A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Giardini, Felice de

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GIARDINI, Felice de, an eminent violinist, was born at Turin in 1716. He entered the choir of Milan Cathedral as a boy, and became a pupil of Paladini in singing, composition, and the harpsichord. He afterwards returned to Turin, and studied the violin under Somis. He was still very young when he entered the opera-band at Rome, and soon afterwards that of S. Carlo at Naples. In possession of a brilliant execution, he appears to have been fond of displaying it by interpolating in the accompaniments of the airs all sorts of runs, shakes, and cadenzas, and thereby eliciting the applause of the house. Of this habit, however, he was cured in an emphatic manner. During the performance of an opera of Jomelli's, the composer came into the orchestra and seated himself close to young Giardini. Giardini, ambitious to give the maestro a proof of his cleverness, introduced into the ritornell of a pathetic air a brilliant cadenza of great length, at the end of which Jomelli rewarded him with a sound box on the ear. Giardini in after years was fond of relating this incident, and used to add that he never had a better lesson in his life. He certainly proved himself not only an eminent virtuoso, but an equally good leader and conductor.

From Naples he started for a tour through Germany and thence to London. The date of his first public appearance here is variously given. According to Burney it took place in 1750, at a concert of Cuzzoni's. His success was immense, and Burney affirms that no artist, Garrick alone excepted, was ever so much applauded as Giardini. His powerful yet mellow tone, the brilliancy and boldness of his execution, the spirited and expressive style in which he played the grand works of Tartini, as well as his own lighter but pleasing compositions, created a perfect furore, and he became at once the declared favourite of the London public. We may form an idea of the peculiarity of his style from the fact that when De Bériot came to England, the old musicians, who still remembered Giardini, were greatly struck by the similarity of De Bériot's style to his. After Festing's death in 1752, Giardini took the place of leader at the Italian Opera, and appears to have infused new life and spirit into the band, which had much deteriorated under Festing's languid leadership.

In 1756 he undertook the management of the Italian Opera, but thereby suffered great losses. Nevertheless we find him as impressario in 1763, 64, and 65. After this he devoted himself once more to playing and teaching the violin, and leading at concerts and musical festivals. At this period F. Cramer became his formidable rival, though the two remained on most friendly terms. From 1774 to 80 he was leader at the Pantheon Concerts, and in 1782 and 83 once more at the Italian Opera. In 84 he left England, apparently resolved to retire from public activity and spend the rest of his life in Italy. But his restless spirit brought him back to London in 1790, when he started a Comic Opera at the Hayinarket. This proving a failure, he went with his troupe to Russia, and died at Moscow Dec. 17th, 1796.

Giardini's immense success on his first appearance in London was no doubt greatly due to the fact that he really was the first violin-virtuoso of eminence that had been heard there, and his star went down as soon as Salomon and Cramer became his rivals; but notwithstanding this, his influence on musical and operatic life in England was considerable. He brought out a number of operas, though with little success. His oratorio of 'Ruth' was several times performed in London. His numerous compositions for the chamber include, according to Fétis, Four sets of 6 Violin Solos (op. 1, 7, 8, 16); Twelve Solos (op. 19); Six Violin Duets (op. 2); Six Sonatas for Piano and Violin (op. 3); Twelve Violin Concertos (op. 4, 5, 15); Three sets of Trios for Stringed Instruments (op. 6, 14, 20); Six Quintets for Piano and Stringed Instruments (op. 11); Twelve Quartets for Stringed Instruments (op. 20 and 29).

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