Andrea De Simone (1807-1874)

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Andrea Giovanni Carmine De Simone was born in Capua on 24 November 1807 to Nicola, a tailor, and Margherita De Matteis; he was baptized the same day in SS. Rufo and Carponio Church. A respected and influential Capuan family, the Lanzas, especially Cav. Biagio Lanza, took an interest in his artistic development, offering encouragement and economic support.

We know very little of the composer's childhood and youth. On September 7, 1834, as shown by documents found in the State Archive of Caserta, he married Gabriella Cappabianca in the church of S. Pietro al Ponte, but never had any children.

It is believed that the young De Simone might have studied in Naples at the Real Collegio. Unfortunately the name of his teacher remains unknown. On stylistic grounds, it may be supposed that De Simone perhaps studied with Zingarelli or Mercadante. De Simone's style is characterized by singable melodies; straightforward harmonies; dense, propulsive rhythms; and obsessively repeated melodic formulae. These features display a deep knowledge not only of the stylistic elements of the Neapolitan school, but also of the great Neapolitan opera composers, as shown by a bound volume containing many transcriptions of famous opera arias, by the intense level of musical activity in the Capuan Municipal Theater and by De Simone's journalistic contributions to the Gazzetta musicale di Napoli.

For many years Andrea De Simone directed the Capua Philarmonic Orchestra. He had many talented pupils, notably Raffaele Coppola from Capua and Ludovico Cesi. De Simone composed a Miserere, and the oratorio Agonia di Gesù, which were performed in Capua's cathedral in 1842. Other works include a Hymn to Our Lady of Sorrows, to a text by Pietro Paolo Parzanese, that was performed in Foggia in 1843, and an opera, Matilde d'Inghilterra, with libretto by Leopoldo Tarantini, that was staged in 1841 in the Teatro Nuovo in Naples. The Capuan musician composed many additional works such as masses, war songs, sacred hymns, motets, four symphonies (and another three now missing), dances and litanies, and two further operas, Polissena and Atala (the latter missing). He also wrote much sacred music for religious cerimonies.

He was appointed an honorary member of the Aretine Academy in Tuscany (2 April 1852), the Saint Cecilia Academy in Rome (March 2, 1853), the Philarmonic Academy in Bologna (24 September 1853) and the Quiriti Academy in Rome (18 October 1859). As a music rewiever for the Gazzetta musicale di Napoli he wrote many articles, most memorably on Verdi's Il Trovatore and Donizetti's Il Conte di Chalais.

On 23 August 1866 the Capua town council appointed him music teacher in the Women's Institute linked to the Normal School there, in which De Simone had already been teaching. He wrote many choruses for the schoolgirls, who every year gave an end-of-term concert in the same school.

From an article published in the newspaper Capua in 1874 we learn that De Simone was not in good health, and in fact he died about a month later, on July14, 1874 in his house at Via Monte dei Pegni n° 8.

A passage from his obituary testifies to the fame and reputation of the Capuan musician:

« On the 14th day of this month [July] died Mr. Andrea De Simone, one of the most worthy music-masters of our province [Caserta]. The town has lost a fine mind and an upstanding citizen; the art of music has lost a distinguished and worthy devotee. [...] In life he loved Art for Art's sake, so that Andrea De Simone leaves no other heritage to his inconsolable wife than the love and esteem of his fellow citizens [...] »

After the composer's death many musical manuscripts, which today constitute the collection held in Library of the Museo Campano, were very probably gathered by Gabriele Iannelli, founder of the Museum itself.

Over the years the composer has sunk into oblivion and today hardly any Capuan citizen or scholar remembers him, except for some descendants of De Simone's family. That a nineteenth-century Italian composer of real merit might today be totally unknown sounds like something out of Kafka or Borges, but such indeed seems to be the case here. De Simone's MSS were unearthed just a few years ago by the young Capuan musicologist Lorenzo Sorbo, and we at Kallisti Music Press are pleased indeed to be collaborating with him in bringing them, finally, to the wider public they deserve.


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