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Exhibition of the Month - January 2022

Mezzotint by Frank Holl, 1879.  Published London, 1880.  The sittings for this portrait are described in The Life and Work of Frank Holl by A M Reynolds (London, 1912): "The dear little man was all kindness and complaisance, so patient and submissive, his gentle voice and courteous manners bringing a veritable atmosphere of benignity into the house whenever he came.  His dear cello too, with what care and anxiety he would tend and guard it from any chance scratch or knock, treating it more lovingly than had it been a child.  His anxiety too lest it should not receive proper attention in the picture; being comparatively indifferent to the painting of his own complexion, but most critical and particular as to the exact tone of colour used for his big baby."

Mezzotint by Frank Holl, 1879. Published London, 1880. The sittings for this portrait are described in The Life and Work of Frank Holl by A M Reynolds (London, 1912): "The dear little man was all kindness and complaisance, so patient and submissive, his gentle voice and courteous manners bringing a veritable atmosphere of benignity into the house whenever he came. His dear cello too, with what care and anxiety he would tend and guard it from any chance scratch or knock, treating it more lovingly than had it been a child. His anxiety too lest it should not receive proper attention in the picture; being comparatively indifferent to the painting of his own complexion, but most critical and particular as to the exact tone of colour used for his big baby."

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PIATTI, Alfredo (b. Bergamo, 8 January 1822; d.Mozza, 18 July 1901)
 

When Alfredo Piatti left his native Bergamo for London in 1847 his circle of friends commemorated the departure with a sonnet:

What elect Seraph guides your hand
when, soft as the dawn
that caresses the sea
it breathes over the strings with the sweetest affection,

Or when, intent on tempestuous effects,
you release from the quivering divine harp
a flood - a rapture - of harmonies
that swell every mouth and breast?

Go!  your country can no longer hold you back
run to where the cold is more insistent
or where the sun parches the sands.

She fortifies the yearning spirit
with the thought of your triumph she comes;
your only rivals are in Heaven
 

Piatti’s playing style, renown and character were admirably chronicled by Frederick Niecks, biographer of Chopin and Schumann, who observed him at work and at leisure:

  1. Piatti’s playing is difficult to describe.  The reason of this is his perfection – i.e. the harmoniousness of his qualities, the absence of outstanding excellences cultivated at the expense of others, the avoidance of indulgence in exaggerations, eccentricities; in short, the absolute domination of the principle of the golden mean, the absolute domination of the principle of artistic beauty that in its divine manifestations excludes irregulated passion and outbursts of brutal force.  Warmth and temperament were never wanting in Piatti, but just as little was there ever wanting the delicate taste that determined with unfailing sureness the right measure.  Moderation and good sense in the use of vibrato was one of his virtues.  When Moscheles characterized by a single word, “Excellent!” he must have thought that any other words were unable to interpret adequately.  Bülow said that Piatti was the King, the Joachim, of violoncellists; that it would be impossible to imagine anything more perfect than the rendering of Brahms’s B major Trio by Hallé, Neruda, and Piatti.  Madame Schumann recalls with great pleasure the recollections of her collaborations with Piatti, especially of Mendelssohn’s Trio in C Minor by herself, Joachim, and Piatti, at Ella’s Musical Union, on June 20, 1865.  “We were all three inspired (Piatti at least drew from his instrument the most beautiful tone).”[…] To Hallé, Piatti was “Piatti the incomparable.”[…] No musician ever pronounced so hearty, sincere, and magnificent a eulogy as Hallé on Piatti: “During an intimate friendship extending over forty-six years, my admiration of the artist and my love of the man have gone on constantly increasing.”[…] Those who knew Joachim knew from his ways with Piatti – tender and attentive like those of a lover to his lady – that he truly loved his old colleague. [ …] But our business now is with Piatti and my endeavour to portray him.  He had a spare body and was unrobust in appearance.  In his movements he seemed to economize his strength, avoiding unnecessary efforts.  He glided rather than walked.  This general characteristic was exemplified also in his bowing.  Piatti would have been remarkable for his undemonstrativeness even had he been an Englishman instead of an Italian.  Generally he was not very talkative, much rather was he the reverse.  His speech was low-voiced, even subdued.  I cannot imagine him as self-assertive.  When interpretations were discussed I noticed him mostly silent unless specially called upon to give his opinion.  He was quietly pleasant in company, and could enjoy and tell good stories.  I am reminded of his shutting up Hallé’s cat in the bedroom of Molique, who frantically loathed cats.  The resulting scenes delighted Piatti.  The humour, the kindliness, the gentleness in his facial features speak plainly enough.  But what are we to make of those features expressive of fatal mental or bodily trouble?  Both my information and my powers of observation fail me here.  To mark the manifoldness of Piatti’s character note Italian characteristic, the love of barter which he seems to have largely and very profitably exercised in dealings in violins, etc.
  2. I conclude with Wasielewski, the author of The Violoncello and its History, who sums up his judgement of Piatti in 1889 thus: “He is now not only the most important violoncellist of England, but belongs to the artists of the very first rank of the present time generally,” and I complement this statement of the outwardness of the case by the inwardness reflected by the fine feeling Mendelssohn’s quickly conceived affection for Piatti and his intention to compose a violoncello concerto for him.
  3. (From Recollections of Violoncellists by Frederick Niecks (The Monthly Musical Record, Vol. XLIX, No.s 585 and 586, Sep and Oct 1919)

These playing qualities - one minute of the ‘sweetest affection’, the next of ‘tempestuous effects’ - were to nourish and delight London audiences and fellow musicians alike for the next fifty years.  As a chamber musician on the platforms of London’s prestigious Musical Union (1847-1866), Beethoven Quartet Society (1847), Quartet Association (1852-1855), St James’s Hall Popular Concerts (1859-1897) and countless private concerts Piatti was to partner all the great European performers of the era, including Joachim (with whom he had a regular quartet), Mendelssohn, Grieg, Paderewski, Sarasate, Wieniawski, Ernst, Vieuxtemps, Bottesini, Hallé, Clara Schumann and Anton Rubinstein.

