Tuesday, 23 December 2008


In the introduction to his book, “The Present State of Music in France and Italy”, published in 1792 (1), Dr Charles Burney laments the fact that the accounts of travellers to European cities, especially Paris and Rome, seldom mention anything of the music being composed or performed in those cities. Much was being written about the statues, paintings, architecture etc. but not about music. To compensate for this, and “…determined to allay my [Burney] thirst of knowledge at the source,…”, in 1770 he embarked on a journey which would take him through France and Italy. The objective was to collect information for his planned book ‘The History of Music’ and he was... “determined to hear with my own ears, and to see with my own eyes: and, if possible, to hear and see nothing but music” (2)

During his visit he kept a journal. From this we learn that he met many musicians, attended numerous concerts and made the acquaintance of several composers. These events were recorded in detail.

He also encountered many other, nowadays less recognized, musicians. In particular he mentions a Monsignor Reggio. Burney met Reggio through his connections with the English nobility resident in Rome. Burney mentions Reggio in detail twice in his publication and a further two times in his unpublished notes.

September 1770 sees Burney in Rome and he writes:

'Wednesday 26 Sept: "... In the afternoon …. to the prelate Monsignor Reggio - who is likewise a pretty good composer and performer on the harpsichord and violoncello. He has got 2 or 3 delicate-toned harpsichords and a good library.”’(3)

Later in he writes generally of Italian performers, discusses the state of Italian harpsichords, and admits being disappointed by Italian harpsichords and players. He again mentions Reggio.

‘.....The best Italian harpsichord which I met with for touch, was that of
Signor Grimani at Venice; and for tone, that of Monsignor Reggio at Rome.’(4)

In a general discussion of his visit to Rome he makes a specific point about Reggio;

‘… I am indebted for some curious compositions, and for the conversations
of several persons in Rome, eminent for their skill in the art, and learning
in the science of sound; among whom are the Marchese Gabriele,& Monsignor Reggio '(5)

The fourth meeting occurred on Burney’s return to Rome from a visit to Naples:

Wed. Nov. 14: ….I dined at the Duke of Dorset's and afterwards went to Monsignor Reggio's, where I met the Custode of the Barbarini library .(6)

Monsignor Reggio is not mentioned in any other contemporary or modern musicological source, although he was well-known to the English nobility resident in Rome during this period and appears to have left a lasting impression on Burney. So much so that he thought him worthy of note to include the observations in the published, edited, version (1772) of his journal as well as in the revised reprint of 1773.

Who was this mysterious prelate? Have any of his works survived?

The Manuscripts:

As I have already stated, with the exception of Burney, I have found no information regarding Monsignor Reggio in any standard musicological source. Burney mentions he had ‘a good library’. Even searches involving the history of existing libraries have come up with none under the name of Reggio. The reason for this may be that although many private libraries existed at this time after the death of the owner would have been acquired by other individuals the original ownership not necessarily be disclosed.

Given that Dr. Burney considered him ‘a pretty good composer’, my research next focused on the possibility of his works being extant.

I assumed that if any of his works have survived they would probably exist in manuscript form. A search of the RISM catalogue produced a number of references to works by an A. Reggio in the Santini Collection in the Diözesanbibliotek, Münster(7) plus one in a private library in Rome. The RISM citations state these works are by Antonio Reggio – 18th century.

Of the 4,500 manuscripts held in the Santini Collection 16(8) have been identified as being autograph manuscripts by Reggio, annotated ‘originale’. It is fortunate that many of these manuscripts contain dates, places and names of dedicatees.

There are two distinct periods shown on the manuscripts, 1745 – 1750 and 1763 – 1774. Burney met his Monsignor Reggio in 1770 which is within the time frame of these works.

Three separate places are shown; Palermo, Aci Catena and Naples. Both Palermo and Aci Catena are in Sicily. Aci Catena is a comune in the region of Catania. These two places appear on manuscripts dated between 1745 and 1750.

The names of the dedicatees are all female members of the Sicilian Nobility, several of whom are members of the Nascelli family, an influential noble family from Palermo.

One of the manuscripts is annotated ‘in Napoli’ and is dated 1747.(9) The dedication of this manuscript is: ‘… per S.C. la Principessa di Campofiorito’. In 1747 the Principessa was Caterina Gravina. She was married to Don Luigi Reggio, Principe di Campofiorito e Aci Catena.

The family home of the Reggio family was in Aci Catena, mentioned in one of the manuscripts; a ‘Messa per 4 Voci’, dated 1748,(10) where Don Luigi settled after his retirement from diplomatic service in 1747, having previously resided in Naples.

From the information contained in Reggio’s autograph manuscripts it is evident that he must have been closely related with the Sicilian nobility, in
particular the noble family Reggio, Principe di Campofiorito e Aci.

