Women Composers

Composers from Italy

Tomaso Albinoni

June 08, 1671 -

Baroque Period

Not much is known about Tomaso Albinoni's personal life. He was born on June 8, 1671 in Venice. He was the first known Italian composer to feature the oboe as a solo instrument in concerti in 1715. Johann Sebastian Bach used themes from Albinoni's work in two fugues that he wrote. His most famous work, Adagio in G minor, is still recorded today, including a rendition by Jim Morrison and The Doors. Albinoni died in 1751.

 


Guido of Arezzo

January 01, 0991 -

Early Music Period

Guido of Arezzo was a music theorist during the Middle Ages, whose text, Micrologus, was the second-most widely used musical instruction book of its time. He is remembered for creating the musical notation that placed pitches on lines and spaces. This is the staff used today. He also developed a sight singing method using syllables to teach chants in a short time.

 


Muzio Clementi

January 24, 1752 -

Classical Period

Muzio Clementi began his music studies as a boy. It was quickly discovered that he had a great talent at both the organ and harpsichord. After moving to England to further his education, Clementi became acquainted with the newer keyboard instrument of the time, the piano. He decided to take advantage of the piano’s capabilities by pioneering its technical and expressive qualities in his performance, as well as in the music he wrote. Besides performing and composing, Clementi was also known as a teacher, conductor, music publisher, and piano manufacturer. Beethoven was one of his greatest admirers.

 


Arcangelo Corelli

February 17, 1653 -

Baroque Period

Corelli was born in Italy a month after his father's death. Since his family was prosperous, he and his brothers and sisters were well educated. Arcangelo first took music lessons from a local priest. When he decided to become a professional violinist, he went to Bologna. Later, he worked in Rome, where he had several patrons, including a famous Roman, Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni. Ottoboni held regular Monday evening concerts at his palace, to which visiting dignitaries and famous musicians were invited. Corelli was conductor at these events, and as such met all sorts of celebrities.

First and foremost, Arcangelo Corelli was a violinist. He introduced a new style of playing called cantabile, meaning singing or songlike, and taught a whole generation of violinist-composers, including George Frederick Handel and Antonio Vivaldi. His own solo performances were legendary and he toured throughout Europe, amazing his audiences with his beautiful tone.

As a composer, Corelli is known as the first composer to do away entirely with the old church modes and write only major-minor tonalities. He wrote music almost exclusively for string instruments, including trio sonatas and violin sonatas. He is also known for his collection of concerti grossi, a form that he developed and popularized. Because of these works, the concertos of Vivaldi, Handel and Bach were made possible.

Corelli was famous, respected and admired during his lifetime and died a wealthy man in 1713.

 


Carlo Gesualdo

March 08, 1561 -

Early Music Period

Carlo Gesualdo was the Prince of Venosa and a well-known Renaissance composer. At that time, aristocrats did not typically seek to publish their music as this trade was usually associated with those of lower classes. Gesualdo is known particularly for his madrigals. A madrigal during the sixteenth century was a short secular piece for any number of equally important voices that used free form poetry as its text. One key feature of the madrigal was the use of music to enhance the meaning of the text. Many madrigal composers, including Gesualdo, would use word painting. This is a musical term used to describe music that literally represents a text. For instance, if a text talks about climbing stairs, the musical line will move up with the stairs.

Many believe Gesulado was ahead of his time in the way he dealt with harmonies. Some believe his last two books of madrigals to be autobiographical in that they convey a sorrowful mood and the pain he likely experienced in life due to unhappy marriages and various ailments.

 


Claudio Monteverdi

May 15, 1567 -

Renaissance Period

Claudio Monteverdi was born in northern Italy and it was quickly realized that the young composer was a child prodigy. He wrote only for the voice and became known for his sacred music, madrigals, and opera. His ability to use expression in his music was unmatched during his day.

In his early twenties, Monteverdi entered the service of the Duke of Mantua. After a few years, he was made master of music in the ducal chapel. While in the service of the Duke of Mantua, Monteverdi wrote his first opera, L’Orfeo (1607). In it, he used an expanded instrumental ensemble and included various duets and dances to help reflect the drama.

