Federigo Fiorillo (1755-1823c.)
Six quatuors pour Flute, Violon, Viola & Violoncelle
Born in Germany (near Hanover) Federigo descended from a family of Neapolitan musicians: an ancestor, Carlo, had published a book of madrigals in the 16th century, and his father, Ignazio, had made a name for himself in Europe as a composer of operas and maestro di cappella. When Federigo was born, one did not have the impression that the center of European musical culture was moving from Italy northwards, especially towards Germany. Haydn was 25 years old at the time, Scarlatti and Händel were both in their seventies, Bach, soon to be forgotten, had already been dead for 5 years. Mozart would be born 9 months later, and Beethoven after little more than decade. An excellent violinist and violist, Fiorillo was also a soloist on the mandolin as well as a pedagogue. His Etude pour le violon formant 36 caprices are still well-known among violin students today, while harpists might practice his 72 exercises for the Harp. His compositions also include some works written for the harpsichord and others for the piano, a sign that times were changing. At the age of thirty, Federigo traveled to Paris and participated in the Concert Spirituel directed by the Philidors, a grand family of composers, performers and instrument builders. While there, he undoubtedly met Françoise-André, the most famous of the Philidor family: a composer, French exile (escaping creditors), and excellent chess player, his compositions include 6 quartets for flute and three strings. A few years later, Federigo Fiorillo printed his own 6 quartets for flute, violin, viola and cello. Two editions exist which are practically identical: the first dates to the beginning of the 1790s (though the precise date is unknown) and was printed in Paris by Sieber (as was his op. 4); the second was published in Berlin in 1798 (as was op. 7) by Hummel (whose catalogue also contained works by Haydn). The dates of these compositions are thus uncertain, a common situation for the music of the 18th century, a period in which “author’s rights” did not yet exist and title pages often did not indicate the date of publication.