Cesti, Antonio (baptismal name, Pietro)

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Cesti, Antonio (baptismal name, Pietro)

Cesti, Antonio (baptismal name, Pietro), renowned Italian composer, uncle of Remigo Cesti; b. Arezzo (baptized), Aug. 5, 1623; d. Florence, Oct. 14, 1669. Although earlier reference works give his name as Marc’ Antonio Cesti, this rendering is incorrect; he adopted the name Antonio when he joined the Franciscan order. He was a choirboy in Arezzo before joining the Franciscan order in Volterra in 1637; he served his novitiate at S. Croce in Florence and then was assigned to the Arezzo monastery. He is reported to have received his musical training from Abbatini in Rome and Città di Castello (1637–40) and from Carissimi in Rome (164CM5). While in Volterra, he was accorded the patronage of the Medici family. His first opera, Orontea (Venice, Jan. 20, 1649), was highly successful. He was active at the court of Archduke Ferdinand Karl in Innsbruck from 1652 to 1657, then was a tenor in the Papal Choir in Rome (1659–60). After being released from his vows, he quit the Papal Choir with the intention of returning to his court duties in Innsbruck. In spite of a threat of excommunication, he went to Innsbruck in 1661. Thanks to the intervention of the court, he was eventually released from his post in the Papal Choir and remained in Innsbruck until the death of the Archduke in 1665 led to the removal of its musical entourage to Vienna in 1666. He was made “Capelan d’honore und intendenta delle musiche theatrali” at the Vienna court in 1666, and in 1668 returned to Italy and served as maestro di cappella at the Tuscan court in Florence during the last year of his life. Cesti was one of the most important composers of secular vocal music of his time. See D. Burrows, ed., A. C: The Italian Cantata, I, Wellesley Edition, V (1963).


DRAMATIC: Opera: Orontea (Venice, Jan. 20, 1649); Alessandro vincitor di se stesso (Venice, 1651); II Cesare amante (Venice, 1651); La Cleopatra (Innsbruck, 1654); L’Argia (Innsbruck, 1655); La Dori (Innsbruck, 1657); La magnanimità d’Alessandro (Innsbruck, 1662); II Tito (Venice, Feb. 13, 1666); Nettunno e Flora festeggiaci (Vienna, July 12, 1666); Le disgrazie d’Amore (Vienna, Feb. 19, 1667); La Semirami (Vienna, July 9, 1667); II pomo d’oro (Vienna, July 13–14, 1668); also several doubtful works. other: Over 60 secular cantatas; some sacred vocal music.


C. Schmidt, The Operas of A. C. (diss., Harvard Univ., 1973).

—Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire