in: News & Features

March 20, 2012

Where Did Trajetta Go?


Filippo Trajetta, newly arrived in Boston from Italy, was one of the three founders, with Gottlieb Graupner from Germany and François Delochaire Mallet from France, of Boston’s first “Conservatorio of Music” in 1800. Located on Boston’s Rowe’s Lane, the new institution experienced a setback in mid-1801, when Filippo Trajetta, at the age of 24, left Boston to continue his musical pursuits in the other leading music centers of the time in the United States: Charleston, New York City, and Philadelphia. This, the third and final article on the founding of the Conservatorio and the careers of these three men, focuses on Trajetta.

Why Trajetta left the American Conservatorio of Boston in 1801, less than a year after the institution was established, is a question that begs an answer. Trajetta left no writings; and no other known sources give an explanation. With impeccable Old World musical credentials, Trajetta was well prepared for a career in music in his adopted country. Seven months after he disembarked from the Mount Vernon and stepped on American soil, on February 9, 1801, his first published composition, The Sailor, was published by The Musical Journal for the Piano Forte, Baltimore, Maryland; it was popular and in print as late as 1805. (Why it was published in Baltimore, when he reportedly was still living in Boston, is not known.)

His sojourn of about eight years in Charleston proved to be a time of great creativity and professional accomplishments for the newly arrived immigrant musician. There he found a welcoming city with a rich history of early music appreciation. The St. Cecilia Society of Charleston, known as the oldest musical institution in North America, had been founded in 1762 by some of the original blue bloods — a group of gentlemen amateur musicians who enjoyed gathering together and playing in the orchestral ensemble. In later years it was reinforced by professional musicians who were recruited in newspapers of New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. Trajetta was a skilled violinist with impeccable Old World musical credentials, and was possibly a fellow of the St. Cecilia Society. (Perhaps founded on Masonic principles, the Society’s records have remained closed to the public.)

Trajetta was soon known in Charleston as a professor of music, vocal and instrumental performer, composer, conductor and poet. A contemporary newspaper announcement gives a glimpse of the Charleston music scene: “Mr Fil. Trajetta, From Italy, Composer and Master of Music … singing in the Italian, French and English Languages, and the Piano Forte…” A concert given at the City Theatre on January 12, 1802 included Trajetta’s composition Canzonetta Veneziana, with Trajetta on the Piano Forte accompanying the singer. Trajetta also performed the noted “Scena di Berenice” from the opera Lucio Vero — the last opera composed by Filippo’s father, Tommaso, for the Russian Court, in 1774, three years before Filippo was born.

His Sinfonia Concertata, composed in 1803 and performed at St. Cecilia Concert Room on February 26, 1805, was said to be the best symphonic work composed on American soil near the beginning of the 19th century. The hypothesis that Filippo Trajetta’s Tre Quartetti Concertati are works he also composed while in Charleston would attribute these compositions by him as the first of that genre composed on American soil. His 1803 collection of poems, Delle Poesia was written in Charleston, as was his comic opera Harlequin’s Triumph in War and in Love. (The opera The Venetian Maskers, attributed to Filippo Trajetta and referred to as the “first American opera” may be another title for his “Harlequin” opera.)

The date of his departure from Charleston also is unknown. On June 23, 1809, a concert of vocal and instrumental music was advertised for presentation at Vauxhall Gardens, Charleston’s elegant dining and concert venue. The concert included one of Trajetta’s “French Songs,” Avec l’object de mon amour, for which he had accompanied the vocalist. About a month later, the same French song was included in the Vauxhall Gardens program of July 18, 1809, for which he was listed in the program as “composer,” with no listing that he accompanied the singer, which may indicate that he had already departed from Charleston.

Notwithstanding the actual date, Trajetta made his way to another leading music center in the United States, New York City, where an “unusual remnant” of the Vauxhall Concerts, the “new song” Tid Re I, would follow in his tracks by way of an article in Ramblers’ Magazine, a New York publication. On February 4, 1810, the Boston Mirror published an edited reprint of the Ramblers’ article — a favorable commentary on Filippo Trajetta and his new presence in New York’s musical scene. One may imagine that Messrs. Mallet and Graupner, as well as the Bostonian supporters of the old Conservatorio, would have read the article.

