Ruggiero Ricci

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Ruggiero Ricci
Bundesarchiv Bild 102-13877, Ruggiero Ricci und Gerhard Hauptmann.jpg
Ricci (middle) with Gerhart Hauptmann in 1932
Born Woodrow Wilson Rich
(1918-07-24)24 July 1918
San Bruno, California
Died 6 August 2012(2012-08-06) (aged 94)
Palm Springs, California
Occupation violinist, pedagogue
Years active 1928–2012

Ruggiero Ricci (24 July 1918 – 6 August 2012) was an American violinist known for performances and recordings of the works of Paganini.[1]


He was born in San Bruno, California, the son of Italian immigrants who first named him Woodrow Wilson Rich. His brother was cellist George Ricci (1923–2010),[2] originally named George Washington Rich . His sister Emma played violin with the New York Metropolitan Opera. His father first taught him to play the violin. At age seven, Ricci studied with Louis Persinger and Elizabeth Lackey. Persinger would become his piano accompanist for many recitals and recordings.

Ricci gave his first public performance in 1928 at the age of 10 in San Francisco where he played works by Wieniawski and Vieuxtemps. He gained a reputation for being a child prodigy.[3] At the age of 11, he gave his first orchestral performance, playing the Mendelssohn concerto,[4] and soon after he had his highly successful debut at Carnegie Hall.[5]

In the 1930s Ricci studied in Berlin with Georg Kulenkampff, where he learned a "German style" of playing in the tradition of Adolf Busch. He also studied with Michel Piastro and Paul Stassevich.

He served in the US Army from 1942 until 1945, where he was an "entertainment specialist".

In 1947, Ricci was the first violinist to record the complete 24 Caprices, Op. 1, by Paganini, in their original form.[N 1] Ricci's first recording was on the Shellac recording label (he later made three other recordings of the Caprices). After his time in the military, he uncovered many pieces by 19th-century composers that he would perform solo. He also performed the world premieres of pieces by many contemporary composers, including the violin concertos by Gottfried von Einem, Carlos Veerhoff and Alberto Ginastera.

Ruggiero Ricci, 1961

Aside from performing over 6,000 concerts in 65 countries during his 70-year solo career, Ricci also made over 500 recordings, on every major label. He taught violin at Indiana University, the Juilliard School and the University of Michigan. He also taught at the University Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria. Ricci held master classes in the United States and Europe. He wrote Left Hand Technique, a pedagogical volume for violin published by G. Schirmer.

Ricci owned many precious instruments, including the Guarneri Del Gesù violin known as the ex-Bronisław Huberman of 1734, a Storioni, a Luiz Bellini, a Curtin & Alf, a David Bague and a couple of Regazzi. He played, on September 18, 1997, his fourth recording of the Paganini Caprices on Paganini's own Guarneri, Il Cannone, on loan to him by the City of Genoa, Italy.

On 6 August 2012, Ruggiero Ricci died of heart failure at his home in Palm Springs, California, aged 94.[6]

Selected performances[edit]

With the aim of showcasing great masterpieces of violin concerto repertoire, Ricci, accompanied by members of the American Symphony Orchestra, performed 15 concertos over a series of four concerts at Lincoln Center's Philharmic Hall, all in a span of 30 days, under a different conductor each time.

  1. 17 November 1964, Gerhard Samuel (1925–2008), conductor
    BachViolin Concerto in E major
    MendelssohnViolin Concerto
    HindemithKammermusik No. 4
    ProkofieffViolin Concerto No. 2
  2. 1 December 1964, Ezra Rachlin, conductor
    MozartViolin Concerto No. 5
    BartókViolin Concerto No. 2
    TchaikovskyViolin Concerto
  3. 8 December 1964, Jacques Singer, conductor
    PaganiniViolin Concerto No. 1
    StravinskyViolin Concerto
    BrahmsViolin Concerto
  4. 16 December 1964, Igor Buketoff, conductor
    VivaldiFour Seasons (counts as 4 concertos)
    BeethovenViolin Concerto[7][8]

Ricci reunited with Singer in Portland with the Oregon Symphony, and performed the Paganini, Stravinsky, and Brahms Concertos.[9]



  1. ^ The first recording of any version was that of the arrangement by Ferdinand David for violin and piano, made in 1940 by the Austrian-born Ossy Renardy.


  1. ^ "Ruggiero Ricci papers, 1890s–2013," Library of Congress; OCLC 994287110
  2. ^ George Ricci obituary Archived 28 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine., Allegro, vol. CX, No. 9, September 2010
  3. ^ "Death of a violin legend: Ruggiero Ricci" – Definitive Paganini performer" Archived 13 April 2013 at the Wayback Machine., The Strad
  4. ^ *William Yardley, "Ruggiero Ricci Dies at 94; Prodigy Whose Violin Mastery Grew", The New York Times, 9 August 2012
  5. ^ "Ruggiero Ricci". The Daily Telegraph. London. 9 September 2012. 
  6. ^ "Ruggiero Ricci, 94; violinist mastered wide range of music". 
  7. ^ "Ricci to Open Series of Four Concerts Nov. 17," New York Post, 6 December 1964, p. 68 (accessible via
  8. ^ "Conductor to Appear in N.Y. Experiments," The Oregonian, 6 December 1964, p. 128
  9. ^ "Jacques Singer, Ricci To Reunite in Portland," The Oregonian, 22 August 1965, p. 83

External links[edit]