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Diözensanbibliothek, Münster

A manuscript in the Diözensanbibliothek, Münster, under the reference SANT Hs 3383, is annotated as ‘originale’. It is dated 1763 and also has a dedication:

‘Concertini a tre Soprani, e Contralto /
per le Signore Marchesine / Laura, Prudenza, e Giacinta Astalli /’

The Astalli Family:

The Marchesine Astalli were the last surviving, female, members of the Astalli family, a noble Roman family. At the beginning of the 17th century the papal state entrusted the government of the Commune of Sambuci to the ‘noble family of Astalli’. That they govern the small country for approximately 150 years and the family was given the title of Marchesi.  Distinguished members of the family included Cardinal Camillo Astalli, bishop of Catania from 1661 until his  death in 1663. The direct line of the family died out in the second half of the 18th century.
The Astallis had been gentlemen of Vallepietra since 1679 to 1757 when, with the death of Tiberio Astalli, the family died out and with them the possession of the feud of Vallepietra, together to that of Sambuci. Pietro Testa Silveri Piccolomini, 8th Baron of Balsorano married Laura Astalli in 1765, one of the three sisters who were the last descendants of the Astallis Caetani and heirs of this family. The other sisters were; Prudenza who married Silvio Maccarani, and Giacinta who married Giacomo Simonetti, ‘cameriere d’onore’ to Pope Pius VI. With the marriage of Laura the  Piccolomini’s were proxy to the descent the surname Astalli Caetani and the title of Marquis of Sambuci and Vallepietra.
    The dedicatees of Reggio’s manuscript were these three sisters. Reggio had also dedicated other works to the Astalli sisters and from these manuscripts, contained in the Santini Collection, it can be clearly shown that two of the sopranos were Laura and Prudenza, the contralto being Giacinta. The third soprano is yet unidentified.

Role of Third Soprano:

One possible candidate for this role is Maria Pizzelli- Coccuvilla. In a letter, written in 1807, addressed to an anonymous friend by the poet and writer Giovanni Gherado De Rossi he mentions Reggio in an appraisal of the life of Maria Pizzelli- Coccuvilla. Maria Pizzelli ran one of the most famous salons in Rome from an apartment in the Palazzo Bolognetti, during the so-called, ‘Age of Enlightenment’ which attracted many famous philosophers, artists and writers of the period.  He states that Reggio was a close friend of Pizzelli and that he helped her to develop her musical skills.
 “… He [Reggio] was her [Pizzelli] teacher, and in a short time the talented pupil became capable of overcoming the difficulties of the Art and to learn the abstruse rules.”

©Anthony Hart  2011