Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Ruggiero Ricci (July 24, 1918 - August 6, 2012)

I have just read of the death of the great violinist Ruggiero Ricci at the age of 94 years at his home in Palm Springs, California.

Ricci ranked amongst the greatest violinists of his age. Born in San Bruno, California, into a musical family of Italian immigrants he was first taught to play the violin by his father. At age seven, he studied with Louis Persinger and Elizabeth Lackey.

A child prodigy, Ricci gave his first public performance in San Francisco in 1928 at the age of ten, where he played works by Wieniawski and Vieuxtemps. At the age of eleven he gave his first orchestral performance, playing the Mendelssohn concerto and soon after he had his highly successful debut at Carnegie Hall. Ricci later studied in Berlin with Georg Kulenkampff and with Michel Piastro and Paul Stassevich. Ricci found the reputation as a child prodigy difficult, especially when he made the transition to adult performer. He continued with his student practice of scales and exercises in order to ensure that his technique was always as good if not better than other violinists.

In 1947, Ricci was the first violinist to record Paganini’s complete 24 Caprices, Op. 1, in their original form. He also performed the world premieres of pieces by many contemporary composers, including the violin concertos by Gottfried von Einem and Alberto Ginastera.

Ricci taught violin at Indiana University, the Juilliard School and the University of Michigan as well as at the University Mozarteum in Salzburg and held master classes in the United States and Europe.

Ricci owned many valuable instruments, including the Guarneri Del Gesù violin known as the ex-Bronisław Huberman of 1734, a Storioni, and a Luiz Bellini.

Ricci’s career spanned seventy years with over 6,000 concerts in 65 countries. In his recording career he made over 500 recordings.

Vox (available from Amazon www.amazon.co.uk ) have released a five CD box set entitled The Art of Ruggiero Ricci which includes works by Bach, Brahms, Sibelius, Paganini, Wieniawski, Bruch and Lalo.

One of my own favourite Ricci recordings is his Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto recording with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Jean Fournet. This Decca recording is available in two versions (both available from Amazon www.amazon.co.uk), one coupled with the Mendelssohn E minor Violin Concerto

and the other coupled with Viktoria Postnikova’s fine recording of the Tchaikovsky B flat minor Piano Concerto.

Ricci’s Tchaikovsky is a scintillating performance that also has moments of great poetry. I would recommend the Mendelssohn coupling as it gives another memorable Ricci performance.

Ruggiero Ricci may no longer be with us but he has left a legacy of wonderful recordings that later generations can enjoy.

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