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ABOUT OUR NAME 

Giovanni Battista Costanzi (1704-1778)

In the history of European music there are hundreds of talented composers who were revered and respected during their own lifetimes, but whose reputations quickly faded quickly into oblivion after their deaths. It is sometimes all too easy to forget that many composers with so-called ‘household’ names today, have only been fully recognised for their genius and artistry in the last century or so. The sublime choral music of Antonio Vivaldi, for example, now known and loved by millions of people across the world, was all but forgotten until the 1930s.

Such is the case with the Roman virtuoso violoncellist and composer Giovanni Battista Costanzi, known affectionately in his own day as Giovannino del Violoncello or Giovannino da Roma. He entered the service of Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni in 1721, becoming the Cardinal’s capo d’istromenti in 1737. Largely through Ottoboni’s influence, and after the tremendous success of his opera Carlo Magno (1729), Costanzi was appointed maestro di cappella at S Luigi dei Francesi in 1729 and S Lorenzo in Damaso in 1731. Later, from 1763 until his death in 1778, Costanzi’s chief patron and employer at S Lorenzo would be Cardinal Henry Benedict Stuart, the brother of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

 

In 1755 Costanzi was appointed maestro of the Cappella Giulia at St Peter’s Basilica, and in 1740, 1754 and 1769 he was President of the Congregazione di S Cecilia in Rome. Acknowledged to have been one of the most prolific composers of the eighteenth century, hailed by André Grétry as one of the best-loved writers of church music in Rome, and a teacher of Boccherini, Costanzi is known to have composed a vast amount of sacred choral music, only a fraction of which seems to have survived, including nine masses, a Te Deum, numerous motets and hymns as well as settings for Vespers and Holy Week.

It therefore seemed entirely appropriate, and honourable, to name an ensemble dedicated to discovering choral treasures after Giovanni Battista Costanzi, many of whose surviving works will feature alongside those of many other unjustly neglected composers, both past and present, on our exciting musical journey.

PETER LEECH

Arms of Cardinal Henry Benedict Stuart (1725-1807), from Dissertazione Sopra L'istoria de Codici Pisani (Lucca, 1764)
Private Collection (Reproduced with Permission)