- Pleasing and Interesting Anecdotes: An Autobiography of Giacomo Gotifredo Ferrari ed. by Deborah Heckert
This work is the first English translation of the autobiography of the hitherto little-known Italian composer and teacher Giacomo Gotifredo Ferrari (1763–1842). The original was published in Italian as Anedotti piacevoli e inter-essanti occorsi nella vita Giacomo Gotifredo Ferrari, da Rovereto (London, 1830; reprint Palermo, 1920). This English edition forms part of the Pendragon Press “Lives in Music” series. The translator is Stephen T. Moore, Head of the Sound and Image Department and the Digital Media Librarian at Green Library of Florida International University. He seems to be something of a recent favourite at Pendragon Press providing the same series with a number of other translated memoirs of little-known musicians in quick succession: Wenzel Johann Tomaschek (1774–1850): Autobiography (April 2017); Recollections From My Life: An Autobiography by A. B. Marx (2017); and Giovanni Pacini: My Artistic Memoirs (2018), with a fore-word by Jane Sylvester. [End Page 380]
In his autobiographical Anecdotes, Ferrari inevitably presents a selective hagiographic reflection of his life. He tells us that he was born in Rovereto in the Italian Alps and after an initial youthful devotion to the religious life he turned to a career in music. In Italy he found elite patronage from Prince Venceslao [Joseph Wenzel] of Lichtenstein who promoted Ferrari’s cause in Naples where Ferrari very briefly studied with Giovanni Paisiello (1740–1816). Such associations seem to have provided Ferrari with access to a glittering array of patrons as he travelled on to Rome and then to France and to the U.K. Thus, we read that in France he was taken up by Queen Marie Antoinette (1755–1789) and in the U.K. by Caroline of Brunswick, the Princess of Wales (1768–1821). Although Ferrari continued to travel to and from Europe throughout his life, the U.K. may be considered his settled home in later years, where he developed a career as a teacher and had four operas and two ballets produced at the King’s Theatre London between 1799 and 1817.
This translation of Ferrari’s Anecdotes has been edited by Deborah Heckert, adjunct professor of music at Stony Brook University in New York, who is best known for her work on British music of the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This step into an earlier period may explain the rather anodyne nature of the editorial introductory chapter, which serves to précis what Ferrari has written.
On beginning to read the translated text, it soon becomes clear that its presentation here lacks a clear and consistent method; certainly none is explained. A useful demonstration of the lack of method is seen in the inconsistent presentation of names of people and of places. Two examples will suffice. On p. 42 there is a reference to an “Abbot Tachi”, while on p. 48 there is a reference to “Abate Tacchi”. The reader is left to work out that this is indeed the same person in both cases. Similarly, in the editorial preface’s “Chronology of the Life of Giacomo Ferrari”, we find mention of a place called Rovereto (p. xxvii) and later in the same chronology the similarly named Roveredo (p. xxviii); and the variants recur throughout the work. Again, the reader is left to decide that just one place is referred to, namely Rovereto in the Italian alpine province of Trentino and not Roveredo in the Swiss canton of Grisons (aka Graubünden). I resorted to Oxford Music Online and cross-referenced to Wikipedia to discern this.
A further problem is the lack of biographical notes and I suspect that quite a number of readers—like me—will flounder to appreciate the significance of many of the people whose names Ferrari dropped into his story. The following will serve to illustrate my point: specifically, the variously named Prince Liechtenstein/Prince Venceslao of Lichtenstein, about whom...