Death: Jan 5, 1740 in Venice
Antonio Lotti exhibited something of a split musical personality while writing some of the most important music of his part of the Italian Baroque. In his church music, he was an arch-conservative, writing very learned, by-the-book counterpoint, yet managing to keep the results brilliant. But his music for the operatic stage was equally brilliant while highly dramatic and harmonically daring.
His father, Matteo, was the Kapellmeister in Hanover, Germany, where Lotti's brother and sister were born in 1672 and 1673. What is unsettled is when Matteo Lotti and his family arrived in Hanover, and exactly what year Antonio was born. Neither is known with certainty and, hence, his birthplace may have been either city.
By 1683, when Antonio was a teenager, the family was back in Venice. Antonio studied with the important composer Legrenzi. One of his first recorded musical jobs was signing on an as extra singer when the newly formed fraternity of Santa Cecilia was established at St. Mark's basilica. On May 30, 1689, he was hired as a regular alto singer. This does not imply a later birthday for Lotti, who was a countertenor (natural male alto).
After that he worked his way up through the musical ranks at St Marks: assistant to the second organist (1690), second organist (1692), first organist (1704), temporary primo maestro di cappella (1733), permanent primo maestro di cappella (1736). His final position gave him a good salary and free lodging. Before then, he had supplemented his salaries by composing such items as a books of masses for St Mark's, motets, choral works, and oratorios for the Ospedale degli Incurabili, and operas.
Lotti's operatic debut, Il trionfo dellinnocenza, was premiered in 1692. In a few years, he became one of the most popular of composers for the Venetian operatic stage. Between 1706 and 1717 he wrote and saw staged at least 16 operas, in addition to revising earlier works. In 1717 the procurators of the church granted him and his wife leave to go to Dresden and even take some of the musicians of the Basilica with him. There was a succession of gala events occurring there, for which Lotti provided new operas. First, he wrote Giove in Argo, which was produced in 1717 in the Redoutensaal. Then a lighthearted piece called Le quattro elementi was played in a palace garden in connection with the wedding of Friedrich August, Elector of Saxony, to Maria Gioseffa of Austria in 1719. Finally, a few weeks later, there was a revised version of Giove to open the new Hoftheater.
After that, Lotti returned to Venice and his regular job. Although he received a handsome coach and horses in appreciation for his work there, he made no more trips.
In addition to his sacred music and operas, he wrote solo cantatas with strings, and some with continuo only. But he also wrote an unusual assortment of short pieces for two or more singers. His Miserere in D (1733) became a tradition at St Mark's, played every Maundy Thursday at St Mark's during the eighteenth century and even some in the nineteenth. While, as we have said, he remained quite conservative in his church music (usually to the point of foregoing any instrumental accompaniment), his secular music tracked all the important developments in music during the Baroque era, even to the point of shifting toward the less contrapuntal music of the awakening Classical era in music.
Lotti was also a teacher of note. Among his students were Baldassare Galuppi and Benedetto Marcello.
- Joseph Stevenson (All Music Guide)