Francesco Saverio Geminiani (5 December 1687 ? 17
September 1762) was an Italian violinist,
composer, and music theorist.
Born at Lucca, he received lessons in music from
Alessandro Scarlatti, and studied the violin under
Carlo Ambrogio (Ambrosio) Lonati in Milan and
afterwards under Arcangelo Corelli. From 1707 he
took the place of his father in the Cappella
Palatina of Lucca. 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. After a brief return to Lucca, in 1714,
he set off for London, where he arrived with the
reputation of a virtuoso violinist, and soon
attracted attention and patrons, including William
Capel, 3rd Earl of Essex, who remained a
consistent patron. In 1715 Geminiani played his
violin concerti for the court of George I, with
Handel at the keyboard.
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. Many of his students went on to have
successful careers such as Charles Avison, Matthew
Dubourg, Michael Christian Festing, Bernhard
Joachim Hagen, and Cecilia Young.
After visiting Paris and residing 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.
He appears to have been a first-rate violinist.
His Italian pupils reportedly called him Il
Furibondo, the Madman, because of his expressive
rhythms. He is best known for three sets of
concerti grossi, his Opus 2 (1732), Opus 3 (1733)
and Opus 7 (1746), (there are 42 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 violin sonatas
from his teacher Corelli into concerti grossi.
His Art of Playing the Violin published in London
(1751) is the best-known summation of the 18th
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
encyclopedia of basso continuo patterns and
realizations. There are 2236 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.
Geminiani published a number of solos for the
violin, three sets of violin concerti, twelve
violin trios, The Art of Accompaniment on the
Harpsichord, Organ, etc. (1754), Lessons for the
Harpsichord, Art of Playing the Guitar (1760) and
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