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VIOTTI, Giovanni Battista (1755-1824)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 1249 MS 4118
Held at: Royal College of Music
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Full title: VIOTTI, Giovanni Battista (1755-1824)
Date(s): 1798-1905
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 1 volume (45pp)
Name of creator(s): Viotti | Giovanni Battista | 1755-1824 | violinist and composer


Administrative/Biographical history:

Giovanni Battista Viotti, born Fontanetto da Po, 12 May 1755; taken to Turin under the protection of Prince Alfonso dal Pozzo della Cisterna, in whose home he lived and was educated, 1766; studied first with Antonio Celoniat, and with Gaetano Pugnani from 1770; entered the orchestra of the royal chapel at Turin, Dec 1775; occupied the last desk of the first violins in the orchestra, 1775-1780; set out with Pugnani on a concert tour to Switzerland, Dresden and Berlin, 1780; his first publication, the concerto in A (now known as no.3), published in Berlin, 1781; gave concerts in Warsaw and St Petersburg; returned to Berlin, 1781; made his début at the Concert Spirituel, Paris, 17 Mar 1782; instant success established him at once in the front rank of violinists, continued to play to critical praise, 1782-1783; retired from public concerts, 8 Sep 1783; entered the service of Marie Antoinette at Versailles, Jan 1784; also appointed leader of Prince Rohan-Guéménée's orchestra, and may have held a similar position for the Prince of Soubise; established a new opera house called the Théâtre de Monsieur (after July 1791, Théâtre Feydeau), 1788; produced a number of important works, both Italian and French, including the operas of his friend and associate Luigi Cherubini; fled revolution in France to London, Jul 1792; probably half of his published works, including 19 violin concertos, had appeared, 1782-1792; made a successful début at Johann Peter Salomon's Hanover Square Concert, 7 Feb 1793; featured violinist for Salomon's series, 1793-1794; appointed musical director of the new Opera Concerts, 1795; played at Joseph Haydn's benefit concerts, 1794 and 1795; frequent performer in the homes of the wealthy, including the Prince of Wales; acting manager of Italian opera at the King's Theatre, 1794-1795; succeeded William Cramer as leader and director of the orchestra at the King's Theatre, 1797; ordered to leave by the British government on suspicion of Jacobin activity; lived with English friends in Schenfeldt, near Hamburg, where he published a set of duos op.5, 1798-1799; left Germany, Jul 1799; returned to London, c1801; retired from music to concentrate on his wine business, but continued to play for friends and publish music in London and Paris; Director of the Paris Opéra, Feb 1819-Nov 1821; returned to London, 1823; died in the London home of his closest friends, Mr and Mrs William Chinnery, 3 Mar 1824. He produced over 30 violin concertos, 21 trios, 18 string quartets,42 duos, 24 violin solos, 8 piano works and 12 vocal works, and is considered the founder of the 'modern' (19th-century) French school of violin playing.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of or relating to Giovanni Battista Viotti, 1798-1905, comprising a manuscript autobiography 'since his entry into the world until 6 Mar 1798'; manuscript by Viotti on the origin of the 'Rans des vaches', the Swiss mountain melody sung or played to summon cows, recording his own experience of hearing it in Switzerland, undated; holograph will of Viotti, 13 Dec 1822; 5 manuscript letters from Viotti to Caroline Chinnery, Baron de la Ferté, Monsieur Cailheux, Madame Simon, and Monsieur Choron, 1798-1822; 9 letters from Adolphus Frederick, Duke of Cambridge (1774-1850), on musical matters, c1813-1817; letter from George Canning to Mrs Chinnery, on the death of George Chinnery, 31 Oct 1825; letter from Samuel Rogers, poet, [to the Chinnery family], undated; portraits, sketches and prints of Viotti and the Chinnery family; article by E van der Straeten on Viotti, from the journal Die Music, 1902; various letters, 1885-1901 to Edward Heron-Allen on the provenance and content of his collection of Viotti material.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
Mainly French, with some English and German.

System of arrangement:

Pasted in one volume.

Conditions governing access:

Usual conditions of the Library of the Royal College of Music apply. See the RCM website or contact the RCM Library for details.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopying is permitted at the discretion of the Archivist for research purposes only.

Finding aids:

Not known

Archival Information

Archival history:

This collection of material by or relating to Viotti appears to have been assembled by Edward Heron-Allen during the period 1885-1905. Marginal notes by Heron-Allen in the volume record the provenance of most of the items in the collection, and often the price paid if purchased. According to a letter to Heron-Allen of March 1885 from Algernon Greene, great nephew of Viotti's friend Caroline Chinnery, it appears Greene had given the bulk of the collection to Heron-Allen in 1885. This deposit comprised the letter from Viotti to Chinnery, the 'Rans des Vaches' text, Viotti's will, the Duke of Cambridge letters, and the George Canning and Samuel Rogers letters. Heron-Allen also records exhibiting the will at the International Inventions Exhibition of 1885, and that Greene had given it to him in February 1885. Heron-Allen purchased most of the remaining material by Viotti from Leo Liepmannsohn, a dealer in rare books and manuscripts in Berlin. He purchased the Viotti autobiography in March 1901, which was being sold as part of the former collection of music manuscripts and texts of Alfred Bovet of Valentigney. The first page of this document records that it was given by Viotti himself at Hamburg to Mr Coleman Macgregor, British Consul in Tenerife. The letter to Baron de la Ferté was purchased at auction in Berlin on 16 Oct 1894, from the collection of Louis Spohr. The letters to Cailheux, Simon and Choron were purchased from Liepmannsohn on 8 November 1890, 10 October 1893 and in July 1905 respectively. The seven miniature portraits of Viotti came to Heron-Allen from Julian Marshall in 1889.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Not known

Allied Materials

Related material:

Powerhouse Museum (Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences), Sydney, Australia, holds correspondence with the Chinnery family, 1793-1823 (Ref: 94/143/1).

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Robert Baxter as part of the RSLP AIM25 Project. Sources: National Register of Archives; article on Viotti by Chappell White, Grove Dictionary of Music.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Jun 2001

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