Gaetano Pugnani was born in Turin. He trained on the violin under Giovanni Battista Somis, founder of the Piedmontese school of violin playing. In 1752, Pugnani became the first violinist of the Royal Chapel of Turin. Then he went on a large tour that granted him great fame for his extraordinary skill on the violin. In 1754, he was very well received at the Concert Spirituel in Paris, but in 1768 he had an even more successful musical encounter in London, directing the King's Theatre from 1767 to 1769.
In 1770, Pugnani returned home to Turin and became the director of the Royal Chapel. His fame as a composer began to grow, but it would never equal his fame as a violinist. During this time, he also taught the violin. His most famous pupil was Giovanni Battista Viotti; from 1780 to 1782 they performed in Switzerland, Dresden, Warsaw and St. Petersburg. Pugnani died in Turin.
Fritz Kreisler borrowed Pugnani's name in order to publish some of his pieces (such as Praeludium and Allegro and Tempo di Minuetto), but in 1935 Kreisler revealed that these works were actually his own.
^ abcWarwick Lister, Amico: The Life of Giovanni Battista Viotti (Oxford University Press, 2009).
^In the libretto of his opera Demetrio a Rodi (1789) he is mentioned as Maestro Gaetano Pugnani, primo Violino, e primo Virtuoso di Camera di S.M., Direttore generale della Musica instrumentale della Regia Cappella, e Camera, e della Musica militare.