094. In the 12th century chant was performed throughout the Florentine diocese, and according to the Vallombrosan chronicles each convent had its own singing school. The quality of musical instruction was emphasized: in the 13th century novices at the Dominican church of S Maria Novella were taught from Guido’s Micrologus, and certain of its friars became famous in the city for their beautiful voices. The performance of chant flourished in the city’s major churches throughout the period.
Vocal polyphony was introduced in a few churches in the mid-13th century, but at the cathedral its performance was prohibited by Bishop Ardingo (1231–49) on the grounds that only chant was appropriate for services. His views apparently prevailed for many years, because vocal polyphony at the cathedral is not mentioned again until the mid-14th century; before then the choir generally chanted the Creed in alternation with the organ. But a vocal performance of Bartolo’s two-voice Credo was so well received that polyphony gradually became accepted in services, first at the cathedral, then at other major convent churches such as Santa Trìnita, S Lorenzo, Santo Spirito and SS Annunziata, and generally during the 15th century. Very few Florentine sacred works survive from this period but the repertory presumably included other works by native composers and music from northern Italy and France.
The practice at the cathedral of employing two singers of polyphony, established by 1407, continued with few interruptions for almost 40 years. The singers included composers of polyphony such as Conradus of Pistoia, Nicola Zacharie, Ugolino of Orvieto and groups of foreign musicians including the itinerant cantori tedeschi (i.e. northerners) at SS Annunziata in 1410 and the singers of Pope Martin V’s chapel at S Maria Novella in 1419–20. The recent discovery of the palimpsest (I-Fsa 2211) shows that music from the international repertory also found a receptive audience in Florence at this time. At the consecration of the cathedral dome in 1436, the singers of Pope Eugene IV (in Florence from 1434) sang two works especially commissioned from Du Fay, a monophonic sequence and a polyphonic motet, both beginning with the words Nuper rosarum flores. Eugene IV established a cathedral school which initially taught only chant, but included polyphony in the regular curriculum in the later 15th century.
In 1438 a chapel of four singers, including the composer Benotto di Giovanni, known as Benoit, was established at the cathedral and baptistery to sing Vespers at one church and masses at the other on Sundays and major feast days. Subsequently six singers were employed and also sang at SS Annunziata. The presence of these singers, hired from Ferrara and later employed in Rome and Ferrara, hints at the important role Florence played in the broad cultural exchange of musicians and repertories during the following decades. Many singers of this period were northerners, some of them recruited by Du Fay. In the early 1480s Lorenzo de’ Medici instigated a major reorganization of the chapel and it became one of the best in Italy with 18 singers including Isaac, Agricola and Ghiselin. Florentine sacred music does not survive from this period either, but these men, particularly Isaac who lived in Florence for several years, probably composed many works for the local singers. Some of the same singers also served other Florentine churches (e.g. S Lorenzo and Santo Spirito), which began to develop chapels; but this unprecedented musical activity was arrested by the rise of Savonarola and the expulsion of the Medici in 1494.
In the early 1500s independent chapels were re-established at the three principal churches; the Medici returned in 1511, and under Pisano, Verdelot and Rampollini the chapels slowly revived. In 1540, after another period of decline, Duke Cosimo de’ Medici had the cathedral and baptistery chapels reorganized as a single group. For the next century, the singers (24, later 32) had a master nominated by the Medici, and sang masses and Vespers at the cathedral and baptistery on Sundays and feast days, as well as services at other churches. Francesco Corteccia, the first ducal maestro di cappella, composed extensively for the chapel, as did his successors, notably Luca Bati and Marco da Gagliano.
Public musical performances increased with the formation of laudesi in the late 13th century. These groups of laymen and women of all social classes met daily or weekly to venerate the Virgin Mary or another saint in processions, prayers, chants, hymns and laude. The earliest group was the Compagnia delle Laudi founded at S Maria Novella in 1244 by St Peter Martyr; at least a dozen such groups were active during the 15th century.
From their inception the principal companies offered instruction in singing to their members, all of whom participated at services. Later, paid singers and instrumentalists were also engaged (by 1312 at S Maria Novella). During the late 15th century and the 16th, some companies employed semi-professional groups of between five and 11 singers. It was also during this time that the practice of having boy singers of laudi accompanied by the organ became prevalent; the composers Bartolomeo degli Organi, Francesco de Layolle and Jacopo Peri began their careers in this way.
