Luigi Madonis, a disciple of Vivaldi, became one of the foremost Russian composers
Madonis Luigi (Italian: Luigi Madonis, also known as Madoni or Madonnis)
Whilst researching, with the help of a musician colleague, the original works of Russian composers for the programme of the first Yuri Yankelevitch international competition (which I founded and which took place in Omsk in Siberia in 2009), I discovered scores which had been kept for several centuries in the Saint-Petersburg library. The latter consisted of a collection of 12 ‘symphonies’ by Luigi Madonis, published in 1738 in Saint-Petersburg and dedicated to the Empress Anna. These are sonatas for the violin and bass, which are among the earliest scores of music ever printed in Russia. There remain only 2 examples in good condition...
A Russian composer of Italian origin, born in Venice around 1690 into a family of musicians and deceased in Saint-Petersburg in 1770, Luigi Madonis studied with Antonio Vivaldi then joined the orchestra of Teatro San Angelo of Venice, led by the latter.
Between 1724 and 1726 Madonis played solo violin for the Breslau opera company and again in 1727 in Brussels for the italian opera troup, Peruzzi.
Between 1729 - 1731 he gave a number of extremely successful recitals in Paris. In 1731, he went into the service of the Ambassador of Venice to France, then returned to Venice.
From 1733 onwards, Luigi Madonis and his brother Antonio, violinist and horn player, settled in Saint-Petersburg, invited by the envoy of the Tsarina Anna Ivanovna, Johann Hubner, to rejoin the Russian Court orchestra. The invited musicians were well appreciated and renumerated, Madonis earned 1000 roubles a year, a generous salary for that era.
Shortly after Anna’s death, Madonis left Russia for a while, but returned there to pledge his loyalty to the young Tsar Ivan V1 in 1740. In the same year, he married Natalia Petrovna, a Georgian singer. Then, he served under Elizabeth, for whom he would compose in 1742 some additional segments of the Hasse opera ‘La clemenza di Tito’, performed on the occasion of the coronation of the Tsarina along with the cantata “Our Russia in pain, rejoices again’ composed with his colleague Domenico Dalolo.
Retaining his position as solo violinist at Saint-Petersburg until his replacement at the beginning of 1762, he remained employed by the Court until 1767, at which point he retired with a pension.
His contemporaries considered Madonis to be a virtuoso - a master of his art. He is also considered to be one of the foremost composers of Russian music.
Among his compositions, Madonis wrote several arrangements of Russian folk songs in the Italian style, with his ‘Russian Series’ and two symphonies with Russian themes. He created his own pseudo-Russian style of composition, which prevailed until Glinka. Unfortunately, few of this composer’s works are known today.
In preparing this recording, conscious of the responsibility of being practically the first contemporary interpreters of this magnificent music, we have been at pains not to slip into a dated ‘baroque’ musical language, rather, we present a relevant interpretation recognisable to music lovers today, teasing out the freshness and vivacity of the composer’s vision, in order to reach out to the greatest number of contemporary listeners.
Source : Giacomo Fornari - Dictionnaire biographique des Italiens
Translated by Justine Smith