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Summary Article: Pergolesi, Giovanni Battista from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Italian composer. He wrote Masses, a Stabat Mater and other church music, secular cantatas, oratorios, some instrumental works, and nine operas, three of which, including La serva padrona, are comic intermezzi to be performed between the acts of a serious opera. His music is most often heard today through the pieces which Stravinsky selected for Pulcinella.

His parents were poor, and he seems to have been sent to Naples in 1725 to study at the Conservatorio dei Poveri di Gesù Cristo, under the patronage of Marchese Pianetti. His teachers there were Gaetano Greco, Leonardo Vinci, and Francesco Durante. His earliest works were sacred pieces, but he made his debut as a composer for the stage in 1731, and two years later produced the comic intermezzo La serva padrona (performed between the acts of his serious opera Il prigionier superbo), which was to be decisive in the history of opera buffa.

In 1732, he became maestro di cappella to the Prince of Stigliano at Naples, for whom he wrote cantatas and chamber music, and entered the service of the Duke of Maddaloni about 1734, but returned to Naples the next year, becoming organist to the court. In February 1736, he retired on grounds of ill health to the Capuchin monastery in Pozzuoli, where he completed his last work, the Stabat Mater, just before his death. Much music attributed to him after his death is now known to be by other composers, but his output is nevertheless astonishing for a composer who suffered from ill-health and died of tuberculosis at the age of 26. Recent revivals of his operas reveal a resourceful and engaging composer.

WorksOpera the operas Salustia (1732), Il prigionier superbo (1733), Adriano in Siria (1734), L'Olimpiade (1735), Lo frate 'nnamorato (1732), Flaminio (1735); intermezzi La serva padrona, Livietta e Tracollo (1737).

OratorioLa morte di S Giuseppe (1731), La Conversione di S Guglielmo d'Acquitania (1731), La morte d'Abel, and others.

Church music Masses, Stabat Mater for soprano and alto soloists and strings (1736), settings of Salve Regina (1736), and other church music.

Other chamber music, keyboard music, and other pieces. There are also many other works attributed to Pergolesi which are of doubtful authenticity.

© RM, 2016. All rights reserved.

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