Manuscript collections in Florence and Cortona of monophonic laude dating from the late 13th century suggest the kind of music performed by the early companies. In the late 15th century and the 16th laude texts were either adapted to popular secular works or given new music. The principal Florentine sources for the texts and music of the later polyphonic laudi are the printed and manuscript collections of the 16th-century monk Serafino Razzi, which contain texts by such 15th-century poets as F. Belcari, L. Tornabuoni de’ Medici and Lorenzo de’ Medici, and in some cases their original melodies. Giovanni Animuccia, a Florentine who lived in Rome as a friend of Filippo Neri, published two laudi collections (1563 and 1570).
The sacra rappresentazione was also much cultivated between 1450 and 1525; several leading literary figures, including Belcari and Lorenzo de’ Medici, contributed to the genre. The plays were performed by companies and confraternities in churches, private halls and palaces and sometimes outdoors. No music for them survives, but according to their rubrics chant, laudi, polyphonic secular songs, contrafacta and instrumental music (in one instance specifically a moresca) were incorporated.
(ii) Secular music.
Secular vocal music flourished during the late Middle Ages: monophonic troubadour song, introduced to Florence during the 13th century, was subsequently much admired and emulated. Native composer-performers known from this period include Pietro Casella, who set one of Dante’s canzoni, and Garzo dell’Ancisa (possibly a direct ancestor of Petrarch). Although none of these composers’ works is known, some extant ballate by Gherardello, Donato da Cascia and Lorenzo testify to the continuing monophonic tradition (see Pirrotta, 1973).
The Florentine polyphonic secular works of the second half of the 14th century, by Giovanni da Cascia, Gherardello, Donato, Lorenzo, Landini, Paolo da Firenze and Andreas de Florentia, constitute one of the supreme achievements of Italian musical history. The chief forms cultivated were the madrigal, the caccia and particularly the ballata, of which some 140 by Landini alone survive. This repertory exists principally in four large early 15th-century manuscript collections and a number of fragments, whose contents were often arranged in a chronological order that suggests Florentine awareness of the historic importance of the repertory. The most famous of the collections, of Florentine provenance like many of the others, is named after the organist Antonio Squarcialupi, its earliest known owner.
In the history of Florentine polyphony Squarcialupi linked the achievements of the Trecento school (ended c1425) with the emergence of the new Florentine school at the close of the 15th century; he was one of the few native composers to gain renown during the unexplained decline of Italian written polyphony in the mid- and late 15th century (his works are not known to have survived). As far as 1460, perhaps following northern European models, he was also responsible for having the cathedral organ’s range expanded with the addition of a few large pipes perhaps meant to be played from a pedal board. During this period Franco-Flemish musicians began their domination of Italian musical life which lasted well into the 16th century. Notwithstanding the vogue for northern polyphony, traditional modes of vocal improvisation retained great popularity in Florence throughout the 15th century. Singing to the lira or other instrument was practised by popular musicians such as Antonio di Guido in the city piazzas, by scholars such as the philosopher Marsilio Ficino in more private surroundings, and at the court of Lorenzo de’ Medici, himself a considerable singer.
Chansons and instrumental pieces by the Franco-Netherlanders living in Florence, many extant only in Florentine manuscripts, were written expressly for patrons there. Some of these chansons make use of typically Italian stylistic elements and seem to have furnished models for the later development of the narrative type of Parisian chanson. Some of the northerners even composed to Italian texts, and two, Isaac and Agricola, contributed greatly to the polyphonic revival of the traditional Florentine Carnival songs. The presence of these musicians also encouraged the formation, in the late 15th century, of a new native school that cultivated such traditional Florentine forms as the ballata and Carnival songs, as well as the newer styles of northern motet and mass. Alessandro Coppini and Bartolomeo degli Organi and their successors Pisano, Francesco de Layolle, Corteccia, Rampollini and Verdelot (who was in Florence as early as 1521) all contributed to the early development of the 16th-century madrigal. Pietro Aaron, another Florentine of this generation, gained widespread fame with his lucid and informative theoretical writings; the most famous, Toscanello in musica, had at least six editions in the 16th century. His work indicates the traditional Florentine interest in musical theory, as does the presence in the city during the 15th century of distinguished theorists (Ugolino of Orvieto, Hothby and Ramis de Pareia); it is significant that the city’s libraries have a large collection of medieval and Renaissance treatises.
