Francis Alberti

From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

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Francis (Francesco) Alberti ( ? – 1785) was a musician from Faenza, Italy.[1] He came to the colonial capitol of Williamsburg with a troupe of musicians who played regularly for festivities at the Governor’s Palace and other sites in the area. He caught the attention of Thomas Jefferson, then a student at the College of William & Mary, who employed Alberti as a violin tutor.[2] Alberti also tutored the future Mrs. Jefferson, Martha Wayles Skelton, in piano. (Malone, Jefferson the Virginian, p. 159)

Once out of school and established at Monticello, TJ invited Alberti to visit him there, where Alberti continued to tutor Jefferson, his wife, Martha, and other members of the Monticello household. (3. Salgo, Thomas Jefferson, Musician and Violinist, p. 10) Alberti even gave a dancing lesson or two to James Madison. (4. See “Monticello Neighborhood,” online Jefferson Encyclopedia)

Jefferson’s passion for learning to play the violin was so great that, according to his own account, he practiced “no less than three hours a day.” ( 5. Salgo, Ibid., p. 11) As enthralled as he was with music, he played little in his later years, having broken his right hand while in Paris in 1786. (6. Ibid., p. 29)

Even after hearing some of the finest musicians and composers of the day during his years in Europe, TJ still retained a fondness for Alberti. He told Nicholas Trist that he had heard the great violinist Viotti many times, but “never derived the same pleasure from him that I have from Alberti.” (7. Randall, H.S., Life of Thomas Jefferson, 1:131)

Little more is known of Alberti, who died and was interred in Richmond, Virginia, in 1785.

Footnotes

  1. This article is based on June King, Monticello Research Report, January 2010.
  2. MB, 1:70.