Equally well received were his frequent concerto performances with the Philharmonic Society (under Mendelssohn,  Sterndale Bennett, Costa, Cusins and MacKenzie), the New Philharmonic Society (under Berlioz), Crystal Palace Concerts (under August Manns), National Concerts (under Balfe), Drury Lane Promenade Concerts (under Jullien), Hallé’s Manchester Concerts, Liverpool Philharmonic (under Max Bruch) and the Birmingham Triennial Festival (under Costa).  And at the heart of his London musical circle were composers, native or visiting, who invariably dedicated works to him - Sullivan, Molique, Emmanuel Moór, Sterndale Bennett, Rubinstein, Stanford, Balfe, Verdi (solo in I masnadieri) and Mendelssohn (a concerto, sadly incomplete and now lost).

But right from the beginning of his musical career there was a vital strand that informed, indeed formed, his musicianship - the world of bel canto opera.  Piatti was born in Bergamo on 8 January 1822, the first son of the 20-year-old Antonio Piatti, a childhood friend and close neighbour of Donizetti, and his 16-year-old bride Marianna, who died in childbirth a year later.  The young Alfredo studied first with his father, then with his great-uncle Gaetano Zanetti, before enrolling at the nearby Milan Conservatory aged ten under Vincenzo Merighi.  All the while Antonio led the local orchestra and secured his son Alfredo’s employment in the winter and summer opera seasons from the age of eight.  The winter season alone, comprising four or five operas, lasted 40 consecutive nights, late nights - a ballet was interpolated between acts for good measure, meaning the second half commonly started at 11pm.  No wonder that on the long climb back home from the theatre Alfredo would be ‘holding his father’s hand and fast asleep the whole way’.

This intensive immersion in operatic scores actively sculpted the young musician’s brain, Piatti’s anecdotes later revealing that it involved the accompaniment of Europe’s finest bel canto singers.  He would recount how as a thirteen-year-old he shared a stage with Maria Malibran - and that Bellini’s death was announced mid-concert.  He also recalled how, as an exhausted ten-year-old, he fell off his chair so breaking his cello in the middle of soprano Giuditta Pasta’s singing of the aria ‘In mia man alfin tu sei’ from Norma.  (She was very amused and bought him a new one).  Another story related how the baritone Michael Balfe complained in Olivo e Pasquale that the orchestra were “troppo basso”, but the theatre management rather than order the librarian to transpose the aria instead ordered the stage carpenter to raise the pit floor.  So after further orchestral experience in Milan and Turin opera theatres there can have been few virtuosi better qualified than Piatti to compose in the form that was every soloist’s display-currency of choice - the operatic fantasy.

That audiences demanded operatic fantasies from solo performers reflects the universal popularity of opera in the 19th century.  In an age before radio, cinema, television and the gramophone the opera house, with its star singers playing out the musical drama of the day, was the hottest ticket in town.  So popular was the art form that music halls included operatic arias and choruses in their variety bills, fitting seamlessly in between circus acts and displays of the latest industrial inventions.  All social classes were able to join choirs, bands and orchestras bringing the same repertoire to life, and no-one could avoid the hurdy gurdies and barrel organs pumping operatic highlights into the open street air.  This meant that the latest opera melodies were Top of the Pops, and one of the best ways for visiting instrumental artists to ingratiate themselves with their musical public was to play those tunes and elaborate them with variations of their own so as to show off their technical wizardry at the same time.

So when Piatti begin touring Europe as a soloist from 1844-6 it was natural that his ‘calling cards’ in salons and concert halls were Fantasies on the very operas he had absorbed in his youth.  He won immediate success with them: in London, St Petersburg, Vienna, Budapest, Munich, Dresden, Warsaw and Paris (where Liszt, himself a prolific composer of operatic fantasies, bought him a 5,000 franc Amati cello by way of congratulations on his performance).  His sound was never captured on phonograph but concert reviewers then, and throughout his career, consistently referred not only to his technical perfection but also to the wonderful vocal quality of his tone:

"Piatti is great at his instrument: he has transformed it into a human voice.  And he makes it sing - sing sweetly, miraculously." (Il Pirata, Milan 1838).

