Concerto Grosso No. 1 in F minor
Francesco Durante spent most of his career writing liturgical music in his native Naples. Though his name is obscure now, he was as famous a composer in his day as any of his contemporaries (he was the same age as Handel and Bach), and his compositions had an unusually long shelf life in an era when a composer could expect to see his music go out of fashion if he lived long enough. Even Durante’s unpublished works were widely preserved and circulated in over a thousand manuscript copies well into the 19th century.
His Concerto in F minor, the first of eight Concerti per quartetto (the description probably meant that the four parts were more or less equally important) composed about 1740, shows why Durante was so widely respected. The opening movement, with a slow introduction and fugal allegro, is both polyphonically intricate and emotionally gripping. Durante may have been the only Neapolitan who never wrote an opera, and almost none of his few liturgical dramatic works survive, but the last three movements of the Concerto show an operatic flair for creating and maintaining a dramatic mood.