Alessandro Stradella (April 3, 1639 – February 25, 1682) was an Italian composer of the middle Baroque music period. He was born in Rome and died in Genoa. Stradella lived at a time when Italian music was turning away from sacred church modes and embracing the secular major and minor scales. These scales became the foundational precedent for modern harmonic music. Along with the acceptance of secular scalar patterns, Italian composers like Stradella and Giovanni Legrenzi also turned to more instrumental music thus adding richness to the musical compositions of the time. Stradella was a major proponent of this new music, which influenced neighboring European countries with this exciting musical style. It incorporated vivid emotions and moods making music more personal, individual, and philosophical.
It is said that Stradella had a major concern about the meaning of life. He pursued achieving a balanced and moral character which did not come about in his life; however, was vividly compensated for in his thoroughly balanced and meaningful music.
Not much is known about his early life, but he was from an aristocratic family, educated in Bologna, and was already making a name for himself as a composer at the age of 20, being commissioned by Queen Christina of Sweden. In 1667, he moved to Rome where he composed mostly sacred music; however, he appeared to have lost his way and began to live a dissolute and debauched life. With the guidance from an acquaintance, he attempted to embezzle money from the Roman Catholic Church, but was caught. He fled the city, only returning much later when he thought it was safe. Unfortunately, his numerous incautious affairs with women began to make him enemies among the powerful men of the city, and he had to leave Rome for good.
In 1677, he went to Venice, where he was hired by a powerful nobleman as the music tutor to his mistress. As might be expected, Stradella was shortly involved with her, and had to flee when their liaison was found out. This time the nobleman hired a gang to follow him and kill him, which they narrowly failed to do. Stradella escaped and went next to Genoa, where he wrote operas and cantatas. Unfortunately, he was again involved in an affair with a lady, and this time a hired killer caught up with him at the Piazza Banchi and stabbed him to death.
Stradella, even with his infamous life style, was an extremely influential composer at the time, though his fame was eclipsed in the next century by Corelli, Vivaldi and others. Probably his greatest significance is in originating the concerto grosso. While Corelli in his Op. 6 was the first to publish works under this title, Stradella clearly uses the format earlier in one of his Sonate di viole. Since the two knew each other, a direct influence is likely.
Stradella wrote at least six operas, as well as numerous cantatas and oratorios. He also wrote 27 separate instrumental pieces, most for strings and basso continuo, and typically in the sonata da chiesa format.
His colorful life and bloody death clearly were viewed as creating a good story for an opera of its own. Three separate composers made operas out of his life, the most famous being Friedrich von Flotow with his Alessandro Stradella (Hamburg, 1844).
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