18 Aug 2010

Composer of the week – Antonio Salieri

Happy Birthday to one of the great villians of classical music – Antonio Salieri. Salieri was born on August 18, 1750, but instead celebrated the day of his baptism (August 19) as his birthday. So acknowledge him today or tomorrow; either works!
Salieri was a Venetian composer, but he moved to Vienna at the age of 16 and spent almost 60 years there before his death, so most of his contemporary musicians and critics considered him to be a German composer.
Salieri was primarily an opera composer (with 37 operas to his credit), but he wrote some great chamber music and sacred music as well. In his later years, once he stopped writing, he was still in high demand as a teacher, and he counts Beethoven, Liszt, and Schubert among his students.
Salieri probably would have disappeared into near musical obscurity if it weren’t for the famous play and movie Amadeus, with it’s fictional portrayal of Salieri out to crush his musical rival, Mozart. As they were both working in Vienna at the same time they did compete as rivals for different composition and teaching jobs, but evidence shows that they supported each other as colleagues and even friends.
At one of his big appointments, Salieri revived Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro, rather than write a new opera himself. And although the work has since been lost, Salieri and Mozart even composed a piece for voice and piano together.
So here’s a couple of musical clips from Salieri’s operas. Enjoy them and know that Salieri wasn’t really the bad guy the movie made him out to be!
Here’s the overture to his opera Il Talismano, performed by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra with Michael Dittrich conducting.

And here’s the first movement from his Piano concerto in C major, performed by Aldo Ciccolini with the Solisti Veneti, conducted by Claudio Scimone.