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Mantua 1682 – Recanati 1757

Paolo Benedetto Bellinzani, a man of renown all of a piece.

Gioachino Rossini’s main biographer Giuseppe Radiciotti described Paolo Benedetto Bellinzani as a “worthy and most fertile composer” who had become a member of the Philharmonic Academy of Bologna “with no need of any novitiate”. Bellinzani was also “an excellent teacher, capable of perfecting in the virtue of song Pasquale Bruscolini of Pesaro, a virtuoso of music and most skilled contralto who had much success throughout Europe”.

Father Martini of Bologna, historically recognized as the authority of his day on musical doings in Italy and Europe, put a portrait of Bellinzani in his private art gallery which, in the words of Andrea Emiliani, contained “the most celebrated figures of the science of music”.

Bellinzani was almost certainly born in Mantua in 1682 and initially studied music at an institute run by Benedictine monks in Mantua before completing his advanced studies went in Ferrara under a teacher from Padua, Giovan Battista Bassani.

In the early 18th century, Bellinzani embarked on a career that would broaden the range of his contacts and of his musical expertise, taking him as chapelmaster to Verona, Udine, Ferrara, Pesaro, Urbino, Orvieto and Recanati. He died in the latter town in 1757. At just 18 years of age in 1700, Bellinzani composed a four-part mass for he dead, Messa per li Defonti a quatro voci.

Around 1713 he was ordained as a priest and in 1715 became chapelmaster at Udine Cathedral. His first published work, Missae quatuor vocibus concinendae, appeared in 1717 in Bologna and in 1718 he was appointed Censore dé Signori Accademici Risorti in Ferrara.

One of the reasons Bellinzani worked in the Marche region of Italy may have been its better climate. He was in Fabriano in 1722, in Pergola in 1723 when he completed the manuscript score of his Dixit a 5 con violini e ripieni and in Pesaro where, on 3 January 1724, the chapterhouse offered him the post of Director of Music for a year, at “the customary rates and conditions”.

Despite eye trouble, in 1726 in Pesaro Bellinzani published his Duetti da Camera, dedicated to the Right Reverend Cardinal Bentivoglio d’Aragona, and his Offertori a due voci, with a dedication to “The Most Eminent Prince Annibale Albani”.

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In 1727, the composer completed his Littanie della Beata Vergine Maria per Monache con Violini a beneplacito.

His four years in Pesaro (1724 – 1727) helped spread Bellinzani’s reputation with the publication of five works, enabling him to enter the circles of the local nobility.

He was also in close contact with the Literary Academy of Pesaro and was held in high esteem and enjoyed the trust of the nobleman Giovanni degli Abati Olivieri.

May 1728 saw the publication of all the 144 Versetti for organ, in different registers, which Bellinzani described as fatiguing and irksome to write. After editing the facsimile edition in 1997 - published in Bologna by Arnaldo Forni - with this second disk, which will be ready by spring 2017, I pursue the creation of a series of recordings dedicated to the great composer from Mantua.

From 1730 until 1733, Bellinzani was chapel master at the Metropolitana in Urbino and in 1734 at the chapterhouse in Fano. At the latter, he was acknowledged him as the best of the applicants for the post, since he was a man of renown and esteem all of a piece and he was taken on there immediately.

In 1735 Bellinzani was in Orvieto earning 80 scudi a year as opposed to the mere 30 he had been paid in Fano. In 1737 he became Primo Cantore in Recanati, where the tendency towards mainly vocal music led him to write a cappella sacred works or material in which the emphasis was on the vocal lines.

In 1754 Bellinzani was paralyzed on his right side and dubs himself paralitico destro on the frontespiece of his Introito a quattro voci per la festa di San Vito.

Because of his serious illness, in 1756 he requested Cardinal Cavalchini in Rome to be allowed to carry out his duties as a priest at a church closer to his home.

After working in Recanati Cathedral as Primo Cantore for twenty years, Bellinzani died on 26 February 1757 and was replaced there by his nephew Anton Francesco.

Davide Marsano

Translation by Walter Vannini

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Annotated autographs

The spiritual language