Nicola Matteis - Violin Hero

Italian's Technique on the Bow Mesmerises England

Sometimes we travel back a fair way to unearth a gem. Today I don my peruke and travel back to the 17th century to learn about Nicola Matteis. Prithee, join me.

Nicola Matteis is the largely forgotten fellow in the portrait above. He was an Italian composer and violinist who settled in England and introduced a new style of violin playing to the UK — the French style being popular before him (whatever that was). He was adopted by the English the way Jimmy Hendrix was.

George Dubourg, writing on the history of the violin in 1836, observed that Matteis was a master with the bow and gained recognition in his adopted country only when navigating the temper of the English, "who, if humoured, would be liberal; but, if uncivilly treated, would be sulky, and despise him and his talents". Nothing changes.

Diverse Bizzarrie Sopra la Vecchia Sarabanda ò pur Ciaccona is performed wonderfully here by Chatham Baroque of Pittsburgh, U.S.A.. This joyous little piece from Matteis would have the most entrenched misery guts dancing a jig and reel after the first few bars.

You can also find the piece on Matteis: False Consonances of Melancholy, an album featuring the ensemble Gli Incogniti on the French Zig-Zag Territoires label.


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