Francesco Conti

Francesco Bartolomeo Conti was famous in his native Florence as a virtuoso performer on the theorbo. He became well known also in Milan and Ferrara and ultimately his reputation obviously spread abroad: in 1701 he was offered a post at the Habsburg court in Vienna as associate theorbist. There he served until 1708, except for a nine month period during which he paid a visit to England, where it is thought[1] that he was the ‘Signior Francesco’ that played at a benefit concert in London in May 1703. He also performed at the court of Queen Anne in 1707 as well as presenting a public concert with theorbo and mandolin.

Conti was also recognised as a composer of opera, and in 1713 was appointed court composer, with the stipend for this as well as his position as principal theorbist, meant that he was one of the highest paid musicians in Vienna. His fortune was significantly enhanced by his second and third marriages, both to court prima donnas, Maria Landini (d. 1722) and Maria Anna Lorenzani!

Apart from opera, Conti was also noted for his other secular works, often used in court entertainments, his oratorios, and some significant church music. His cantatas are especially distinguished for the use of the theorbo as an obbligato instrument.

[1] Conti, Francesco Bartolomeo, article in Grove Music, Oxford Music Online: Hermine W. Williams

Con 1

Lontananza dell'amato


Edited by Cedric Lee

for soprano (d'-a''), chalumeau, flute/oboe, violin, French lute, and continuo

Price: £ 10.50

The present work Lontananza dell’amato is the first in a set of eight ‘Cantate con instromenti’ which are found in the MS 17953 in the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek , Wien.

Its unusual scoring calls for the lute, doubled by muted violins, with at least two wind instruments, the chalumeau and either oboe or flute. The lute is named in the score (in the plural, strangely) as ‘Leuti Francesi’ . The instrument is the 11-string lute with ‘D minor tuning’  f’-d’-a-f-d-A with 5 unfretted courses. The part is very demanding technically, and, unusually for a native Italian, is written in the French tablature.

The structure of the cantata is conventional in that the three arias alternate with recitatives. The first two arias are da capo; at first the theme is that of mourning for the absent lover, but then the mood lightens as it turns out that the lover is a nightingale, who can take to the wing to be with her love. The final aria, in a joyful triple time, is more a rondo with Ritornelli, and confirms that joy is the reward of those who make a true loving commitment.

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