Alessandro Rolla (1757-1841)
Concertos for Viola and Orchestra BI.541, BI.543, BI.547
Alessandro Antonio Francesco Maria Rolla was born in Pavia on 23 April 1757 into a family that encouraged his precocious musical talents. He soon moved to the city of Milan in order to study violin and viola, and it was here in 1772, at the mere age of fifteen, that Rolla debuted at the Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio, performing his own concerto for viola and orchestra. The piece was immediately met with success thanks to the young musician’s already excellent abilities on his instrument. After this brilliant debut, Rolla’s talents led to his obtaining particularly important positions such as the first viola of the Royal Orchestra of Parma beginning in May 1782, while the following year he was appointed as first violin of the Accademia Filarmonica Parmigiana. During these years, Rolla was not only active in the musical life of Parma (where he resided), but also in many other cities, especially in the regions of Emilia and Lombardy (although he never traveled outside of Italy). This period also produced a great number of concertos for violin which he wrote and performed as a soloist in concerts at court. These pieces, which require a technical virtuosity largely unexplored by his contemporaries, spread his fame as a composer and virtuoso beyond the Alps. In the course of the 1790s, moreover, many of his works were published both in Italy and abroad, and the notoriety of his school of violin and viola playing drew young and promising pupils from throughout Italy. 1802 was a veritable watershed for Rolla’s musical career, for in December of that year he accepted the position of first violin and concertmaster of the orchestra at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, a post he would hold until 1833. During this lengthy period, Rolla established himself as the true restorer of this orchestra which, under his leadership, became one of the most respected and celebrated instrumental ensembles of Italy. At the same time, he dedicated himself to teaching, especially from 1808 onward, when the new Conservatory of Milan first opened its doors. Here he was immediately given the position of professor of violin and viola, and his school of playing quickly became one of the most famous in all of Europe, producing some of the finest players of these instruments.