Arcadelt, the greatest master of the early madrigal, reputedly lived in Florence during the early 1530s; other composers such as Costanzo Festa, Cipriano de Rore and Francesco de Layolle, though not resident in the city, were patronized by prominent Florentine families. Later madrigal composers associated with the city include Cristofano Malvezzi, Alessandro Striggio (i) and Marenzio, who also wrote for the celebrated intermedi that characterized the Medici festivities: lavish entertainments including spectacle, dance, poetry and song, presented by leading Florentine artists, usually in celebration of Medici weddings (seeIntermedio). In the late 16th century such well-known Florentines as de’ Bardi, Peri and Marco da Gagliano, together with their non-Florentine associates at the Medici court, Giulio Caccini and Emilio de’ Cavalieri, participated in formulating the new monodic style and the first operas, to which the Florentine theorist Girolamo Mei and the theorist-composer Vincenzo Galilei also contributed. Important works by Galilei, Caccini, Peri and others, as well as those by Florentine gentlemen composers, were issued by the firm of Marescotti (later Pignoni), which began a modest publishing programme in 1581.
Little Florentine instrumental music survives but its use was evidently widespread in both public and private life during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. A municipal band (brass and percussion) existed by the early 13th century; a reorganization of forces in 1384 created two groups of trumpeters (six trombetti and eight trombadori assisted by one or two percussionists) and a wind band of three shawm players (pifferi). With some variation in the number of personnel, the three groups were maintained throughout the period of the republic. In 1443, with the addition of a trombonist, the wind band numbered four musicians; five were employed in 1510, six in 1520, five in 1532, by which time cornetts and other wind instruments were coming into use. Trumpeters were generally of Florentine or Italian origin, but throughout the 15th century German musicians dominated the wind band’s ranks; the most prominent of them was the trombonist Augustine Schubinger of Augsburg, appointed in 1489. The brass groups generally played at military functions and state processions, while the wind band performed at public and religious ceremonies and within the Palazzo Vecchio at mealtimes and at official receptions. 19 musicians, including an organist, a harpist, lutenists, trumpeters, trombonists and singers, were associated with the court of Duke Cosimo I. Their number was considerably enlarged by Cosimo’s successors, most notably Ferdinando I, who employed string, woodwind, brass, keyboard and lute players.
As in other Italian cities, there was considerable amateur music-making in Florence during this period. Public musical instruction was available at least by 1432, when three musicians banded together for two years ‘to teach the playing of harp, lute and all other instruments to all people who came to their studio to learn’. Many public figures, including the rulers from the early Medici, were keenly interested in instrumental music, gave their children musical instruction and collected instruments. None set a better example than Lorenzo de’ Medici, who at the time of his death in 1492 owned four organs and an organetto as well as several other keyboard instruments, strings, lutes and a harp.
The earliest organ was at SS Annunziata (1299); from the 14th century organs were built with increasing frequency. After 1400 a native Tuscan organ builder, Matteo da Prato, repaired existing organs or built new ones in many of the principal churches, and during the 16th century such builders as Fra Bernardo d’Argentina and Onofrio Zefferini constructed new instruments. Almost all the leading Florentine composers of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance were organists at the major churches, including Landini, Andreas de Florentia, Squarcialupi, Coppini, Bartolomeo degli Organi, Corteccia, Francesco de Layolle, Cristofano Malvezzi, Alamanne de Layolle and Peri. A set of ricercares by Malvezzi, the incomplete Intavolatura of Layolle and some Florentine manuscripts containing keyboard music from the later 16th century are extant. The lute was also popular in Florence during the 16th century and at least two native composers for it acquired international fame: Perino Fiorentino had several works published with those of his teacher Francesco Canova da Milano; Galilei included many intabulations and original compositions in his Intavolatura (1563), Fronimo (1568, 1584) and in a large manuscript volume (I-Fn).
Florence is generally regarded as the birthplace of opera. The earliest composers of musical drama, Jacopo Peri, Giulio Caccini and Emilio de’ Cavalieri, all employed at the grand-ducal court, built their pioneering works on the foundation provided by the tradition of the 16th-century Florentine court theatre festivals, usually celebrating Medici weddings, and by the discussions of Greek antiquity carried on by generations of Florentine humanists. These discussions resulted in Vincenzo Galilei’s Dialogo della musica antica et della moderna (1581) as well as other theories and compositions in recitar cantando by other members of Giovanni de’ Bardi’s Camerata, by another group centring on Jacopo Corsi, by the Accademici degli Alterati, the members of the Accademia Fiorentina and by professional musicians at the court and chapels of Florence. There are two reasons why the new styles of accompanied solo singing (monody) that underlay the foundation of opera would have been promoted by courtiers such as Bardi and Corsi, who wished to curry favour with Grand Duke Ferdinando de’ Medici. Firstly, these styles were based upon a (partly unwritten) tradition which was considered quintessentially Italian and which had strong associations with aristocratic behaviour and accomplishments – all of this was in line with Ferdinando’s political policy to refeudalize Tuscany and promote Italian independence under his leadership, and with the underlying cultural conservatism of the Florentine nobility. Secondly, the pretence that recitative style and entirely sung drama represented a revival of ancient Greek arts was in keeping with the work of several of the academies founded by Cosimo I, which helped to promote the myth that Florence was the new Athens and that the Medici was a long-established ruling family destined to create a new golden age.
