Alessandro Stradella

Alessandro StradellaAlessandro Stradella (3 April 1639 – 25 February 1682) was an Italian composer of the middle baroque. He was born in Nepi, and was murdered in Genoa.

Not much is known about his early life, but he was from an aristocratic family, educated at Bologna, and was already making a name for himself as a composer at the age of 20, being commissioned by Queen Christina of Sweden. In 1667 he moved to Rome where he composed copiously, mostly sacred music, and began to live a dissolute life. With a friend he attempted to embezzle money from the Roman Catholic Church, but was found out: he fled the city, only returning much later when he thought it was safe. His numerous incautious affairs with women began to make him enemies among the powerful men of the city, and he had to leave Rome for good.

In 1677 he went to Venice, where he was hired by a powerful nobleman, Alvise Contarini, as the music tutor to his mistress, Agnese Van Uffele. She and Stradella began an affair and fled Venice together for Turin. Contarini followed and instructed the Archbishop that Uffelle and Stradella must marry or that Uffelle must take the veil. She did the latter, an then the two married in October; however, as Stradella left the convent after signing the contract, he was attacked from behind by two would-be hired assassins, who believed him dead when they left him in the street. He was not. The two assassins took asylum with the French ambassador. That Contarini had hired the attackers became known, leading to complaints from Savoy to Louis XIV; the matter became a topic of negotiation between the courts.

Stradella then wrote successful operas and cantatas, but his death in 1682 was by stabbing at the Piazza Banchi. His infidelities were well-known, and another nobleman was rumored to have hired the killer; but the identity of the killer was never discovered, and the hiring was never substantiated.

Stradella was an extremely influential composer at the time, though his fame was eclipsed in the next century by Corelli, Vivaldi and others. Probably his greatest significance is in originating the concerto grosso: while Corelli in his Op. 6 was the first to publish works under this title, Stradella clearly uses the format earlier in one of his Sonate di viole. Since the two knew each other, a direct influence is likely.

Stradella wrote at least six operas including a full-length comic opera Il Trespolo tutore. He also wrote numerous cantatas and oratorios. Stradella composed 27 separate instrumental pieces, most for strings and basso continuo, and typically in the sonata da chiesa format.

His colorful life and bloody death provided the basis for three later operas on his life. The best-known of these is Alessandro Stradella (Hamburg, 1844), by Friedrich von Flotow.

American novelist F. Marion Crawford also produced a highly romanticized novel of Stradella's affair and flight from Venice, titled Stradella (Macmillan 1909).