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Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762) was an Italian violinist, composer, and music theorist.Read More...
Born on the 5th December 1687 in Lucca, Italy, he received lessons in music from Alessandro Scarlatti, and studied the violin under Carlo Ambrogio Lonati in Milan and afterwards under Arcangelo Corelli. From 1711, he led the opera orchestra at Naples, as Leader of the Opera Orchestra and concertmaster, which gave him many opportunities for contact with Alessandro Scarlatti. In 1714, with the reputation of a virtuoso violinist, he arrived in London, where he was taken under the special protection of William Capel, 3rd Earl of Essex, who remained a consistent patron. In 1715 he played his violin concerti with George Frideric Handel at the keyboard, for the court of George I.
Geminiani made a living by teaching and writing music, and tried to keep pace with his passion for collecting by dealing in art, not always successfully.
After visiting Paris and living there for some time, he returned to England in 1755. In 1761, on one of his sojourns in Dublin, a servant robbed him of a musical manuscript on which he had bestowed much time and labour. His vexation at this loss is said to have hastened his death, which occurred on the 17th September 1762.
He appears to have been a first-rate violinist. His Italian pupils reportedly called him "Il Furibondo", the Furious One, because of his expressive rhythms. He is best known for three sets of concerti grossi, his Opus 2, Opus 3, and Opus 7 (there are forty-two concerti in all), which introduce the viola as a member of the concertino group of soloists, making them essentially concerti for string quartet. These works are deeply contrapuntal to please a London audience still in love with Corelli, compared to the galant work that was fashionable on the Continent at the time of their composition. Geminiani also reworked a group of trio sonatas from his teacher Corelli into concerti grossi.
His Art of Playing the Violin, published in 1751 in London, is the best-known summation of the eighteenth-century Italian method of violin playing, and is an invaluable source for study of late-Baroque performance practice, giving detailed information on vibrato, trills, and other violin techniques. His Guida harmonica (c.1752, with an addendum in 1756) is one of the most unusual harmony treatises of the late Baroque, serving as a sort of encyclopaedia of basso continuo patterns and realisations. There are 2,236 patterns in all, and at the end of each pattern is a page number reference for a potential next pattern; thus a student composer studying the book would have an idea of all the subsequent possibilities available after any given short bass line.
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