Church of Santa Caterina da Siena

The fiery Genius: flair and rigor in Neapolitan instrumental music (1650-1750)

  Aurora Ensemble

Enrico Gatti, Marie Rouquié, Joanna Huszcza, Sebastiano Airoldi, violins

Gaetano Nasillo, cello

Guido Morini, organ and harpsichord

Conductor: Enrico Gatti


Introduction by Guido Olivieri

As part of the  Ascesa barocca project curated by Progetto Museo for the Maggio dei Monumenti

With the support of the Department of Culture and Tourism

The concert traces the extraordinary flowering of Neapolitan instrumental music from the end of the 17th century to the middle of the following century, through the sonatas and concerts of the most famous musicians active in Naples at the time. Virtuosos almost forgotten today, but who held prominent positions in the major institutions of the Kingdom: Pietro Marchitelli, first violin of the Royal Chapel for over 40 years; Giovanni Carlo Cailò, the most important teacher of stringed instruments of the time, teacher in three of the four ancient conservatories of Naples (of which the entire known compositional work is presented in the first modern execution); Nicola Fiorenza, violinist and composer who by force and expressive intensity at times anticipates Viennese classicism; Giuseppe Antonio Avitrano, the only Neapolitan composer to see three collections of sonatas printed; and Leonardo Leo, one of the most versatile Neapolitan musicians, in whose instrumental works all the gallant expressiveness acquired in the vast opera production, is poured out. The selected repertoire highlights the great variety and inventiveness of Neapolitan musicians both in the compositional solutions and in the choice of instruments. Of particular importance is the diffusion, peculiar to the Neapolitan environment, of compositions for three violins and continuo. Although focused on violin compositions, the program also includes two toccatas, one for harpsichord by Carlo Cotumacci, a pupil of Alessandro Scarlatti and heir to the great Neapolitan keyboard school (as well as Giovanni Paisiello’s maestro), the other for cello by Francesco Paolo Supriani, one of the most important virtuosos of this instrument and author of the first Italian teaching method for cello. The magnificent pages of these works clearly highlight the flair and “focoso genio” of the Neapolitan tradition – “the fiery genius” in the definition of the English historian Charles Burney – and confirm the absolute importance of the instrumental tradition in 18th century Naples.


Nicola Fiorenza(ca. 1700 – 1764)

Concerto di violini e basso  (1728):

Andante largo – Allegro – Largo – Presto

(MS. Napoli, Conservatorio S.Pietro a Maiella)

Giuseppe Antonio Avitrano(ca.1670-1756)

Sonata prima a quattro “L’Aurora” per tre violini col basso per l’organo:

Grave – Allegro – Adagio – Allegro

(Sonate a quattro opera terza, Napoli 1713)

Pietro Marchitelli(1643-1729)

Sonata VIII per due violini e basso:

Grave – [Allegro] – [Adagio] – [Allegro]

(MS. Napoli, Conservatorio S.Pietro a Maiella)

Carlo Cotumacci(1709-1783)

from “Toccate per cembalo”:

Andante – Allegro – Arioso – Allegro-Arioso – Andante – Andante – Allegro

(MS. Napoli, Conservatorio S.Pietro a Maiella, ms. 1327)

Giovanni Carlo Cailò(1659?-1722)

Sonata à due violini e cembalo:

Adagio – Allegro – Adagio – Allegro

(MS. Lund, Universitetbiblioteket, collezione Wenster)

Pietro Marchitelli(1643-1729)

Sonata seconda per tre violini e basso:

Adagio/Allegro/Adagio/Allegro/Adagio – Presto – Adagio – [Allegro]

(MS. Napoli, Conservatorio S.Pietro a Maiella)


Francesco Paolo Supriani(1678-1753 )

Toccata Quinta a violoncello solo con la sua diminuzione

(MS. Napoli, Biblioteca del conservatorio di musica San Pietro a Maiella)

Giovanni Carlo Cailò(1659?-1722)

Sonata a tre violini e organo:

Largo assai – Allemanda: Allegro assai – Allegro e non presto – Andante – Allegro

(MS. Staatsbibliothek Berlin, edizione a cura di Guido Olivieri)

