- Andrea Zani -

Marcello Villa


Andrea Teodoro Zani was born on 11 November 1696 to Francesco and Lucia Ferrari in Casalmaggiore, a flourishing small town on the river Po, in the province of Cremona. Situated between Cremona and Parma and not far from the large cultural centres of the late renaissance, such as Mantua, Sabbioneta and Viadena, the small Casalmaggiore was in those times a breeding ground of musical talent. The "little Venice on the Po" was thus named for its stimulating music life. Besides Andrea Zani and his pupils, it was also the birthplace of the violinist-composer Carlo Zuccari, known as "Zuccherino" (1704 - 1792)
Brought up in a family where music was like a member of the family, the father being an amateur violinist, the young Andrea was directed towards musical studies by a certain Giacomo Civeri, a local musician who instructed him in counterpoint and violin management. Following that he went to Guastalla to further his training with the court violinist Carlo Ricci, a famous virtuoso of the time. Zani appears in the records of payments made by the Brotherhood of S.S Sacramento in Casalmaggiore for the last time in December 1715. His father Francesco however continued to receive payments for his violin playing services until 1724.

From 1700 the Venetian Antonio Caldara (1670-71-1736) was active in Mantua as choirmaster in the service of Archduke Ferdinand Charles. According to Romani, a local historian of the XVIII century, it was Caldara himself who, passing through Casalmaggiore, met the promising young Zani and, on hearing him play, invited him to join him in Vienna. He in turn had been invited to court there by the Emperor Charles VI. It is not known whether the young Zani arrived in Vienna with Caldara or after him, but it is certain that in 1727 and 1729 his Sonate da camera, Opus 1 and Sei sinfonie da Camera ed altrettanti Concerti da Chiesa a Quattro Strumenti, Opus 2 were published in Casalmaggiore . We do not know whether Zani returned to his country to oversee the publication of his first two collections or if he waited until their publication before joining Caldara, who in the meantime had become vice-Kappelmeister while the famous Johann Joseph Fux, the writer of Gradus ad Parnassum, remained the Kappelmeister. Musical activity and possible professional changes during this Viennese period in the life of Zani are yet to be investigated and studied; what is certain is that in the Austrian capital he distinguished himself as a virtuoso and private teacher, without however managing to hold important official posts. Vienna was a very important centre for music; we know that at the royal palace the Emperor Charles VI enjoyed composing some musical pieces of quite high quality and he was a supporter of concerts and plays. Non other than Pietro Trapassi, the famous Metastasio, the great figure of culture and melodrama was active at court. The fame of Zani as violinist and composer while in Austria must have been great. This would explain the publication in Vienna itself in 1735 of his Concerti a quattro con i suoi ripieni Opus 4 and his Sonate 12 per Violino e Basso intitolate "Pensieri armonici" Opus 5.

 Probably around 1736, when his musician-protector Caldara died, Zani left Vienna for good and moved back to Casalmaggiore where it appears he settled, except for brief moves from time to time whenever his talent as violinist and musical arranger was requested. Zani may well during these years have gone to the great important cultural centre of Paris; the publication of some of his work and the presence of many of his manuscripts in the libraries of the capital are perhaps an indication of time spent on French soil.
We know that he was in Guastalla in 1738 and in Ferrara, Bologna, Parma, Mantua and Cremona between 1740 and 1757. In his birthplace from 12 to 14 April 1739 he had the job of organising the preparations for the sumptuous musical celebrations in the church of S. Stefano at the request of the Padri Serviti della Fontana on the occasion of the anniversary of the beatification of some of their number. During those years he also devoted himself to teaching and among his pupils had Valentino Meyer from Mantua and Domenico Ferrari from Piacenza who would become famous and celebrated violinists as well as fellow citizens, Don Giovanni Amadini and Don Alessandro Bosio who were choirmasters in the local church of S. Stefano.
Later he married Maria Costanza Margherita Porcelli, a full twenty-seven years younger than him but with whom he had no f ewer than seven children, among whom Angelo Maria, born in 1752, who became skilled at the hunting horn.
There was great respect towards Zani and his fame meant that in those years he was invited to Cremona as a member of the commission that chose Don G.A. Arrighi (1704-1780) of Viadena as the new Choirmaster in the Cathedral. He died in Casalmaggiore on 28 September 1757, as Romani states, after the carriage in which he was travelling on the road to Mantua, where he was headed on "family business", overturned.

A large amount of his work has reached us, in both published and manuscript form: Sonate da camera, Opus 1(probably Casalmaggiore 1727), later reprinted in Paris as Sonates a Violino solo e Basso da Camera, Opus 3, Sei sinfonie da Camera ed altrettanti Concerti da Chiesa , Opus 2 ( Casalmaggiore 1729), Concerti Dodici a quattro con i suoi ripieni Opus 4 ( Vienna 1735), Sonate 12 a Violino e Basso intitolate "Pensieri armonici" Opus 5 ( Vienna 1735) and Sonate a Violino e Basso Opus 6 (Paris c.1740). There are manuscripts of various pieces of work scattered a little around Europe amongst which: three Concertos and one Sonata for flute, some violin Concertos six trios for two Violins and Bass and some Symphonies. Zani's manuscripts for Concertos and Symphonies have been found hidden away in various European libraries, constituting part of collections of other more famous composers such as Alberti, Sammartini, Stamiz proving the very high quality of Zani's work.