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 "troop" of musicians who played regularly for festivities at the Governor’s Palace and other sites in the area.[2] He caught the attention of Thomas Jefferson, then a student at the College of William & Mary, who employed Alberti as a violin tutor.[3] Alberti is also said to have tutored the future Mrs. Jefferson, Martha Wayles Skelton, on the harpsichord.[4]

Once established at Monticello, Jefferson prevailed upon Alberti to relocate himself there as well. At Monticello, Alberti continued to tutor Jefferson, his wife, Martha, and other members of the Monticello household; Alberti also taught dancing to other nearby residents, including James Madison.[5]

Even after hearing some of the finest musicians and composers of the day during his years in Europe, Jefferson 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.”[6]

Little more is known of Alberti. On August 5, 1785, a friend in Richmond wrote to Jefferson, "By the bye old Alberti died and was interrd last night here. He was one of a Band of musick to whom I have subscribed tho never heard them, at all; they surpass in execution, hardly the Jews Harp and Banjer performers."[7]

Primary Source References

1768 Jan. 31. "Pd. a negro of Chr. Clarke's for Alberti 2/6."[8]

1769 March 10. "Mem. I am to pay Dav. Ross for Will. Prior at the April Gen. Court £10 for Alberti."[9]

1771 Nov. 30. "Pd. Sr. Alberti for tooth pick case 5/."[10]

1772 Mar. 20. "Sent do. [Mr. Moore] to pay off exn. v. Albert £6."[11]

1774 May 4. "Accepted Francis Alberti's order in favour of Saml. Taliaferro for £63-14-4."[12]

1777 Mar. 19. "See Pet. Feild Trent's acct. rendered me by George Divers money paid & goods delivered to following persons & charged to me....1774. Sep. 17. Francis Alberti 2-10-0. Some of which are already settled in account with those persons, the others must be carried into account."[13]

Footnotes

  1. This article is based on June King, Monticello Research Report, January 2010.
  2. According to John W. Molnar in his article, "Art Music in Colonial Virginia," this was "almost certainly the Hallam Douglass company." In Art and Music in the South, ed. Francis B. Simkins (Farmville, Va.: Longwood University, 1961), 80.
  3. MB, 1:70.
  4. Randall, Life, 1:132. Text available online.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Nicholas Trist Memorandum, quoted in Randall, Life, 1:131.
  7. James Currie to Jefferson, Richmond, August 5, 1785, in PTJ, 8:342.
  8. MB, 1:70. (See also extensive editorial note accompanying this entry.)
  9. Ibid., 1:139.
  10. Ibid., 1:264.
  11. Ibid., 1:287.
  12. Ibid., 1:373.
  13. Ibid., 1:440-1.