The Violinist Francesco Geminiani

The Violinist Francesco Geminiani

If you enjoy playing the violin and have a manual to learn, it is because of Francesco Geminiani. He was the first to write an instruction book about playing the violin. More on him follows...
Melodyful Staff
Francesco Geminiani (1687 - 1762) was born in Italy (Lucca, Tuscany). He was known as 'il furibundo' ('the mad man' as his friends used to call him because of his violin virtuosity), He was also a composer and music theorist. His father was his first violin teacher, and since childhood, he had an obvious inclination toward this instrument. He had the chance to learn the instrument with famous teachers like Carlo Ambrogio Lonati and master Corelli. He was still in his twenties when he played the violin within the town orchestra for three years, and then became the leader of the Opera Orchestra.
He went to England in 1714, where his brilliant virtuosity soon paid off, and took him in high positions as much as to play for the king himself, accompanied by the well-known Handel. This atmosphere of aristocratic support and appreciation for art was the environment Geminiani was now enjoying in London. Through his concerts, he soon became an important figure of violin mastery, but more than merely concerts, he also published his compositions and music theory treatises. This is when he actually published the first violin manual, 'The Art of Playing the Violin', in 1731. His manual described the techniques and principles of violin playing such as scales, bowing, and fingering. As a teaching method, Geminiani basically gave birth to the traditional violin study method, implying that a child must be at the age of five when he starts learning music.
In addition to this manual, Geminiani wrote 'Rules for Playing in a True Taste', in 1748, a treatise that was improved later and renamed as 'A Treatise of Good Taste in the Art of Musick, a Guida harmonica with supplement'. He also published 'The Art of Accompaniment' (1754) and 'The Art of Playing the Guitar or Cittra' (1760). These are his main works, treatises containing his violin teaching and theory writings.
In 1733, due to financial difficulties caused by some debts, Geminiani had to leave London for Dublin, and there he inaugurated a concert room, and became well-known in his new home town as a proficient musician in no time. However, he did not spend much time in Dublin, and returned to London, making this flourishing city his permanent residence. He did not totally forget Dublin, because he returned there for a few visits after his move to England's capital.
Geminiani also published Concertos: Op.2,(1732) and respectively Op. 3 (1733), Op.7 (1746), and The Enchanted Forest. Known for his virtuosity and expressiveness (advising the use of vibrato 'as often as possible'), he put that genius trademark in all of his work, but especially in Op 1 and Op. 4, which are a real challenge for violinists. However, his most famous work at the time was the Op.3 'Concerti Grossi'. Burney, one of his critics, commented that these Op.3 concertos 'established his character, and placed him at the head of all the masters then living, in this species of composition'.
His concertos and treatises brought him fame and recognition. His works were reprinted to a great extent as well as translated into several languages. A gifted man, with imagination and courage of improvisation, Geminiani demonstrated what perseverance and the right training could accomplish. His destiny was shaped ever since childhood, and he did not give up what he was naturally endowed with, a fact that proved to be very fruitful for the rest of his life. He was so virtuous in his directing, that the orchestra complained about his sudden changes of rhythm, saying that they couldn't really keep up with him.
In a nutshell, he is a great example of an enthusiastic personality, who knew what his strengths were, and as a musician, he left a great legacy for generations to come, a fulfilled destiny from the musical point of view.