A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Lotti, Antonio

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LOTTI, Antonio, eminent composer, son of Matteo Lotti, a Venetian, Capellmeister to the then Catholic Court of [1]Hanover; born probably in 1667, and possibly in Venice, since he styles himself 'Veneto' on the title-page of his book, of Madrigals (1705), and his brother Francesco was lawyer to the Procuratori, a post tenable only by a native. At any rate, his early years were passed in Venice, and before he was 16 he produced an opera, 'Il Giustino,' to words by a nobleman, Nicolo Beregani. His master was Legrenzi, then Maestro di capella to the Doge. Lotti entered the Doge's chapel as a boy; in 1687 joined the 'Confraternità musicale di Santa Cecilia'; was appointed, May 30, 1689, 'cantore di contra alto,' with a salary of 100 ducats; and Aug. 6, 1690, became deputy organist, with an addition of 30 ducats. On May 31, 1692, the Procuratori of St. Mark's unanimously elected him organist in place of Pollarolo, appointed vice maestro di capella. As second organist he composed a book of Masses, for which he received 100 ducats July 22, 1698. On Aug. 17, 1704, he succeeded Spada as first organist, and retained the post forty years, receiving permission in 1732 to employ as substitute his pupil Saratelli, who eventually succeeded him. In 1733 the Maestro di capella, Antonio Biffi, died, and an eager competition for the vacant post ensued. Lotti's chief rivals were Pollarolo and Porpora, and at the first election, March 8, 1733 (the dates throughout are from State documents), he obtained 6 votes out of 12. A majority being necessary, the matter remained in suspense, and meantime Lotti was authorised to call himself Maestro di capella. Porpora retired before the second election (April 2, 1736), but his place was taken by a scarcely less formidable competitor, Giovanni Porta. Lotti however received 9 votes, and thus obtained the post, with its salary of 400 ducats and an official residence. In the interim he composed his celebrated 'Miserere,' which superseded that of his master Legrenzi, and has been performed in St. Mark's on Maundy Thursday ever since. This was followed by a number of masses, hymns, and psalms, with organ accompaniment only, although his predecessors had employed the orchestra. He also composed 17 operas (for list see Fétis), produced with success between the years 1693 and 1717, at the theatres of S. Angelo, S. Cassiano, S. Giovann' Crisostomo, and SS. Giovanni e Paolo. Some of these having attracted the attention of the Crown Prince of Saxony during his stay in Venice (1712), he engaged Lotti to visit Dresden, with a company of singers, including Boschi and Personelli, both members of the chapel, and his own wife, a Bolognese singer named Santa Stella. The joint salary of husband and wife was fixed at 2,100 'doppii' (about £1600). The party set out on September 5, 1717, having obtained special leave of absence from the Procuratori of St. Mark's—'per farvi un opera.' In Dresden Lotti composed 'Giove ed Argo,' 'Ascanio, ovvero gl' odi delusi del Sangue,' and 'Teofane' with Pallavicini; intermezzi, and various other pieces, including church works, among which may be specified the 8-part 'Crucifixus' occurring in a 'Credo' for 5 voices and instruments. The Procuratori gave him one extension of leave, but in 1719 he was compelled to return or vacate his post; and accordingly left Dresden in October in a travelling-carriage, which he ever after retained as a memorial of his visit, and finally bequeathed to his wife. After his return he composed entirely for the church and chamber. Lotti died of a long and painful dropsy on Jan. 5, 1740, and was buried in the church of S. Geminiano, where his widow (who died 1759 and was buried with him.) erected a monument to his memory. It was destroyed with the church in 1815.

Besides the compositions already mentioned he wrote for Vienna an opera, 'Constantino,' overture by Fux (1716), and two oratorios, 'Il Voto crudèle' (1712), and 'L' Umiltá coronata' (1714); for Venice, the oratorios 'Gioa, Rè di Giuda,' 'Giuditta' (printed by Poletti), and the celebrated madrigal 'Spirto di [2]Dio' for the Doge's espousal of the Adriatic, performed on the Bucentoro in 1736—a very effective composition. His book of Madrigals (1705) dedicated to the Emperor Joseph I., contains the one in 5 parts, 'In una siepe ombrosa,' which Bononcini claimed in London as his own composition, and which led to his disgrace (see p. 650a, note). Another is given as a model by Padre Martini in his 'Esemplare di contrappunto.' Nevertheless they were severely handled at the time in a 'Lettera famigliare d'un accademico filarmonico,' circulated in MS. anonymously, but attributed on Montana's authority to Marcello, who had been a pupil of Lotti's. Many of his compositions are still in the King of Saxony's musical library, and Breitkopf & Härtel once possessed several of his MSS., as did also Dr. Burney.

Lotti's rank among musicians is a high one, from the fact that though the last representative of the old severe school, he used modern harmonies with freedom and grace. The expression and variety of his music struck even his contemporaries, especially Hasse, when he was at Venice in 1727. Burney, who heard his church music sung in Venice in 1770 (Tour, ii. 152) credits him with 'grace and pathos,' and characterises his choral music as both solemn and touching, and so capable of expression, though written in the old contrapuntal style, as to have affected him even to tears. Of his cantatas he says that they contain recitatives full of feeling (Hist. iv. 534). As a specimen of his writing for a single voice we may cite the favourite song 'Pur dicesti.' He was so afraid of overloading the voices that he never used orchestral accompaniments in church music. There are wind instruments as well as the four strings in his Dresden operas, but not in those produced in Venice.

Besides Saratelli and Marcello, Alberti, Bassani, Gasparmi, and Galuppi were among his pupils. A motet of Lotti's, 'Blessed be thou,' and a madrigal, 'All hail Britannia,' both for 4 voices, are given in Mr. Hullah's Part Music (1st ed.), and a fine Credo in C, also for 4 voices, in his Vocal Scores and Part Music (2nd ed.). Proske has a Mass of his (à 4) in Musica Divina, vol. i., and Rochlitz a Crucifixus, à 6, and another à 8, and a Qui tollis, à 4, in his Sammlung. There is also a Kyrie in the Auswahl vorz. Musikwerke (Trautwein). Four Masses and a Requiem are in Lück's Sammlung, and various other pieces in the collections of Schlesinger, Moskowa, etc.

[ F. G. ]

  1. Through the kindness of Mr. Kestner of Hanover I am able to say that no documents as to music or musicians at the Court of Hanover in the 17th century are now to be found there. The Register of the Catholic Church at Hanover contains, under Nov. 5, 1672, an entry of the baptism of Hieronymus Dominicus, son of Matthias de Lottis and Marina de Papirlnis, and under Nov. 9, 1673, of that of a daughter of Matteo de Lotti. The Register was begun in May 1671, so that it does not so far back enough for our purpose.

    [ G. ]

  2. A MS. of this is in the Library of the Sacred Harmonic Society, No. 1340.