"Signor Piatti had ‘obviously formed his cantabile playing on that of the singers of his own country" (Athenaeum, London 1844)

"the cellist Piatti, performed his Variazioni with tenderness, charm and marvellous grace.  It was the sweetest singing we have ever heard." (St Petersburg Bulletin, 1845)

(Please click the thumbnails below to view larger image)

Her Majesty's Theatre (known from 1830 to 1847 as the Italian Opera House).  Etching by W E Albutt after D C Read. London, [c.1840]. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The Theatre Royal, Covent Garden (known from 1847 to 1892 as the Royal Italian Opera).  Engraving by John Rolph after a drawing by Thomas H Shepherd.  London, 1828. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Piatti’s operatic orchestral career continued in parallel with his solo and chamber work when he settled in London in 1847.  He was principal cello for the Italian Opera in Her Majesty’s Theatre from 1847 to 1851 under Michael Balfe and Verdi, and then in 1852 succeeded the venerable Robert Lindley in the same chair at the Royal Italian Opera, Covent Garden under Michael Costa (joining his compatriot Giovanni Bottesini who was principal double bass).  In these theatres he continued to accompany the great bel canto opera stars of the day- Jenny Lind, Grisi, Lablache, Tamburini and Rubini among them.  He even turned his hand to vocal composition, publishing some 25 works between 1852 and 1891, ranging from sentimental ballads to settings of Sir Walter Scott, Shakespeare, Shelley and his own friend Tennyson, which earned regular performances by famous singers such as Sims Reeves, Sir Charles Santley and Charlotte Sainton-Dolby.  And in 1856 he married Mary Ann Welsh, daughter of the operatic bass Thomas Welsh, who bore him his beloved daughter Rosa.

From 1868 onwards his hectic London life was leavened by the prospect of an annual summer return to a villa in Cadenabbia on the western shore of Lake Como.  Here he kept an extensive library and art collection - Piatti was a connoisseur of books, pictures, and most especially string instruments, always in demand for his expert eye.  This scholarship also permeated his musical publications - his realisations of sonatas by Locatelli, Porpora, Valentini, Veracini, Ariosti, Marcello and Boccherini were scrupulously faithful to the composers’ intentions.

Today the name of Alfredo Piatti is largely kept alive by his opus 25, Twelve Caprices for solo cello (composed in 1865) - a vade mecum for student and professional cellists, each one a mini-drama of bravura and expression worthy of concert performance.  Piatti also left a teaching legacy, through his 25-year Professorship at the Royal Academy of Music and pupils such as Robert Hausmann, Leo Stern, WE Whitehouse and Hugo Becker.

His summer return to Lake Como in 1898 was to mark his final voyage from England, and he died peacefully holding his daughter’s hand on 18th July 1901.  At his funeral, attended by hundreds of people from Bergamo, four professors from the local school of music played the Andante from Schubert’s Quartet in D minor “Der Tod und das Mädchen”, a fitting tribute to a man whose fame, for all his virtuosity, was as an unsurpassed interpreter of the classical chamber repertoire, especially in partnership with Joachim with whom a friendship could be traced right back to their shared London debut on May 31st 1844.  And there must have been amongst the hundreds of mourners a few of the friends who penned the 1847 sonnet, coming to witness the day he joined his “rivals in Heaven”.

Obituary. Illustrated London News, 27 July 1901.

With his dog.  Oil on canvas by Arthur Temple Felix Clay (1842–1928).  Presented to the Royal Academy by the artist in 1894. © The Royal Academy of Music, London.

Postcard photograph by Window & Grove. London, [c.1880]. Carte de Visite by Caldesi, Blanford & Co. London, [c.1860]. Leonida Caldesi was a Florentine photographer born in the same year as Piatti and he found fame through his many commissions to photograph Queen Victoria and her family. Carte de Visite by H Hering. London, [c.1860].

Photograph by Window & Grove. London, [c.1875].

Autograph letter undated [c.1875].  Madme Schwabe is presumably Julie Salis Schwabe (1818-1896) of Crumpsall House near Manchester, who hosted Jenny Lind and Frederic Chopin as well as founding the Italian Ladies’ Philanthropic Association as a Garibaldi supporter.  Fred was her third son, and Christian Reimers – the cello ‘master’ recommended to him by Piatti – was a close friend of Robert Schumann, famous for having work-shopped the Cello Concerto with the composer. Autograph letter [c.1880]. Lady Louisa Sophia Goldsmid was, following the death of her husband, companion to pianist Agnes Zimmermann, a regular chamber music partner of Piatti. Autograph letter dated 21 February 1890 to Mr MacKinley.  The Bach Society concert to which Piatti refers was at St. James's Hall and included two cantatas.

Photograph and signature of Hugo Becker (1863-1941), [c.1900]. One of Piatti's foremost pupils, he played with Ysaÿe, Busoni, Flesch, Joachim and Bülow.

TIMELINE

♦ Events, &c.
• Programmes and photographs, &c., falling within the given year.

1822
♦ Born (8 January) in Bergamo (via Borgo Canale) to Antonio Piatti, violinist, and Marianna (née Marchetti), seamstress.
♦ His mother, pregnant with a second child, dies in childbirth (27 November).

1826
♦ Starts cello, practising 10 hours a day.

1828
♦ Performs in a Mozart quartet “with great success” at the house of the Counts of Vertova.

1830-32
♦ Plays in local Accademie (concerts) organised by the Unione Filarmonica, as well as in the orchestra for opera seasons at Bergamo’s Teatro Sociale and Teatro Riccardi. His progress is warmly supported by Giovanni Simone Mayr, Maestro di Cappella at the Basilica di S. Maria Maggiore di Bergamo.

1831
♦ “Enchants the public” by playing a solo between acts of Rossini’s Inganno Felice (Teatro Sociale, 27 January).

1832
♦ HIs great-uncle and cello teacher, Gaetano Zanetti, dies (9 March).
♦ Enters Conservatorio di Milano to study with Vincenzo Merighi (9 November).  Giovanni Bottesini (double bass), Luigi Arditi (violin) and Giuseppina Strepponi (soprano, to become Verdi’s second wife) are fellow students.
♦ A step-brother, Enrico, is born to his re-married father (18 October); Enrico becomes a well-respected cellist, working in London and the New World as well as Italy.

