Giovanni Buonaventura Viviani

(1638 - after 1692)

Italian composer. Born in Florence, at 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 let go in 1663 by Sigismund Franz, the new archduke.

As Sigismund Franz died two years later leaving no heir, the Tyrolean branch of the Hapsburgs died out in 1665, and the country reverted to the rule of 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 appointed him Kapellmeister to 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. Also in 1673 Viviani had his opus 1, twelve sonatas for two violins, bass viol and basso continuo, published in Venice, a great centre of musical publishing. Subsequently he 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 that year, he also resigned from his functions in Innsbruck, after having barely served four years: in the absence of a court, this Court Kapellmeister could hardly flourish.

All indications are that Viviani then went to Venice, where his opera Astiage and his arrangement of Francesco Cavalli 's Scipione Affricano (1664) were staged in the course of the winter of 1677/78. It was during this stay in the City of the Doges that he had his Opus 4 violin sonatas, initially published in Augsburg, reprinted. Then he continued on to Rome where, during Lent 1678, he directed a Latin oratorio most likely from his own pen. The performance, intended for the great Brotherhood of the Oratorio del Santissimo Crocifisso, took place in the Church of San Marcello. Viviani was paid 10 scudi; Bernardo Pasquini, the organist, received 1.50 scudo, and Arcangelo Corelli 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 also belonged to Spain, where Astiage was stagedagain. He did not return to Naples until1681, when he was again appointed musical director of a lyric theatre, but 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 losing trace of him, we do not meet with Viviani again until 1686, this time in Calabria, where he is maestro di cappella to 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 cappella at 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 thing we know about the hectic life of this little violinist who had become a Kapellmeister to the court, the opera and the Church, and who composed in nearly all the musical genres of his time.

A Partial Giovanni Buonaventura Viviani Discography   |   VIIID: The Solo and Trio Sonata in the Italian Settecento