Giovanni Battista Fontana

Another composer of instrumental music for whom information is less than meagre is Giovanni Battista Fontana. Only a single collection of his works is known, published posthumously in Venice in 1641. The preface names him as a premier virtuoso of the violin, born in Brescia, working in Venice, Rome, and finally in Padua where, according to a record of death, he died of plague in 1630. This certificate and the preface disagree about his age and thus about the year of his birth, which may have been in either 1680 or 1689.

The collection contains eighteen sonatas, six for solo violin, three for two violins, three for violin and bassoon, five for two violins and bassoon, and one for three violins, all with continuo. Obviously their dates of origin are impossible to determine, nor can it be said which if any were written at the same period. It is often pointed out that the works are more polyphonic in character than those of his contemporaries, particularly with respect to the bass, which tends to participate thematically.

Fontana, Sonata terza, excerpt

On the other hand, there are similarities to works by Castello — historian Willi Apel contends that Fontana’s are the more modern — with extended passages for one soloist that are later taken up by another, as well as the rapid passage work indicative of a maestro.

Fontana, Sonata quartadecima, excerpt

⇐ Giovanni Buonamente

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