Giuseppe Corsi da Celano

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Born: 1631/32

Died: after 10 March 1691


Student in Rome at the Jesuit fathers under the guidance of Giacomo Carissimi he was active as an outstanding Maestro in Gallese (Altemps family), Città di Castello (Cattedrale di S. Florido), Naples (Montalto family), Rome (Basilica di S. Maria Maggiore, Basilica di S. Giovanni in Laterano, Chiesa di S. Maria Maddalena, Chiesa Nuova), Loreto (Basilica della S. Casa: where he was ordained priest), Ancona (Cattedrale di S. Ciriaco) and Parma (Basilica di S. Maria della Steccata and Farnese family).

Giovanni Tribuzio, Corsi da Celano scholar, writes the following in CD booklet notes for the recording "Giuseppe Corsi. Bass Cantatas", Mauro Borgioni (baritone), Renato Criscuolo (bass violin), Romabarocca Ensemble, Brilliant Classics, 96693, 2023:

Giuseppe Corsi, known as Celani, was one of the most important composers of the Roman school active in the second half of the 17th century. Little is known about his origins although, according to historian Pietro Antonio Corsignani, his family belonged to the noble branch of the Evangelisti Corsi family. Born in Abruzzo between 1631 and 1632, presumably in Celano or in one of the fiefdoms from the county of the same name located in the Marsica region, he soon moved to Rome to undertake his musical studies.

In 1646, he was hired as puer cantor in the Cappella Giulia under Virgilio Mazzocchi, becoming his pupil. Afer the master’s death, he continued his apprenticeship under Giacomo Carissimi at the German-Hungarian College. After settling for a short time in Gallese, a fief of Duke Giovanni Pietro d’Altemps, he was elected chapel master of the Cathedral of S. Florido in Città di Castello (1654-1655) and accepted the Magisterium of the Basilica of S. Maria Maggiore in Rome (1657-1659) as successor to Antonio Maria Abbatini, his probable protector as well as master.

Celani then continued his career as maestro di cappella at the Basilica of S. Giovanni in Laterano (1661-1665) and at the Church of S. Maria Maddalena (1658). Once his experiences in Rome were over, he accepted the post of maestro at the Cathedral of S. Giovenale in Narni (1666-1667) and later at the Basilica of the Holy House of Loreto (1668-1675), refusing the post in Munich of Kapellmeister at the court of Ferdinand Maria Wittelsbach.

Returning to Rome, he was active between 1676 and 1677 at the Archconfraternity of the Most Holy Crucifix of S. Marcello and the Filippini of S. Maria in Vallicella, where he composed several oratorios. Giuseppe Ottavio Pitoni, in his work Notitia de’ contrapuntisti e compositori di musica, reports that Celani ‘had a wife and children, whom he predeceased and was also a priest’. These vicissitudes, which occurred between 1659 and 1670, deeply marked his life and were probably the cause of many of his misfortunes. In fact, his working relationship with Rome came to an abrupt end due to the dissemination of some libellous pamphlets and a trial held against him by the Inquisition.

On 29 July 1677, he was arrested on a charge of rape against a ‘spinster who, as it was said, jumped out of the  window out of fear’ and, afer undergoing rope torture, was imprisoned at the Rocca Albornoziana in Narni. Exiled from the Papal State, Corsi then found refuge at the court of Ranuccio II Farnese, becoming maestro di cappella of the Basilica di S. Maria della Steccata in Parma (1681-1689). It was during this period that he had Giacomo Antonio Perti (already a disciple of the Bolognese Petronio Franceschini who in turn studied with Celani in Rome) as his pupil, later conducting several of the latter’s sacred compositions.

In 1689 Corsi finally moved to Ancona, probably obtaining the Magisterium of the Cathedral of St. Ciriaco. On 26 December 1690 Ferdinando de’ Medici commissioned him to write a Miserere and twenty-seven responsories for Holy Week. Celani’s reply to the Grand Prince of Tuscany (Ancona, 10 March 1691) is the last document we have on the composer. His date and place of death are still unknown.

Corsi’s catalogue of works includes around twenty-three secular compositions including ariette,  canzonette and cantate for one or more voices and basso continuo (TriCo 49-71). They are part of an anthology in the Biblioteca Estense Universitaria in Modena (Mus. F. 1369) that also includes three cantatas for soprano by the same composer. The fact that the codex belongs to the collection of Francesco II d’Este would date the manuscript between 1684 and 1690, thus tracing it not to Farnese patronage but to Este patronage. Hence, perhaps, Pitoni’s information that Corsi would have died in Modena, leaving ‘the works in the same place’.

View the Wikipedia article on Giuseppe Corsi da Celano.

List of choral works

Click here to search for this composer on CPDL


External links
Works by Giuseppe Corsi da Celano in the Petrucci Music Library (IMSLP)