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Repertory Archive

Francesco Geminiani


Francesco Geminiani was an important and influential Italian violinist, composer, and theorist.  A student of Corelli, he expanded the art of violin playing to a level previously thought unattainable.  Many of the techniques he introduced or developed are now part of the standard technique of the violinist.  Likewise, his practical treatises on music inspired numerous successors.  The most important one, The Art of Playing on the Violin (1751), was the first instruction manual addressed to advanced players from a professional viewpoint, as opposed to a primer for beginners.  His The Art of Accompaniment on the Harpsichord is likewise unique for its point of view, being framed from the soloist’s perspective rather than the accompanist’s.  Geminiani published a number of other treatises on harmony, guitar playing, and further aspects of violin playing.  As a composer, Geminiani followed Corelli’s models in his numerous sonatas and concertos, though Geminiani’s music is generally richer, harmonically somewhat more complex, and substantially more difficult to play than that of his former teacher, with a certain free and creative flair.

Geminiani was born in 1687 and began his studies in Milan, but he encountered his most important teachers, Corelli and Alessandro Scarlatti, when he moved to Rome.  Before 1714, he held several posts in Italy, including those in Lucca and Naples, but met with little success.  In 1714, his career took a sharp turn upward when he moved to London.  He quickly met with acclaim as a virtuoso performer and soon earned ongoing support from several influential patrons.  Between 1716, when his Op. 1 violin sonatas were published and 1726, when his arrangements of Corelli’s sonatas were published as Op. 5, little is known of Geminiani’s whereabouts or activities.  From 1727 through the middle or late 1740s, Geminiani continued to live in London, making several trips to Ireland and publishing more sonatas and concertos.  He was also most active during this time as a soloist and conductor.  Although he continued to perform occasionally, his later years were spent primarily teaching and writing and publishing his various treatises.  In 1759, he moved to Dublin, and he returned to England only once more before his death in 1762.