Giovanni Carlo Cailò(1659?-1722)

Sonata per violino e basso continuo:

Adagio – Canzona – Adagio – Allegro – Adagio – Allegro

(University Archives KU Leuven, Di Martinelli Family Archives)

Leonardo Leo(1694-1744)

Concerto per 4 violini & basso continuo:

Maestoso – Fuga (Forte e spiccato) – [Siciliana] – Allegro

(MS. Staatsbibliothek Berlin)


Inspired by Eos, the “goddess with rosy fingers”, Enrico Gatti founded the “Aurora” Ensemble in 1986 together with other artists who were passionate about studying and interpreting the pre-19th century musical heritage, with particular reference to the Italian one. Each of the musicians of the ensemble has behind him an attentive work of personal research, and has perfected and qualified his preparation at the most prestigious European schools such as the Royal Conservatory of The Hague, the Schola Cantorum in Basel, the Amsterdam Conservatory, the Conservatory of Geneva, the Mozarteum of Salzburg, the Superior Conservatory of Paris. In an era in which the sounds of early music have acquired an increasingly vigorous and rhythmic physiognomy, the Aurora Ensemble has based the research for its own sound on the most constant characteristic of the seventeenth-eighteenth century aesthetics: the imitation of nature, and therefore of the human voice, with its dynamics, pronunciations and articulations. On this basis, the use of original instruments and their adequate use in relation to the repertoire addressed is not conceived as an end, but as a precious means for the recovery of the Italian tradition, characterized by that nobility and refinement that only a balance between rigorous preparation and interpretative imagination allows. The ensemble was formed with in-depth work on the 17th-century literature and Corelli’s sonatas for tre, considering this as a basic stylistic feature necessary to deal with the subsequent repertoire without the danger of anachronistic interpretations. In addition to numerous instrumental programmes, profane and sacred cantatas were also created (with Roberta Invernizzi, Gemma Bertagnolli, Gloria Banditelli, Guillemette Laurens, Jill Feldman, Gian Paolo Fagotto, Roberta Mameli and others). The group has performed in almost all European countries, in the United States, in South America and in Japan, guest of important concert seasons including the Festival van Vlaanderen, Lufthansa Festival in London, Festival des Cathedrales, Ambraser Schlosskonzerte Innsbruck, “Symphonia en Perigord”, Festival International de Musique Sacrée de Lourdes, Tage Alter Musik Herne, Théâtre de Caen, Library of Congress (Washington), Festival “Vivaldi in Veneto”, “Musica e poesia a S. Maurizio” in Milan, Filarmonica in Rome. The Aurora Ensemble has recorded for Tactus, Symphonia, Arcana e Glossa, with which it has made several world premieres. It has been awarded, among other awards, the “Antonio Vivaldi” International Disc Prize twice, for the best recordings of Italian instrumental music in 1993 and 1998; Corelli’s complete op.III received the “diapason d’or de l’année” 1998, and that of op.IV the “Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik” 2013.

Guido Olivieri is Associate professor in Musicology at The University of Texas at Austin (USA), where he also directs the Early Music Ensemble.  His research deals with the history of music of the 18th century, with particular attention to instrumental music in Naples; through in-depth archive research he has reconstructed the history of the main Neapolitan musical institutions, the relationships and musical exchanges between Naples and the major European capitals and the careers of the most important virtuosos, bringing to light a wide repertoire of sonatas and concerts for string instruments . He co-authored the volume “Arcomelo 2013. Studi in occasione del terzo centenario della nascita di Arcangelo Corelli” (LIM, 2015), and is the author of the critical edition of A. Corelli “Le sonate da camera di Assisi” (LIM, 2015).

He has published essays in major Italian and foreign scientific journals, contributed to encyclopedias and dictionaries (New Grove Dictionary, MGG, Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani) and presented the results of his research in numerous international conferences (American Musicological Society, Società Italiana di Musicologia, Biennial Conference on Baroque Music, International Musicological Society). He is currently working on the critical edition of D. Cimarosa “Il matrimonio segreto” for Bärenreiter, in collaboration with the University of Vienna.

With the participation of The University of Texas, Austin

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