“To Giovanni Battista Pergolesi goes the distinction and the achievement of having been the first to establish the traditions that would govern the writing of opera buffa for more than a century. Opera buffa liked to deal with everyday people in everyday settings, involved in everyday farcical episodes, in contrast to opera seria, which favored mythological subjects, characters, and exploits.”—David Ewen, The Complete Book of Classical Music
Pergolesi was an Italian composer, violinist and organist. His opera seria, Il prigionier superbo, contained the two act buffa intermezzo, La Serva Padrona (The Servant Mistress), which became a very popular work separate from the main opera. When it was performed in Paris in 1752, it prompted the so-called Querelle des Bouffons (“quarrel of the comic actors”) between supporters of serious French opera by the likes of Jean-Baptiste Lully and Jean-Philippe Rameau and supporters of new Italian comic opera. Pergolesi was held up as a model of the Italian style during this quarrel, which divided Paris’s musical community for two years.
Pergolesi also wrote sacred music, including a Mass in F and his Magnificat in C major. It is his Stabat Mater (1736), however, for female soprano, female alto, string orchestra and basso continuo, which is his best known sacred work. While classical in scope, the opening section of the setting demonstrates Pergolesi’s mastery of the Italian baroque durezze e ligature style, characterized by numerous suspensions over a faster, conjunct bassline. The work remained popular, becoming the most frequently printed work of the 18th century, and being arranged by a number of other composers, including Johann Sebastian Bach, who used it as the basis for his cantata Tilge, Höchster, meine Sünden (Root out my sins, Highest One). Pergolesi also wrote a number of secular instrumental works, including a violin sonata and a violin concerto.
He lived from January 4, 1710, to March 16, 1736, dying at age 28 from tuberculosis.—Excerpted from Wikipedia
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