At the age of thirteen, in 1910, Mainardi had already begun his career as a cello virtuoso who toured the concert halls of Europe. He later taught at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin and the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, and also held summer classes in Salzburg and Lucerne. Pupils of his who later became distinguished included Siegfried Palm, Miklós Perényi, Michael Steinkühler, Heidi Litschauer, Erkki Rautio and Joan Dickson.
Together with the pianist Edwin Fischer and the violinist Georg Kulenkampff (whose place was later taken by Wolfgang Schneiderhan), Mainardi formed a famous piano trio. In 1967, he also founded a trio with the pianist Guido Agosti and the flutist Severino Gazzelloni.
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