1834
♦ Chosen to play in the end of term Accademia (27 September).

1836
♦ Plays his own Variations on an air of Paisiello in the end of term Accademia (29 September); presented with Duport’s Metodo by the Conte di Hartig.

1837
♦ Graduates from the Conservatorio, performing his own Variations for cello and orchestra at the graduation concert (25 September), with a critic from the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung predicting that he will “one day be the Paganini of the violoncello”.  The Conservatorio gift him the Ruggieri cello they had lent him during his studies.

1838
♦ Sets out on a solo career, under his father’s direction, playing “in every church in the province of Bergamo”, and giving benefit concerts, for example at Ridotto della Scala (7 April), in order to fund a trip abroad.
♦ With more benefit concerts en route – in Verona (14 May to 10 June), Venice and Trieste – they arrive in Vienna, where he gives a concert in the Kärntnertor Theater (the programme including his Fantasy on Lucia di Lammermoor, op2).  The cost of living forces them to return to Bergamo.
• Programme of a concert at the Teatro Filarmonico, Verona. 1838.

Programme of a concert at the Teatro Filarmonico, Verona. 1838.

1839
♦ Gives the first known performance of his Capriccio sopra un tema della Niobe, op 22 at a concert in La Scala Milan (29 October); further Milan concerts include one at the house of the Branca’s (22 November).

1840
♦ Ricordi publish his Fantasia sopra alcuni motivi della Gemma di Vergy.
♦ Leaves Bergamo after a concert at the Unione Filarmonica (28 March) to work in opera orchestras in Turin.

1841
♦ After two benefit concerts in Turin to pay for the fare home (28 February and 14 March) he returns to Bergamo to work in the Cappella di S. Maria Maggiore alongside more solo concerts in Milan (7 May) and Pavia (13 May).
♦ Plays in 78th birthday concert for Mayr in Bergamo (14 June).

1842
♦ Plays in the Teatro Carcano orchestra in Milan (28 March – 20 May).  Lucca publish his op1, L’Abbandono.

1843
♦ Gives concert in Parma with violinist Bignami (21 March).
♦ Travels to Vienna and Pest in the Summer but falls ill after a few solo concerts (including the first known performance of his Souvenir de Beatrice di Tenda in Pest on 25 August), sells his Ruggieri cello to fund his losses and is fetched home by Giovanni Presti.  When recovered he travels to Munich where, without cello, he borrows one from Joseph Menter – the future father of Sophie, David Popper’s wife - and plays his Lucia Fantasy in the presence of Liszt (30 October) who publicly embraces him and encourages him to appear in Paris.

1844
♦ Gives first known performance of his Une Prière op3 in Milan (January), prior to setting off on another European tour.
♦ Arrives in Paris (February-April), playing for France Musicale (23 February), the salons of Marie Stuart (later to become Baroness Blaze de Bury), Mme la Comtesse Merlin and Baroness Capello, the Salles Erard, premiering his Souvenir de la Sonnambula, op5 and Chant Religieux, op4 no1.  Liszt attends one of the Erard concerts and presents him with a fine Amati cello.
♦ Crosses the Channel to arrive in England for the first time (15 May), making his English debut – alongside that of the 12-yr-old Joseph Joachim - at Miss Anderson’s Annual Concert at Her Majesty’s Theatre playing his Lucia Fantasy (31 May). He goes on to play Beethoven op 59 no 1 and some solos at a Réunion musicale (John Ella’s Mortimer St house, 11 June); in a concert for Signor Brizzi (21 June); a Kummer Fantasy under Mendelssohn’s baton at a Philharmonic Concert (Hanover Square Rooms, 24 June); and Mendelssohn’s D major sonata privately and at the composer’s request at Moscheles’s London residence (William Horsley’s house, Kensington, 8 July).  He also gives trio concerts with pianist Charles Döhler and violinist Camillo Sivori at the Hanover Square Rooms (1 and 12 July), after which Döhler invites him on a joint European tour.
• Mendelssohn's note of thanks and appreciation after Piatti's playing of his sonata.

After Piatti had played Mendelssohn’s D major sonata at Moscheles's house (see above),  Mendelssohn sent him this note of fulsome appreciation.

♦ Leaving London (14 July) they head for Antwerp, Brussels (17 July), Wiesbaden (22 July), Hamburg, Ems (hence Souvenir de Ems, op4 no2) and Frankfurt (28 September).  Then back to the UK for a six-week tour including Scotland and Northern Ireland, now also with Sivori, La Blache, Miss Steel and Belletti.
• Autographs of Miss Steele, Piatti & Döhler.

Autographs of Miss Steele, Piatti & Döhler.  These three signatories together with Sivori and the Lablaches were the 'Unprecedented combination of talent' advertised in the local press for 'A grand Morning and Evening concert' given at the Royal Victoria Assembly Rooms, Clifton on 15 October 1844.

♦ With Döhler he then travels to Berlin (24 November), including a concert with Meyerbeer for King Wilhelm I and thence to St Petersburg and Moscow via Dresden, Wroclaw, Kraków and Warsaw.

1845
♦ Arriving in St Petersburg (January) he remains there into the following year, meeting Adrien-François Servais in the Kremlin on Easter Day and later playing duets with him (2 June).
♦ Composes Trois airs russes variées, op16 and Mazurka sentimentale, op6.

