Voices from the 18th Century: J.E. Galliard on the Murder of Alessandro Stradella



Pier Francesco Tosi’s “Opinioni de’ cantori antichi e moderni” was one of the most influential books on singing during the 18th Century. Published in 1723, the book was widely read and its advice taken seriously.

Twenty years after the initial publication, Johann Ernst Galliard translated into English, which helped to make it accessible to a wider audience. But Galliard didn’t provide a just a translation, he added commentary throughout, elaborating on Tosi’s many topics.

When Tosi praised Alessandro Stradella as one of the finest composers, Galliard not only agreed, but wrote an extensive footnote which recounted how Stradella came to be murdered. (Galliard even included an alternate ending.)

“Being at Genoa, a Place where Ladies are allowed to live with more Freedom than in any other Part of Italy, Stradella had the honour of being admitted into a noble Family, the Lady whereof was a great Lover of Musick. Her Brother, a wrong-headed Man, takes Umbrage at Stradella’s frequent Visits there, and forbids him going upon his Peril, which Order Stradella obeys.

The Lady’s Husband not having seen Stradella at his House for some Days, reproaches him with it. Stradella, for his Excuse, tells him his Brother-in-Law’s Order, which the Nobleman is angry with, and charges him to continue his visits as formerly; he had been there scarce three or four Times, but one Evening going Home, attended by a Servant and a Lanthorn, four Ruffians rushed out, the Lady’s Brother one among them, and with Stiletts or Daggers [stabbed] him, and left him dead upon the Place. The people of Genoa all in a Rage fought for the [Murderer], who was forced to fly, his Quality not being able to protect him.

In another Account of him, this Particularity is mentioned; that the Murderers pursued him to Rome, and one Enquiry learned, that an Oratorio of his Composition was to be performed that Evening; they went with an Intent to execute their Design, but were so moved with his Composition, that they rather chose to tell him his Danger, advise him to depart, and be upon his Guard. But, being pursued by others, he lost his Life.

His Fate has been lamented by [everybody], especially by those who knew his Merit, and none have thought him deserving so sad a Catastrophe.”

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