Such is the title of the satirical print shown below, which appeared in Paris at some point in the mid-18th century. It shows five famous Italian instrumentalists and a cat in open-air performance. All are named: Domenico Scarlatti is seated at a harpsichord of odd design, surrounded by Tartini on violin, Giuseppe (Sam)martini on oboe, Locatelli on violin (or viola) and Salvatore Lanzetti seated with a violoncello da spalla. The feline, his score lying on a tasseled cushion on the grass in front of him, is identified as Gaetano Caf(f)arelli, “singing an Italian parody”.
The accompanying poem says, “The concert by these great Italian masters would be very nice if the cat which one sees here had not wanted to join in. It is the same, little god of love, when your chains connect two hearts, since every day some animal disturbs the sweet harmony.”
The print is not unknown in the literature. It appeared recently in a book dated “ca. 1740”. All I have to offer here is a revision of the date. Caffarelli was forced to leave Paris in 1754 “under a cloud” (sic “New Grove”); he had been involved in a duel. Giacomo Casanova had to flee Paris two years previously after his first stay there, leaving a trail of scandal (including a duel) behind him. This may be why Caffarelli is singing a “parody”. The men are all wearing the long cuffs on their frock coats (called justaucorps) which only appeared around 1750. For these reasons I think a date of 1754-5 is more likely.
As a harpsichordist, I’m of course most interested in Scarlatti. The Neapolitan master visited Paris in 1724 and 1725 on diplomatic missions for the king of Portugal. He may have travelled there later as well. This semi-secret activity, formerly carried out by a long line of artists whose talents sweetened diplomacy, led to Scarlatti’s knighthood, his famous portrait which now hangs in a tiny provincial Portuguese museum after having been sold by his descendants in 1912, and most importantly, to the 30 sonatas published as his ESSERCIZI PER GRAVICEMBALO (London, 1739).
It is conceivable that records or memories of Scarlatti’s appearance persisted in Paris, but hopes of a portrait here are probably illusory; the faces in the print are all generic. Ralph Kirkpatrick mentioned Le Concert in a footnote to his Scarlatti biography, but rejected any resemblance.
A sidelight: in 1756 the wealthy whaler Van Tarelink finished adding a grand new Baroque achterhuis behind the Renaissance Huis Bartolotti on the Herengracht in Amsterdam. The elderly Locatelli, who had settled in the “Venice of the North” in 1729, performed privately in the house on various occasions before his death in 1764. It was in the newly-restored achterhuis that I had my lessons with tenant Gustav Leonhardt in the years 1971-5, rehearsed for concerts with Marie Leonhardt-Amsler, and where I frequently visited in later decades. The final time with the Leonhardts both among the living was with my illustrator daughter Emma. My teacher’s pleasure at showing the splendid features of the house and the new acquisitions to his collection of antiques never diminished. It is now kept by the Stichting Hendrik de Keyser as a museum and event location.
The history of the whole double-lot building was researched by Mr. Leonhardt in his Het huis Bartolotti en zijn bewoners (Amsterdam, 1979). As Master of Ceremonies at his 50th birthday party held there, I had the pleasure of announcing to the assembled guests and to its author that a publisher had been found for the book. A smile of delight which I will never forget lit up Leonhardt’s face for a long moment.
May 11, 2023