Emilia Giuliani (1813 – 1850) was an Italian composer and guitarist and the daughter of the celebrated guitarist-composer Mauro Giuliani.
Emilia began to play the guitar at a very young age, under the instruction of her father. Unfortunately they were not together long. Emilia played a debut concert with her father in Naples in 1828, only fifteen years old. Mauro died the next year.
After she married her husband, Luigi Guglielmi—an aspiring opera composer—she toured all around Europe to success. However, on tour in Hungary she became ill with fever and died at the young age of 37.
The most well-known works of Emilia have been her 6 Preludes, Op. 46, and up until recently the rest of her works were mostly unknown. However, thanks to new editions and discoveries by Robert Coldwell there are many other pieces, almost all of which are “potpourris” on themes from the operas of Bellini. When Emilia began to publish new pieces on the works of Bellini with Italian publisher Ricordi, the publisher thought they could capitalize on the comparison of Emilia’s “Belliniana” with her father’s famous (and successful) “Rossiniana.” While it is true these pieces did meet with some success at the time, unfortunately the popularity of the guitar was also beginning to wane during this time.
In addition, Emilia’s music was quite different from her father’s in many ways. While the works of her father Mauro were shaped by late classical harmony, Emilia’s work was much more adventurous. Emilia’s works confidently embraced dissonance, chromaticism, and other new techniques. For instance, Bellini’s music contained long sung notes, something very difficult for the guitar to emulate. Emilia created a tremolo-like technique to mimic the effect of these longer held notes.
A new edition of Emilia’s complete works was published by DGA in 2013 thanks to the work of Nicoletta Confalone, Robert Coldwell, and assistance from Thomas Heck (the great biographer of Mauro Giuliani). Included with this edition is a new complete biography of Emilia as well. If you are interested in learning more you can purchase the DGA edition and biography here.
Learn more about Emilia Giuliani-Guglielmi in our Emilia Giuliani Composer Showcase here.