The solo for a violin: a new perspective on the Italian violinists in London in the eighteenth century

Christensen, A. M. (2018) The solo for a violin: a new perspective on the Italian violinists in London in the eighteenth century. Doctoral thesis, Royal College of Music.


Throughout the eighteenth century Italian violinists were praised and admired by London audiences. Though never as feted as the Italian castrati and sopranos, the Italian violinists in eighteenth-century London played a prominent role, featuring as leaders and soloists in every context where music was required. This dissertation focuses on the role the ‘Solo’ played in the careers of these Italian violinists, and how these artists and this genre fitted in socially, culturally and aesthetically. The ‘Solo’ was an important tool for them in promoting their careers: it was the repertoire they performed and subsequently published in order to enhance their fame. As a genre, the ‘Solo’ was uniquely suited to exploring a violinist’s artistic invention. Exploring the repertoire provides a new understanding of these artists and the important role they played in eighteenth-century London. First, the Italian violinist is considered through a discussion of the historical and cultural context of eighteenth-century London into which these artists arrived. The cultural scene (including the Italian Opera, the theatres and the emerging public concert scene) is studied, as are various forms of patronage and the tradition of private pupils. The prominence and longevity of the ‘Solo’ is examined through a consideration of surviving catalogues from the publishers active in London during the century. Concert and publication advertisements support the argument. To understand further why the ‘Solo’ and the Italian violinist were appreciated, eighteenth-century treatises on aesthetics and musical performance are discussed, exploring the concept of ‘Good Taste’ and in the process revealing the ‘aesthetic of moderation’. Finally, the Solo repertoire itself will be explored, focusing both on contemporary aesthetics and performance practice issues. This will be done both through a general survey of the Solo genre as well as a couple of case studies.

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