The Kennedy Center

Giovanni Viotti


An Italian composer and violinist, "founder of the modern (19th-century) French school of violin playing" Giovanni Viotti was born in Fontanetto da Po, Italy on 12 May 1755. He was so talented that at age eleven, he was taken to the household of Prince Alfonso dal Pozzo della Cisterna who gave him a home and an education. He studied with Antonio Celoniat and with Pugnani (1770), a prominent performer and composer. 
In 1775, Viotti joined the Royal Chapel Orchestra in Turin. He later joined Pugnani in 1780 on concert tour to Switzerland, Dresden and Berlin. His Concerto in A (currently known as no.3) was first published in Berlin in 1781.
His performance at the Concert Spirituel provided him an instant success on 17 March 1782 putting him ahead of other violinists. In January 1784 he joined the service of Marie Antoinette at Versailles, occasionally led Prince Rohan-Guemenee's orchestra, and that of the Prince of Soubise.
In 1788 he founded Theatre de Monsieur (changed to Theatre Feydeau) and in April 1792, started a new theater and launched a series of Holy Week concerts. During the revolution, he left for London. He became musical director of the Opera Concerts (1795) and orchestral director at the King's Theatre (1797). Due to political reasons, he was asked to leave England but later returned in 1801, where he opened a wine business but failed, putting him in debt. He left for Paris, became director of the Paris Opera (1819), resigned in 1821 and returned to England.
Most of Viotti's compositions highlighted the violin. His twenty-nine violin concertos were his most important work. His other works included piano concertos transcribed from violin concertos, 30 piano sonatas, chamber music, simple arias, symphonies, string quartets, and unpublished songs written for friends.
His works showed galant style, romanticism, and full orchestration.  Moreover, he applied varied accompaniments and rich texture, most likely influenced by Haydn.
His work inspired Beethoven as shown in Schwarz, 1958e.  His Paris concertos were examples for Rode, Kreutzer and others. He was the most prominent violinist between Tartini and Paganini. He died in London on 2 Dec. 1845.
Oxford Music Online
Giovanni Viotti