Welcome to Meet the Composer Blog!
Immerse yourself in a life full of culture and artistry that started from her birth. Anna Ioanna Lucia Bon di Venezia toured eastern Europe from an early age having the opportunity to receive the best music training a girl could have in the 1700s. I fell in love with the Anna Bon in May 2016 as I was researching repertoire by women composers to curate a program for a competition I was entering. There was something magical about her slow movements that just made me want to get to know her better and learn her music. As it is the case for many women of the time, finding out about her life was not easy and at the time all you could find was a very short and inaccurate bio on wikipedia. Therefore, I had to do quite a little bit of research and eventually decided to pursue her life and works as my dissertation topic.
With today’s blog I aim to share with you some of my research findings on the life of Anna. She was born in Bologna in 1738 not in Russia as it was believed or in Venice like her name might lead you to. She added: “of Venice” - di Venezia - to her name a bit later in her life when she started composing. Ms. Bon entered the Ospedale della Pietà before she had even turned 5 as one of their youngest students ever to be accepted - a wunderkind. These orphanages were by far the best institutions any young girl could receive her music education in Italy at the time. Ospedali were originally founded to educate orphans but with time (and with the growing need for funding), a second kind of students started to be accepted, those with extraordinary talent that had the financial means to afford the expensive tuition. Anna was in that second group.
Both of her parents were involved in opera productions. Rosa, her mother, well known for her buffo roles and Girolamo as librettist and stage designer. Ms. Bon traveled from court to court not only with her parents but also employed as a singer, harpsichordist and composer. The Bon family worked in St. Petersburg, Dresden, Esterhàzy, and Bayreuth to name a few.
As a composer, she published three opus, no.1 for flute and continuo, no.2 for solo harpsichord and no.3 for two flutes and continuo. Her first Opus number for flute and continuo was published in 1756 while working at the court in Bayreuth. Here she was employed by Wilhelmine, the elder sister of Frederick the Great and thus maintained close links with the Prussian court and modeled Bayreuth musical life after it. This first collection of sonatas is stylistically oriented towards the Baroque. However, these sonatas also show strong influences of both the Empfindsamer Stil, associated primarily with the music of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, and the simpler and lighter Galant style, favored by Johann Joachim Quantz. She had been acquainted with both composers and their music during Frederick The Great visits to Bayreuth. Empfindsamer Stil characterizes for its expressiveness which aimed to appeal to the most complex and intimate feelings.
Anna Bon’s second collection of sonatas, Sei sonate per il cembalo, Opus 2, is dated 1757. This collection has a dedication to Ernestina Augusta Sophia, Princess of Sachsen-Weimar on the front cover, this collection was also published during her appointment in Bayreuth. Sei Divertimenti a Due Flauti e Basso, Opus 3, was announced on October 26, 1759 in the Nürnberg Friedens-und Kriegs-Currier and Anna Bon’s last known collection to have been published. The collection is dedicated to Carl Theodor, who as Elector of Bavaria ruled from the Mannheim court. Speculations lead us to believe that the choice of instrumentation came as a form of employment seeking, however, there are no records of Anna getting employment in Bavaria after this publication. Stylistically, The Sei Divertimenti exhibits the most characteristically Galant style of all three collections by Anna Bon.
There are no records of her past 1767 when she got married. Many websites, including her wikipedia article cited it as her death year. Scholars have found other works by Anna after her death. Below is our most recent performance of her sonata in F Major at the 2020 Mid-Atlantic Flute Convention this past February.