Baroque composer of opera and church music (full name: Lionardo Oronzo Salvatore de Leo); b. San Vito degli Schiavi (near Brindisi), Italy, Aug. 5, 1694; d. Naples, Oct. 31, 1744. In 1709 Leo began his musical studies at the Conservatorio Santa Maria della Pietà dei Turchini in Naples. While he was still a student, his first sacred opera (1712) was successfully performed there. He was a supernumerary organist of the royal chapel from 1713, and, after the death of A. scarlatti in 1725, he became first organist. As choirmaster for the royal chapel from 1744, Leo composed Mass propers for the Sundays of Lent in a cappella style to replace the concertato music previously favored. At the time of his death, Leo was primo maestro at the Conservatorio di Sant' Onofrio (where he began teaching in 1739) and at the Turchini (where he had been secundo maestro 1734–37 and primo maestro from 1741 on). Among his students were jommelli, Piccini, and Traetta. Leo's importance arises partly from his activity in the Neapolitan opera seria tradition (he was also one of the creators of the comic opera) and partly from the contrapuntal innovations in his church music (Masses, Magnificats, motets, etc.). The well-known, eight-voice Miserere, for two choirs and basso continuo (ed. H. Wiley Hitchcock, St. Louis 1961), may have drawn other Neapolitan composers to the a cappella style. A number of instrumental works (organ, harpsichord, cello) have also been preserved.
Bibliography: h. hucke, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. f. blume (Kassel-Basel 1949–) 8:622–630. e. j. dent, Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. e. blom, 9 v. (5th ed. London 1954) 5:131–135. r. eitner, Quellen-Lexikon der Musiker und Musikgelehrten, 10 v. [Leipzig 1900–04; New York n.d.(1947)] 6:134–138. Leo's sacred music is repr. in several standard collections. There is no complete modern ed. g. h. hardie, "Leonardo Leo (1694–1744) and His Comic Operas Amor vuol sofferenze and Alidoro " (Ph.D. diss. Cornell University, 1973). h. hucke, "Leonardo Leo" in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, vol. 10, ed. s. sadie (New York 1980) 666–669. d. m. randel, ed., The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music (Cambridge 1996) 497. n. slonimsky, ed., Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Eighth Edition (New York 1992) 1038–1039. s. r. van nest, "Leonardo Leo's F Major Dixit Dominus : An Edition and Commentary" (D.M.A. diss. University of Missouri at Kansas City, 1997).