Francesco Antonio Bonporti

Francesco Antonio Bonporti was an excellent instrumental composer, especially noted for his fine, flowing melodies, but was overlooked in his own time. He was from a high-born family in Trent and chose the priesthood as his vocation, obviously expecting to rise through its ranks to higher positions. People in his class did not consider music as a career, so that pursuit was a vocation to him. He excelled in the humanities, philosophy, and theology at the Collegium Germanicum in Rome, also taking music lessons with Pitoni and reportedly, Corelli. After he was ordained and posted to Trent, he never attempted to gain a musical position. When he published music, he described himself as a "gentleman of Trent." He dedicated this publication to the prince bishop of Trent and was rewarded with a minor post in the cathedral. Thereafter, he almost always dedicated his publications to some prelate or ruler who could advance him. Northern Italy was dominated by Austria and German-speaking priests had the upper hand, blocking Italians -- no matter how talented or high-born -- from advancement. When this dawned on Bonporti, he dared to apply as chaplain to the Emperor in Vienna, even offering to serve the first year without pay. When this failed, he was so desperate he applied for a similar position with King George I of England, a Protestant. He left Trento for Padua to get away from the clique of Germans. Without an official position there, he lived in the apartment of a fellow priest. His last a publication of ten works dedicated to Empress Maria Theresia of Austria did him no good. He died an embittered man in 1749. In 1911, musicologist Werner Wolffheim proved that four works attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach were really by Bonporti. Musicians curiously sought out the music of this unknown composer good enough to be mistaken for the master. They found a composer of high skills, great originality, and even daring, with very accomplished part writing, where all voices are generously highly melodic in their own right. His weakness is that he wrote in different styles to please a diverse bunch of highly connected dedicatees, so he did not develop his own individual "sound."

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