Baldassarre Galuppi

Born: Burano, Venetian Republic - 18 October 1706
Died: Venice - 3 January 1785

A Venetian composer who found enormous success in his native Italy and throughout Europe, Baldassarre Galuppi spent nearly all his life in his native city, leaving only twice - for 18 months in London near the beginning of his career and, at the height of his fame, for three years in St. Petersburg at the court of Catherine the Great.

By the time Catherine invited Galuppi to become her court kappelmeister and conductor in 1764, he had already established himself as the leading proponent of the newly fashionable dramma giocoso (long comic operas), composing to libretti by the great playwright Carlo Goldoni. From 1762, he served as the Doge's maestro di capella at St. Mark's Chapel, the highest musical position in Venice. After prolonged negotiations with the Russian court, the Senate of Venice gave him leave to take up the post in St. Petersburg in June 1764, and he arrived in Russia just over a year later, making a circuitous journey that allowed him to visit C. P. E. Bach and Giacomo Casanova en route.

During his time in St. Petersburg, he worked hard to improve the playing of the court orchestra, although he apparently declared the choir to be finer than any he had heard in Italy. He composed two operas and two oratorios, and gave weekly harpsichord recitals. He was also the first foreigner to write music for Russian Orthodox liturgical texts, introducing the concerto to Russian sacred music.

Galuppi returned to Venice in 1768, and continued to compose at a prodigious rate well into his seventies, increasingly concentrating on sacred music. Goldoni compared Galuppi's stature as a composer to that of Raphael as an artist, and in his lifetime he was more famous than Vivaldi. After nearly two centuries of neglect, his music has recently enjoyed a revival, and in the last few decades an increasing number of recordings of his operas have been released.

Works premiered in St. Petersburg: Il re pastore (1766), Ifigenia in Tauride (1768), La virtu liberata (1768), La pace tra la virtu e la belezza (1768)