Giuseppe Tricarico

Giuseppe Tricarico was a 17th-century musician. His fame transcended the borders of his hometown of Gallipoli and also the Peninsula, landing him at the court of Vienna. Here he was chapel master to the Empress of Austria for at least five years.

It is worth reporting an excerpt from the biographical notes that maestro Giuseppe A. Pastore has collected on this illustrious Gallipolian.

“Recounting the life of a musician after three centuries of silence is no easy feat, especially when the musicologist aims not to be sidetracked by his own imagination and to remain anchored, through the bare prose of the Archival documents and the serene examination of his works, to pure reality. This is the case of Giuseppe Tricarico da Gallipoli; an excellent, if forgotten, musician of the 17th century who honored his native land and the Neapolitan school, taking his art for many years, together with his brother Antonio, who everything leads us to believe was an excellent singer, to various countries of Europe.

The name and artistic figure of Tricarico are today almost ignored […] while in his time he was an important exponent abroad of the Neapolitan school of the 17th century. Giuseppe Tricarico was born in Gallipoli to one of the richest and noblest families of his city to Francesco Tricarico and Petronilla Venneri on June 25, 1623. Of his childhood no news has reached us.

Perhaps like all boys of the time with good singing qualities, he learned to sing in the cathedral of his city under the guidance of some organist priest. Having grown older (the proper age was around twelve) he went to Naples to perfect himself in the art of music in one of the famous music conservatories that had already been carrying out their activities for about half a century. Although until now no evidence has been found that Tricarico’s musical education took place in Naples, this is clear to us from the analysis of some of his works in which the particular style that the Neapolitan school had at that time is evident […].

Then, having finished his studies, he evidently began to travel; neither in Gallipoli nor in Naples can we find any news about him. The earliest certain news, however, is that in 1649 he was already a member of the Academy of Rome: Eitner tells us this, and it appears from the title page of his “Concentus Ecclesiastici” published in Rome in that year by Ludovico Grignano and dedicated to D. Carlo. del Greco Duca di Montenero: “Concentus Ecclesiastici duarum, trium et quatuor vocum. Auctore Josepho Tricarico a civitate Gallipolis Romae in Academiis experto”.

In the society of the time, Giuseppe Tricarico, who elegantly alternates sixteenth-century forms with those of the seventeenth century, with madrigals, most interesting in style and workmanship, with touching accompanied monodic compositions, is evidently successful. With his own art he anticipates melodic attitudes that will become common fifty years later and , […] with chromaticism he succeeds in freeing himself from the diatonism of the time.

His departure from the Neapolitan milieu and his coming into direct contact with the Roman musical world and, through it, with the Venetian one, soon prompted him to try his hand at the same time or, perhaps, even before Cyril in the new form of melodrama, which the Neapolitan school before 1651 did not yet know or make its own. Evidently in Italy and abroad Giuseppe Tricarico, who is accompanied by his brother Antonio, reaps many honors and becomes Chapel Master to the Empress.

With honors comes money: this is not squandered, but with the usual letters of exchange, is transmitted to Gallipoli to his older brother, the Rev. Don Giovanni Angelo, Treasurer of the Cathedral. The latter being a good administrator, employs it in improvements to his father’s house and property inherited in the fief of Rodogallo; and then buys land, farms, olive groves, vineyards, gardens. The gains are considerable: in 1651 Giovanni Angelo buys from Laura Catalano two olive groves in the locality “li Canali” for 208 ducats. In 1659 he bought from the Zacheo brothers four vegetable gardens in the locality of Rodogalli for 120 ducats. In 1660 the possessions in the fief of Rodogallo increased with the purchase of an olive grove from Spicolizzi for 350 ducats, a vegetable garden from Natali for 26 ducats and numerous other lands.

Tricarico from afar did not just send the money, but indicated to his older brother how he should employ it; in fact, in the document drawn up by the notary Mega on February 6, 1666, not only is it specifically said that the sum of three thousand three hundred and fifty ducats was sent from Vienna through Papirio Peregrino at various times by bills of exchange or letters of exchange, but also “…fu dispesa de suo ordine tanto in compra de stabili quanto in fabbriche…”.

They stayed several years in Vienna, and several documents remind us of this with greater or lesser precision. His return to his homeland took place at the end of 1663, as we read in the istrumento of February 22, 1664 for Notar Sgura: “…essi Giuseppe, et Antonio fratelli hanno dimorato fuor di loro casa in diversi paesi per molti anni comunemente attendendo con lor professione di musica vocale, et instrumentale…e siando alla fine ritornati con salute li mesi prossime passati in questa città lor patria;…ha detto Antonio richiesto detto Giuseppe suo fratello che li dovesse assegnare la sua parte, e portione a lui spettante…”[…].

From 1669 to 1680 Giuseppe Tricarico’s name no longer appears in any surviving document; this silence leads us to suppose that he was still absent from Gallipoli and thus, among other things, the news of an opera performed by him at the S. Bartolomeo Theater in Naples in 1670 is corroborated; the composer must have been present and sat, for the first three evenings, at the harpsichord as was the custom of the time[…].

In 1697, at the age of seventy-five, Giuseppe Tricarico died. In the book of the dead that is preserved in the Cathedral of Gallipoli thus we read, ” In the year of the Lord One thousand six hundred and ninety seven at of “fourteen of November Giuseppe Tricarico of Gallipoli “aged seventy five years in about rendered his soul to God…. “was buried in the Church of St. Francis of Assisi”[…].

After his death, his sons and Antonio’s sons would continue, in the name of their respective fathers, the musical tradition in Gallipoli, opening two music schools that, in the likeness of the Neapolitan conservatories, would be musical centers in the Salento region that boasts among its children better musicians of the stature of Nicola Zaccaria, Francesco Antonio Baseo, Agostino Scozzese, Antonio Mogavero, Nicola Fago, Giovanni Paisiello, Leonardo Leo and numerous others.