The first, brief, pastorales entirely sung were Cavalieri’s Satiro (1590), La disperazione di Fileno (1590) and Il giuoco della cieca (1595), all on texts by Laura Guidiccioni. No music for these works survives and Giulio Caccini claimed (1614) that they did not contain actual recitative. Dafne (1594–8) by Jacopo Peri, on a text by Ottavio Rinuccini, is thought to have been the first full-length opera, and several pieces from it are known. The first opera to be preserved completely, Peri’s Euridice (text by Rinuccini), was performed with some music by Caccini in celebration of the politically crucial wedding of Maria de’ Medici and King Henri IV of France in October 1600 (fig.2). In honour of the same occasion, Caccini’s opera Il rapimento di Cefalo (text by Gabriele Chiabrera with music also by Stefano Venturi del Nibbio, Piero Strozzi and Luca Bati) was performed in the theatre in the Palazzo degli Ufizzi. Later (5 December 1602) Caccini’s own setting of Euridice was produced and published. Although operas continued to be staged from time to time in early 17th-century Florence, the new styles of solo singing were more frequently heard in intermedi, veglie, mascherate, cocchiate and balletti a cavallo.
Following the early death of Ferdinando’s successor, Cosimo II, in 1621, Florence was ruled by a regency of Cosimo’s mother, Christine of Lorraine, and his widow, Maria Maddalena of Austria, until Cosimo’s son Ferdinando II attained the age of 17 in 1627. These two women used musical spectacle for political ends no less than their male predecessors, but, facing a challenge to the legitimacy of female rule rather than one directed at their lack of pedigree, they employed a different allegorical programme. Since Greek mythology provided few useful models of female rule, the regents turned to the lives of saints, particularly virgin-martyrs, and Old Testament heroines as the subjects for many of the musical stage works produced during their reign. Notable among these works that projected the image of strong, decisive female rulers were Il martirio di Sant’Agata (1622, text by Jacopo Cicognini, music by Giovanni Battista da Gagliano and Francesca Caccini), La regina Sant’Orsola (1624, text by Andrea Salvadori, music by Marco da Gagliano; fig.3), Trionfo del disprezzo del mondo (1625, text by Cicognini, music by Filippo Vitali) and La Giuditta (1626, text by Salvadori, music by Marco da Gagliano). The most important work in this series was Francesca Caccini’s opera (La liberazione di Ruggiero dall’isola d’Alcina (1625, text by Ferdinando Saracinelli), a complex political allegory referring to pending marriages and alliances. The end of the regency is signalled by Marco da Gagliano’s opera La Flora (1628, text by Salvadori), in which Venus gives Cupid back his arrows. Ferdinando II’s wedding was celebrated by the last opera held in the Medici court theatres, Le nozze degli dei (1637, text by G.C. Coppola), composed by Marco da Gagliano, Peri and Francesca Caccini.
The composers of early opera also provided the churches of Florence with music, much of it for multiple choirs. Luca Bati’s successors as maestro di cappella of the cathedral were Marco da Gagliano from 1608, Giovanni Battista da Gagliano from 1643, Filippo Vitali from 1651, Giovanni Battista Comparini from 1655, Niccolò Sapiti from 1660, Bonaventura Cerri from 1681, Pietro Sanmartini from 1686, Giovanni Maria Pagliardi de facto in 1701, Giovanni Maria Casini de facto in 1702, Francesco Maria Mannucci from 1712, Giuseppe Maria Orlandini from 1732, Giovanni Nicola Redi pro interim from 1760, Carlo Antonio Campioni from 1763, Salvadore Pazzaglia (c1723–92) and Gaspero Sborgi in 1792. These leaders were appointed with confirmation by the grand duke and often at his initiative, and most of them, until Redi, were considered in effect maestro di cappella of the court musical establishment as well. Antonio Cesti’s appointment as maestro di cappella in 1669 seems to have been the first time that title was used for a grand-ducal court appointment distinct from the baptistery or cathedral.
