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Harmonia Early Music

Harmonia Time Capsule: 1715

Let’s take a quick look back in time…to the year 1715, the pinnacle of Stradivari's "golden period," the Sun King's death, and more.

antonio stradivari

Photo: Parlagreco (wikipedia)

A romanticized image of Antonio Stradivari by Edgar Bundy, (1893). Stradivari's "golden period" reached its pinnacle in 1715.

Antonio Vivaldi’s nickname “the red priest” is well known, but his fame rests on his success as a composer.  In fact, in 1715, while teaching and composing at the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice, Vivaldi pleased his employers so much that they gave him a bonus to his salary! But another priest-composer, Francesco Antonio Bonporti, wasn’t so lucky. In a letter to the secretary of the Elector of Mainz written in 1715, Bonporti did the opposite of asking for a raise.  In fact, he offered to work for free for one year in exchange for an appointment as chaplain to the emperor at Vienna!  Bonporti’s compositions are often overlooked, but many believe they were influential on the style of J.S. Bach.

Bonporti: Invenzioni a violino solo
Chiara Banchini / Jesper Christensen
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Imagine Vivaldi or Bonporti or Bach’s music played on one of Antonio Stradivari’s violins. Many point to 1715 as the year when Stradivari reached the pinnacle of his so called ‘golden period’ of instrument making. While Stradivari didn’t distinguish his instruments with names, many have since been named after their players or owners. One famous Strad, known as the ‘Alard’ was made in 1715, and is regarded by some experts as one of his finest. Oscar Shumsky, an American violinist who passed away in the year 2000, performed on another famous Stradivari violin made in 1715 called the ‘Ex-Pierre Rode’ or the ‘Duke of Cambridge’.

Stradivari's Genius: Five Violins, One Cello, and Three Centuries of Enduring Perfection
Toby Faber
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Antonio Stradivari: His Life and Work (1644-1737)
W. Henry Hill / Arthur F. Hill / Alfred E. Hill
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Irish-born playwright Newburgh Hamilton premiered his five-act comedy, The Doating Lovers, in England in 1715. In the same year, he also revived a previous work—his farce called The Petticoat Plotter.  The two plays enjoyed only limited popularity, and perhaps Hamilton would have faded out of the public eye almost entirely had it not been for his friendship with composer George Frederick Handel.  Handel and Hamilton collaborated as librettist and composer for large scale vocal works; Handel composed the music and Hamilton provided the texts.  This association was fruitful: together they produced the ode Alexander’s Feast, as well as Samson, and the Occasional Oratorio.

The doating lovers: or, the libertine tam'd. A comedy.
Newburgh Hamilton
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Handel: Samson
Sixteen / Harry Christophers
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Back in France, 1715 marked the year of Louis XIV’s death. The so called “Sun King” enjoyed a long reign, during which he employed many musicians. One of these was Antonio Bagniera.  Born in 1638 (the same year as Louis XIV), Bagniera began singing in the royal chapel choir as a young boy. After undergoing castration to prevent his voice from changing, Bagniera eventually joined the ranks of other Italian castrati employed by the King.  Bagniera spent most of his life at court, not retiring until the King’s death in 1715. What’s more, during a time when life expectancy was certainly not as optimistic as it is today, Bagniera lived to the ripe old age of 102!

Eunuchs and Castrati: A Cultural History
Piotr O. Scholz
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The World of the Castrati: The History of an Extraordinary Operatic Phenomenon
Patrick Barbier
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Music heard in the time capsule:

Tr. 16: Comodo -- Grave (3:47)
Bloomington Baroque/Stanley Ritchie — Bonporti: Concerti & Serenate (Dorian Discovery , 1998)
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Tr. 16: Comodo -- Grave (3:47)
Bloomington Baroque/Stanley Ritchie — Bonporti: Concerti & Serenate (Dorian Discovery , 1998)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Bonporti: Invenzioni a violino solo
Chiara Banchini / Jesper Christensen
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Stradivari's Genius: Five Violins, One Cello, and Three Centuries of Enduring Perfection
Toby Faber
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Antonio Stradivari: His Life and Work (1644-1737)
W. Henry Hill / Arthur F. Hill / Alfred E. Hill
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
The doating lovers: or, the libertine tam'd. A comedy.
Newburgh Hamilton
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Handel: Samson
Sixteen / Harry Christophers
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Eunuchs and Castrati: A Cultural History
Piotr O. Scholz
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
The World of the Castrati: The History of an Extraordinary Operatic Phenomenon
Patrick Barbier
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Janelle Davis

Janelle Davis is a violinist and performer with period instrument ensembles throughout the United States. She is currently a candidate for the Doctor of Music degree from Indiana University, Bloomington where she specializes in early music.

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