Nicola Cosimi – 2 Preludes

Posted on July 30th, 2012 by

Nicola Cosimi-Two Preludes (from ‘Select Preludes & Vollenteries’ Publ. Walsh, London 1705)

Peter Sheppard Skaerved-Violin (Workshop Recording, St. Paul, Mn. July 2012)

Mezzo-tint of Kneller's lost painting of Nicola Cosimi

Cosimi was one of the first Italian virtuosi to play and export the violins by the English maker, Robert Cuthbert, which is likely what is depicted here


Nicola Cosimi was born in Rome, and came to London from 1702 to 1705. According to Vidal, a short time after his return to Italy, he died, young. He was closely associated with the Duke of Bedford for whom he wrote ’12 Solos’.

Nicola Cosimi was also associated with the 3rd Lord Baltimore, Charles Calvert, who had returned from Maryland in 1684 to settle a boundary dispute with William Penn(who was expelled from my school), who was building his capital below the 40th Parallel, so technically in Maryland. Maryland had been established as a haven of religious toleration by Baltimore’s grandfather, like him a Catholic, just as Penn was seeking a refuge from persecution. Clearly, at this point all attempts to see eye to eye failed-the boundary dispute was never resolved, and Baltimore was briefly caught up in the chaos around the events of 1688-he was named as part of the Titus Oates plot, though exonerated.

Cosimi's patron in England, Charles Calvert, by Closterman

Religious toleration in London was, not surprisingly, an attraction for Italian musicians-upon his departure from Italy, Cosimi was assured that he would be able to attend mass in the chapel of the Portuguese Ambassador.

Godfrey Kneller’s painting/mezzotint, is dedicated to Baltimore. According to  Charles Burney, Cosimi appears a young man, ‘despite the immense perruque through which he is peeping.’

The Latin verses appear to have been cannibilised from a number of sources:

‘This is the Roman, gentle-born Cosimi….not to be imitated, whose soothing melodies might have been claimed by Amphon himself.’