Trajetta's Preludes, published in Philadelphia in 1857 (Courtesy of the Boston Public Library)

During the second decade of the 19th century, while his former Boston partners were involved in their musical pursuits — particularly Graupner, who achieved important musical accomplishments with the Philharmonic Society and the Handel and Haydn Society, Trajetta was making his mark in New York’s vibrant musical life. On January 22, 1810, before an audience seated in the Great Room of the City Hotel — the most important concert venue in New York City —Trajetta premiered his two-act comic opera, Harlequin’s Triumph in War and in Love. For the first time in his musical life, he presented himself as librettist, composer, performer and manager. He also was involved in a variety of benefit concerts presented by New York charitable organizations, such as the Orphan Asylum and the Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children. One such concert was presented by the Euterpian Society to benefit the victims of a catastrophic fire in Charleston; Trajetta volunteered his services, no doubt aware that his former colleagues and friends were sadly in distress.

In commemoration of the happy restoration of peace at the end of the War of l812, Trajetta composed Jubilate, Peace, presented in the Grand Oratorio on February 21, 1815 by the Handelian Society; “Leader of the Band, Mr. Trajetta.” The event, in Dr. Romeyn’s Church, was held for the benefit of the Orphan Asylum and the Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children. The Evening Post, March 6, 1815, published a Communication: “… Never since the appearance of Handel in London, has a man of musical genius possessed such an opportunity of improving the taste for sacred music in any country, as is now presented to Signor Trajetta in this. Whether we consider him as a composer, a teacher, a leader or a singer, we are constrained to yield him the most the most [sic] decided approbation.”

As a music educator in New York, Trajetta reached an important milestone, one that had its roots in Boston. With Uri Keeler Hill, a former pupil of his, he was instrumental in establishing the American Conservatorio of New York. The founding date of this institution may be as early as 1812, if one accepts the information in the title page of the published song Lovely Maid, Song or Duetto with an Accompaniment for the Piano Forte, Composed by Phil Trajetta for the American Conservatorio of New York, A.D. 1812, Words by U.K. Hill. This song was performed as a duetto in the program of the first Concert and Ball of the Philharmonic Society, presented at Washington Hall, New York, on November 4, 1813.

Counter to information that the American Conservatorio of New York was established in 1820 are newspaper notices, which confirm that the institution was viable prior to 1820:

• One of August 9, 1817, advised that concert tickets were for sale “at the Conservatory, No. 8 Ross’s Buldings, Fulton Street” for U. K. Hill’s Oratorio concert of August 13, 1817—Leader, Mr. Trajetta.

• The “Second Oratorio to be given by the American Conservatorio…” advertised on October 7, 1818, included one composition by U. K. Hill, and 10 compositions by Trajetta.

• An “Opinion” item in the Albany Gazette, September 27, 1817, informed the readers that “the principal performers of the American Conservatorio in the City of New York…propose giving a Concert [in Albany].”

An unexpected revelation was also mentioned in this item: The Albany resident who was offering the public subscription for this remarkable concert was “Mr. Mallet,” the same Mr. Mallet who had departed from Boston following the dissolution of the Jackson-Graupner-Mallet partnership. The following is an excerpt of Mallet’s “introductory advertisement” in Albany:

Mr. Mallet,

Professor of Vocal and Instrumental Music

Respectfully acquaints the Ladies and Gentlemen of Albany, and its vicinity, that by the invitation of several of his friends, he is induced to establish his residence in this city. From long experience in the practice of his profession, and by strict assiduity to the speedy improvement of Pupils trusted in his care, he hopes to give a general satisfaction…March 30th, 1813.

In view of this announcement, one may presume that Trajetta was among the friends whose invitation prompted Mallet to settle in Albany. It is possible that the two former partners of the old American Conservatorio of Boston had been communicating with one another after Trajetta left Boston for Charleston in 1801. The generational gap in their ages — about 27 years — may support the notion that a father-son relationship may have developed in the early Conservatorio period, when Trajetta was about 23 years of age.

