Interpreting the Life of an Unsung Composer

Bach, Vivaldi and Handel may be the Baroque music period’s heavyweights, but mediocrity still has an important place in history.

Even in the music world, there are not many who are familiar with Teodorico Pedrini.  An obscure 17th and 18th century Italian priest, missionary, and mediocre composer, he never makes headlines.  What then prompted Nancy Wilson, Director of Baroque Chamber Players at Mannes College The New School for Music, spend six years recording all 12 of Pedrini’s long-forgotten sonatas?

“Serendipity,” Wilson says.

Pedrini is the topic of this Research Radio podcast, where Wilson discusses the composer’s unusual contribution to historical performance. However, it was not so much for the love of the music that prompted Wilson to record and perform Pedrini’s music, but the love of his story.

Having come to China in 1711 as a Papal emissary to Emperor Kangx, Pedrini served as a musician in the Chinese court. Four years later, unrest erupted within the court, and Pedrini, accused as a spy, was imprisoned until 1723. It was during this imprisonment, Wilson conjectures that the priest composed his 12 sonatas.

Pedrini’s music illustrates the role of the arts within a politicized context and period of transnational culture development. Rediscovery of this unfamiliar repertoire and social research has enriched Wilson in her own work, enabling her to explore musical variations and teach a greater range of historical performance to her students.  These sonatas represent a unique example of the importance of, and public interest in, an East-West cultural exchange.

Research Radio is a New School podcast series that tells stories of academic inquiry at the university. From sustainability to psychology to politics, our faculty and students have been researching pressing social and scientific issues for nearly a century–and now you can listen to their latest findings.