Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, classical music composer

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi image

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi


Despite passing away at a tragically early age, Pergolesi managed to leave behind a significant body of work and garner to himself a permanent position as one of the notable composers of the late Baroque period, particularly in the development of opera buffa. Born in Iesi on January 4, 1710, he began his music lessons from a local musician by the name of Francesco Santini. In the 1720s, he left his hometown to study at the Conservatorio dei Poveri di Gesu Cristo in Naples. There he performed on the violin and made his debut as a composer.

By 1731, Pergolesi had left the conservatory and in that year received his first commission for an opera. Within the year, he had completed a second opera, yet neither met with any significant success at their premieres. However, his fortunes were soon to take a turn for the better. In 1732, Pergolesi entered the service of the Neapolitan nobleman Prince Ferdinando Colona Stigliano and his third opera, Lo frate 'nnamorato, became his first successful stage work. His growing stature as a composer led, in 1733, to a commission to compose an opera for the birthday of the Empress of Austria. Premiered that same year on September 5, the resulting work Il prigioner superbo, an opera seria, was unsuccessful. However, its two-act buffa intermezzo, La serva padrona, came to completely outshine its host piece and became an influential work in the history of opera.

Besides his efforts on the operatic stage, Pergolesi also composed scared music. After the Kingdom of Naples was reestablished in 1734 with the aid of Spanish troops, he composed his Mass in F which was later performed in Rome. His most significant sacred work is the Stabat Mater composed in 1736, the final year of the composer's life. Suffering from tuberculosis, Pergolesi penned the Stabat Mater while residing at a Fransciscan monastery in Pozzuoli. As with works created in such circumstances, legend has mingled with history and it is believed that he composed the piece in a frenzy upon his deathbed. Not published until 1749 in London, it became one of the most popular pieces of the 18th century.

On March 16, 1736, tuberculosis finally claimed Pergolesi's life. However, his place in music history was secure and his influence continued to hold considerable sway. When his immensely popular La serva padrona was performed in Paris in 1752, its production sparked a brutal war of words that lasted two years, known as the Querelle des Bouffons ("quarrel of the comic actors"), between the supporters of traditional French opera led by Lully and Rameau, and the supporters of the new wave of operatic works from Italy. Attesting to his success, Pergolesi, now dead for sixteen years, was held up as the model of the Italian style.

Composer Title Date Action
Giovanni Battista Pergolesi Sinfonia from Lo frate'nnamurato 10/13/2010 Play Add to playlist
Giovanni Battista Pergolesi Stabat Mater 10/14/2010 Play Add to playlist
Giovanni Battista Pergolesi Sonata for Violin in E Major 08/06/2013 Play Add to playlist