In 1613, Monteverdi became choirmaster at St. Mark’s in Venice, which was an impressive position at the time. He spent the remainder of his life there.

 


Nicolò Paganini

October 27, 1782 -

Classical Period

Nicolò Paganini was a famous violinist and composer born in Genoa, Italy in 1782. He worked as a freelance musician and touring virtuoso for much of his adult career, but retired in 1834 due to chronic illness. He was born with Marfan syndrome. He revived some forgotten techniques of showmanship on the violin which helped make him a successful virtuoso. Many of his playing techniques are still taught today. Though he was clearly a solo artist, Paganini did write some string concertos. His famous works include Violin Concertos 1 & 2.

 


Giovanni Pierluigi de Palestrina

February 03, 1525 -

Renaissance Period

Giovanni Pierluigi de Palestrina is known as the leading Italian composer of church music during the 16th century. Known particularly for his masses and motets, he became a model for later composers when writing sacred music. His music education began early on as a choirboy in Rome. He later went on to work at various churches as a choirmaster.

During Palestrina’s lifetime, the Council of Trent met to discuss a response to the Reformation. Legend says that Palestrina saved polyphony (music with more than one voice part of equal importance) from condemnation by the church council when he composed his Pope Marcellus Mass. The council had been concerned about the lack of clarity in polyphonic texts. The Pope Marcellus Mass was a beautiful work that displayed the words in an intelligible manner. Whether this legend is true or not, we do not know. What we do know, however, is that the Council of Trent ordered changes to the liturgy and Palestrina was one of the men assigned to revising old chant books.

 


Giacomo Puccini

December 22, 1858 -

Late Romantic Period

Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini came from a long line of musicians. His father was a choirmaster and organist and it was expected that Giacomo would follow in his footsteps. When his father died, he actually inherited his positions although he was only six years old! Before he could take them on as an adult, however, he went to hear a performance of Verdi's Aida. From that moment on he knew that what he wanted to do was compose operas.

It took a while for Puccini to achieve this goal, but eventually his works became successful. He was eventually regarded as the successor to the great Verdi. In 1896 he wrote La Bohème, which is probably the most loved opera ever written. This was followed by several others, including Madame Butterfly, Tosca, Turandot and The Girl of the Golden West.

Puccini’s genius lay in his ability to write beautiful melodies. He also was able to create operas that audiences responded to. His characters are very human and the stories in his operas are easy to follow.

Puccini was very successful financially as well as musically. When he died in 1924, he left over four million dollars!

 


Ottorino Resphigi

July 09, 1879 -

Late Romantic Period

Ottorino Respighi is a Italian composer born in 1879. In 1913 he moved to Rome to teach at the Conservatorio de Santa Cecilia. His claim to fame came with the publication of The Fountains of Rome in 1917. He went on to write several Rome-inspired orchestral pieces, and a 3-part series called Brazilian Impressions after a trip to Brazil. He died in 1936.

 


Gioachino Rossini

February 29, 1792 -

Romantic Period

Gioachino Rossini, the most popular opera composer of his day, was born in Pesaro, Italy. Like many composers, Rossini learned about music from his parents. Gioachino's father played the horn and the trumpet, and his mother was an opera singer. When Gioachino was a little boy, he learned to play the piano and to sing.

In Rossini's day, the opening of a new opera was as exciting as the opening of a new movie is for us. Rossini wrote his first opera when he was 18 years old. His most famous opera is The Barber of Seville. And after composing the opera William Tell in 1829, when he was 37, Rossini stopped writing operas.

After that, Rossini didn't compose again for years. When he was much older, he wrote some music for the church, and he wrote a lot of small pieces to entertain his friends. Because those pieces were not very serious, he jokingly referred to them as "Sins of Old Age."

 


Domenico Scarlatti

October 26, 1685 -

Baroque Period

Nothing is known about the early life of Domenico Scarlatti. Although he was probably trained by his father, Alessandro, who was a professional musician. Although he was born in Naples, Scarlatti moved first to Venice and then to Rome, where he worked for several members of royalty and became friends with Arcangelo Corelli. He lived in Spain for the last 28 years of his life and incorporated some of the aspects this country's music into his works.

