Giovanni Bononcini

Giovanni Bononcini

(born July 18, 1670, Modena, Duchy of Modena—died July 9, 1747, Vienna), composer, chiefly remembered as Handel’s rival in England. He studied with his father, composer and theoretician Giovanni Maria Bononcini, and later at Bologna. Precocious musical gifts won him his first appointment, as a cellist, in 1687, and he soon became maestro di cappella of S. Giovanni in Monte. He moved to Rome about 1691 and in 1698, after a brief period in Venice, settled in Vienna with his brother, the composer Antonio Maria Bononcini.

In 1720 he was invited to London by the new operatic organization, the Royal Academy of Music. His rivalry with Handel and their backing by opposed political and social factions ended in defeat for Bononcini. His backers were a group of noblemen; Handel was backed by the king. A three-act opera, Muzio Scevola, was looked upon as a public competition, with Bononcini and Handel composing the second and third acts, respectively. Handel was judged the winner. This reverse and others led to Bononcini’s loss of support.

Eight of his operas were produced in London, the most successful being Astarto, Crispo, and Griselda. Other compositions of this period include an anthem on the death (1722) of the Duke of Marlborough and harpsichord and chamber music. In the early 1730s he went to Paris, leaving England in disgrace after submitting to the Academy of Ancient Music as his own composition a madrigal actually written by Antonio Lotti. His last work, Te Deum, was written in Vienna in the 1740s.

Though he was a prolific and gifted composer, Bononcini’s abilities are dwarfed by comparison with Handel’s. Only in opera, where both used the same highly conventionalized idiom, are the two men comparable. Nonetheless, Bononcini achieved a simple and fluent melodic style and the ability to write well for his singers.
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Bononcini: Dal giorno fortunato
Forces: soprano & continuo

"...on that fortunate day when first I gazed into your eyes...the playful God of Love enflamed my heart for eternity..." I wonderful work in RARARA format including a beautiful affettuoso, a sprightly menuetto and a virtuosic presto to finish.

Source: British Library Add MS 31545

Range: c - a''

Editor: James Sanderson

Cantata à voce sola di soprano
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Bononcini: Dall'incurvato ferro
Forces: soprano & continuo

The cruelty and spite of the gods to our young protagonist is the theme, leaving him in the position of offering his life for one day of happiness with his beloved. Excellent recitatives and some very enjoyable arias (RARARA format)

Source: Münster HS 3915(19)

Range: e - g'

Editor: James Sanderson

Cantata à voce sola di soprano
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Bononcini: Del suo fedel, e taciturno ardore
Forces: soprano & continuo

A large and unusual piece, both in terms of the aria formats and the characters. In RARARA format, none of the arias are da capo form, the subject deals with the joys and pains of the love of Floridalbo and Fille.

Source: Münster Santini Sammlung HS 865

Range: f - a''

Editor: James Sanderson
Cantata à voce sola di soprano
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Bononcini: Del Tebro in sù la riva
Forces: alto & continuo

On the banks of the Tiber a young girl sits and weeps at the cruelty of her beloved. A single glance from him can simultaneously revive and dash her hopes of love. In RARARA format with quite a low range. Good 'pathetic' arias and a faster 12/8 to finish.

Source: Münster Santini Sammlung HS 3915(17)

Range: F - d'

Editor: James Sanderson
Cantata à voce sola di contralto
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Bononcini: Dolente, e mesta vò sospirando
Forces: soprano & continuo

Sadly sighing she longs for her lover Elpino. She searches the shepherd's hut, the fields and can't find him, finally singing a con spirito aria calling to him to come to her. In ARA format with a deliciously chromatic opening cantabile, et affettuoso. Interestingly, the continuo line drops to a BB, which would require some retuning.

Source: 1721 edition in the British Library

Range: d - g'

Editor: James Sanderson

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Bononcini: Dove sei mia bella Irene?
Forces: alto & continuo

"Where are you my beautiful Irene?...Where are you hiding? The sun shines among the shadows and leaves but it does not shine for me." The God of Love has been busy giving that pain only Love can bring... A very attractive, short cantata in ARA format with a final recitative instead of a da capo. A lugubrious Adagio to start and a semi-ground andante to finish.

Editor: James Sanderson

Cantata à voce sola di contralto
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Bononcini: Ecco Dorinda il giorno
Forces: alto, strings & continuo

Contemporary copy (see soprano version below) of the first cantata in the 1721 edition dedicated to George I. (2-part prelude then RARARA format. All arias most singable with a virtuosic presto in the middle. Our young lover is leaving his Dorinda and makes a real song and dance about it!

Source BL Add 14226 f57 - 70r

Range: d - b flat'

Editor: James Sanderson

Cantata à voce sola di contralto con violini
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Bononcini: Ecco Dorinda il giorno
Forces: soprano, violins & continuo

The first cantata in the 1721 edition dedicated to George I. 2-part prelude then RARARA format. All arias most singable with a virtuosic presto in the middle. Our young lover is leaving his Dorinda and makes a real song and dance about it!

