Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Pinto, Thomas

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PINTO, THOMAS (1710?–1773), violinist, was born in England about 1710, of Neapolitan parents. His genius for violin-playing developed early, and at the age of eleven it was said that he could play the whole of Corelli's concertos. Before he was twenty he led a number of important concerts, including those in the St. Cecilia Hall at Edinburgh. His astonishing powers of reading even the most difficult music at sight led to carelessness and neglect of practice, and he ‘affected the fine gentleman rather than the musical student … a switch in his hand displaced the forgotten fiddle-stick’ (Dubourg, The Violin, 1832). The success of Giardini, who came to England in 1750, roused in him an ambition not to be outdone. Making greater efforts than hitherto, he became leader of the Italian opera on those occasions on which Giardini was engaged elsewhere. He was also at various times first violinist at Drury Lane Theatre, and leader at provincial festivals, including those of Hereford and Worcester (1758), Gloucester (1760), and at Vauxhall Gardens. In 1769, when Arnold purchased Marylebone Gardens, Pinto took some share in the speculation, and was leader of the orchestra. The venture proved a failure, and Pinto took refuge, first in Edinburgh, and subsequently in Ireland, where he led the band at Crow Street Theatre, Dublin. There he died in 1773 (O'Keeffe, Recollections, 1826, pp. 346–7). A portrait of Pinto, engraved ad vivum by Reinagle, is mentioned by Bromley.

Pinto was twice married: first, to Sybilla Gronamann, daughter of a German clergyman; and, secondly, to Charlotte Brent [q. v.], the singer and favourite pupil of Dr. Arne, who died in poverty in 1802. With her, Pinto made several prolonged tours. A daughter of Pinto, by his first wife, married one Sauters, by whom she had a son,

George Frederic Pinto (1787–1806), who assumed the surname of his grandfather, was born at Lambeth 23 Sept. 1787, and after studying under Salomon and Viotti, took part as a violinist at the age of twelve in the concerts at Covent Garden; at fifteen he appeared in public performances of Haydn's symphonies at Salomon's concerts. After 1800 Pinto travelled with Salomon, playing at Oxford, Cambridge, Bath, Edinburgh, where his success was remarkable, and twice visited Paris. Besides playing the violin, Pinto was an excellent pianist, and from the age of sixteen years he wrote sonatas for pianoforte solo and with violin, and a large number of songs. Several of the songs enjoyed considerable vogue in their day. Pinto died on 23 March 1806, at Little Chelsea. He was buried at St. Margaret's, Westminster, near Mrs. Pinto, his grandfather's second wife. Salomon declared that Pinto could have become an ‘English Mozart’ had he possessed sufficient force of character to resist the allurements of society. He was well read, and a good conversationalist. He was wont to visit prisons, ‘sympathising with the inmates, distributing the contents of his purse among them, and contributing more than he could afford to support an unfortunate friend with a large family.’

[Grove's Dict. of Music and Musicians; Georg. Era, iv. 544; Musical World, 1840; Lysons's Origin and Progress of the Meeting of the Three Choirs, &c., continued by C. Lee Williams and H. G. Chance; Dubourg's The Violin, 1832, and subsequent editions; references, chiefly of an anecdotal character, in Kelly's Reminiscences, Parke's Memoirs, &c., O'Keeffe's Recollections, 1826, and other memoirs of the period.]

R. H. L.