Dictionary of London Immigrants |||

1714-1762 - Dufour’s Court (Soho)

Composer and violinist Francesco Saverio Geminiani was born on 5 December 1687 in Lucca. Having studied under Corelli amongst other teachers, he succeeded his father in the Cappella Palatina of Lucca in 1707. From 1711, he led the opera orchestra at Naples. After a brief return to Lucca in 1714, he set off for London. In 1715 Geminiani played his violin concerti at the court of George I with Handel at the keyboard. A first-rate violinist, he advocated the use of vibrato’s as often as possible and the expressiveness of his play was widely admired (Charles Burney was an enthusiast). Fellow composer Giuseppe Tartini described him as il furibondo’. He was considered something of a musical deity, deemed to be the equal of Handel. His profile as a composer, teacher and violin virtuoso was high, although public performances were rare. He joined the Academy of Vocal Music and became a freemason. Established at the Queen’s Head tavern, Temple Bar, in February 1725, Philo-Musicae was an independent Masonic lodge and art society with emphasis on the performance of Italian music. The lodge funded the publication of his arrangements of works from Corelli’s op. 5 sonatas in 1726. By the spring 1745 Geminiani was living in Dufour’s Court, Broad Street, in Soho. As a music theorist, Geminiani’s significance is due to his 1751 treatise Art of Playing the Violin, published in London, which is an invaluable source for the study of late Italian Baroque performance practice. He lived in Paris from 1748 to 1755, before returning to London where he lived at Grange Inn, Carey Street (Holborn). In 1761, whilst in Ireland, a servant robbed him of a musical manuscript of work in progress. The painful loss is said to have hastened his death in September 1762. He was buried in Dublin, but his remains were later reburied in Lucca.

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