Giovanni Buonaventura Viviani
, sometimes referred to as Giovanni Bonaventura Viviani
(or even Gio Bonaventura Viviani), was born in Florence in 1638. As of the age of 18, he occupied a position as violinist at the court of Innsbruck, due, in all likelihood, to the instigation of a member of his family, Antonio Maria Viviani, who had been there quite some time, serving as chaplan, organist, secretary and even librettist, and had been ennobled in 1654 by Archduke Ferdinand Karl. Among other duties, the young violinist participated in the musical accompaniment of German comedies and carnival cortèges. Like most of his Italian colleagues, he was let go in 1663 by Sigismund Franz, the new archduke.
As Sigismund Franz left no heir, the Tyrolean branch of the Habsburgs died out in 1665, and the country reverted to Emperor Leopold I. We do not know hwere Viviani lived for the next nine years, but in 1672, he made a triumphal return to Innsbruck, where the emperor had just appointed him Kapellmeister
to the court. He was in charge of the music for Anna de' Medici, widow of Ferdinand Karl, and her daughter Claudia Felicitas; but both left to settle in Vienna the following year, as Claduia Felicitas was betrothed to the emperor. It was also in 1673 that Viviani had his opus 1, twelve sonatas for two violins, bass viol and basso cantinuo, published in Venice, a great centre of musical publishing. He then turned to Augsburg, the piblishing centre of Southern Germany, where, in 1676, he brought out his Motets
, opus 3 and Sonatas for Solo Violin
, opus 4. At the end of the month of May be it before or after this publication, he resigned from his functions in Innsbruck, after having barely served for four years: in the absence of a court, this Court Kapellmeister
could hardly flourish.Giovanni Antonio Pandolfi Mealli
's twelve "Sonate a Violino solo, per chiesa e camera"
, opus 3 and 4, published by Viviani's chapel colleague in Innsbruck in 1660, apparently had a powerful influence on the young violinist that he was at that time. Although the larger-scale works he would write later for the same formation and with an equivalent title do not feature quite the extravagance of their models, some of them also show such alternation pf melodious and virtuoso passages. On the other hand his works seem to attest to an "Austro-German" influence, so to speak: in particular, they are reminescent of Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber
, who held a postion in Salzburg, not far from Innsbruck, or else Johann Heinrich Schmelzer
, assistant-master of the Imperial Chapel, and Johann Jakob Rosenmüller
, who practised and published in Venice. It is precisely through this form of the sonata da camera
that Viviani seems to have played an intermediary role between the violin sonata of Northern Europe and Arcangelo Corelli
: the latter, after playing in Rome under the composers direction the same year these sonatas were published there, would, in turn, begin his suites of dances with a free introduction, a practice therefore non-existant in Italy...
Everything leads us to believe that Viviani went to Venice, where his opera "Astiage"
and his arrangement of Francesco Cavalli
's "Scipione Affricano"
(1664) were staged in the course of the winter on 1677/78. It was during this stay in the City of the Doges that he had his opus 4 violin sonatas, initialy published in Augsburg, reprinted. Then he continued on to Rome where, during the Lenten season of 1678, he directed a Latin oratorio most likely from his own pen. The performance, intended for the great Brotherhodd of the Oratorio des Santissimo Crocifisso
, took place in the Curch of San Marcello. Vkiviani was paid 10 scudi; Bernardo Pasquini
, the organist, received 1.50 scudi, and Corelli - who was going to become the illustrious musician we are familiar with - had to settle for one scudo. Engaged for the 1768/79 season as musical director at the Teatro San Bartilomeo in Naples, he was unable to honour the comission of a new oratorio for 1679. At the same time, a Roman publisher took back a certain number of copies of the Augsburg edition of the opus 4 sonatas to offer them for sale. As for the composer, he was ennobled like his relative.
Flushed with their success in Naples, his troupe had to continue the season aster Easter and even ensure the following season until the impresario of the theatre was forced to flee his creditors. It is probable that Viviani then made his way to Milan, a city that also belong to Spain, where "Astiage"
, his popular opera, was staged again. He did not return to Naples until 1681, when he was again appointed musical director of a lyric theatre, but this time it was the Theatro dei Fiorentini, his previous house having been destroyed by fire. A new opera of his, given at the royal palace in the presence of the viceroy, was also a success. 1682 saw the creation of two oratories, and the revival of "Astiage"
at the Teatro San Bartolomeo, which meanwhile had reopened.
After losing trace of him, we do not meet up with Viviani again until 1686, this time in Calabria, where he is maestro di capella
to Prince de Bisignano, for whom he wrote a new opera. However, baraly six motnhs later (at the beginning of 1687), he returned to his native Tuscany, having been appointed maestro di capella
at the cathedral of Pistoia, a position from which he resigned in 1692 following the performance of an oratorio in Florence. Meanwhile, several sacred and secular vocal works were published in Bologna and Florence under opus numbers 5-7. The publication, in 1693, of "Solfeggiamenti"
, singing exercises for two voices, is the last element we know about the agitated life of this little violinist who had become a Kapellmeister
to the court, the opera and the Church, and who composed in nearly all the musical genres of his time, creating one of the most important works for solo violin in the 17th century.