Trajetta’s popular song, The Sailor, (published in Baltimore in 1801, when he was still in Boston), was ordered by F. Mallet’s, Boston,” where it was for sale during 1803-1805, a period when Mallet was on his own. (He had severed his business partnerships with Graupner in 1802.) Now, in Albany, and nearing his seventh decade of age, Mallet found his way once more, as a teacher, performer and concert producer featuring performers of the American Conservatorio of New York, as well as his own talented children, now nearing, or having reached maturity.

Detail from Trajetta's Preludes

The principle that family life is integral to one’s musical life—a practice known to the Mallets and to the Graupners—eventually applied to Trajetta when he was an early arrival to the New York musical scene. Perhaps through his volunteering for concerts that benefited New York charitable organizations, such as the Orphan Asylum, Phil Trajetta became aware of a children’s theatre company, which presented very young children in performances as singers, actors and dancers; the majority of the children were orphans. It is possible that Trajetta gave singing lessons to one of the children known as Miss Eliza, who may have demonstrated a unique singing talent. Eventually, Trajetta brought the child along under his tutelage and protection, to her age of maturity; she was soon known as “The celebrated singer…possessing vocal powers equal, if not superior to any other in the United States”… asMiss Trajetta.”

After about eight years of professional and personal achievements in New York City’s vigorous musical scene, including about five years of success with the American Conservatorio of New York, Trajetta, in 1817, faced new challenges beyond the City of New York. Perhaps based on what would be in Eliza’s best interests, he made the decision to return to the South where he had prospered in the early years of the 19th century. Would the genteel and gracious Southern audiences appreciate and support Eliza and her musical talents, as they had supported Filippo in his youth about two decades earlier?

In 1817, he and Eliza left the cosmopolitan city of New York to settle in bucolic Alexandria, Virginia, where Eliza was known not only as a singer, but also as a performer with a troupe of actors. Within eight months, on September 19, 1818, the talented Eliza married Jackson Gray in Raleigh, North Carolina. As Mrs. Gray, Eliza performed regularly. An appearance in Charleston in 1824 garnered the following accolade: “Mrs. Gray’s singing penetrated to the heart and seemed almost to transport us into Elysian regions.”

Near the end of the year 1817, Francis Mallet also made an important decision that would affect his family: a move to Quebec, Canada, where he settled as a Professor of Music for about five years, after which he returned with his family to Albany in late 1822. In his newspaper advertisement of November 26, Mr. Mallet noted his teaching of vocal and instrumental music, and added a new skill: “Instructor of scholars in the French Language.” Within two years, Mallet and his family left Albany and returned to Boston, after an absence of about 11 years.

It has been written that during the years 1826-1827, Trajetta “lived secluded and quiet in the mountains of Virginia.” It has also been written that during this period he enjoyed the friendship of ex-Presidents James Madison and James Monroe. Although there is no known evidence to confirm that the presidents and Trajetta had crossed paths, one can imagine conversations they might have had. President Monroe would have recalled the grand concert given in his honor in 1817, during his visit to Boston, where in 1800 the Italian immigrant musician began his musical life in his adopted country. President Monroe and Trajetta might have discussed their experiences at Vauxhall Gardens, the delightful dining and concert venue in Charleston, where the President had visited in 1819, and where Trajetta had performed in concerts in the first decade of the 19th century.

Trajetta’s seclusion in the mountains of Virginia would be interrupted by his former associate, Uri K. Hill, who suggested that Trajetta join him in Philadelphia to rekindle the successful collaboration which they had had in New York City. Hill had resided in Philadelphia since 1822 and, as a music teacher, probably realized the potential of establishing a music school there that would emulate the American Conservatorio of New York, the institution he had founded with Trajetta more than a decade earlier. Trajetta agreed, and by 1828 Messrs. Hill and Trajetta established the American Conservatorio of Philadelphia, the third American Conservatorio which Trajetta was instrumental in creating, and one which would remain active for more than 20 years. Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, would be his permanent home for more than 25 years — to the end of his life.

In 1828, Trajetta composed “the earliest oratorios known to have been composed in America”—Jerusalem in Affliction, and, a year later, The Daughter of Zion. The first presentation of the latter took place on February 10, 1829, and was performed by members and pupils of the American Conservatorio of Philadelphia. The event was held at the Salon of the Musical Fund Society and marked the official debut in the city of Trajetta as composer and conductor. (Two more performances of this work took place in April and again in March 1830.) Also in 1829, Trajetta wrote An Introduction to the Art and Science of Music, written for the American Conservatorio of Philadelphia. Two amended editions of this work were published posthumously in 1860 and 1873, in Philadelphia.

