- Carlo Zuccari -

( Marcello Villa)


" Zuccari took pleasure in showing the great skill he possessed in mastering his instrument, making it yield the most uneven chromatic tones, he would face all the difficulties in order to triumph with applause." 

Jacopo Antonio Arrighi (1704-1780), Cremona cathedral choir-master .

Carlo Zuccari was born in Casalmaggiore, a prosperous small town in the province of Cremona on 10 November 1704 to Domenico and Maddalena Gazzi. He began studying the violin at a very early age, with an amateur from Casalmaggiore, the priest Gaetano Guadagni who discovered in him an excellent talent. He therefore went to study in Parma with Veronesi, in Guastalla with Rizzi and also in Bologna, but it was only in Cremona that he found a truly great artistic point of reference : the violinist/composer Gasparo Visconti (1683-1731). The latter, a noble and rich man, took such a liking to Zuccari that he allowed him to stay in his house and treated him like a son. During the same period he specialised in composition and counterpoint with Giuseppe Gonelli (1685- 1745), choir-master at the cathedral in Cremona.
In 1723, by now sure of his ability, he moved to Vienna with his brother and a certain Pertusati, a general nobleman in the service of Austria; here he was admired for his talent as a virtuoso at the court of the Hapsburgs and then he went on to Olmuz, a town in Moravia, where for four years he held the position of Kappelmeister. Following this success it would appear he lived in various other towns in Germany before returning to Cremona and the Viscontis. It was thanks to the latter that he met the Milanese noblewoman Francesca Radaelli, an amateur singer, whom he married in 1733. He then moved to the house of his mother-in-law in Milan. However he soon returned to his travels and, in order to consolidate his fame as a virtuoso, he moved to Paris, where he remained for a year before going to London. On demand all over Europe, where he was given the nickname "Zuccherino", he was about to move to Madrid but his family were violently opposed to this and therefore in 1736 he returned to Milan, where he took up permanent residence. For forty years he had a very active life in music in the regional capital; it was here that he published in 1747, his "Sonate a Violino, e Basso Cembalo, Opera Prima", his most important and significant work. He was also director of the Accademia Filarmonica Milanese, from 1748 he was a member of the Orchestra Ducale and in 1750 he was first violinist with the famous orchestra of G.B.Sammartini. In Milan he made important contacts with cultural men of the day. Among his violin pupils was Pietro Verri, a well-known enlightened literary figure, philosopher and economist member of the Accademia dei Pugni (boxing academy) and activist for the magazine "Il Caffe", Teresa Agnesi Pinottini and Count Giorgio Giulini, a well-known historiographer and worthy musician.

In 1760 we find him in London, as a member of the Opera Italiana Orchestra. Here he published in 1762 a method for violin and in 1764 the Sonate per due Violini e Basso, but in 1765 he returned once more to Milan. In that same year in appeared in the guise of first violinist with the orchestra of Sammartini, in the concerts which were held in Cremona and Pavia on the occasion of the celebrations honouring Archduke Leopold of Austria; here he met Luigi Boccherini , who was also in the orchestra as first cellist.

In 1778 he retired from the musical life of Milan and returned to his native peaceful Casalmaggiore, with his wife and five children; but his indefatigable character meant that he spent his time teaching again and also with his beloved scientific studies into harmony and acoustics.

He died in Casalmaggiore on 3 May 1792.

The compositions by Carlo Zuccari that have reached us are not very numerous; besides the previously mentioned Sonate a Violino, e Basso Cembalo, Opera Prima and the Sonate per due Violini e Basso, there exist manuscripts for four Concerti per Violino Concertato e strumenti and a Solo per Violino e Basso, a sonata per flauto solo e basso and some sonate per violoncello. One of these was for a long time attributed in error to none other than J.S.Bach (BWV Anh. 184). On the other hand his vocal and sacred music has all still to be discovered and examined in depth. However Zuccari was not only a violinist-composer but also a singular figure as a musician-scientist.

The testimonies of his pupils are extremely interesting. Already during his years in Milan, in line with the culture of enlightenment and other contemporaries such as Tartini, D'Alabert, Rosseau, our Zuccari, albeit on a lower level, was a keen pupil of the physical and mathematical principals of acoustic and harmonic science. For him, the laws of nature govern music in a wise and harmonious way; the study of this leads to perfection. Surely he wrote down the results of his studies, which on his death, were probably passed down to his pupils and were later lost. His pupil Pietro Verri on 11 March 1794 writes to a mutual friend " He possessed the music on principle. And through tiring and persistent study he rose to be not only a noted violin player but also a proficient composer and enlightened judge of counterpoint..." he then continues "...he had not neglected to instruct himself in the mechanical form of the violin and many times we reasoned both on the quality of the wood and on the dimensions and the most appropriate curve, and on all the mechanism capable of spreading the most sonorous and pleasing sound. The Amati and Steiner instruments were those which he appreciated more than any other..."

His pupil Agnesi-Pinottini writes on 13 January 1794 "...Zuccari, besides having been an excellent violin teacher, had also a musical grounding so that he could give a reason for everything that he wrote about the greatest maestros..."