The foremost member of the musical Bononcini family,
Giovanni Bononcini was among Europe's leading composers during the late Baroque
period. Born in Modena, Italy on July 18, 1670, he was the eldest of three
sons, each of whom also became composers. Not much is known of his early
childhood, but it is likely he received training as a choirboy and received
instruction on the cello from an early age. He was orphaned at the age of eight
and was afterwards sent to Bologna to train under Giovanni Paolo Colonna.
Toward the end of his studies with Colonna, Bononcini produced his first
published compositions at the age of fifteen.
In 1686, Bononcini was accepted into the prestigious
Accademia Filarmonic di Bologna, and the following year appointed as maestro di cappella of the San Giovanni
Cathedral. In 1691, he left Bologna for Rome where he entered the service of
Filippo Colonna, a powerful patron of the arts. His time in Rome was both
productive and successful. He worked with Colonna's librettist in producing an
oratorio, and several serenatas and operas, among the latter of which Il trionfo di Camilla was particularly
Following his successful period in Rome, Bononcini left for
Vienna in 1697 to accept a highly lucrative post in the court of Emperor
Leopold I. He became the favored composer of the emperor and his heir, Joseph.
By 1705, Bononcini was regarded among the foremost of Europe's composer.
Interestingly, there is less documented evidence of Bononcini's activities over
the next decade, but it is known that he returned to Rome in 1714 after falling
out of favor with Charles VI, who replaced Joseph as Emperor in 1711. Once back
in Rome, he entered the service of Johann Wenzel.
After Wenzel's death, Bononcini left from London in 1720.
Despite his Catholic faith and keeping company with some politically unpopular
personages, his fame grew in the British capital to the point of rivaling
George Frideric Handel's. The hostile environment of the
city, however, urged the composer to return to continental Europe, and he
perhaps would have done so, if not for a favorable appointment with the Duchess
of Marlborough who offered him a significant pension to conduct private
concerts for her.
In 1732, Bononcini did finally leave England and spent some
time in France. He returned to Vienna in 1736 and later composed a Te Deum, his
last significant composition, for Empress Maria Theresa. It appears that he was
not very active in his last years and he died in poverty on July 9, 1747.
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