Scarlatti is noted for the keyboard sonatas (he wrote over 550 of these!) that were composed for his royal pupils. Each of these pieces is designed to teach a particular aspect of keyboard performance such as hand crossing, rapidly repeating notes, and arpeggios.

 


Giuseppe Verdi

October 10, 1813 -

Romantic Period

Giuseppe Verdi was born in the Italian town of Le Roncole. When he showed early talent, a music-loving grocer paid for his music education.

Back then, Italy was not a united country, and a lot of it was under Austrian rule. Nabucco, one of the earliest operas that Verdi wrote, included a chorus of Hebrew slaves longing for their country "so beautiful and lost." Italians latched onto Verdi's "Chorus of Hebrew Slaves" as an unofficial anthem for a nation that wasn't even born yet.

Verdi and his music became part of the Italian struggle for independence. Even his name became a political statement. The letters V-E-R-D-I are the first letters of the phrase "Vittorio Emanuele, Rei D'Italia," which translates to "Victor Emanuel, King of Italy." Victor Emanuel was the man Italians wanted to be their ruler. When Italians shouted "Viva Verdi (long live Verdi)!" their Austrian rulers didn't know that they were talking politics, not opera, because the Austrians knew how much the Italians loved opera.

Verdi was one of the greatest opera composers who ever lived, and one of the few composers to die rich and famous!

 


Antonio Vivaldi

March 04, 1678 -

Baroque Period

Antonio Vivaldi was born in Venice, Italy, which is where he spent most of his life. His father taught him to play the violin, and the two would often perform together.

Antonio continued to study and practice the violin, even after he became a priest. He was called the "Red Priest" because of his flaming red hair. However, after a while, his bad asthma kept Antonio from saying Mass.

After that, Vivaldi spent all his time writing music and teaching. He taught at an orphanage for girls, and wrote a lot of music for the girls to play. People came from miles around to hear Vivaldi's talented students perform the beautiful music he had written.

Many people think Vivaldi was the best Italian composer of his time. He wrote concertos, operas, church music and many other compositions. In all, Antonio wrote over 500 concertos. His most famous set of concertos is The Four Seasons.

 


Women Composers

Composers from Italy

Tomaso Albinoni

June 08, 1671 -

Baroque Period

Not much is known about Tomaso Albinoni's personal life. He was born on June 8, 1671 in Venice. He was the first known Italian composer to feature the oboe as a solo instrument in concerti in 1715. Johann Sebastian Bach used themes from Albinoni's work in two fugues that he wrote. His most famous work, Adagio in G minor, is still recorded today, including a rendition by Jim Morrison and The Doors. Albinoni died in 1751.

 


Guido of Arezzo

January 01, 0991 -

Early Music Period

Guido of Arezzo was a music theorist during the Middle Ages, whose text, Micrologus, was the second-most widely used musical instruction book of its time. He is remembered for creating the musical notation that placed pitches on lines and spaces. This is the staff used today. He also developed a sight singing method using syllables to teach chants in a short time.

 


Muzio Clementi

January 24, 1752 -

Classical Period

Muzio Clementi began his music studies as a boy. It was quickly discovered that he had a great talent at both the organ and harpsichord. After moving to England to further his education, Clementi became acquainted with the newer keyboard instrument of the time, the piano. He decided to take advantage of the piano’s capabilities by pioneering its technical and expressive qualities in his performance, as well as in the music he wrote. Besides performing and composing, Clementi was also known as a teacher, conductor, music publisher, and piano manufacturer. Beethoven was one of his greatest admirers.

 


Arcangelo Corelli

February 17, 1653 -

Baroque Period

Corelli was born in Italy a month after his father's death. Since his family was prosperous, he and his brothers and sisters were well educated. Arcangelo first took music lessons from a local priest. When he decided to become a professional violinist, he went to Bologna. Later, he worked in Rome, where he had several patrons, including a famous Roman, Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni. Ottoboni held regular Monday evening concerts at his palace, to which visiting dignitaries and famous musicians were invited. Corelli was conductor at these events, and as such met all sorts of celebrities.

First and foremost, Arcangelo Corelli was a violinist. He introduced a new style of playing called cantabile, meaning singing or songlike, and taught a whole generation of violinist-composers, including George Frederick Handel and Antonio Vivaldi. His own solo performances were legendary and he toured throughout Europe, amazing his audiences with his beautiful tone.

