Giovanni Buonaventura Viviani

(1638 - after 1693)

Giovanni Buonaventura Viviani was born in Florence in 1638. As of the age of 18, he occupied a position as violinist at the court chapel of Innsbruck, due, in all likelihood, to the influence of a member of his family, Antonio Maria Viviani, who had been there quite some time, serving as chaplain, organist, secretary and even librettist, and had been ennobled in 1654 by Archduke Ferdinand Karl. Among other duties, the young violinist participated in the musical accompaniment of German comedies and carnival cortèges. Like most of his Italian colleagues, he was dismissed in 1663 by Sigismund Franz, the new archduke.

Since Sigismund Franz left no heir, the Tyrolean branch of the Hapsburgs died out in 1665, and the country reverted to Emperor Leopold I. We do not know where Viviani lived for the next nine years, but in 1672, he made a triumphal return to Innsbruck, where the emperor had just appointed him Kapellmeisterto the court. He was in charge of the music for Anna de' Medici, widow of Ferdinand Karl, and her daughter Claudia Felicitas; but both left to settle in Vienna the following year, as Claudia Felicitas was betrothed to the emperor. It was also in 1673 that Viviani had his opus 1, twelve sonatas for two violins, bass viol and basso continuo, published in Venice, a great centre of musical publishing. He then turned to Augsburg, the publishing centre of Southern Germany, where, in 1676, he brought out his Motets,opus 3 and Sonatas for Solo Violin,opus 4. At the end of the month of May around the time of this publication, he resigned from his functions in Innsbruck, after having barely served four years -- in the absence of a court, this Court Kapellmeistercould hardly flourish.

Most probably, Viviani went to Venice, where his opera Astiageand his arrangement of Francesco Cavalli's Scipione Affricano(1664) were staged in the course of the winter of 1777/78. It was during this stay in the City of the Doges that he arranged to have his Opus 4 violin sonatas, initially published in Augsburg, reprinted. Thence he continued on to Rome where, during the Lenten season of 1678, he directed a Latin oratorio most likely from his own pen. The performance, intended for the great Brotherhood of the Oratorio del Santissirno Crocifisso, took place in the Church of San Marcello. Viviani was paid 10 scudi; Bemardo Pasquini, the organist, received 1.50 scudo, and Arcangelo Corelli -- who was later the illustrious musician we are familiar with -- had to settle for one scudo. Engaged for the 1678/79 season as musical director at the Teatro San Bartolomeo in Naples, he was unable to honor the commission of a new oratorio for 1679. At the same time, a Roman publisher took back a certain number of copies of the Augsburg edition of the Opus 4 sonatas to offer them for sale. As for the composer, he was ennobled like his relative.

Flushed with their success in Naples, his troupe had to continue the season after Easter and even contract for the following season until the impresario of the theatre was forced to flee his creditors. It is probable that Viviani then made his way to Milan, a city that then also belonged to Spain, where Astiagewas staged again. He did not return to Naples until 1681, when he was again appointed musical director of a lyric theatre, but this time it was the Teatro dei Fiorentini, his previous house having been destroyed by fire. A new opera of his, given at the royal palace in the presence of the viceroy, was also a success. 1682 saw the creation of two oratorios and the revival of Astiage,his popular opera, at the Teatro San Bartolomeo, which meanwhile had reopened.

After this there is no trace of him until 1686, when he is in Calabria, where as maestro di cappellato Prince de Bisignano, for whom he wrote a new opera. However, barely six months later (at the beginning of 1687), he returned to his native Tuscany, having been appointed maestro di cappellaat the cathedral of Pistoia, a position from which he resigned in 1692 following the performance of an oratorio in Florence. Meanwhile, several sacred and secular vocal works were published in Bologna and Florence under opus numbers 5-7. The publication, in 1693, in Florence, of Solfeggiamenti,singing exercises for two voices is the last fact we know about the busy life of this little violinist who had become a Kapellmeisterto the court, the opera and the Church, and who composed in nearly all the musical genres of his time.

VF: Naples in the Seventeenth Century   |   VE: The Sonata in Seventeenth Century Italy