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main index © Jeff Matthews entry Mar 2005
to those interested in the history of music it may
come as a surprise to learn that there was music in
Naples before Alessandro
Scarlatti, the composer often cited as the
beginning of the “Neapolitan school” and even
described as “the inventor of
classical music and the harmonic system later
perfected by Mozart.” (That glowing praise
is from an encyclopedia the name of which I forgot
to write down. Sorry.) Maybe it’s a fair
description, maybe a bit overblown. In any event,
there was music in Naples before that, and his name
was Francesco Provenzale.
laureate for literature in 1915, French writer
Romain Rolland, supposedly rescued Provenzale from
obscurity in a 1905 work entitled A History of
Opera in Europe before Lully and Scarlatti, in which he called Provenzale “the real
founder of the glorious Neapolitan school” and
compared him to J.S. Bach.
(A few years later, a German musicologist, Hugo
Goldschmidt, compared Provenzale to Mozart. See
“sources,” below.) Well, those rescue attempts
didn’t work very well because Provenzale is still so
obscure that he is not even listed(!)
in the 3,000-page 1956 Garzanti Il
Mondo della Musica (The World of
Music). (There is no one between baritone Aldo Protti and Giacomo
Puccini.) Provenzale is not even mentioned in
the encyclopedia’s section on “The Neapolitan
school.” And the only street named for Provenzale in
Naples is about four feet long and so far out of
town that it might as well be in
—Music in Seventeenth-Century Naples: Francesco Provenzale, (1624-1704) by Dinko Fabris. Publisher: Ashgate (2007).
—“Francesco Provenzale als Dramatiker” by Hugo Goldschmidt, in Sammelbände der Internationalen Musikgesellschaft, 7. Jahrg., H. 4. (1906), pp. 608-634.
—“The Centro di Musica Antica 'Pietà dei Turchini', Naples” by Irene Calagna; (transl.) James Chater, in Early Music, Vol. 27, No. 1, (Feb., 1999), pp. 158-159.
—CD Eloquentia EL 0710. Francesco Provenzale. Missa defunctorum, performed by the Cappella de’ Turchini of Naples. (2006).
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