Andrea Luchesi, the forgotten maestro
Andrea Luchesi was born in Motta di Livenza, Treviso, on May 23rd, 1741 and died in Bonn in the spring of 1801. His life can be viewed in two parts, or en deçà et au-delà des Alpes. The first part we shall call the Lehrjahre: his apprenticeship in Venice, the capitol of the most Serene Republic, where thanks to his uncommon talent, a rich network of contacts among the nobility and excellent local teachers, he built a solid musical foundation both as composer of sacred music and – of course – opera, as well as became a keyboard virtuoso (organ and harpsichord). The second part we shall call the Wanderjahre: when he traveled and then in late 1771 settled in Bonn, the official residence and capitol for the bishops and princes of Cologne.
In Bonn, he was named Kapellmeister (a title also desired by young Mozart), initially for a three-year contract, but he held the position until 1794 when Napoleon dissolved the Ancien Régime and along with it the small court in Bonn. Interestingly, his predecessor was Ludwig van Beethoven senior (Beethoven’s grandfather). Equally interesting is that, thanks to the Venetian Maestro’s tenure, the court Chapel in Bonn would come to be counted among the best in Germany. In Bonn, Luchesi married Anthonetta Josepha d’Anthoin, the daughter of a Geheimrat, (private councilor, a title also held by Goethe, Gauss and curiously, Max Planck) to Maximilian Friedrich von Königsegg-Rothenfels, Prince Elector of the Holy Roman Empire and Bishop of Cologne. Luchesi took local citizenship and acquired two houses in Bonn as well as some estates in the surrounding area. It should be noted that from 1782 to 1792, young Ludwig van Beethoven studied at the court in Bonn, overlapping with Luchesi’s tenure, a very important fact in post-humus developments in the Luchesi “case”. In the century that followed 1794, Luchesi’s works were dispersed through public auction.
Among Luchesi’s works we must mention are several sacred and secular songs – some of which are extremely significant (among them the Requiem for the Funeral of the Duke of Montealegre) and, above all, his instrumental compositions, many of which have been lost (in particular overtures, symphonies, concertos for harpsichord/pianoforte – one of which Mozart recommended to his daughter Nannerl for study – numerous sonatas for organ and harpsichord, and sonatas for the violin). There is also a rich assortment of successful operas, including “L’Isola della Fortuna”, “Il marito geloso”, “Le donne sempre donne” – sung by the famous castrato Gaetano Guadagni, who also interpreted Orfeo in Gluck’s opera and for whom Haendel rewrote some of the Arias in the Messiah, “ll marito per astuzia”, “L’inganno scoperto ovvero Il conte Caramella”. The Luchesi renaissance, or better the uncomfortable affaire Luchesi began in the last century when some musicologists, including Theodor Henseler first, and later Claudia Valder-Knechtges, and among the Italian scholars, Luigi Della Croce (‘Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, three greats on trial’), advanced the hypothesis that Luchesi was the Maestro of Beethoven. The work of the late Giorgio Taboga arrives at an even more extreme conclusion: he speaks openly of Luchesi’s works being accredited to important names such as Haydn and Mozart, a procedure that was relatively common at the time it seems, in part because with the French Revolution the concept of author’s rights was only just emerging and in part because Maestri di Cappella habitually deposited their works in court archives as anonymous. Certainly statements affirming that the Wiener Klassik was mostly an Italian invention sound extreme, if not extremist. But surely it would be worthwhile to re-examine certain loci comunes and determine from dark Acherontes (it is after all the era of Gluck…) how many of those who contributed to the grand history of music have been unjustifiably forgotten, if not erased.
For those who are interested in pursuing the question, a brief bibliography follows:
C.Valder-Knechtges: Die weltliche Werke A.Luchesis (Bonner Geschichtsblätter, Merseburger, 1984)
T.A.Henseler: Andrea Luchesi, der letzte Bonner Kapellmeister zur Zeit des jungen Beethoven. (Bonner Geschichtsblätter, Bonn, 1937).
L.della Croce, Der junge Beethoven und “sein” Kapellmeister Andrea Luchesi presented in 1999 at the Beethoven Congress held at the Hochschule der Künste Berlin)
G.Taboga: L’assassinio di Mozart (Lucca, 1997)
G.Taboga: A.Luchesi, l’ora della verità. (Ponzano Veneto,1994)