Billoni [Biyoni, Billonij, Villoni, Vioni], Santiago
- Drew Edward Davies
(b Rome, c1700; d Mexico, c1763). Composer and violinist of Italian birth active in New Spain. The first Italian named chapelmaster of a cathedral in New Spain (colonial Mexico), Billoni wrote music notable for its virtuosic violin parts and chromaticism.
The continuo part to Billoni’s cantada Obedeciendo a leyes/¿Podrá la influencia?, a contrafactum of his Divina madre/¿Podrás sin ternura?, identifies the composer as Roman, a characterization substantiated by his musical style. Likely related to the Biglioni family of instrument makers in early 18th-century Rome, Billoni seems to have left Europe in the mid-1730s for New Spain. From the record of Billoni’s marriage to María Ramírez de Cartagena conserved at Guadalajara Cathedral, Mexico, it is known that Billoni was the legitimate son of Santiago Billoni, originally of Turin, and Anna Maria Gies of Lucerne. (“Santiago” may be a variant of the Italian “Giacomo” in Spanish language documents.) He served as violinist at Guadalajara Cathedral between ...