Giovanni Punto

The Bohemian Giovanni Punto (1746-1803), renowned horn virtuoso: first was a serf, then man on the run, a violin virtuoso, concertmaster, orchestra conductor, darling of the public, admired by the great of his day and one of the most dazzling characters among the musicians of the 18th century.

Born in Bohemia as Johann Wenzel Stich, he made a successful escape from serfdom to be celebrated as Giovanni Punto by the European aristocracy, and eventually received a lifelong stipend from the Duke of Artois (later to become King Charles X of France). While this did not prevent him from becoming an ardent supporter of the revolution, it granted him financial independence. With his horn and his characteristic “jovial sense of humour”, Punto travelled the length and breadth of Europe, being passed from one salon to the next. The ladies were enchanted by his charm, Mozart describes his art as “magnifique”, and to his friendship with Beethoven we owe the latter’s only sonata for wind instruments.

In the opinion of Christian Daniel Schubart, Punto was “indisputably the world’s foremost horn player”. Punto himself was obviously well aware of his worth, and others simply called him “le celebré Punto”. The celebrated master died in Prague and was buried in a magnificent ceremony to the sounds of Mozart’s Requiem.

His rich musical oeuvre gave impetus to the formation of a small ensemble, which inspired composers well into the 19th century: the quintet for flute, horn, violin, viola and violoncello.