Tune in every day at 1PM to hear a complete chamber work by the Italian composer. Only on Classic 107!
Born January 6th, 1856 in Capua, Italy, Giuseppe Martucci was a composer, conductor, pianist and teacher.
As a composer and teacher he was influential in reviving Italian interest in non-operatic music. As a conductor he helped to introduce Wagner's operas to Italy and also gave important early concerts of English music there.
He learned the basics of music from his father, Gaetano, who played the trumpet. A child prodigy, he played in public on the piano when only eight years old. From the age of 11, he was a student at the Naples Conservatory, on the recommendation of professor Beniamino Cesi, the latter being a former student of Sigismond Thalberg. From Paolo Serrao, Martucci acquired his initial training in composition; his own composition students later on, when he worked and taught at Bologna, included Ottorino Respighi.
Martucci's career as an international pianist commenced with a tour through Germany, France and England in 1875, at the age of 19. He was appointed piano professor at the Naples Conservatory in 1880, and moved to Bologna in 1886, replacing Luigi Mancinelli there; in 1902 he returned for the last time to Naples, as director of the Royal Conservatory of Music.
It was in 1881 that Martucci made his first conducting appearance. One of the earliest Italian musicians to admire Wagner, Martucci introduced some of Wagner's output to Italy. He led, for example, the first Italian performance of Tristan und Isolde in 1888 in Bologna. Nor did his enthusiasm for foreign composers end with Wagner's work. As well as performing Charles Villiers Stanford's 3rd ("Irish") Symphony in Bologna in 1898, he also conducted perhaps the only concert of all-British orchestral music on the European continent in the whole period 1851–1900. What is more, he included music by Brahms, Lalo, Goldmark and others in his programs.
Martucci began as a composer at the age of 16, with short piano works. He wrote no operas, which was unusual among Italian composers of his generation, but instead concentrated on instrumental music and songs, producing also an oratorio, Samuel.
He died in Naples in 1909. His son Paolo, born in Naples in 1883, also became a pianist of note, briefly teaching at the Cincinnati Conservatory.
Martucci was championed by Arturo Toscanini during much of the latter's career. The NBC Symphony Orchestra performed a number of Martucci's orchestral works in 1938, 1940, 1941, 1946, and 1953; although the performances were preserved on transcription discs, none was approved for commercial release by Toscanini. All of these performances have been given unofficial release in recent years, on LP as well as CD format. NBC musical director Samuel Chotzinoff, in his 1956 book "Toscanini--An Intimate Portrait", said that every time the Maestro proposed scheduling Martucci's works, certain orchestra members and NBC authorities objected; but the conductor was not to be deterred. Some Toscanini biographers (including Mortimer Frank and Harvey Sachs) have questioned the merit of the compositions, speculating that Toscanini may have performed them out of a sense of duty.
Gian Francesco Malipiero said of Martucci's second symphony that it was "the beginning of the rebirth of non-operatic Italian music." Martucci was an instrumentalist pur sang, taking 'absolute music' as his highest goal.
In 1989 Francesco D'Avalos tried to start a revival of Martucci's music by recording four CDs with major works including the two piano concertos, two symphonies, and La canzone dei ricordi. These discs were distributed by ASV Records and later by Brilliant Classics.
In 2009, to mark the centenary of Martucci's death, Naxos Records released a series of CDs devoted to his orchestral music, featuring the Symphony Orchestra of Rome conducted by Francesco La Vecchia. In 2011 Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra featured Martucci's Nocturne, Op. 70, No. 1 during the orchestra's tour of Europe.