Vincenzo Manfredini


Born: October 22, 1737; Pistoia, Naples, Italy   Died: September 5, 1799; St. Petersburg, Russia  
Son of a famous composer of oratorios (Franchesco Manfredini), Vincenzo Manfredini's most important contributions to music are not his compositions but his vigorous writings on music. They were a significant part of a cultural debate at a time when the status and role of the composer in society was undergoing a profound redefinition. Manfredini lived a rich life as a court musician. Having studied under his father, and teachers in Bologna and Read more Milan, Manfredini went with his brother, the castrato Giuseppe, to work in St. Petersburg, where he was made maestro di cappella to the prince Pyotr Fedorovich. On Fedorovich's ascendancy to the throne, Manfredini was made maestro to the court's opera company, which spurred him into composing a number of operas that are still well-regarded. He also composed occasional pieces. Later he was relieved of the task of opera composition and relegated to ballets when the arrival of Baldassare Galuppi caused his rank to fall a couple of notches. Around the same time, Manfredini married a singer named Maria Monari, with whom he later had two children. The younger child, his daughter Antonia, went on to become a highly successful prima donna. Manfredini also taught harpsichord to prince Paul Petrovich and produced a number of poorly received harpsichord sonatas. After returning to Italy in 1769, Manfredini mostly ceased composing, but produced some symphonies and string quartets and began publishing writings on music, most importantly a book called In Defense of Modern Music. These led him into unpleasant public debates (in print) with figures such as Giovanni Battista Mancini and Esteban de Arteaga. Manfredini certainly had significantly more advanced views than his curmudgeonly opponents. He foresaw the future importance of instrumental music and, as the romantics would, argued in favor of a natural versus artificial aesthetic. Summoned by his onetime pupil (now Tsar) Paul Petrovich, Manfredini returned to St. Petersburg in 1798, but he died there in 1799 before he was able to take up a new post. Read less

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