Parallel to public, civic and courtly music and spectacle runs a stream of semi-private activity centred in the numerous religious confraternities of Florence. Nearly every male citizen belonged to one, in most of which the traditional laudi continued to be sung in the 16th century. But the older sacra rappresentazione that the boys of these sodalities performed earlier gave way, especially after 1550, to the newer commedia sacra, especially by Giovanni Maria Cecchi, with dialogue in realistic prose and adorned with incidental songs and intermedi. One of these confraternities, the Compagnia dell’Arcangelo Raffaello dettadella Scala, included most of the prominent musicians of Florence by the end of the 16th century, and from about 1585 it produced a series of musical skits and dramatic dialogues that led, in the 17th century, to works that belong to the history of the oratorio; by that time it had been followed by a half dozen or so similar confraternities. Towards the mid-17th century most of these groups, originally founded to educate boys, became dominated by adult members who no longer took an interest in acting; the dialogues and oratorios they sponsored were sung by professional musicians, frequently by opera virtuosos, without costume, action or scenery, but still on a stage erected at the front of the church. In these oratories, sacred musical dramatic dialogues in Italian were performed from at least the second decade of the 17th century; collections of many texts reveal their popularity. Oratorios were performed from the early 1660s, perhaps as early as 1652. The first of these were by the Roman Antonio Melani and by the Florentines Cerri, Benvenuti and Sanmartini. The Oratorian fathers, established in Florence in 1632, built the oratory of S Filippo Neri (1645–88) for public exercises, where until 1808 they produced an annual series of between 16 and 37 different oratorios, to be sung every Sunday evening and on the more important feasts, from All Saints’ to Easter. Among the Florentine composers of oratorios (and the number of known titles to their credit performed in Florence) are Lorenzo Conti (20), Orlandi (15), F.M. Veracini (10), A.F. Piombi (8) and Casini (6).
From about 1586 to 1593 the court cornettist Bernardo Pagani detto il Franciosino (d 1596) built up an instrumental ensemble at first consisting of orphans and abandoned children whom he trained. The ensemble, always called the Franciosini, continued to function as a unit within the court musical establishment until 1656. One of the original members, Antonio Vanetti, was a violinist who trained the German boy Tobbia Grünschneider. The latter, in turn, became the teacher of Francesco Veracini, whose son and grandson, Antonio and Francesco Maria, earned lasting reputations as violin virtuosos and composers in the late 17th century and the 18th. Girolamo Frescobaldi, a guest at the Medici court from 1628 to 1633, initiated a thriving school of organists, which in the 17th and 18th centuries included Negetti, Casini, Feroci, Bartolomeo Felici and Gaspero Sborgi.
During the second half of the 17th century operas in Florence were performed almost exclusively in theatres operated by 12 or more academies, descendants of those that produced the first experiments in recitar cantando. The most important were the Accademia degli Immobili (founded 1648) and its offshoot, the Accademia degli Infuocati (founded 1652). The Immobili constructed a large theatre in the Via della Pergola (fig.4), which they inaugurated in 1656 with Jacopo Melani’s La Tancia ossia Il potestà di Colognole (text by G.M. Moniglia). Melani composed four of the six operas presented at the Teatro della Pergola, including Ercole in Tebe (Moniglia) for the wedding of the future Cosimo III and Marguerite Louise of Orléans (8 July 1661), before it closed in 1663 on the death of its patron, Cardinal Giovanni Carlo de’ Medici. From then until 1718 this theatre was used only for special events, such as the performance of Il Greco in Troia (M. Noris) by Pagliardi for the wedding of Prince Ferdinando de’ Medici and Violante Beatrice of Bavaria (29 January 1689), and Il vero onore (F.M. Corisgnani) by F.M. Mannucci for the visit of Prince Friedrich August of Saxony (13 February 1713). Meanwhile the theatre of the Infuocati in Via del Cocomero became the most important opera centre in the city. It specialized in comic operas, many by Florentine poets and composers, which were occasionally written in dialects and often drew on the characters of the commedia dell’arte. Other theatres within the city that produced operas during the late 17th century included the Teatro nel Corso de’ Tintori, the Teatro in Borgo Ognissanti, and, apparently, the Casino Mediceo, where Ferdinando II’s brothers, Giovanni Carlo, Mattias and Leopoldo de’ Medici, may have produced the lost operas by Giovanni Cinelli and Buonaventura Cerri.