The Noble Family Reggio (Principi di Campofiorito e Aci Catena)

Because of the coincidence of Reggio’s name being the same as the noble family Reggio, I then focussed on the genealogy of the family.

From the work of the 18th century diarist and heraldist Francesco Maria Emanuele e Gaetani, marchese di Villabianca (11) and information from present day descendants of the family (12) I have been able to trace the genealogy of the family from the 16th to the 18th century.

The Reggio (13) family originally settled in Sicily from Tuscany. The first member of the family to arrive on Sicilian soil was Antonino in the 16th century. The family established itself into Sicilian society, when in 1660; Stefano Reggio became the first Principe di Campofiorito, a commune in the region of Palermo. Stefano was succeeded by his son Luigi who became Principe in 1680 and during the following year he was also invested as Principe di Aci Catena.

With the succession of Luigi, the family was formed into three branches. The first and second branches were formed from the issue of Luigi’s first marriage to Francesca Saladino. The first branch represented the succession of the Principi di Campofiorito and the second, the Principi di Aci Catena. Stefano Reggio, the first son of Luigi was initially invested as the 2nd Principe di Aci Catena but this title was later given to his brother, Antonino, who carried on the line of Principi di Aci Catena. Successors of Stefano carried the title of Principi di Campofiorito.

During the first half of the 18th century a new community was formed, that of Catenanuova. The title Principi di Aci Catena was amended to Principi di Catena.

At this point a third branch headed by Giuseppe Reggio, fourth son Luigi took the title Principe di Aci.

Following Luigi’s second marriage to Maria Corvino, a fourth branch of the family was formed taking the title of the ‘Nobili dei Principi di Aci’. In the Biblioteca Centrale della Regione Siciliana in Palermo (14) is a printed text of an ‘Azione Sacra’, dated 1750, which is annotated “Musica del signor d. Antonino Reggio dei Principi di Campofiorito”.(15)

The third son of Giocchino, head of the fourth branch of the Reggio family, was Antonino Francesco Reggio. He was born on the 8th January 1725 in Aci Catena.(16) From careful study of the genealogy of the family there was only one Antonino in the Reggio family at this time we have to conclude therefore that this is the Antonino cited in the Palermo text. He would have been 25 at the time of composition. The publication cites him as “signor d. Antonino Reggio”, suggesting a priest. Canon law states that a priest can only be ordained from the age of 24, Reggio was 25. Closer examination of the annotations to the cited Santini manuscripts shows several are annotated ‘Sig d. Anto Reggio’, again suggesting a priest.

Santini published a catalogue of his collection in 1820 (17) where he clearly states these works were by Antonino. This name appears on the title page of a further manuscript of setting of the ‘Tantum Ergo’ by Reggio. This manuscript, not in Reggio’s hand, clearly states ‘di Antonino Reggio’. (18)

It is safe to say that the manuscripts in Münster are by Antonino Reggio dei Principi di Aci.

Reggio the Monsignor

Dr Charles Burney was acquainted with a Monsignor Reggio in Rome in 1770.
Earlier I mentioned that all of Reggio’s known works, with the exception of one, are held in the Santini Collection in Münster. This other manuscript, originally in the collection of Prof. Giancarlo Rostirolla, is now held by the Biblioteca Nazionale di Firenze.(19) It is a manuscript of arias the title of which is: ‘Concerti à Quattro per trè soprano e contralto Di Monsignor Antonio Reggio’.(20) The Rostirolla manuscript is an exact copy, in an unidentified hand, of an original in the Santini Collection.

The Santini original, however, is dedicated: ‘…per le Signore Marchesine Laura, Prudenza and Giacinta Astalli’,(21) the surviving female line of the last Marchesi Astalli of the noble Roman family Astalli.(22) This manuscript is dated 1767. Several other manuscripts by Reggio in the Santini collection are also dedicated to the Astalli’s. These are dated between 1763 and 1767. The Rostirolla manuscript is undated and does not contain a dedication.

It can therefore be deduced that the Monsignor Reggio of the Rostirolla manuscript and the Antonino Reggio of the Santini manuscripts are one and the same person.

