Francesco Degrada

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi was perhaps the first musician who reached in a very short time an international success with all kind of public. Certainly he was the first one to interest the musical environment in such a wide way, and above all the first one whose personality had been isolated from his works and idealized by the public, that wanted to create through his music an abstract and symbolic image. The celebrity achieved in five-six years of feverish activity (from 1730 to 1736, when he died at the age of 26 years) was internationally sanctioned by the so-called ‘’Querelle des buffons”, when the Encyclopaedists used his works, and in particular the Serva padrona, as a flag against the Ancien Regime official art. They underlined their spontaneity, clearness, and naturalness, that seemed to represent a demystifying return from conventions and fashion to nature. Modeste Gretry, a musician of the period, sentenced significantly: “Pergolesi was born and the truth was revealed”. After this parenthesis, a forcing interpretation of Pergolesi’s art, the combination of his pathetic intimism with preromantic and romantic attitudes, the myth, stimulated by exquisitely literary suggestions, of the “grand et malhereux” musician, pursued by fate and people because of his excellence in nature and talent, ended in removing Pergolesi from his real aesthetic dimension and transformed him in a pre-romantic symbol. As a consequence of it, aspects of his works, especially the sentimental ones, have been stressed, ignoring other but not least aspects. Considering that his works did not justify that sort of oleographic image created by the audience, an arbitrary attribution of other works related with that same fictitious image seemed natural and caused, with other reasons, the flourishing of hundreds of apocrypha, a curios phenomenon for that times. Works made by infamous musicians, speculators and even forgers, were uttered as Pergolesi’s compositions. Only during the last years musicologists made him justice reconstructing Pergolesi’s authentic corpus and rescuing his biography from the deformation of the myth.

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