Source: British Library copy of the 1721 edition

Range: B flat - f'

Editor: James Sanderson

Cantata à voce sola di soprano con violini
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Bononcini: Filli, dell' tuo partire
Forces: soprano & continuo

Deserted by cruel Filli our lover remains alone and suffering. "...remember the sighs of the one who dies for you..." RARARA format with a lovely triple time largo and two sprightly arias to follow.

Source: BL Add MS 31545

Range: c - g'

Editor: James Sanderson

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Bononcini: Già la stagion d'Amore
Forces: alto & continuo

Even in the season of Love, the course of true love does not run smooth! RARA format with two really lovely arias, Affettuoso e Cantabile and Vivace.

Source: 1721 edition in the British Library.

Range: a - c'

Editor: James Sanderson

Cantata à voce sola di contralto
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Bononcini: Il Lamento d'Olimpia
Forces: soprano, violins & continuo

Olimpia's famous lament on being deserted by her beloved Bireno. Here a more thoughful, melancholy variation in the theme rather than the usual tempestuous versions of other composers. 2-part prelude for the strings followed by RARA format cantata.

Source: 1721 edition of cantatas and duets in the British Library

Range: c - g'

Editor: James Sanderson

Cantata à voce sola di soprano con violini
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Bononcini: Io son lungi alla mia vita
Forces: soprano & continuo

Typical of cantatas with the subject matter of distance and longing, Bononcini gives his singer a difficult time with the third note forming a major seventh over the bass. Full of plangent harmony and some lively coloratura. ARARA format.

Source: Münster Santini Sammlung HS 3977

Range: c - g'

Editor: James Sanderson

Cantata à voce sola di soprano
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Bononcini: Lasciami un sol momento
Forces: alto & continuo

"Leave me but a moment..." to wallow in self-pity of course. The sad story of the doomed love of Eurillo and Dorinda in ARA format. An excellent chromatic largo to start and a lively tempo giusto to finish.

Source: 1721 edition in the British Library

Range: b flat to d'

Editor: James Sanderson

Cantata à voce sola di contralto
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Bononcini: Lidio, schernito amante
Forces: soprano & continuo

The agony of love unrequited returns in the text of this work. The 'delirium of Love', the 'agony of the heart'. Excellent and virtuosic recitatives link three delightful arias covering a two octave range.

Source: Münster Santini Sammlung HS 3915(12)

Range: b - b''

Editor: James Sanderson

Cantata à voce sola di soprano
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Bononcini: Luci barbare spietate
Forces: soprano, alto & continuo

The tempestuous meeting of Tirsi and Dorinda. 'Your eyes are the cause of my suffering...but I will always be faithful...' In Duet - Recit - Duet format with both duets virtuosic for the singers.

Source: 1721 edition in the British Library

Range (soprano): c - g'

Range (alto): G - d

Editor: James Sanderson

Duetto da camera à soprano e contralto
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Bononcini: Misero pastorello
Forces: alto, violins & continuo

At least this time the shepherd is not bemoaning being trerated badly by his beloved. He missed the fields with his sheep and looks forward to returning. 2-part prelude, then RARA format. It is a considerable work.

Source: 1721 edition in the British Library.

Range: G - d'

Editor: James Sanderson

Cantata à voce sola di contralto e violini
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Bononcini: O mesta tortorella
Forces: alto & continuo

The image of the turtle dove taking away sorrow and bringing contentment to the unhappy shepherdess longing for her beloved Tirsi. In RARA format with a throbbing affettuoso and a sprightly con spirito, ma non presto. Great writing for the continuo as well!

Source: British Library copy of the 1721 edition

Range: a - d'

Editor: James Sanderson

Cantata à voce sola di contralto
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Bononcini: O penosa lontananza
Forces: soprano, bass & continuo

Here we see both sides of the coin with the soprano lamenting the pain of separation and the bass rejoicing that being so far apart there is less pain... This is a wonderful duetto da camera in Duet - recit - aria - recit- aria - duet format. One for each and the two duets surrounding all.

Editor: James Sanderson
Duetto da camera à soprano e basso
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Bononcini: Peno, peno e l'alma fedele
Forces: soprano & continuo

Arcadia is in turmoil and Tirsi is really suffering with a wicked, lying beloved here. '...to hope for fidelity is torment...' A large piece with 3 recits and 3 arias finishing with a delightful minuet.

Source: BL Add MS 31546 22v

Range: c# - g'

Editor: James Sanderson

Cantata à voce sola di soprano
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Bononcini: Per sollevar quest'alma
Forces: soprano & continuo

A slightly odd and disturbing discussion about how close our love of love is to our love of a little torment. RARA format with two sprightly arias.

Source: British Library Add MS 31545 ff 7r - 12r

Range: d - g'

Editor: James Sanderson

Cantata à voce sola di soprano
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