1846
♦ Gives first known performances of Airs Baskyrs, op8, Litania, op4, no3 and Souvenir de l’opéra Linda di Chamounix, op13 (St Petersburg, 11 February).
♦ Travels back to London, plays in Musical Union concert season (Easter to July) under John Ella, a season he continues until 1866; the venue is Willis’s Rooms, moving to St James’s Hall in 1858.
♦ Plays a solo in Philharmonic Society concert (Hanover Square Rooms, 4 May), in Mrs Alfred Shaw’s Annual Concert (Hanover Square Rooms, 6 June) and in Louis Jullien’s Concerts d’Eté at the Theatre Royal Covent Garden (13,14 and 18 July).

1847
♦ Gives two benefit concerts in Bergamo (9 and 10 January, programme including the first known performance of his Souvenir de Puritani, op9) and one in Milan (28 January).
♦ Arrives back London (February), this moment marking the true beginning of a 50-year residency in London, tours (and summers in Italy) apart.
♦ Takes up principal cello post at the Italian Opera in Her Majesty’s Theatre under Michael Balfe. Plays in premiere of I masnadieri under Verdi’s baton (Her Majesty’s, 22 July), with expressly-written cello solo in overture. Remains in this post until 1851.
♦ Plays in inaugural concert of the Brighton Musical Union (30 October).
♦ Plays in Jullien’s inaugural Grand Opera season at Drury Lane (6 December).

1849
♦ Plays in the inaugural week of concerts at the new Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool (27 August).
♦ Makes his first appearance in Charles Hallé’s ‘Gentlemen’s Concerts’, at the Assembly Rooms in Moseley Street, Manchester, performing in trio with Ernst and Hallé (6 December).

1850
♦ Publishes first edition of La Suédoise, op11.
♦ Appears as soloist in the inaugural Grand National Concerts of Jullien (Her Majesty’s Theatre, 24-30 October).

1851
♦ Completes his Capriccio sur des aires Gascons (11 February).
♦ Plays for Jullien at first of his Drury Lane concerts (10 November).
♦ Makes first of many appearances for the Sacred Harmonic Society (Exeter Hall, 5 December), Exeter Hall, under Michael Costa.

1852
♦ Becomes principal cello of Royal Italian Opera, Covent Garden under Michael Costa, alongside Bottesini as principal double bass.
♦ Gives premiere of Sonata Duo by Sterndale Bennett with the composer (16 March) at the ‘Classical Chamber Concerts’ (Hanover Square Rooms, 16 March), Bennett’s long-running series for which Piatti had been the regular cellist since 1849.
♦ Plays Beethoven Triple Concerto at the inaugural concert of the New Philharmonic Society (Exeter Hall, 24 March), conducted by Berlioz.
♦ Plays his duo fantasy on I Puritani with Bottesini (co-composer) at Philharmonic Society concert (Hanover Square Rooms, 29 March) in presence of Queen Victoria; she immediately accepts invitation to become patron of his newly formed ‘Quartet Association’.
♦ Article in Gazzetta Musicale di Milano (23 May) gives picture of London musical life: “There was a literal flood of concerts.  The best are those of Madame Pleyel, Prudent, Madame Puzzi, Briccialdi, Marras, Hiller, the Philharmonic Society, the Beethoven Quartet Society.  And Sivori, Bottesini and Piatti feature in the programmes of all these concerts. What is more, there are sometimes three concerts a day, and Sivori, Bottesini and Piatti have to play at them all – not to mention their sessions at the Opera.  These are new kinds of Herculean tasks.”
♦ Makes first appearance in Birmingham Triennial Music Festival (Town Hall, 7-8 September), alongside Prosper Sainton and Bottesini.

Programme for the 1852 Birmingham Musical Festival. No composer was given for the Duo with Sainton. The second Duo with Bottesini was 'On Airs from Puritani'.

♦ Gives concert in Turin for Duke Antonio Litta (2 December).
♦ Gives premiere of his Bergamasca op14 in Milan.

1853
♦ Is living at 51 Stanhope Street, Regents Park.
♦ Gives premiere of Concerto for Violoncello by Bernhard Molique at Philharmonic Society Concert (Hanover Square Rooms, 2 May).
♦ Plays in Benefit Concert for musicians affected by the fire at Her Majesty’s Theatre (5 August).

1854
♦ Plays in first of John Ella’s Musical Winter Evenings (Willis's Room, 23 February), an extension of the springtime Musical Union series.

1855
♦ Wedding to Mary Ann Welsh in Woodchester, near Stroud (27 March); they set up home at 20 Norland Square London, thereafter moving to 1 Queen’s Gardens, Hyde Park.
• Scene from the London premiere of Il Trovatore at which Piatti led the cellos.

The 4th scene from the 2nd act of Il Trovatore from its London premiere at the Royal Italian Opera, Covent Garden (at which Piatti led the cellos). Illustrated London News, 19 May 1855.

• Programme for a charity concert at Grosvenor House, Park Lane, London, 9 July 1855.

Programme for a charity concert at Grosvenor House, Park Lane, London, 9 July 1855. Piatti's distinguished partners in the Mayseder Trio were regular chamber collaborators at this period.

