Carlo Ferrari (1714-1790)
Six Sonatas for Cello and Continuo
Little is known about the life of Carlo Ferrari, an important albeit largely unrecognized composer and cellist, born into a family of musicians. The biographical information available is limited and fragmentary: indeed, certain sources date his birth around 1710. Nicknamed “Lo Zoppo di Piacenza” (he was evidently lame), he had two brothers who were also musicians: Domenico and Paolo, both violinists (the former was allegedly a student of Tartini as well as being a composer himself). In 1744, C. Ferrari moved from his native Piacenza to Parma where he was entered the service of the ducal court on 1 October 1753. In 1756, his presence is documented in Paris, where he performed on the cello in the “Concert Spirituel”, a testimony to his fame and prestige. The Concert Spirituel, in fact, was created by A.D. Philidor in 1725 and remained active in Paris until 1791, offering musical programs of great importance and hosting the most celebrated directors and instrumentalists of Europe. Two years later, we again find Ferrari in Parma. Thanks to the archival research conducted by Gaspare Nello Vetro, we know that he received a significant raise in salary (“un soprassoldo di 6.000 lire”) in a ducal decree dated 6 April 1758. In 1765, we know he was a member of the Ducal Chapel, and on 1 April 1766, Ferrari was appointed first cello of the Chamber Orchestra of the Duke (Eitner refers to him as “Virtuoso di Camera del Duca di Parma”). In January 1785, he was hired as a teacher at the “Regio Collegio dei Nobili” in Parma, a prestigious institution for musical education founded in 1601 at the behest of Ranuccio I Farnese which trained music students from all over Europe. This “virtuoso” on the violoncello, Carlo Ferrari, was the author of chamber music for strings (sonatas for violin and bass and for violoncello and bass, duets, and sonatas for four instruments), as well as symphonies. His favored instrument remained, however, the cello.