Sunday, December 25, 2011

Giovanni Giornovichi

Giovanni Giornovichi (Ivan Mane Jarnović) was a Croatian violinist, composer, and teacher born (in Palermo, Italy) on October 26, 1747.  He was a virtuoso violinist who was very well-known in his lifetime though completely forgotten today.  I would never have heard of him had it not been for the short blog about George Bridgetower which I wrote immediately preceding this blog.  He was one of Bridgetower’s teachers in England.  One source states that his full name (i.e. first and last name) - other than in the birth certificate for a daughter born in London in 1795 - did not appear in any document or program during his lifetime, not even in his published works.  The first reference work to actually publish his first name was published in 1840.  Another oddity about him is that his surname appears to have had at least nine different spellings.  Perhaps he purposely desired to be known – or publicize himself - by a single name, such as other artists have since then, including Midori, Liberace, Houdini, Prince, and Madonna.  Who knows?  It is believed that he studied with Antonio Lolli in Italy and that his ancestry derived from Dubrovnik, Croatia.  It is documented that he made a very successful debut in Paris on March 25, 1773 – he was 25 years old.  His playing was described as being brilliant, amazing, and elegant.  Subsequently, his appearances all over Europe (but especially in England and France) received great acclaim.  Among the cities he toured and played in were London, Edinburgh, Dublin, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Warsaw, Stockholm, and St Petersburg.  He also shared the stage with musicians who are now legendary, including Joseph Haydn.  It is known that from 1779 to 1783 he worked for a member of the aristocracy in Prussia.  From 1883 to 1886 he was employed by Empress Catherine II of Russia.  From 1790 until 1796 he lived in England.  He took to touring again from 1797 to 1802.  Then he moved permanently to St Petersburg where he died (while playing billiards) on November 23, 1804, at age 57.  He composed over 70 works, 22 violin concertos among them – music which is now almost never played.  Nonetheless, the Starling Chamber Orchestra can be heard in three of the concertos at Instant Encore’s website here.  They have recorded three CDs featuring Giornovichi’s violin concertos.

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