Phil. Trajetta and the American Conservatorio
Solfeggio, Thoroughbass, and Partimento in the Nineteenth-Century United States
In 1799, Filippo Trajetta (1776, Venice – 1854, Philadelphia), son of the celebrated composer Tommaso Trajetta, left Naples for the United States of America. A pupil of Fedele Fenaroli and Niccolò Piccinni, Trajetta would spend the rest of his life cultivating Neapolitan musical traditions in the New World. He founded three successive schools of music, each called the American Conservatorio: in Boston (1800-1802), New York (c.1812-c.1820) and Philadelphia (1828-c.1850). While the Conservatorio faded without establishing an enduring “American partimento tradition,” Trajetta’s influence nevertheless rippled across musical life: his pupils pursued careers as composers, organists, music journalists, and even the first conductor of the New York Philharmonic. At the end of the nineteenth century, one student called for “a return to the Regola d’Ottava[…] and its treatment as practised in the four Conservatorios of Naples,” the “admirable Partimenti […] by Fedele Fenaroli,” and “that system which was studied and practiced by[…] Phil. Trajetta, my beloved master.” Trajetta’s remarkable life and works promise to shed new light on the dissemination of solfeggi and partimenti beyond Naples, and on the early development of American musical culture.