The son of the famous Baroque cellist, Giovanni Battista
Vitali, Tomaso Vitali's fame today almost entirely rests upon a single
composition—the colossal Chaconne in G minor for violin. Tomaso was born on
March 7, 1663 and his early music education likely came from his father. When
the elder Vitali took up the post of vicemaestri di capelli at the d'Este court
in Modena in 1675, Tomaso, then only twelve years of age, joined the court
orchestra as a violinist. He would remain at the Modena court for nearly the
remainder of his life, leaving the court just three years
before his death. From an instrumentalist in the court orchestra, he eventually
rose to the position of orchestral director. In 1703, he became a member of the
prestigious Accademia Filarmonica, of which his father was a founding member.
Within three years of joining, he earned the rank of composer within the
academy. Tomaso died in Modena on May 9, 1745.
All of Vitali's surviving output is instrumental works. His
first published compositions, two collections of trio sonatas (opp. 1 and 2)
influenced by the style of his father and Corelli, appeared in 1693. Another
collection, his opus 4, appeared a few years later and were dedicated to
Cardinal Ottoboni, a prominent patron of music. The famous Chaconne in G minor
is attributed to Vitali based on a manuscript, marked with Vitali's name in the
corner, in the Sächsische Landesbibliothek in Dresden. It was edited by Ferdinand
David and published in 1867. Much speculation surrounds its authenticity.
Though there is evidence to suggest the manuscript is authentic, many discredit
the work's authenticity because of its wide-ranging modulations. Nonetheless,
it remains a popular composition with violinists, appearing in several
arrangement including one with a full orchestra accompaniment by Ottorino
Resphigi. It has also been arranged for viola and cello.
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