♦ Attends inauguration of Donizetti monument by Vincenzo Vela in Bergamo (16 June)
♦ Together with soprano Clara Novello, violinist Sivori and 12-yr-old piano prodigy Arthur Napoleon he completes a two-month UK tour of 37 towns (November/December), promoted by Cramer and Beale; he includes his Capriccio sur des airs de Balfe in the programmes.
♦Then from December until …

1856
♦…June he tours England, Scotland and Wales with Jenny Lind, Frederick Lablache, Willoughby Weiss, and Ernst, Sainton and Swift.
♦ Gives first known performance of his Serenata Italiana, op17 (Willis’s rooms, 12 July).
♦ First concert with Clara Schumann playing Mendelssohn Piano Trio, op66, with Ernst, (Musical Union, May 13).
♦ Plays in concerts for the inauguration of the Crystal Palace following its move to Sydenham (15-19 July).
♦ Plays in the Grand Inauguration Festival of the Royal Surrey Gardens (19 July).
♦ Plays in Benefit Concerts (as he does for many fellow artists throughout his career) for Julius Benedict (Exeter Hall, 21 May), Richard Blagrove (Hanover Square Rooms, 16 June), Jenny Lind (Exeter Hall, 30 June) and Michael Balfe (Drury Lane, 7 July).
• Programme for Julius Benedict's Annual Concert at Exeter Hall, 21 May 1856.

Programme for Julius Benedict's Annual Concert at Exeter Hall, 21 May 1856.

1857
♦ Birth of his daughter Rosa (6 January).
♦ Undertakes winter European tour, including concerts in Leipzig (Gewandhaus, 26 November), Vienna (Unione Musicale)…

1858
♦ Pest (programming his Magyar Fantasia at the National Theatre, 4 February) then back to London via Vienna again.
♦ Gives concerts in Teatro di S. Radegonda, Milan (27 September, 4 October).
♦ Plays in the inaugural Popular Concerts for Arthur Chappell in St James’s Hall (7-9 December).  Remains the regular cellist in what become the ‘Monday Pops’ - and the additional ‘Saturday Pops’ from 11 March 1865 - until retiring in the 1896/7 season. Chamber music partners through these years included Anton Rubinstein, Charles Hallé, Arabella Goddard, Clara Schumann, Agnes Zimmermann, Fanny Davies, Hans von Bülow, Edward Grieg, Paderewski, Bernard Molique, Camillo Sivori, Luigi Arditi, Joseph Joachim, Giuseppe Briccialdi and Giovanni Bottesini.
♦ Makes first appearance at ‘Charles Hallé’s Concerts’ at the Manchester's Free Trade Hall, playing Beethoven Triple Concerto (22 December); he returns nearly every year to appear in this series.

1859/60
♦ Makes winter tour including Cologne (6 December) and Wiesbaden.

1860
♦ Gives first known performance of his many transcriptions of Boccherini, this one being the Cello sonata no. 3 in G major (St James’s Hall, 28 May).  He goes on to transcribe all six sonatas, performing them throughout his career.
♦ Hosts his first Annual [benefit] Concert, held at St James’s Hall (30 June). ”A brilliant and masterly concerto, and a fantasia on Scotch airs (the former MS and first time of performance) were contributed by Signor Piatti”.
♦ Plays in Baden (20 August).
♦ Makes first appearance at the Norfolk-Norwich Triennial Festival (St Andrew's Hall, 18 September).
♦ Submits a ‘noteworthy sum’ to the Mayor of Bergamo following a collection among his London friends “to help the poor families of the volunteers from Bergamo enlisted in the ranks of the indomitable Garibaldi”.

1861
♦ Takes part in a ‘Monday Pops’ provincial tour including Edinburgh (2 February) and Dublin (8 February), together with Pauer and Wieniawski.
♦ Following the death of Cavour (6 June), a leading figure in the Italian Risorgimento, he is inspired to write Elegia in morte di Cavour.
♦ Hosts his second Annual [benefit] Concert at Campden House, Kensington (29 June), programme includes his Trovatore fantasy, together with the first known performances of his Notturno, op20, and his Tarantella, op23.
♦ Goes on tour of England and Scotland with Jenny Lind, Belletti and Sims Reeves throughout the autumn and into the next year.

1862
♦ Gives premiere of his Concertino for Violoncello, op18 under Sterndale Bennett at Philharmonic Society concert (Hanover Square Rooms, 16 June).

1863
The Monday Evening Popular Concerts at St James's Hall.

The Monday Evening Popular Concerts.  Illustrated London News, 25 April 1863.  From left to right: Lindsay Sloper, Arthur Sullivan, Louis Ries, Henry Webb (viola), Joseph Joachim, Arabella Goddard, Charles Hallé, Arthur Chappell, Prosper Sainton and Alfredo Piatti.

♦ Hosts a third Annual [benefit] Concert - a Matinée Musicale co-presented with Signor Arditi at residence of Marchioness of Townshend, Park Lane (15 June); programme includes his Marino Faliero Fantasy.
♦ Gives first known performance of his transcription of Sonata pastorale by Tartini (Hanover Square Rooms, 29 June).
♦ Makes continental tour (mid-November to end of April 1864) including Cologne, Koblenz and Leipzig.

1864
♦ Gives concerts at the Società del Quartetto in Milan (11 and 18 December).

1865
♦ Completes his 12 Caprices, op25 (autograph dated 26 June).
♦ Gives concert in Berlin (December).

