Symphony No.2 in D major
Bomtempo, Joao Domingos
João Domingos de Bomtempo
Symphony No.2 in D major
(b. Portugal, 28. December 1775 – d. Lisbon, 18. August 1842)
João Domingos de Bomtempo is the first Portuguese symphonist. He was a polymath with international roots and influences from his earliest musical beginnings. Born in Lisbon, his father was an Italian-born oboist in the royal court of King José I, and his mother was a native Portuguese with connections to the Royal court. This cosmopolitanism, though perhaps common to musician families on Portugal, became a defining feature of Bomtempo’s life and music.
As with many musicians’ sons, Bomtempo received his early education in the paid service of the Confraria de Santa Cecilia, perhaps the best-known school for young musicians in Lisbon, and one to which the family had deep ties. This hard-won appointment afforded the young Bomtempo performances as a chorister, and presumably as an instrumentalist, in the most important churches and courts in Lisbon. Many of his performances were under the direction of his own father as conductor. By 1795, Bomtempo inherited his late father’s position as a court oboist, for which he received wages until the Lenten Season of 1801.
Later in 1801, Bontempo left Lisbon for Paris. The impetus for his departure remains a mystery—the steady demands on a musician during Lent and Easter seasons could not have made for a convenient departure, and Bomtempo appears to have must have left soon after for Paris, for by the end of that year he had found a comfortable place in musical society as a pianist and composer. One wonders if this sudden migration was precipitated by the Treaty of Badajoz, which placed Portugal under de facto French rule, forcing ruinous commercial concessions, including the severing of ties to British shipping trade that had had been a mainstay of the Portuguese economy for centuries. Perhaps Bomtempo fled as an economic refugee to Paris when it became clear that the royal family were on increasingly shaky ground (they fled to Brazil in 1808 with the help of their British allies). Conversely, Bomtempo may have seized on the increasing French influence in his home country as an opportunity to find greater influence in Parisian society, as a strategic move for his own career.
In either case, Bomtempo achieved measures of success in Paris, with continual positive reviews of his concerto performances, and the the first of his published compositions for piano and chamber ensembles. However, by 1810 Bomtempo had relocated to London. This move again coincides with increased political tensions. Napoleon’s forces had increased their incursions into Portuguese territory, which were defended by a coalition of Portuguese and British troops led by the Duke of Wellington. In London, Bomtempo found welcome from British society as well as an extensive network of Portuguese literati in London. Muzio Clementi became a mentor and friend who helped him secure publications of several piano concertos, as well as a four-hands piano version of his First Symphony (Op. 11, premiered in 1809). In London we also see the first musical indications of Bomtempo’s political convictions, in the form of two unequivocally patriotic pieces, the Hino Lusitano and a set of variations on ‘God Save the King’. Bomtempo’s connections in both London and Paris afforded him a consistent stream of concerts, compositions, and students.
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