Musical Traveller in Bologna:
Charles Burney

Around the end of the eighteenth century, European intellectuals are drawn to Italy by numerous attractions: nature and culture are objects of curiosity. Among the sceneries and rediscovery of important vestiges of the past, Bologna is an essential stopping place for travellers as it is a pivotal centre for musical creation and production.

Maria Chiara Mazzi

At the end of the eighteenth century, among travellers to Italy eager to see the beautiful landscape and learn about the culture, were those musicians and music lovers who wanted to listen to vocal and instrumental music ensembles. One of them was Englishman Charles Burney who arrived between 1770 and 1771, and left a highly precise diary of the places he visited.

Burney meets with great musicians, visits theatres, listens to music in churches, in drawing-rooms, and in the streets. He remains in Bologna, a pivotal centre for musical creation and production, from August 21 to the 30, and explains in this way his stay in the city: My main objective was to meet with the erudite Father Martini and with the famous Farinelli, the first being considered in all Europe as the most profound theoretician, the other recognized as the greatest interpreter of our time, or maybe of all time and of all countries.
Father Martini makes on Burney a great impression. Without failing to see his merits as a scholar, the focus of his attention is on the man who combines purity in life and simplicity in his ways, a natural gaiety, kindness and a great sense of humanity. I can say that I have never experienced such an important feeling of liking for anyone as for this man, knowing him for such a short time. After two hours of conversation, I was not feeling so intimitated by him, as though I had been an old friend of his or dearly loved brother. A vision of the father who, apparently unreachable, was on the contrary like all great people, at ease and courteous even with unknown people. 
Burney is instead more talkative about Farinelli, going over his life as an artist, expressing his admiration directly to him: In England, numerous are those who remember well his performances, to the point of not wanting to listen to any other singer. In the whole kingdom, the echo of his fame has not yet relented, and I remain certain that it will carry to the farthest posterity.

Unexpected, a third encounter awaits Burney: with the Mozarts, father and son, who happen to be in Bologna these days at Villa Pallavicini. One is the intelligent and vivacious musician, and the other, an exceptional young man with extraordinary readiness.
The Englishman listens with interest to street musicians: I was pleased to listen to a well executed duet of violin and mandoline; then there was a group of wanderers who played very well many symphonies and other pieces with four parts.  But he was rather critical towards church music: in San Michele in Bosco (August 21), the organ which was being played was out of tune, the voice was worst and did not sound good; in San Bartolomeo (on the 24th): Many castrati sang but I did not enjoy the music nor the performance because the composition was lacking Buranello's three requisites (gracefulness, clearness and good modulation) and the performance was careless and incorrect; in Sant’Agostino (on the 28th): the orchestra was large but the music turned out to be of little taste and originality, and of insufficient culture. The singing was less than mediocre and contributed to making the music even more tedious.
On the 30th, he is otherwise pleased with the celebration of the Philarmonic Academy in San Giovanni in Monte, where were present all the critics of Bologna and nearby cities, and the church was extraordinarily crowded.
He concludes his stay in Bologna with a tribute to the city which gave him hospitality, where the variety of styles and the quality of music were such that it was an honour to Bologna's community itself because it has always given birth to exceptional creative power, and numerous talents embracing every aspect of art.