Giovanni Bononcini

Giovanni Bononcini

(born July 18, 1670, Modena, Duchy of Modena—died July 9, 1747, Vienna), composer, chiefly remembered as Handel’s rival in England. He studied with his father, composer and theoretician Giovanni Maria Bononcini, and later at Bologna. Precocious musical gifts won him his first appointment, as a cellist, in 1687, and he soon became maestro di cappella of S. Giovanni in Monte. He moved to Rome about 1691 and in 1698, after a brief period in Venice, settled in Vienna with his brother, the composer Antonio Maria Bononcini.

In 1720 he was invited to London by the new operatic organization, the Royal Academy of Music. His rivalry with Handel and their backing by opposed political and social factions ended in defeat for Bononcini. His backers were a group of noblemen; Handel was backed by the king. A three-act opera, Muzio Scevola, was looked upon as a public competition, with Bononcini and Handel composing the second and third acts, respectively. Handel was judged the winner. This reverse and others led to Bononcini’s loss of support.

Eight of his operas were produced in London, the most successful being Astarto, Crispo, and Griselda. Other compositions of this period include an anthem on the death (1722) of the Duke of Marlborough and harpsichord and chamber music. In the early 1730s he went to Paris, leaving England in disgrace after submitting to the Academy of Ancient Music as his own composition a madrigal actually written by Antonio Lotti. His last work, Te Deum, was written in Vienna in the 1740s.

Though he was a prolific and gifted composer, Bononcini’s abilities are dwarfed by comparison with Handel’s. Only in opera, where both used the same highly conventionalized idiom, are the two men comparable. Nonetheless, Bononcini achieved a simple and fluent melodic style and the ability to write well for his singers.
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Cantata à voce sola di contralto
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Duetto da camera à soprano e basso
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Cantata à voce sola di soprano
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Cantata à voce sola di soprano
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Cantata à voce sola di contralto e violini
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Cantata à voce sola di contralto
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Cantata à voce sola di contralto
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Cantata à voce sola di (mezzo) soprano
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Bononcini: O mesta tortorella
Forces: alto & continuo

The image of the turtle dove taking away sorrow and bringing contentment to the unhappy shepherdess longing for her beloved Tirsi. In RARA format with a throbbing affettuoso and a sprightly con spirito, ma non presto. Great writing for the continuo as well!

Source: British Library copy of the 1721 edition

Range: a - d'

Editor: James Sanderson

Cantata à voce sola di contralto
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Bononcini: O penosa lontananza
Forces: soprano, bass & continuo

Here we see both sides of the coin with the soprano lamenting the pain of separation and the bass rejoicing that being so far apart there is less pain... This is a wonderful duetto da camera in Duet - recit - aria - recit- aria - duet format. One for each and the two duets surrounding all.

Editor: James Sanderson
Duetto da camera à soprano e basso
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Bononcini: Peno, peno e l'alma fedele
Forces: soprano & continuo

Arcadia is in turmoil and Tirsi is really suffering with a wicked, lying beloved here. '...to hope for fidelity is torment...' A large piece with 3 recits and 3 arias finishing with a delightful minuet.

Source: BL Add MS 31546 22v

Range: c# - g'

Editor: James Sanderson

Cantata à voce sola di soprano
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Bononcini: Per sollevar quest'alma
Forces: soprano & continuo

A slightly odd and disturbing discussion about how close our love of love is to our love of a little torment. RARA format with two sprightly arias.

Source: British Library Add MS 31545 ff 7r - 12r

Range: d - g'

Editor: James Sanderson

Cantata à voce sola di soprano
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Bononcini: Pietoso nume arcier
Forces: 2 altos & continuo

Dorinda and Aldimira are bemoaning the infidelities of their lovers, Tirsi and Aminta. Luckily they have each other to spur on their suit. In duet (largo et affettuoso) - recit - duet (allegro) format.

Source:1721 edition in the British Library

Range (both): b flat - d'

Editor: James Sanderson

Duetto da camera
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Bononcini: Pur vi riveggio ancora
Forces: soprano & continuo

In this pastoral scene the golden shafts of Cupids darts fly from the beloved's eyes and pierce his heart. Despite the pain he decides that mercy and silence are the only solution. RARAR format, lento, allegro and the last recit becoming an arioso.