As a composer, Corelli is known as the first composer to do away entirely with the old church modes and write only major-minor tonalities. He wrote music almost exclusively for string instruments, including trio sonatas and violin sonatas. He is also known for his collection of concerti grossi, a form that he developed and popularized. Because of these works, the concertos of Vivaldi, Handel and Bach were made possible.

Corelli was famous, respected and admired during his lifetime and died a wealthy man in 1713.

 


Carlo Gesualdo

March 08, 1561 -

Early Music Period

Carlo Gesualdo was the Prince of Venosa and a well-known Renaissance composer. At that time, aristocrats did not typically seek to publish their music as this trade was usually associated with those of lower classes. Gesualdo is known particularly for his madrigals. A madrigal during the sixteenth century was a short secular piece for any number of equally important voices that used free form poetry as its text. One key feature of the madrigal was the use of music to enhance the meaning of the text. Many madrigal composers, including Gesualdo, would use word painting. This is a musical term used to describe music that literally represents a text. For instance, if a text talks about climbing stairs, the musical line will move up with the stairs.

Many believe Gesulado was ahead of his time in the way he dealt with harmonies. Some believe his last two books of madrigals to be autobiographical in that they convey a sorrowful mood and the pain he likely experienced in life due to unhappy marriages and various ailments.

 


Claudio Monteverdi

May 15, 1567 -

Renaissance Period

Claudio Monteverdi was born in northern Italy and it was quickly realized that the young composer was a child prodigy. He wrote only for the voice and became known for his sacred music, madrigals, and opera. His ability to use expression in his music was unmatched during his day.

In his early twenties, Monteverdi entered the service of the Duke of Mantua. After a few years, he was made master of music in the ducal chapel. While in the service of the Duke of Mantua, Monteverdi wrote his first opera, L’Orfeo (1607). In it, he used an expanded instrumental ensemble and included various duets and dances to help reflect the drama.

In 1613, Monteverdi became choirmaster at St. Mark’s in Venice, which was an impressive position at the time. He spent the remainder of his life there.

 


Nicolò Paganini

October 27, 1782 -

Classical Period

Nicolò Paganini was a famous violinist and composer born in Genoa, Italy in 1782. He worked as a freelance musician and touring virtuoso for much of his adult career, but retired in 1834 due to chronic illness. He was born with Marfan syndrome. He revived some forgotten techniques of showmanship on the violin which helped make him a successful virtuoso. Many of his playing techniques are still taught today. Though he was clearly a solo artist, Paganini did write some string concertos. His famous works include Violin Concertos 1 & 2.

 


Giovanni Pierluigi de Palestrina

February 03, 1525 -

Renaissance Period

Giovanni Pierluigi de Palestrina is known as the leading Italian composer of church music during the 16th century. Known particularly for his masses and motets, he became a model for later composers when writing sacred music. His music education began early on as a choirboy in Rome. He later went on to work at various churches as a choirmaster.

During Palestrina’s lifetime, the Council of Trent met to discuss a response to the Reformation. Legend says that Palestrina saved polyphony (music with more than one voice part of equal importance) from condemnation by the church council when he composed his Pope Marcellus Mass. The council had been concerned about the lack of clarity in polyphonic texts. The Pope Marcellus Mass was a beautiful work that displayed the words in an intelligible manner. Whether this legend is true or not, we do not know. What we do know, however, is that the Council of Trent ordered changes to the liturgy and Palestrina was one of the men assigned to revising old chant books.

 


Giacomo Puccini

December 22, 1858 -

Late Romantic Period

Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini came from a long line of musicians. His father was a choirmaster and organist and it was expected that Giacomo would follow in his footsteps. When his father died, he actually inherited his positions although he was only six years old! Before he could take them on as an adult, however, he went to hear a performance of Verdi's Aida. From that moment on he knew that what he wanted to do was compose operas.

It took a while for Puccini to achieve this goal, but eventually his works became successful. He was eventually regarded as the successor to the great Verdi. In 1896 he wrote La Bohème, which is probably the most loved opera ever written. This was followed by several others, including Madame Butterfly, Tosca, Turandot and The Girl of the Golden West.

