In 1695, after the death of Giovanni Paolo Colonna – Maestro di Cappella from 1674 – the orchestra of S. Petronio was dissolved because of financial problems. Giuseppe decided then to look for new positions and new challenges and he embarked on a special tour that gave him notoriety and fame all over Europe.

He moved firstly to Vienna at the court of Leopold I, with whom he had already had contact in the years before – supposedly through Giovanni Paolo Colonna, who was asked between 1686 and 1692 to send to the Austrian court several sacred compositions (83 compositions by Colonna are still kept in the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek in Vienna).

Torelli in fact, took part in a opera pastiche in 1694, performed in Milan, for the birthday of Leopold I: L'Arione. Recitatives and arias were entrusted to several composers and Torelli gave his contribution writing the music for two numbers – according to the libretto in which the name of the author is reported at the end of the arias: “Caro nume infido core” and “Mortali fuggite” for the character of Scilla, interpreted by the Bolognese singer Caterina Battaglia.

In 1696 Giuseppe followed his colleague Francesco Antonio Pistocchi – famous castrato, serving until that time at the court of Parma – to Ansbach, where Pistocchi was appointed Kapellmeister and Torelli Konzertmeister.

As Michael Talbot writes: “This transalpine period greatly increased his reputation as a composer, solo violinist and teacher. His influence on German musicians was considerable, and of his pupils being Johann Georg Pisendel (1687-1755), the later Konzertmeister at Dresden.9

In May 1697 both Torelli and Pistocchi went to Berlin at the request of the Electress Sophia Charlotte, to whom in 1698 Torelli dedicated his Concerti Musicali op. 6 printed in Augusta by Lorenz Kroniger. After the Berlin visit they both went back to Ansbach, as the notice of the performance in 1697 of Pistocchi's Narciso, led by Torelli, testifies.

Giuseppe, who was earning a considerable reputation as a composer, decided then to go to the European capital of music printing: Amsterdam. The presence of the Veronese Maestro in the Netherlands is attested by Johann Gottfried Walther in his Musicalisches Lexikon (1732)10 and confirmed by the poem written by Cornelis Sweert and edited in the same year of his visit in the low lands:


Dank aan Joseph Torelli, Eersteling der Italiaansche violisten, Als hy my de eer vergunde van hem te hooren speelen.

Torelli, die ons Land vereert door uwe kunst, en die de herten weet te winnen ed degunst van Groote en Kleenen, als gy door aantreklyk speelen, het aldersteenigst hert weet lieselyk testreelen.

Orpheus Torelli temt het volk in 't hof en 't veld, terwyl de heusheid steeds zyn groote kunst verzelt.


[Thanks to Giuseppe Torelli, first amongst the Italian violinists, for having gave me the honor of hearing him play.

Torelli, who honors our land through his gift, and who knows how to win the hearts and the favor of greats and little, with his attractive playing.

Orpheus Torelli tames the people in the court and the field, while at the same time politeness accompanies his great art.]11



In 1698 three collections were printed by Estienne Roger, the well-known editor in Amsterdam: a new edition of Torelli's op. 6, his Capricci musicali per Camera à Violino e Viola Overo Arcileuto op. 7 (which is unfortunatly lost) and the Scherzi musicali by Pistocchi (Cantatas à voce sola), who was probably travelling together with Torelli.

In 1699, together with Pistocchi, Torelli went back to Vienna, where he lived for the following two years at the Imperial court.

From a letter, sent from Vienna by Pistocchi to Giacomo Antonio Perti on the 27th of March 170012, is known that Torelli got a commission from the Emperor Leopold I to write an Oratorio: L'Adamo scacciato dal Paradiso, which was acclaimed with great success by the Emperor himself and by the musical environment. Pistocchi describes it in his letter: “vago come una primavera, virtuosamente scritto, modesto e devoto” [desirable like the spring, virtuously written, modest and devout]. From the same letter we also know that Giuseppe was the intermediary for the commission of two paintings to his brother Felice.


In 1701, with the re-establishment of the orchestra of San Petronio under the new maestro di cappella Giacomo Antonio Perti, Torelli went back to Bologna, this time hired as a violinist and leader of the orchestra. After his return, he introduced in the Petronian orchestra oboes and bassoons, as it was the habit of the Northern European Court's orchestras. He worked as Concert master and composer for the Musical Chapel of San Petronio with a salary more appropriate to the repetutation earned abroad (and with generous provision for leave of absence, when required), until his death, on the 8th of February 1709. At the time of his death Torelli was at the height of his powers and his brother Felice, the painter, saw his final collection, Concerti grossi con una Pastorale per il Santissimo Natale op. 8, through the press.

Fig. 8 Felice Torelli, Bacio di Giuda (Cattura di Cristo)1695-1700, Bologna, Pinacoteca Nazionale. 

This painting has been made for Francesco Antonio Pistocchi, for his return from Vienna in 1701. It might be one of the two paintings commissioned by the brother, Giuseppe, and mentioned in the letter above presented. 


Transalpine tour: The rise of a star