The Use of the Bassoon in Naples During the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries

Giovanni Battista Graziadio

15.03.2018 – 01.06.2022

This research project explores when, where, why and how the bassoon was used in Naples during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

This project aims to provide a concrete picture of the rich Neapolitan wind instrument tradition, particularly concerning the bassoon and its repertoire, and to provide further materials for contemporary research. My initial investigation concerned a collection of unpublished information confirming the existence of a distinct bassoon tradition in Naples, beginning in the 1600s.

For example, a compilation of a list of more than 20 active woodwind players and their professional activities in Naples illustrates a continuing tradition in pedagogy and performance in this region.  Furthermore, it is easy to locate many arias with obbligato bassoon parts in operas and oratorios written by various Neapolitan composers in the first half of the eighteenth century.

Two bassoon concerti, one of which is dated 1759, were composed by the bassoon teacher and multi-instrumentalist Ferdinando Lizio.  Although the figure of Lizio was largely brought to light due to my earlier research, there is still much more to be discovered about him and his activities as a teacher at the “Conservatorio della Pietà”.

Reasons why the bassoon was so popular in Naples have never been discussed or even noticed by researchers previously. While my first and unique data collection presents evidence and partially answers some questions, many more have arisen.

I am convinced that a detailed examination of the use of the bassoon at the four famous Neapolitan music conservatories will offer answers about a lost pedagogical tradition, and bring significant information to the historically-informed musical practice.  For example:  I discovered that the bassoon was the only other instrument allowed to accompany voices in the church during Lent, instead of organ, during the 17th century.  This study will additionally consider many rare pages of Neapolitan music with obbligato bassoon parts deserving to be performed or at least made known.

The amount of archival information required to complete this work will take some years of research.  A large part of these documents are preserved in the “Archivio e Biblioteca del Conservatorio San Pietro a Majella” of Naples,  “Archivio Diocesano” of Naples , “Archivio di Stato” of Naples” and “Archivio  della Chiesa dei Girolamini”.