Leonardo Leo (1714-1774)
Leonardo Leo’s influential roles as a teacher, composer, organist, and maestro di cappella all centered around Naples. Having studied at the Pietà dei Turchini, he later returned there to teach, eventually succeeding his own mentor Nicola Fago as primo maestro in 1741. He held that position until his death. During these same years, he was primo maestro at the Sant’Onofrio Conservatory where he taught such notable composers as Nicolò Jommelli and Nicola Piccinni. His service in the Real Cappella di Napoli began in 1725 when he assumed the position of first organist following the death of Alessandro Scarlatti. Gradually, Leo rose through the ranks of this most prestigious musical organization and finally assumed the role of primo maestro just a few months before his death.
As with most of his contemporaries, Leo achieved fame primarily for his operas. These works not only received performances in major Italian locales but also in several foreign cities such as Dresden, London, Madrid, and Paris. Closely following opera was Leo’s reputation for sacred music composition. He composed more than seventy liturgical works, including at least eight Dixit Dominus settings, eight sacred dramas or oratorios, six Masses, five Miserere settings, two Magnificats, and a Te Deum.