About 1690 Prince Ferdinando de’ Medici (1663–1713), the son of the ruling Grand Duke Cosimo III, opened a particularly brilliant episode in the history of Florentine music. He was learned in art, literature and the sciences as well as music, and is reported to have been able to play a difficult sonata at sight on the harpsichord and to repeat it from memory immediately. His voluminous correspondence with composers, especially with Alessandro Scarlatti, contains specific discussions of musical style. In the prince’s laboratory, and possibly according to his own designs, Bartolomeo Cristofori constructed the first pianoforte (1698–1700). Every autumn and Carnival season the prince directed operas in this private theatre in the Villa di Pratolino. During Lent his musicians performed in the church of S Felìcita, and there was a concert in his chamber nearly every evening (according to the diary of one of his lutenists). Among the composers under the prince’s protection were the Florentine residents Lorenzo Conti, F.A.M. Pistocchi, Antonio Veracini, Pietro Sanmartini, Casini, Martino Bitti and G.M. Orlandini, and he assisted Handel in 1708–9. His music collection of at least 390 volumes, mostly manuscript, has been lost.
The reopening of the Teatro della Pergola with Vivaldi’s Scanderbeg (22 June 1718) marked a capitulation of native Florentine opera to international styles. The most important impresario at this theatre during the first half of the 18th century was Luca Casimiro degli Albizzi, who commissioned works by Vivaldi, Giovanni Porta and G.B. Pescetti. The music director of the theatre at this time was normally G.M. Orlandini, who provided substitute arias for operas by other composers when requested and arranged a large number of pasticcios in addition to providing original operas of his own. His speciality was the composition of comic intermezzos, a genre of which he may have been the principal creator. Francesco Pecori, another important impresario, produced six premières of operas by Antonio Predieri, 1718–20. From 1738 to 1752 Florence saw new operas by Orlandini, Giuseppe Scarlatti, Domenico Scarlatti, Domingo Terradellas, G.B. Lampugnani and Michele Fini, five of them commissioned by Ugolino Grifoni.
Following the death of the last Medici grand duke, Gian Gastone, in 1737, Florence was ruled by regents of Emperor Francis I. The first of these, Marc de Craon and Emmanuel de Richecourt, took little interest in serious opera, although Craon gave encouragement to comic opera performed at the Cocomero theatre. They banned opera from theatres other than the Pergola and Cocomero and forbade foreign companies from performing in the city. In 1785 Francis’s successor, Leopold (1765–90), suppressed many of the city’s churches and religious companies; but he did give vital support to opera, which gave rise to a new generation of local composers, including Michele Neri Bondi, Bernardo Mengozzi, Giovanni Marco Rutini, Alessandro Felici, Giovanni Vincenzo Meucci, Ferdinando Rutini and Giuseppe Moneta. Leopold also gave decisive encouragement towards the establishment of public concerts in Florence. From 1766 to 1799 the Armonici, a group of bourgeoisie and nobility, presented concerts at a series of theatres: the Teatro di Borgo dei Greci, the Teatro di Porta Rossa and the Filomusi theatre. The Faticanti held their academies in the Sala di Giovacchino Ferrini and later at the Borgo dei Greci. The Ingregnosi began their concerts at the Teatro del Corso dei Tintori in 1767, where they continued until 1782. These concerts of vocal and instrumental music stimulated interest in orchestral genres and gave rise to a remarkable absorption of northern Classical style in keyboard concertos by such local composers as Carlo Antonio Campioni, Alessandro Felici, G.M. Rutini, Gaspero Sborgi and Eugenio Sodi. Opera continued in a healthy state during the first reign of Ferdinando III (1791–1800). During the mid-1790s Florence actually saw more opera premières than any other city in Italy. The French occupation of Florence (1800–14) brought severe dislocations in the musical life of the city, including the closure of theatres, prohibitions of public concerts, further suppressions of churches, monasteries and confraternities, and the departure of many of the city’s notable composers. Luigi Cherubini, born and initially trained in Florence, pursued his career largely beyond the Alps.