1866
♦ Gives the English premiere of Schumann’s Concerto for Violoncello, with the ‘Musical Society of London’ under Alfred Mellon (St James’s Hall, 11 April).
♦ Gives the first known performance of Berceuse and Monferrina from his Soirées Champêtres, with its co-composer Julius Benedict at a ‘Benedict Matinée’ (Dudley House, 26 May).
♦ Is given a Stradivarius cello by General Oliver (18 June).
♦ Is appointed Professor of Violoncello at the Royal Academy of Music by Sterndale Bennett, Principal; one of his earliest pupils there is Edward Howell.
♦ Gives premiere of Arthur Sullivan’s Concerto for Violoncello under August Manns (Crystal Palace, 24 November), and repeats it in Edinburgh (17 December).

1867
♦ Is by now resident at 12 Park Place Villas, Maida Vale.
♦ Takes part in a short ‘Popular Concerts’ provincial tour with Clara Schumann, Joachim, Ries, Zerbini and the two Misses Pyne, organised by Arthur Chappell; includes Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Leeds, Bradford, Birmingham, Rugby, Bath, Clifton and Torquay. (January).

1868
♦ Issues a public apology “for using threatening language in a public room to a gentleman of the musical profession [John Ella]”.  (Marlborough Street Police Office, 28 May).
♦ Buys a villa in Cadenabbia on the western shore of Lake Como, his summer residence for the years to follow.

1869
♦ Gives premiere of his Concerto for Violoncello, op24 (Crystal Palace, 11 November).

1871
♦ Joachim introduces him to Robert Hausmann (aged 19) whom he teaches in London and in Cadenabbia.

1872
• A quartet at the The Monday Popular Concerts at St James's Hall.

The Monday Popular Concerts.  Piatti is shown with Mme. Norman-Neruda, Louis Ries and Ludwig Straus in a quartet at St. James's Hall. Illustrated London News, 2 March 1872.

♦ Plays in two concerts for the Società del Quartetto in Milan (21 and 25 April).

1873
♦ Gives premiere of his Concerto for Violoncello, op26 under August Manns (Crystal Palace, 18 January).
♦ Gives first known performance of his transcriptions of Marcello, this one being Sonata in G minor (St James’s Hall, 20 January).
♦ Gives first known performance of his “O Swallow, swallow” with Charles Santley (St James’s Hall, 3 February).
♦ Gives concert in Nantes (May).
♦ Gives first known performance of his Veracini transcription Siciliana, op19, in Edinburgh (19 Dec); the same concert contains the first known performance of his many Geminiani transcriptions, this one being a ‘Gavotte’.

1875
♦ Wedding of his daughter Rosa to Giulio Carlo Lochis (31 March).
♦ Makes a trip to Italy, including concerts in Bergamo in honour of Donizetti and Mayr (11-14 September), Venice (9 November), Padua (10 November), Florence (17 November), Livorno, Rome (23 November), Milan (26 November), Brescia (27 November), Venice (28 November), Turin and Genoa.
• Engraving by Vespasiano Bignami from Illustrazione Italiana, Milan.

Engraving by Vespasiano Bignami published together with an article on Piatti. Illustrazione Italiana, Milan, 12 December 1875.

1876
♦ Gives two concerts for the Società del Quartetto in Bergamo (7 and 18 September).

1877
♦ Separates from his wife and sets up residence at 15 Northwick Terrace, Maida Vale. (January?).  His friend and colleague, Ludwig Straus, violinist/violist in the ‘Pops’, lived at no 9 on the same street.
♦ Gives premiere of his transcription of Sonata in F sharp minor for cello by Antoniotti (St James’s Hall, 20 January).
♦  Gives premiere of Piano Trio by Michael Balfe, with pianist Marie Krebs and violinist Joseph Joachim (St James’s Hall, 17 March).
♦ WE Whitehouse (aged 18) becomes his pupil at the Royal Academy of Music.

1878
♦ Gives concert at Trocadero, Paris with Giuseppe Martucci (10 May).
♦ Takes up post of Examiner at the Istituto Musicale in Bergamo; from that year on spends his vacations helping young cellists there, writing his cello quartet In Vacanza for them.

1879
♦ Gives first known performance of his transcription of Sonata in D major by Locatelli (St James’s Hall, 11 Jan).
♦ Gives premiere of Cello Sonata by Michael Balfe with Agnes Zimmermann (St James’s Hall, 22 March).
♦ Gives concert in Liege (May).
♦ Plays in Bergamo concert to help victims of a flood of the Po river (3 July).

1880
♦ Gives premiere of his transcription of the Sonata in E major by Valentini (St James's Hall, 12 January).

1881
♦ Gives first performance, with Edward Lloyd, of his “Awake! Awake!” (St James’s Hall 15 January).
♦ Takes part in Congresso dei Musicisti Italiani in Milan (June).
♦ Birth of granddaughter Margherita (7 October).
♦ Gives first known performance, with Mlle Janotha, of his transcription of Schumann’s Märchenbilder (St James’s Hall, 14 November).
♦ Max Bruch presents him with an autograph copy of Bruch’s Kol Nidrei op 47 (15 November).

1882
♦ Gives first London performance of his Fantasia Romantica, op27 (Macfarren concert, St James’s Hall, 11 March).
♦ Gives lessons to Hugo Becker (aged 19) in London.
♦ Gives first known performance of his transcription of the Sonata in F major by Niccolò Porpora (St James’s Hall, 23 October).

1883
♦ Leo Stern (aged 21) becomes his pupil at the Royal Academy of Music.
♦ W H Squire (aged 12) enters Royal College of Music under Edward Howell, but receiving occasional lessons from Piatti.
♦ Death of his brother Enrico (Brescia, 11 October).
♦ Plays Rubinstein’s Concerto for Violoncello (perhaps op65, dedicated to him) at Charles Hallé concert (Free Trade Hall, 13 December).

