Alfredo Campoli (20 October 1906 – 27 March 1991) was an Italian-born British violinist, often known simply as Campoli. He was noted for the beauty of the tone he produced from the violin. Campoli spent his childhood and much of his career in England.
Campoli was born in Rome in 1906 where his father was leader of the orchestra at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia, taught the violin and was Alfredo’s first teacher. His mother was a dramatic soprano who had toured with Scotti and Caruso, but a retired performer at the time of Campoli's birth. His family moved to England in 1911, and 5 years later Campoli was already giving public concerts. In 1919, he did enter the London Music Festival and won the gold medal for his performance of the Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. Campoli made his professional debut in a recital at the Wigmore Hall in 1923. He toured with such singers as Dame Nellie Melba and Dame Clara Butt.
Although he appeared in the standard repertoire with symphony orchestras, during the depression there was little demand for a soloist and Campoli formed his Salon Orchestra and the Welbeck Light Quartet playing at restaurants in London, and other such venues. He appeared at a Prom concert in 1938. During World War II he gave numerous concerts for Allied troops. After the war, he had extended tours of Europe, Southeast Asia, New Zealand, and Australia, and continued his work with the BBC, eventually achieving over 1,000 radio broadcasts. He made his American debut in 1953, playing Lalo's Symphonie espagnole with the New York Philharmonic under George Szell. In 1955 he gave the first performance of Sir Arthur Bliss's Violin Concerto, which was written for him. In 1956 he twice toured the Soviet Union.
Campoli owned two Stradivarius violins, the Baillot-Pommerau of 1694 and the Dragonetti of 1700 (see also List of Stradivarius instruments). However, it was his 1843 Rocca that he used predominantly, the Dragonetti being housed in the bank for security.
He considered the phrasing of each passage he played and if he could achieve ‘bel canto’ by shortening or lengthening a note then he would do so. He was not afraid to lift the bow from the strings, an act that seems to be completely avoided today. Brief breaks of sound can add tremendous drama and power to a performance, even when not indicated by the composer.
Campoli's recorded legacy was enormous, including a renowned recording of Elgar’s Violin Concerto in B minor. Previously unpublished recordings, including material recorded at Campoli's home, are referred to on Brightcecilia Classical Music Forums. At the beginning of the 1960s, Campoli was living in Southgate, London. In 1961, a private recording of him playing the Beethoven concerto with the Hayes Orchestra (Bromley, Kent) was made by his friend Geoffrey Terry. There is also a recording by Terry of Campoli in rehearsal with British pianist Peter Katin (with whom he had earlier formed a duo), Daphne Ibbott and Valerie Tryon. Terry promoted and recorded Campoli's last Queen Elizabeth Hall recital, and a 1963 recital of Mozart and Beethoven by Campoli and Katin at Croydon. Two sonatas from that recital had been released together with a Brahms sonata, recorded 1973 by the same duo in Alfredo Campoli’s Southgate home. The sound in such an environment is quite different from that in a concert hall. It is intimate, and this recording provides an historic document of the great maestro in his own home.
Campoli appeared in a number of films.
Campoli was also a keen bridge player, and died just before a game at the Bridge Club in Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire, a few miles from his home in Thame, Oxfordshire. His archives are kept at Cambridge University Library.
A blue plaque dedicated to him was unveiled at 39 North Street, his home in Thame, 14 April 2011.
- New York Times obit, 30 March 1991
- Tunley, David (1999). The bel canto violin: the life and times of Alfredo Campoli, 1906-1991. Ashgate. ISBN 978-0-7546-0042-8.(Google Books snippet view) pp. 03 & 120
- "Alfredo Campoli & Peter Katin play Mozart, Beethoven & Brahms". Geoffrey Terry. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
- Oxfordshire Blue Plaques