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Paisiello, Giovanni


Church and opera composer of early classical style;b. Taranto, Italy, May 9, 1740; d. Naples, June 5, 1816. As a youth he studied at the conservatory of S. Onofrio in Naples; he then taught there while composing his first music. At first he wrote only sacred music, but later he became extremely successful in opera, composing more than 100 works in this form. He spent eight years (177684) at the court of Catherine II at St. Petersburg, Russia, producing there his most famous opera, The Barber of Seville (1782). He later held the post of maestro di cappella at the court of Naples until he left in 1799 for political reasons. He was Napoleon's favorite composer and became his maître de chapelle in Paris 1802; but after an unsuccessful struggle to please the Paris public, he resumed his position at Naples under Joseph Bonaparte a year later. His sacred music includes, among other works, 30 Masses with orchestra; several Masses for varying combinations; a Requiem scored for two choruses, orchestra, and organ; 40 motets; a Miserere; a Magnificat; and an oratorio on the Passion. Like his operas, these have the florid arias and grandiose choruses of the period, but also reveal the natural melodic beauty that characterizes his best work.

Bibliography: a. loewenberg, "Paisiello's and Rossini's Barbiere di Siviglia," Music and Letters 10 (London 1939) 157167. h. v. f. somerset, "Giovanni Paisiello," ibid. 18 (1937) 2035. a. mondolfi, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. f. blume (Kassel-Basel 1949) 10:639647. j. l. hunt, "The Life and Keyboard Works of Giovanni Paisiello (17401816)" (Ph.D. diss. University of Michigan, 1973). k. b. mohr, "Giovanni Paisiello's Gli astrologi immaginari : An Urtext Edition" (Ph.D. diss. Florida State University, 1969). d. poultney, "Giovanni Paisiello" in International Dictionary of Opera, 2 v. ed. c. s. larue (Detroit 1993) 979982. s. willier, "Nina, ossia La Pazza per amore (Nina, or Mad for Love )" ibid., 93637. d. m. randel, ed., The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music (Cambridge 1996). m. f. robinson, "Giovanni Paisiello" in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. s. sadie (New York 1980) 14:97102. m. f. robinson and u. hofmann, Giovanni Paisiello (17401816), A Thematic Catalogue of His Music, Vol. 1: The Dramatic Works (Hillsboro 1991). n. slonimsky, ed., Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (8th ed. New York 1992).

[w. c. holmes]

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