Francesco Geminiani: Lessons from the Master
Francesco Geminiani’s violin treatise remains one of the key resources for anyone studying Baroque technique. Robin Stowell considers the composer’s legacy to string playing and teaching, 250 years after his death
In 1932, at a commemoration to mark the 170th anniversary of Francesco Geminiani’s death, music professor Adolfo Betti remarked: ‘Among the many distinguished musicians of the 18th century, Geminiani occupies a curious and almost paradoxical position: he is simultaneously one of the most eminent and one of the least well known.’ Eighty years on, the legacy of the Italian violinist, composer and teacher has still to be fully recognised – even though his 1751 work The Art of Playing on the Violin was for over 75 years the predominant treatise on string playing in England, and had a far-reaching infl uence in Europe (and even in America) throughout the late 18th century.
Born in Lucca in 1687, Geminiani learnt the violin in Milan before moving to Rome, where he evidently studied with Arcangelo Corelli. He fulfilled orchestral appointments in Lucca and Naples before moving to London in 1714. There, he disseminated Corelli’s technique and style through not only his own compositions but also his teaching, performances, writings, and arrangements and reworkings of his mentor’s music. Intent on spreading his reputation further afield, Geminiani later spent various spells in Paris, Dublin and the Netherlands, eventually settling in Dublin in 1759. He died there on 17 September 1762.
As a musician, Geminiani established his reputation mostly…