Reference to Reggio as a Sicilian and to his prowess as a musician is also contained in a letter, written in 1807, addressed to an anonymous friend by the poet and writer Giovanni Gherado De Rossi.(23) De Rossi mentions a Sicilian Prelate Monsignor Reggio in an appraisal of the life of Maria Pizzelli- Coccuvilla. Maria Pizzelli ran one of the most famous salons in Rome from an apartment in the Palazzo Bolognetti, during the so-called, ‘Age of Enlightenment’ which attracted many famous philosophers, artists and writers of the period.(24) He states that Reggio was a close friend of Pizzelli and that he helped her to develop her musical skills. De Rossi describes Reggio as:

“…. a man of great intellect, erudite, and very deep in music. “

He goes on to say:

“… He was her [Pizzelli] teacher, and in a short time the talented pupil
became capable of overcoming the difficulties of the Art and to learn the
abstruse rules..”(25)

This description reflects a similar remark made by Burney;

“…. eminent for their skill in the art, and learning in the science of sound;
among whom …. Monsignor Reggio.”(26)

Burney mentions that Reggio was a “pretty good’ composer for the harpsichord and violoncello. In the Santini collection there are five volumes of manuscripts containing in all 72 sonatas for harpsichord composed by Reggio(27). There is also a manuscript containing 12 sonatas for two violoncelli. (28)

So, I believe there is a prima facie case for Dr Burney’s Monsignor Reggio being Monsignor Antonino Reggio, dei Principi di Aci (Aci Catena 1725 – Roma? c. 1800/5) As yet his date of demise has not been established.

Reggio's Works:

All of Reggio’s known compositions are in manuscript form. The Santini Collection in Münster contains sixteen manuscripts comprising some 130 individual works.

The majority of his works date between 1745 and 1774. Works composed during the period 1745-1750 include two masses, two oratorios, various cantatas, motets and sacred songs.(see appendix A) The masses and oratorios, according to the Santini catalogue, were composed for special occasions and feasts of the church. The cantatas and songs were composed for various members of the Sicilian nobility. The Santini catalogue of 1820 shows at least another mass and some other works not present in the current Santini Collection.

There is gap between the years 1750 and 1763. In a publication dated 1874(29) it states that in November 1763 d. Antonino Reggio renounced the position as abbot of the abbey of Sant’Angelo di Brolo a small commune in the region of Messina. So it can be assumed that he was at the abbey during these years.

The manuscripts written during the period 1763-1774 include settings of arias (from libretti by Metastasio) for members the Roman Nobility, notably the female members of the family Astalli. As has already been noted above, a copy of one of these manuscripts appears as part of the private library of Prof. Giancarlo Rostirolla.

It was originally owned by Ippolito Galente, an 18th century Roman scholar and collector later passing into the hands of Professor Rostirolla.(30) The scribe of the manuscript is, to date, unidentified. It can be concluded that Reggio was in Rome in 1763.

From about 1770 Reggio’s output changes. There are five volumes of sonatas for cembalo which contain 72 two-movement sonatas.(31) The fourth volume is dated 1774, the others being undated. Burney mentioned that Reggio was a composer of harpsichord and ’cello music in 1770, therefore the earlier volumes must date from before 1770.

An additional manuscript contains, in 12 sonatas for 2 violoncelli, and 24 Sonatas for Lute and Bass, the bass was probably written for violoncello.(32)
The lute works are unusual as at the time they were composed, in 1770, the lute was in its decline. Reggio probably knew someone, as yet unidentified, who played the lute and composed these. The lute part is written in staff notation as opposed to tablature. It is also written on one stave, similar to other contemporary sources of the period. The bass part is written below. The manuscript is annotated: 'Sonate di Liuto e Basso’ and is undated. Twelve ‘cello sonatas in the same manuscript are titled 'Sonate per due Violoncelli’, again these are undated, but in relation to Burney’s comment they probably date from before 1770.

The Scarlatti Sonatas.

Among the numerous manuscripts in the Santini collection are 5 volumes of the keyboard sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti.(33) Until recently the scribes of these manuscripts had not been identified. During the cataloguing of the Santini collection Klaus Kindler had identified Reggio’s autograph from his original manuscripts and concluded that one of the hands in the Scarlatti Manuscripts was that of Antonino Reggio.(34) Further examination of these manuscripts indicates that Reggio copied one of the 5 volumes and approximately half of another.(35) The remaining volumes are in a hand which has so far not been identified. But it is interesting to note that several annotations in these other volumes are in Reggio’s hand.

Therefore it can be concluded that Reggio owned all the 5 volumes and they formed part of his ‘good library’ mentioned by Burney.(36)

Some of the annotations are unique to these manuscripts. In particular, against several of the pieces is the annotation ‘in Aranjuez 1754’.(37) According to the late Malcolm Boyd, in his book on Scarlatti,(38) the date coincides with Scarlatti being in Aranjuez but this information in relation to the music is contained in no other source.

Professor Joel Sheveloff, in his unpublished 1970 dissertation on the works of Scarlatti,(39) suggests that the Santini copies were made from the Parma and Venice copies brought back to Italy by Farinelli. (40)

It is, however, possible that the Santini Copies may a closer connection to Spain. The reason is the following: Reggio’s grandfather, Stefano, and uncle, Luigi, were both ambassadors to the Spanish Court and were resident in Spain at the time of Scarlatti and Farinelli. Both were involved with music, there are references to performances being held in the ‘casa di Reggio’.(41).

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