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These words written by an English gentleman, a certain Thomas Dampier, vividly portray one of the most enterprising, strong-willed and ultimately significant of eighteenth-century instrumentalists: the composer and virtuoso violinist Pietro Antonio Locatelli.
After acquiring a basic grounding in music in Bergamo, where he had been born in 1695, Locatelli set off for Rome at the age of sixteen, possibly hoping to complete his training under Corelli’s guidance. It is doubtful whether this actually took place, for in 1712 the illustrious master was already a sick man and was to die the next year. More plausibly Locatelli had lessons with Giuseppe Valentini, another highly acclaimed virtuoso. At that time Rome was a stimulating environment for a young musician and it was there that Locatelli matured his art, benefitting from the abundance of musical activities offered by its many chapels and private academies. In 1723 he was ready to tackle a wider audience and began his ‘years of pilgrimage’, spent at a series of courts and major musical centres round Europe (Mantua, Venice, Munich, Dresden and Berlin, for example). At each he attracted exceptional interest, but eventually his indomitable spirit, pride and sense of purpose prompted him to escape from the narrow bondage of the courts and in 1729 he settled in Amsterdam where he was to die in 1764. Particular attractions of the city were an active cultural life and the prestige of the music publishers. And here, surrounded by generous patrons of the wealthy Amsterdam nobility, Locatelli was able to devote himself to composition and, above all, to the publication and continual revision of his works (an operation that incidentally makes it very difficult, at times even impossible, to trace his stylistic development).
from notes by Fulvia Morabito © 1997
English: Hugh Ward-Perkins