3. After 1815.
When the house of Lorraine returned to power under Archduke Ferdinando III (in accordance with the Treaty of Vienna, 1815), closer commercial and cultural relations between the Florentine bourgeoisie and the Viennese way of life were restored, creating the conditions for a musical life increasingly different from that of other Italian cities. Particularly after 1824 (when the Grand Duchy of Tuscany came under the enlightened rule of Leopold II) Florentine élite circles were determined to tackle the problem of fostering a new music based on foreign models, giving precedence to instrumental music over opera, sometimes with a strongly polemic slant. The Teatro della Pergola had in 1810 been declared an imperial theatre for the performers of grand opera, opera seria and opera buffa and in 1830 Alessandro Lanari, one of the most intelligent and active Italian opera impresarios, became its manager. Premières during the 19th century included Donizetti’s Parisina (1833) and Rosmonda d’Inghilterra (1834), Mascagni’s I Rantzau (1892) and the first Italian performances of Der Freischütz (1843) and Meyerbeer’s Dinorah (1859). The slant towards instrumental music is reflected in the opening (1828) of a piano factory, which employed Viennese craftsmen, and in the foundation of a Società Filarmonica (the first in Italy) to propagate Classical – and particularly instrumental – music in 1830. In 1834 the pianist Gioacchino Maglioni launched a regular series of chamber music concerts in a hall in the centre of the city; known as the Sala Maglioni, it was for decades, even after the Grand Duchy of Tuscany became part of the Kingdom of Italy, a focus of musical life where the public could become familiar with music by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, as well as Meyerbeer. It was to Meyerbeer that Florentine developers of instrumental music looked for guidance on the path abandoned by Rossini (regarded as the last of the Classical composers) and as an example to Italian opera writers of greater scholarship with a modern style devoid of vulgarity.
Hence even Verdi’s work was received in Florence with some suspicion although with immediate close critical attention. In 1847 his Macbeth had its première at the Teatro della Pergola but did not arouse much enthusiasm among the Florentine élite. In 1849, during the final period of the Grand Duchy, the Istituto Musicale was set up in association with the Accademia di Belle Arti and in 1853 people interested in popularizing instrumental music founded the Gazzetta musicale di Firenze, a periodical which greatly influenced the cultural life of the city before the publication of L’armonia (1856–9) which defined itself as the ‘organ of musical reform in Italy’. The editor Abramo Basevi (1818–85) remained, even after the demise of L’armonia, one of the most lively personalities of 19th-century Italian musical culture; his Studio sulle opere di Giuseppe Verdi (1859) is basic to Verdi studies, and his many enterprises included ‘Mattinate Beethoveniane’ (from 1859), morning concerts presenting Beethoven’s music. Basevi’s collaborator in this pioneer work was the publisher Giovanni Gualberto Guidi (1817–83), a double bass player at the Teatro della Pergola who took up printing in 1844 and who published pocket editions, possibly the first of their kind, of many full scores, including Rossini’s Guillaume Tell, Meyerbeer’s Robert le diable and Les Huguenots, and Spontini’s La vestale, and instrumental music, as well as the modern edition of Peri’s Euridice (1863).
The campaign waged by Basevi and his friends awakened Wagner’s interest in the Florentine ‘reformers’ (see his letter from Zürich, 30 March 1856). But he inspired no more enthusiasm than Verdi in cultured Florentine circles where, under Basevi’s guidance, Meyerbeer long continued to be preferred. However, the unremitting efforts of the Florentine cultural élite resulted in a wider acquaintance with Beethoven’s music, often many years before the rest of Italy. By 1841 the Second, Third and Fourth Symphonies and the Egmont and Fidelio Overtures were known; in 1857 the Pastoral Symphony was performed under the direction of Teodulo Mabellini (1817–97) and in 1880 Jefte Sbolci conducted the Ninth Symphony. In addition, the Società del Quartetto was founded in 1861 and in 1863 Concerti Popolari were started, again to popularize instrumental music.
In these attempts to convert and inform the public Basevi was aided by Gerolamo Alessandro Biaggi (1819–97) who, arriving in Florence in 1863, was for almost 30 years music critic of the newspaper La nazione, where his ‘arts supplement’ articles give a detailed picture not only of the musical life of the city but also of the aesthetic and organizational problems that were developing in Italy and Europe. In fact the pattern of Florentine musical life continued unbroken even after the annexation of Tuscany to the Kingdom of Italy with the plebiscites of 1860; when Florence was provisional capital between 1865 and 1870 its new administrative and political prestige added nothing substantial to the achievements of men such as Basevi and Guidi. However, after 1870 a slow decline of the city’s musical life began, becoming particularly apparent at the end of the century when once vigorous activities languished and general interest was once again limited to opera at the Pergola and the bigger, modern Teatro Pagliano (now Teatro Verdi). This should be understood in the context of Florence’s traditional preference for visual arts rather than abstract music.
