Gabriello Melia
(XIX century)

Roman guitarist and composer of the early 19th-cent.

The name of Gabriello Melia belongs historically to a generation of guitarists and composers who enlivened the musical life of the early Nineteenth Century in Italy, but did not have the ability, or the good fortune, to conduct a musical activity sufficient to draw lasting attention to their works in the subsequent decades.
What we know of Melia personally indicates that his musical training and good performing skill was among the best of his above-mentioned contemporaries; unfortunately his work has not attracted scholarly attention till recently. The result is that we have no in-depth picture of his artistry, and he remains an almost unknown musician.

The Collection of Works published by the Edition Ottocento comprises all Melia's printed works with guitar; these were assembled after long and meticulous research in Italian and foreign libraries. We aim here to offer the most exhaustive picture possible of his compositional endeavors during the first decades of the 1800's. We have also collected a few facts regarding his life and musical activity.

Melia was probably born in Rome in the last decade of the 1700's, and he seems never to have worked outside this city. He lived for many years in the via de' Sediari (Chairmaker's Street) at number 76, a small street that still exists close to the center of the city; his principal publishers Ratti and Cencetti did business in the same street. It is reasonable to assume that Melia did not develop his activity elsewhere, maintaining a close relationship with the Rome environment; this fact can be reliably inferred from the dedicatees of his compositions, who were noble and diplomatic personalities in Rome at the time. This testifies as well to his good personal relationship with the Roman aristocracy.

His didactic activity can be also deducted analyzing the dedications of some of his guitar students: we can argue that Melia diffused intensely the guitar and his repertoire in Rome, during the first decades of 1800.

His teaching activity can be also deduced by analyzing the dedications of some of his guitar students; we can argue therefore that Melia was a major catalyst in the propagation of the guitar and its repertoire in Rome during the first decades of the 1800's.

At the same time, we do not have sufficient documentation of his concert activity. The only testimony in this respect is his presence in 1818 at an academy adjacent to the residence of Gaetano Zocca; the latter was a violist who worked for a long time in the Theater St. Moisè and was active at that time in Rome. The announcement of the academy appeared in the "Dayly Newses" section of a local newspaper. It is safe to say that Melia became one of the principal guitarists in the city, at least until 1830. However, in Rome there was no favorable climate for the guitar. We remember that Mauro Giuliani, who was present in the city in 1819 and 1823, met with great difficulty in developing his musical activity here, performing in concert only twice. We can't exclude the possibility that Melia may have had contact with Giuliani.

There is no evidence of the presence of any other significant guitarists in Rome at that time, with the exception of Giuseppe Alfredo Boccomini, who has been living in Rome from 1810 to approximately 1820. About him we also have very little biographical information.

All the information on Melia is, of course, hypothetical.
The only sources are his printed compositions, published in Rome between 1822 and 1834. From a detailed analysis we recognize an artist of solid preparation, whose style, inspired inevitably by the traditional Italian bel-canto, has some characteristics of originality. Melia makes wise use of the guitaristic idiom; although it is hardly daring in music theory, it calls for rigorous performance. This is evident mostly in the last work, which has a rich pallette of virtuoso musical effects.

No composition was published by him after his works of 1834, whence we infer that he gradually withdrew to private life, passing away probably at the end of 1840.

[from "Gabriello Melia - RACCOLTA DI OPERE" di Massimo Agostinelli, Francesco Gatti, Giampiero Latini, Fabio Rossini, Ottocento Edizioni Musicali, Ancona 1995.]

(Transl. M. Penny)

Catalogue of printed works of Gabriello Melia

Title opus no. Ensemble Editor Year
Gran Sonata - guitar Piale 1813-18
Tema con 6 variazioni 3 guitar Ratti e Cencetti ~1822
Sonata e Rondò facile 6 guitar Ratti e Cencetti ~1823
Due Arie di Rossini 7 guitar Ratti e Cencetti ~1824
Tema con 10 variazioni 7 guitar Piale e Martorelli ~1813
Sei variazioni facili 8 guitar Ratti e Cencetti ~1824
Grande pot pourri 9 guitar Ratti e Cencetti ~1825
Tema con 6 variazioni 10 guitar Ratti e Cencetti ~1825
Pot pourri facile 11 guitar Ratti e Cencetti ~1826
Tema con 6 variazioni 12 guitar Ratti e Cencetti ~1827
Duetto 15 two voices and guitar Ratti e Cencetti ~1834
Duetto 16 two voices and guitar Ratti e Cencetti ~1834

Other manuscript compositions

Title Ensemble Seat
Canzonette voice and guitar Bibl. Conservatorio "G.Verdi" (Milano)