Puccini’s genius lay in his ability to write beautiful melodies. He also was able to create operas that audiences responded to. His characters are very human and the stories in his operas are easy to follow.

Puccini was very successful financially as well as musically. When he died in 1924, he left over four million dollars!

 


Ottorino Resphigi

July 09, 1879 -

Late Romantic Period

Ottorino Respighi is a Italian composer born in 1879. In 1913 he moved to Rome to teach at the Conservatorio de Santa Cecilia. His claim to fame came with the publication of The Fountains of Rome in 1917. He went on to write several Rome-inspired orchestral pieces, and a 3-part series called Brazilian Impressions after a trip to Brazil. He died in 1936.

 


Gioachino Rossini

February 29, 1792 -

Romantic Period

Gioachino Rossini, the most popular opera composer of his day, was born in Pesaro, Italy. Like many composers, Rossini learned about music from his parents. Gioachino's father played the horn and the trumpet, and his mother was an opera singer. When Gioachino was a little boy, he learned to play the piano and to sing.

In Rossini's day, the opening of a new opera was as exciting as the opening of a new movie is for us. Rossini wrote his first opera when he was 18 years old. His most famous opera is The Barber of Seville. And after composing the opera William Tell in 1829, when he was 37, Rossini stopped writing operas.

After that, Rossini didn't compose again for years. When he was much older, he wrote some music for the church, and he wrote a lot of small pieces to entertain his friends. Because those pieces were not very serious, he jokingly referred to them as "Sins of Old Age."

 


Domenico Scarlatti

October 26, 1685 -

Baroque Period

Nothing is known about the early life of Domenico Scarlatti. Although he was probably trained by his father, Alessandro, who was a professional musician. Although he was born in Naples, Scarlatti moved first to Venice and then to Rome, where he worked for several members of royalty and became friends with Arcangelo Corelli. He lived in Spain for the last 28 years of his life and incorporated some of the aspects this country's music into his works.

Scarlatti is noted for the keyboard sonatas (he wrote over 550 of these!) that were composed for his royal pupils. Each of these pieces is designed to teach a particular aspect of keyboard performance such as hand crossing, rapidly repeating notes, and arpeggios.

 


Giuseppe Verdi

October 10, 1813 -

Romantic Period

Giuseppe Verdi was born in the Italian town of Le Roncole. When he showed early talent, a music-loving grocer paid for his music education.

Back then, Italy was not a united country, and a lot of it was under Austrian rule. Nabucco, one of the earliest operas that Verdi wrote, included a chorus of Hebrew slaves longing for their country "so beautiful and lost." Italians latched onto Verdi's "Chorus of Hebrew Slaves" as an unofficial anthem for a nation that wasn't even born yet.

Verdi and his music became part of the Italian struggle for independence. Even his name became a political statement. The letters V-E-R-D-I are the first letters of the phrase "Vittorio Emanuele, Rei D'Italia," which translates to "Victor Emanuel, King of Italy." Victor Emanuel was the man Italians wanted to be their ruler. When Italians shouted "Viva Verdi (long live Verdi)!" their Austrian rulers didn't know that they were talking politics, not opera, because the Austrians knew how much the Italians loved opera.

Verdi was one of the greatest opera composers who ever lived, and one of the few composers to die rich and famous!

 


Antonio Vivaldi

March 04, 1678 -

Baroque Period

Antonio Vivaldi was born in Venice, Italy, which is where he spent most of his life. His father taught him to play the violin, and the two would often perform together.

Antonio continued to study and practice the violin, even after he became a priest. He was called the "Red Priest" because of his flaming red hair. However, after a while, his bad asthma kept Antonio from saying Mass.

After that, Vivaldi spent all his time writing music and teaching. He taught at an orphanage for girls, and wrote a lot of music for the girls to play. People came from miles around to hear Vivaldi's talented students perform the beautiful music he had written.

Many people think Vivaldi was the best Italian composer of his time. He wrote concertos, operas, church music and many other compositions. In all, Antonio wrote over 500 concertos. His most famous set of concertos is The Four Seasons.

 


 

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