Alessandro Stradella (3 April 1639 – 25 February 1682) was an Italian composer of the middle baroque. He was born in Nepi, and was murdered in Genoa.
Not much is known about his early life, but he was from an aristocratic family, educated at Bologna, and was already making a name for himself as a composer at the age of 20, being commissioned by Queen Christina of Sweden. In 1667 he moved to Rome where he composed copiously, mostly sacred music, and began to live a dissolute life. With a friend he attempted to embezzle money from the Roman Catholic Church, but was found out: he fled the city, only returning much later when he thought it was safe. Unfortunately his numerous incautious affairs with women began to make him enemies among the powerful men of the city, and he had to leave Rome for good.
In 1677 he went to Venice, where he was hired by a powerful nobleman as the music tutor to his mistress. As might be expected, Stradella was shortly involved with her, and had to flee when their liaison was found out; but this time the nobleman hired a gang of thugs to follow him and kill him, which they narrowly failed to do. (In one account, they heard him in performance and forgave him for the sake of his talent.) Stradella went next to Genoa, where he wrote operas and cantatas; unfortunately he was again involved in an affair with a poorly chosen woman, and this time a hired killer caught up with him at the Piazza Banchi and stabbed him to death.
Stradella was an extremely influential composer at the time, though his fame was eclipsed in the next century by Corelli, Vivaldi and others. Probably his greatest significance is in originating the concerto grosso: while Corelli in his Op. 6 was the first to publish works under this title, Stradella clearly uses the format earlier in one of his Sonate di viole. Since the two knew each other, a direct influence is likely.
Stradella wrote at least six operas including a full-length comic opera. He also wrote numerous cantatas and oratorios. Stradella composed 27 separate instrumental pieces, most for strings and basso continuo, and typically in the sonata da chiesa format.
His colorful life and bloody death clearly made a good story for an opera, and three separate composers based operas on his life. The best-known of these is Alessandro Stradella (Hamburg, 1844), by Friedrich von Flotow.
American novelist F. Marion Crawford also produced a highly romanticized novel of Stradella's affair and flight from Venice, titled Stradella (Macmillan 1909).
Stradella: Il barcheggio - Valentina Valente; Marco Lazzara; Giovanni Dagnino; Alessandro Stradella Consort; Estevan Velardi (conductor) Label: Bongiovanni GB 2102
Stradella: Moro per amore - Mark Beasley; Marco Lazzara; Roberta Invernizzi; Riccardo Ristori; Silvia Piccollo; Alessandro Stradella Consort; Estevan Velardi (conductor). Label: Bongiovanni GB 2153
Stradella: Esule dalle sfere - Roberta Invernizzi; Marco Lazzara; Riccardo Ristori; Mario Nuvoli; Alessandro Stradella Consort; Estevan Velardi (conductor). Label: Bongiovanni GB 2165
References and further reading
"Alessandro Stradella", in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie. 20 vol. London, Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 1980. ISBN 1-56159-174-2
Carolyn Gianturco: "Alessandro Stradella", Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (Accessed March 13, 2006), (subscription access)