Riccardo Brengola, Siena
|Died||16 May 2004 (aged 87)|
|Awards||Winner – Geneva Violin Competition|
Riccardo Brengola was born in Naples on 18 March 1917, to his father Carlo and his mother Maria Esposito. His father was a cellist, who also had a passion for lutherie, but the extremely harsh economic conditions in the immediate post war period pushed him to emigrate with his wife and son to Casablanca, Morocco in 1919. It was here that he opened a music shop that sold instruments, sheet music and albums. When Riccardo turned three his father Carlo decided to make him a violinist, by teaching and making him his first instrument. Riccardo was talented and the paternal teachings soon allowed him to perform Arabic music in public. At the age of six he was enrolled in the Casablanca Music Conservatory, where he was taught by Lucien Salin, who graduated from the Lucien Capet school. Meanwhile, Riccardo also attended a Spanish primary school where he was made to learn his fourth language. At this point in his life he spoke Spanish, French, Arabic, and the Neapolitan dialect, though he still did not speak Italian. At eleven he graduated from the Conservatory and in 1929 Mussolini offered him a bursary in Italy, which allowed him to move to Rome where he joined the Arrigo Serato School. A few years later he graduated from the renowned Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome and the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena. The latter was founded in 1932 by Count Guido Chigi Saracini, a great patron of Italian music. Thanks to his extraordinary foresight and generosity the new institution quickly became an essential landmark of international music. Brengola took part in numerous competitions and won prestigious prizes and titles, amongst which was the one in Taormina that includes all the national review winners of the Niccolò Paganini prize, as well as the Accademia Chigiana prize for improvement. In 1937 he was the only Italian amongst the winners of the First International Music Competition in Geneva.
Meanwhile, in 1938 he met the pianist Giuliana Bordoni in Siena, a student of the Alfredo Casella perfecting course at the Accademia Chigiana. At the time she was 18, and he was 21. They married in the summer of 1941 at the headquarters of the Accademia Chigiana: the Palazzo Chigi Saracini chapel. Their marriage lasted almost 60 years, and three children were born. They formed a stable duo, which received notable acknowledgements during numerous concerts across Italy and abroad, and they recorded the entirety of the Mozart Sonatas for the Radio Televisione Italiana. In 1939 Count Chigi decided to create a new chamber music group called Quintetto Chigiano, which was formed by choosing some of the best students of the Accademia: Riccardo Brengola, first violin and Ferruccio Scaglia, second violin (later Mario Benvenuti and Angelo Stefanato); Giovanni Leone, viola; Lino Filippini, cello; Sergio Lorenzi, piano. In a few years the Quintetto conquered international fame, touring the world, while being recognized as one of the best bands. Despite these performances, Brengola never stopped performing solo and conducting alongside his chamber music activity. These practices were disciplines he undertook after studying the Paul van Kempen course at the Chigiana. In 1941 he was appointed head teacher for exceptional merits at the Music Conservatory of Pesaro. He would then teach, in turn, at the conservatories in Venice, Bologna, Naples and Rome. In 1946 Count Chigi selected him as course director of the ensemble music course at the Accademia Chigiana, where he would teach until 1997. In 1966, the year after Guido Chigi’s death, the Quintetto became the Sestetto Chigiano d’Archi: this was composed of, alongside Brengola, Giovanni Guglielmo (second violin), Mario Benvenuti e Tito Riccardi (violas), Alain Meunier and Adriano Vendramelli (cellos). Brengola taught chamber music for many years, facilitating training courses at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome, where he was an academic and a member of the Board of Directors. He taught courses and seminars in the most prestigious music institutes in the world, including those in Buenos Aires, Barcelona, Dublin, and Tokyo. Throughout his career Brengola played numerous violins: most of all the violins of Ansaldo Poggi (luthier from Bologna); the “Contessa Crespi” (1747) by G.B. Guadagnini; the “Conte di Fontana” (1702) by A. Stradivari, previously owned by David Oistrakh; and, in the eighties, an instrument made by Roberto Regazzi, another violin maker from Bologna. His intense concert activity was particularly dedicated to rediscovering the works by Boccherini for piano and violin and for quintet and sextet, also recorded on vinyl, and twentieth century music of which he was one of the first exponents and communicators. He performed, above all, works by Alfano, Mortari, Frazzi, Martucci, Malipiero, Casella, Ferrari, Respighi, Zafred, Lavagnino, Nordio, Busoni, Veretti, Pizzetti, Petrassi, Peragallo, Berio, Ravinale, and many others. Amongst his recordings: the three Brahm’s Sonatas With Pier Narciso Masi at the piano (UNICEF - FC UO 06, May 1982); Boccherini’s Quintets, Bloch, Brahms, Schumann, Shostakovich, Dvorak (Decca, Fifties). Brengola’s tours abroad and the courses at the Chigiana put him in contact with the most renowned musicians of the twentieth century, from Casella to Enescu, Franco Ferrara, Berio, Segovia, Casals, Oistrakh, Milstein, Celibidache, Giulini, Mehta, Gazzelloni, building meaningful friendships with many of them. One of his most authentic passions was teaching (some his students included Salvatore Accardo, Bruno Giuranna, Shoji Sayaka, Uto Ughi and the Tokyo Quintet), to which he remained greatly committed. As Constantin Zanidache, a close collaborator of his for over twenty years at the Accademia Chigiana, wrote: “during his lessons, he was able to create highly intense and emotive atmospheres. His lessons, often very strict, still never failed to make his students fall in love”. Particularly relevant, in addition to his teaching activity at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia and the Accademia Chigiana, was his contribution to the University of Tokyo in Japan in the 1990s. This was also thanks to the mediation and commitment of Shuku Iwasaki, his assistant at the Chigiana, and of Koko Kato, his student and dear friend. It was because of this activity that Brengola established a relationship with the emperor Akihito and the Empress Michiko. In 2003 the Japanese government bestowed upon him the high honor “Ordine del Sol Levante” (The Order of the Rising Sun) to acknowledge his contribution to elevating the standard of classical music in Japan. Other honors that deserve to be mentioned include the title of Commendatore of the Italian Republic, awarded by President Sandro Pertini in 1982, and the honorary citizenship of Siena in 1980. Riccardo Brengola died in Rome on 16 May 2004. In 2017, to mark a century from Riccardo’s birth, the Accademia Chigiana held a concert in his honor in Siena on 10 July, executed by a Quintet formed by Federico Guglielmo and Felice Cusano on violin, Laura Riccardi on viola, Alain Meunier on cello and Anne Le Bozec on piano.
Translated and revised from the article in Italian Wikipedia
- "La Chigiana omaggia un pilastro della propria storia: Riccardo Brengola". Siena News (in Italian). 2017-07-10.