1885
♦ Gives first performance of his Sonata in C, op28 (St James’s Hall, 5 January).
♦ Fractures his right arm in a stagecoach accident travelling near his daughter’s house in Crocette di Mozzo (17 August).  Out of playing action for 3 months.

1886
♦ Gives first performance of his Sonata in D, op29 (St James’s Hall, 5 April).

1888
♦ Gives first known performance of his Canzone di Ossian (St James’s Hall, 30 January).
• Etching by Leopold Löwenstam after Lajos Bruck.

Etching by Leopold Löwenstam after Lajos Bruck, 1888. Joseph Joachim, Louis Ries, Ludwig Straus, and Piatti with their instruments in their hands about to play a quartet in a private house.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

1889
♦ Gives first performance of his Sonata in F, op30 (St James’s Hall, 28 Jan).
♦ Gives first known performance of his Impromptu on an air by Purcell in the Indian Queen with Fanny Davies (Birmingham, 26 January).
♦ Plays Sonata for cello and piano, op36 by Edward Grieg with the composer (St James’s Hall, 23 February).
♦ Takes part in a concert to raise funds to restore Beethoven’s birth-house (Bonn, springtime); presented with Honorary Diploma in recognition of his advancement of Beethoven.
♦ Gives first known performance of his transcription of 6 lezioni per la viola d’amore by Ariosti (St James’s Hall, 4 November).
♦ Gives first known performance of his transcription of Thirteen Divisions on a Ground Bass by Christopher Simpson, with Fanny Davies (St James’s Hall, 11 November).
♦ Premieres Cello Sonata no 2, op39 by CV Stanford (St James’s Hall, 18 November).

1890
♦ Plays Beethoven’s Piano Trio, op70 no2, with Carl Reinecke and Joseph Joachim at the Beethoven Festival in Bonn (13 May).
• Rehearsing for the above.

With Carl Reinecke and Joseph Joachim rehearsing for the Bonn concert above.

♦ Birth of grandson Alfredo (17 September).
• Pages from The Cabinet Portrait Gallery. London, 1890-94.

Photograph by W. & D. Downey with the relevant pages from The Cabinet Portrait Gallery. London, 1890-94.

1891
♦ Gives premiere of Sonata for cello and piano, op22 by Emmanuel Moor (St James’s Hall, 7 February).
♦ Gives first known performance, with pupil WE Whitehouse, of his Serenata per due violoncelli (St James’s Hall, 23 March).
♦ Retires from the Royal Academy of Music.
♦ Plays to Giuseppe Verdi with pianist/composer Anton Rubinstein in Milan (private concert, 5 December).

1892
♦ Gives first performance of his Sonata in G, op31 (St James’s Hall, 11 Jan).
• Programme for a Monday Popular Concert at St. James's Hall on 18 January 1892.

Programme for a Monday Popular Concert at St. James's Hall on 18 January 1892.

♦ Gives the English premiere (together with Richard Mühlfeld, Joseph Joachim, Louis Ries and Ludwig Straus) of Brahms’s Clarinet Quintet, op115 (St James’s Hall, 28 March).
♦ Gives the English premiere (together with Richard Mühlfeld and Fanny Davies) of Brahms’s Clarinet Trio, op114 (St James’s Hall, 2 April).
♦ Gives first known performance of his “Suite in G major for solo cello by Bach with additional piano accompaniment” (St James’s Hall, 10 December).

1893
♦ Plays in Bergamo concert in honour of Donizetti (18 September).

1894
♦ Guest of Honour, with Joachim, at a gathering at the Grafton Galleries to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their joint English debut (22 March).
♦ Writes La Corsa.
♦ Death of his friend and colleague, Anton Rubinstein (20 November); he writes Elegia in Morte di Anton Rubinstein in his honour.

1895/6
• Dates of the forthcoming Season 1895-96 for the Popular Concerts at St James's Hall.

The Popular Concerts at St. James's Hall.  Dates of the forthcoming Season 1895-96.

1896
♦ Gives first performance of his Sonata in A minor, op32 (St James’s Hall, 20 January).
• Programmes for two popular concerts at St. James's Hall.  6 January and 11 January 1896.

Programmes for two popular concerts at St. James's Hall.  6 January and 11 January 1896.

♦ Gives first performance of his Sonata in E minor, op33 (St James’s Hall, 7 December).

1897
♦ Gives his farewell Pops concert (St James's Hall, 22 February).
♦ Plays in Bergamo concerts in honour of Donizetti (16-18 July).
♦ Takes part in festival to commemorate Donizetti’s centenary, where he is presented with Commendatore della Corona d’Italia medal by the King of Italy.

1898
♦ Moves from Caddenabia to live permanently with his daughter in Crocette di Mozzo.
♦ Publishes Entreaty/Supplication, given its first performance with orchestra by Robert Grimson (December).

1900
♦ Completes his final composition, Danza Moresca (31 December).

1901
♦ Performs Danza Moresca to friends at his daughter’s house (1 Jan).
♦ Dies holding his daughter’s hand (18 July).
♦ Funeral in Mozzo (22 July).
♦ Death of his wife (Como, 14 September).

© Adrian Bradbury, 2021.

We would like to thank Dr Annalisa Lodetti Barzanò (Associazione Alfredo Piatti, Bergamo) for her considerable help as an expert on Piatti and for providing us with four images for our exhibition.