The first signs of a revival came just before World War I, when Giannotto Bastianelli and Ildebrando Pizzetti, based in Florence as musicians and critics, came into contact with Florentine literary review circles, breaking down former prejudices. In 1914 Bastianelli and Pizzetti founded the magazine Dissonanza devoted to contemporary music; in 1915 Bastianelli was the critic of La nazione and for some years a lively voice in the musical life of the city which, through his articles, suddenly made contact with more recent European music, from Debussy to Schoenberg. In 1918 Luigi Parigi (1883–1955) launched the review La critica musicale which ran until 1923, having among its contributors Bastianelli, Fausto Torrefranca and Pizzetti, who from 1919 to 1923 was also music critic of La nazione and from 1917 to 1923 director of the conservatory. In 1920 a group of citizens founded the society Amici della Musica, which was chiefly interested in chamber music; at one of its concerts (1 April 1923) Schoenberg and Puccini met. The latter had come from Viareggio to Florence expressly to hear Pierrot lunaire conducted by Alfredo Casella at the Sala Bianca in Palazzo Pitti.
But it was not until 8 December 1928 that Florence emerged from musical inferiority with the creation of a symphony orchestra, suggested by Vittorio Gui, who also directed it. The Orchestrale Fiorentina became a permanent orchestra (one of the best in Italy), so it was possible to organize concert seasons at the Teatro Comunale (formerly the Politeama Fiorentino Vittorio Emanuele II) and, in 1933, the first Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, conceived and directed by G.M. Gatti until 1937. This festival soon gained international renown for the importance and originality of its opera productions, the prestige of the guest conductors, and for its restorative influence on the whole of Italian musical life. It was particularly successful just before the war under the direction of Mario Labroca (1937–44) and between 1950 and 1956 under Francesco Siciliani; it presented the Italian première of Stravinsky’s Oedipus rex (1937), the world première of Volo di notte (1940) by Dallapiccola (who became Florentine by adoption in 1922), Prokofiev’s War and Peace (1953) and many new works by Malipiero, Pizzetti and other Italian and foreign composers. Many celebrated conductors have been invited there, and the contributions of Bruno Walter, Furtwängler, Victor de Sabata, Antonio Guarnieri, Mitropoulos and Rodzinski were particularly valuable. The permanent conductors of the Orchestra del Maggio have included Bruno Bartoletti (1957–64), Riccardo Muti (1969–73) and Zubin Mehta (from 1985). Musicians most active as composers and teachers after the war included Dallapiccola, Bruno Bartolozzi, Carlo Prosperi and Sylvano Bussotti. Torrefranca had considerable influence in university studies as professor of music history at the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy (1941–53). He was succeeded as professor and head of department by Remo Giazotto in 1957 and Mario Fabbri in 1969. Musicologists active as critics for the Florentine press have included Pizzetti, Arnaldo Bonaventura, Adelmo Damerini, Federico Ghisi and Leonardo Pinzauti. The Istituto Musicale, founded during the Grand Duchy, became the Regio Conservatorio in 1923 and is named after Luigi Cherubini; its library is largely inherited from the grand-ducal collections in Palazzo Pitti and there is also a museum of instruments including the ‘Medicean’ viola by Antonio Stradivari.
A more recent institution, unique to Italy, is the Scuola di Musica di Fiesole. Founded by Piero Farulli in 1974, it offers a variety of part-time courses that range from musical appreciation for amateurs to masterclasses conducted by international artists, ‘finishing’ lessons and orchestral training for professionals. From it has emerged the Orchestra Giovanile Italiana (1984), which performs regularly in Italy and abroad and competes with national youth orchestras throughout Europe. Another product of the school is the Coro di Voci Bianche, which takes part in the operatic seasons and has performed children’s operas such as Maxwell Davies’s The Two Pipers (1981), Britten’s The Little Sweep (1995) and Hans Krása’s Brundibár (1996), the last two at the Piccolo Teatro del Comunale. A further department is concerned with research into modern methods of musical education, its findings set forth in the quarterly magazine, Bequadro. The city’s concert life has been enriched by the foundation in 1980 of the Orchestra Regionale Toscana, a body of 45 players capable of being broken down into chamber ensembles and possessing a repertory that extends from Baroque to contemporary music. In 1983, under the direction of Luciano Berio, it attained government recognition and has since toured widely abroad. Also worthy of mention is the Concentus Musicus, an association founded in 1972, which specializes in the promotion of jazz concerts and music of the avant garde.
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