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Alessandro Rolla

(1757-1841)

renowned violinist and composer from Pavia

A. RollaAlessandro Rolla was born on April 23, 1757, in Pavia. Alessandro was born to art: his uncle Giuseppe was a violinist who, in 1765, played in the orchestra directed by Giambattista Sammartini (1700-1775).

The second child of three brothers and four sisters, Rolla began the study of the fortepiano and the viola at a young age, later adding his two favorite instruments: the guitar and, above all, the violin.

A musician of talent, when he was only 15 years old he performed as violist in concerts that showcased his exquisite virtuosic gifts. Alessandro perfected his violin technique in Milan with the noted musician Gian Andrea Fioroni, a pupil of Leonardo Leo.

He was first given a post as violinist in the orchestra of the Italian Opera in Vienna. In 1792 he was invited to the court of Parma to occupy the chair of first violin of the orchestra, becoming immediately thereafter manager of the Royal Concerts. In 1802 he was entrusted with the direction of the Orchestra of the Theater of La Scala in Milan. In 1808 he joined the faculty of the conservatory of the city as teacher of violin, a position that he maintained for many years. He died in Milan at a very old age, on September 15, 1841.

Rolla was an extremely prolific composer of chamber music, mostly for his favorite instruments, the violin and the viola. He left a vast catalog, comprising the large number of 275 published works and over three hundred works in manuscript (most of them not autograph). Among the 576 compositions in the thematic index of Bianchi-Inzaghi (see the bibliography; the "BI" catalogue designation derives from their names), there are compositions for all kinds of music of the epoch, from vocal sacred music for 4 voices and organ to symphonies.

Preserved in the library of the Conservatory "N. Paganini" in Genoa is a manuscript notebook of around 30 pages with the name of A. Rolla in the frontispiece; the compositions therein all call for the guitar. The manuscript contains 16 duets for violin and guitar (among which are 3 short sonatas), four duets for two guitars, two compositions for solo guitar, and two arias for voice with guitar accompaniment. Of notable interest are the pieces for 2 guitars (found in this order: Andante, Waltz, Minuet and Allegro), which, being of simple structure, constitute a rarity in the work of Rolla. These works are considered to be of still uncertain attribution, as is maintained by Bianchi and Inzaghi, Op. cit., who point out that the pieces are "probably of a different author."

At this stage of research into the music of Rolla we have not been able ultimately to exclude the existence of other compositions utilizing the guitar, owing to the presence of his works in libraries throughout Europe (the former Democratic German Republic, Sweden, France, UK, etc.) and America (Stanford University in California, among others). Rolla's broad catalog of works, among which a large number are of noteworthy quality, sets him securely among the greater musicians in Italian instrumental music of the Eighteenth Century.

(Transl. M. Penny)

Works of Alessandro Rolla

1. Works Comprising the Guitar

  1. Tre Duettini Op. 3 (violin or flute and 5-string guitar)
  2. Rondò alla polacca (violin and guitar) in F major
  3. Duetto in Sol maggiore (violin or flute and guitar)
  4. Cinque Romanze (voice and guitar)
  5. Romanza Perché mai ti affanni tanto... (voice and guitar)
  6. Quattro Valzer Op. postuma (flauto, violin and guitar)

2. Works of uncertain attribution

  1. Allegretto in do maggiore (violin and guitar; 2/4, 45 bars)
  2. Andantino in do maggiore (violin and guitar; 3/4, 52 bars)
  3. Allegretto in do maggiore (violin and guitar; 6/8, 16 bars)
  4. Allegretto in do maggiore (violin and guitar; 2/4, 62 bars)
  5. Allegro in do maggiore (violin and guitar; 2/4, 28 bars)
  6. Adagio in do maggiore (2/4; 16 bars)
  7. Rondò (allegretto) in La maggiore (violin and guitar)
  8. Allegretto in la maggiore (violin and guitar; 2/4, 48 bars)
  9. Larghetto in la maggiore (violin and guitar; 6/8, 16 bars)
  10. Andantino in la maggiore (violin and guitar; 3/4)
  11. Minuè in la maggiore (violin and guitar; 3/4, 44 bars)
  12. Allegro in do maggiore (2 guitars; 2/4, 32 bars)
  13. Minuetto in do maggiore (2 guitars; 3/4, 22 bars)
  14. Andante in do maggiore (2 guitars; 3/4, 16 bars)
  15. Valzer in re maggiore (2 guitars; 3/8, 24 bars)
  16. Ninna nanna in re maggiore (guitar; 6/8, 16 bars)
  17. Valzer in re maggiore (guitar; 3/8, 16 bars)

Bibliographic Notes