Trajetta’s friend and collaborator, Uri K. Hill, died in 1844 and, perhaps an homage, the song Lovely Maid was reissued in Philadelphia. Hill had written the words of the song, and Trajetta the music, which was composed in 1812 for the American Conservatorio of New York. On November 4, 1813, the song, Lovely Maid, had been featured as a Duetto in the First Concert and Ball of the Philharmonic Society (of New York). About 30 years later, on December 7, 1842, Hill’s son, Ureli Corelli Hill, raised his baton as the first conductor (and first president) of the New York Philharmonic,  the orchestra as we know it today.  This historic moment probably was one of fatherly pride for Uri K. Hill — family life is integral to one’s musical life. Uri Keeler Hill passed away on November 9, 1844, at Philadelphia.

For a few years following Hill’s death, Trajetta continued conducting the orchestra and leading the chorus of the American Conservatorio of Philadelphia. During his final years, in his seventh decade of age, the dedicated music educator curtailed his professional activities, instead allowing visits from a few pupils. On January 9, 1854, Filippo (Phil) Trajetta, Master, Maestro of the Art of Music, died at Philadelphia, age 77 years.

In their afterlife, all three founders of the American Conservatorio of Boston, Messrs. Mallet, Graupner and Trajetta, shared an unusual experience. Due to unforeseen circumstances, their grave sites were disturbed and their remains were removed and placed in other locations. Francis Mallet was buried in Tomb 34 at the Old North Church at Boston—the church made famous for its role in signaling Paul Revere’s important Midnight Ride of 1775. When it became necessary to “sweep” the tombs at Old North to make room for more burials, Mallet’s remains were removed and, sadly, no known records indicate where the “Aged Oak,” Francis Mallet rests.

Gottlieb Graupner was buried at St. Matthew’s Church, South Boston. The church was demolished in 1866, thus necessitating the transfer of Mr. Graupner’s remains, with other family remains, to Mt. Hope Cemetery, West Roxbury.

Filippo (Phil) Trajetta was buried in Section 5, Lot 52, at the Odd Fellows Cemetery in Philadelphia. In 1951, in preparation for a housing development, the City of Philadelphia acquired the Odd Fellows Cemetery site and, in the process, 65,000 bodies, including Trajetta’s, were exhumed and transferred to Lawnview Cemetery in Rockledge, Pennsylvania. Sadly, the records of Lawnview Cemetery do not confirm the location of Trajetta’s final resting-place.

By coincidence, the Conservatory Hall in Rowe’s Lane also was a victim of being disturbed and transferred to another location. Known by several names with a progression of street name changes, the hall played an important role early in the cultural and musical life of Boston. Built in 1795 and described as “capacious and elegant,” the hall was first used by Mr. Duport, the Dance Master, who taught an extensive assortment of figures…lately received from Paristo the Ladies and Gentlemen of Boston. Duport also held Cotillions and Balls at his hall in Rowe’s Lane. Beginning in 1800, when Messrs. Mallet, Graupner and Trajetta acquired the hall, it was named Conservatory Hall, the venue for music lessons and concerts of the American Conservatorio of Boston; later, known as Concert Hall and Pythian Hall, it was the venue for concerts of the Philharmonic Society and the Handel and Haydn Society of Boston. The date is not confirmed when Pythian Hall in Pond Street was moved to South Boston, corner of C and Fourth Streets, where it was raised up a story and used as a tenement house. At any event, the building has long since been torn down. There are no known images of “the little hall” in Rowe’s Lane. However, an effort is being spearheaded to have a plaque installed at the location, to remind passersby that this area, once one of the most elegant, treed residential areas of Boston, rang with classical music.

Ed: the information in the introductory summary to the second article (Dec. 2, 2011), that Trajetta made a a brief return visit to Boston, is incorrect. He is not known to have returned to the city.

Teresa F. Mazzulli is a second-generation Bostonian who in retirement discovered a passion for researching “overlooked” pages in Boston’s rich history, an interest she developed as a Doric Docent guide at the Massachusetts State House.

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