Source: BL Add MS 31545

Range: c - g'

Editor: James Sanderson

Cantata à voce sola di soprano
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Bononcini: Quanto peno e quanto piango
Forces: soprano & continuo

Source: BL Add MS 14211 52r

Short aria - recit - aria format but absolutely delightful! What we go through for love. Despite being cruel, unkind, like a serpent, still he loves her and yearns for her - such pain, such tears! This would be an excellent piece for a difficult spot in a program - total duration is only around 4 or 5 minutes

Range: f - g'

Editor: James Sanderson

Cantata à voce sola di soprano
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Bononcini: Siedi Amarilli mia
Forces: alto, violins & continuo

A large cantata for alto with a complicated structure. The story deals with the pain of love and includes a dialogue between the lovers Amarilli and Fileno (though sung by the same voice). The first aria sighs, alternating with recitative, the second is sobbing and the third is sprightly. Two-part opening prelude.

Source: British Library copy of 1721 edition

Range: a - e flat'

Editor: James Sanderson

Cantata à voce sola di contralto e violini
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Bononcini: Son io barbara donna
Forces: alto & continuo

Source: BL Add MS 14213 ff 103v - 110r

Bononcini's setting of a very popular cantata text. A boy unhappy with his Clori again. She is a minx! Two very different arias with a lovely sobbing line in the first sospira à miei sospiri and a matter-of-fact final andante - pensa ch'un nouvo amante non ti sarà costante!

Range: c - d'

Editor: James Sanderson

Cantata à voce sola di contralto
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Bononcini: Stanca di più penar
Forces: soprano & continuo

Finally the boys are getting their revenge on Clori. Tired of too much suffering, she turns to the God of Love to ask for pity, but does he help her...? In RARARA format with two sprightly vivace arias following an expressive largo.

Source: BL Add MS 31545

Range: e - a'

Editor: James Sanderson

Cantata à voce sola di soprano
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Bononcini: Sventurato Mirtillo, e che farai?
Forces: soprano & continuo

Miserable Mirtillo is complaining of the rigours and upsets of his love for Dorinda. In RARA format, allegro and adagio arias provide pathos and brilliant coloratura.

Range: d# - a''

Editor: James Sanderson

Cantata à voce sola di soprano
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Bononcini: Trà l'amene delitie
Forces: soprano & continuo

Veiwing the painful side of love, Eurilla searches for her Armindo in the garden of Love, but can find not even a breath of him. In RARAR format with two curiously 'twisted' arias - affettuoso and largo and finishing with a sinuous recitative.

Source: BL Add MS 31545

Range: d - g'

Editor: James Sanderson

Cantata à voce sola di soprano
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Bononcini: Usignuol che col mio pianto
Forces: alto & continuo

Here our lover tells the nightingale to be silent and simply moan at the sadness he feels. Beautiful music with a depressing subject. Dorinda, it seems, is playing hard to get and our protagonist is lamenting the fact. Very much an alto cantata (going down to a bottom G) this is a fine example of the simpler ARA format with some delightful word-painting in both arias and recitative.

Source: Naples Conservatorio.

Editor: James Sanderson

Cantata à voce sola di contralto
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Bononcini: Vanne si ruscelletto contento
Forces: mezzo-soprano & continuo

Source: BL Add MS 64960

Formerly owned by Maria Ducarel, recorded (f. ii verso) as a gift to her from George Henry Lee, 3rd Earl of Lichfield, in 1768. This charming cantata uses the water flowing into the sea simile to describe longing for the beloved. In aria (Larghetto) - recit - aria (Allegro) format.

Range: b - e'

Editor: James Sanderson

Cantata à voce sola di (mezzo) soprano
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Bononcini: Viver e non amar
Forces: soprano & continuo

"...to live and not to love..." is a crime according to our erstwhile lover here. She, however, loves Tirsi above all else and credits Cupid with her choice. In RARA format, including a beautiful largo and a delightful menuetto - short and with a small (one octave) range.

Source: BL Add MS 31545

Range: a' - a''

Editor: James Sanderson

Cantata à voce sola di soprano
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