Bomtempo, João Domingos


Bomtempo, João Domingos

Sinfonia n.1, op.11

SKU: 1801 Category:


João Domingos de Bomtempo
(b. Portugal, 28. December 1775 – d. Lisbon, 18. August 1842)

Sinfonia n.1, op.11

The first known symphony of João Domingos de Bomtempo received its premiere in Paris on January 15, 1810 at the Salle Olympique. The symphony was almost assuredly composed in Paris, where Bontempo had lived in apparent political exile since 1801. The symphony was later published in London sometime after Bomtempo’s relocation there in 1810, an early evidence of his relationship with ally and benefactor Muzio Clementi. This publication, which gave the work its Opus 11 assignment, is a four-hands arrangement for piano, and is the work’s only extant printing.

Bomtempo is best illuminated when he is considered as an equal player in a colorful environment of colleagues, rather than the descendant of a single influential teacher or style. To Portugal, and even Spain, Bomtempo is amongst the first Iberian composers to experiment with the Viennese four-movement symphonic form. His work compares gracefully with his Parisian and Iberian contemporaries, such as Ignaz Pleyel, Etienne Méhul, and the symphonic works of Muzio Clementi and Joseph Haydn, which still permeated the Parisian orchestral scene well into the 1800s. Although with his elite musical training in Lisbon, and the known presence of symphonies by by Viennese composers in contemporary Iberian libraries, Bomtempo could easily have encountered the form before arriving in Paris.

While it seems clear that culturally, Bomtempo committed to popularizing secular orchestral culture to Portugal—evidenced by his return in 1822, leaving behind a successful career in London, and his swift introduction of the Lisbon Philharmonia Society, opening a Royal conservatory, and composing a long list of performance and pedagogical works throughout his career—his musical voice speaks on equal international footing with his contemporaries. His style carries the distinctive cosmopolitanism of the Iberian Peninsula, where indigenous sounds, moods, and forms mixed freely with religious and secular styles from Italy, Austria, Great Britain, and the New World. While what would characterize a distinctive Portuguese or Iberian style of symphonic writing is still an open question, Bomtempo deserves rightful credit for his study of the four-movement symphonic form, his lifelong commitment to musical innovation, and for organizing and supporting larger opportunities for the Portuguese public and courts to experience, and create, orchestral music


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