A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Mariani, Angelo

1607419A Dictionary of Music and Musicians — Mariani, AngeloFrancesco Rizzelli


MARIANI, Angelo, born at Ravenna, Oct. 11, 1822, began to study the violin when quite young, under Pietro Casolini; later on he had instruction in harmony and composition from a monk named Levrini, of Rimini, who was a celebrated contrapuntist. He was still in his teens when he left home to see the world, and for a certain time he continued to appear as a soloist in concerts and as a first violin player in orchestras. It was in 1844, at Messina, that he assumed the bâton,—which after all was only the bow of his violin, for at that time the conductor of an Italian orchestra was named Primo Violino, direttore dell' orchestra.

After several engagements in different theatres in Italy, Mariani was appointed, in 1847, conductor of the Court Theatre at Copenhagen. While there he wrote a Requiem Mass for the funeral of Christian VIII. At the beginning of 1848 he left Denmark and went to Italy to fight in the ranks of the volunteers for the freedom of his country. At the end of the war he was called to Constantinople, where his ability won him the admiration of the Sultan, who made him many valuable presents; and Mariani, as a mark of gratitude, composed a hymn which he dedicated to him. In Constantinople also he wrote two grand cantatas, 'La Fidanzata del guerriero' and 'Gli Esuli,' both works reflecting the aspirations and attempts of the Italian movement. He returned to Italy in 1852, landing at Genoa, where he was at once invited to be the conductor of the Carlo Felice. In a short time he reorganized that orchestra so as to make it the first in Italy. His fame soon filled the country and spread abroad; he had offers of engagements from London, St. Petersburg and Paris, but he would never accept them; he had fixed his headquarters in Genoa, and only absented himself for short periods at a time, to conduct at Bologna, at Venice, and other important Italian towns. Mariani exercised an extraordinary personal fascination on all those who were under his direction. He was esteemed and loved by all who knew him. For him, no matter the name of the composer, the music he conducted at the moment was always the most beautiful, and he threw himself into it with all his soul. Great masters as well as young composers were happy to receive his advice, and he gave it in the interest of art and for the improvement of the work. At rehearsal nothing escaped him in the orchestra or on the stage.

In 1864 Mariani was the director of the grand fêtes celebrated at Pesaro in honour of Rossini, and was himself greeted enthusiastically by the public, which was in great part composed of the most eminent musicians of the world. Throughout Italy are still heard the praises of the interpretation given by him to the masterpieces of the Italian and foreign schools. The writer has often heard celebrated singers say that music which they had sung under other directors showed new beauties when conducted by Mariani. On Nov. 1, 1871, he introduced 'Lohengrin' at the Comunale of Bologna, and, thanks to his efforts, the opera was such a success that it was performed through the season several times a week—and he had only nine orchestral rehearsals for it! On this occasion Richard Wagner sent him a large photograph of himself, under which he wrote Eoviva Mariani.

A cruel illness terminated the life of this great musician on Oct. 13, 1873, at Genoa, the town which he loved so much, and which had seen the first dawn of his world-wide celebrity. The day of Mariani's funeral was a day of mourning for the whole of Genoa. His body was transported to Ravenna at the request of the latter city. The Genoese municipality ordered a bust of him to be placed in the vestibule of the Carlo Felice; all the letters written to him by the leading composers and literary men of the day to be preserved in the town library; the portrait sent by Wagner hung in one of the rooms of the Palazzo Civico; and his last bâton placed by the side of Paganini's violin in the civic museum.

Besides the works already named, and other orchestral pieces, he published several collections of songs, all of which are charmingly melodious:—'Rimembranze del Bosforo,' 'Il Trovatore nella Liguria,' 'Liete e tristi rimembranze,' 'Otto pezzi vocali,' 'Nuovo Album vocale.'

Mariani was the prince of Italian conductors; out of Italy he might have found his equal, but not his superior.
[ F. Rz. ]