Vittorio Giannini

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Vittorio Giannini (October 19, 1903 – November 28, 1966) was an American neoromantic composer of operas, songs, symphonies, and band works.

Life and work[edit]

Giannini was born in Philadelphia on October 19, 1903. He began as a violinist under the tutelage of his mother Antonietta Briglia; he would go on to study violin and composition at the Milan Conservatory on scholarship, and then to take his graduate degree at the Juilliard School. He returned to Juilliard to teach, moving on to the Manhattan School of Music, the Juilliard School of Music, and the Curtis Institute of Music. His students included Herbie Hancock, Nicolas Flagello, David Amram, Mark Bucci, Alfred Reed, Anthony Iannaccone, M. William Karlins, Irwin Swack, John Corigliano, Adolphus Hailstork, Rolande Maxwell Young, Thomas Pasatieri, Avraham Sternklar, Mary Lynn Twombly, and Nancy Bloomer Deussen. Giannini was the founder and first president of the North Carolina School of the Arts in 1965, which he envisioned as a type of Juilliard of the South, bringing artists such as cellist Irving Klein and violinist Ruggiero Ricci to teach there. He remained there until his death in 1966.[1]

Giannini's father, Ferruccio Giannini, was an opera singer and founder of the Verdi Opera House in Philadelphia. Vittorio's two sisters were celebrated singers as well. Euphemia Giannini Gregory taught Voice at the Curtis Institute for 40 years counting among her students the opera divas Anna Moffo and Judith Blegen.[2] Dusolina Giannini was a dramatic soprano and prima donna who performed throughout Europe, until moving to the United States to sing with the Metropolitan Opera, and finally to spend her remaining years teaching. Dusolina was a pivotal figure in the success of some of her brother's operas. Her career was already well underway when she took the lead in the 1934 premiere (Munich) of his first opera, Lucedia, as well as the lead (Hester Prynne) in his 1937 opera based on Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter (Hamburg, 1938).[3] Both operas enjoyed successful premieres, but have never been produced again. His most successful opera proved to be a 1950 adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew.[citation needed]

Giannini's partnership with poet Karl Flaster was a fruitful one. In addition to his work on The Scarlet Letter, Flaster was the librettist for several of Giannini's operas, including Lucedia and The Harvest. Flaster also provided the lyrics for dozens of Giannini's art songs, including several that have become staples of the song recital repertoire, most notably "Tell Me, Oh Blue Blue Sky,"[4] recorded by Mario Lanza, Leonard Warren, and others.[citation needed]

His operas and songs brought Giannini his initial success during the 1930s and early 1940s. (Beauty and the Beast was commissioned by CBS in 1938--the first opera composed specifically for radio.) He then began to focus on instrumental works, many of a diverting nature. Some of these works show a fondness for infusing Baroque forms with a romantic warmth. During his last few years he revealed a more serious side to his creative personality, broadening his tonal language with greater harmonic dissonance and melodic chromaticism, in the service of greater expressive depth, all within a romantic aesthetic framework. Among those considered his greatest works are the vocal monodrama The Medead, Psalm 130 for double-bass or cello and orchestra, and his Symphony No. 5. In addition to his seven symphonies (of which only the last five were numbered), he composed 15 operas and several concerti, as well as music for chorus, solo piano, and chamber ensembles. During the last eight years of his life he composed five works for wind band and, ironically, they are his most widely performed compositions today. One, his Symphony No. 3 (1958), has become a staple of the band repertoire. Despite the wide range of his output, little of his other music is in the active repertoire. However, today a representative sample of all aspects of his work is available on recording.[citation needed]

Giannini died in New York City on November 28, 1966, at the age of 63.[5]

Selected works[edit]

  • Stabat mater (1922), SATB and orchestra
  • "Tell Me, O Blue, Blue Sky" (1927), voice/piano
  • String Quartet (1930)
  • Suite (1931), orchestra
  • Piano Quintet (1932)
  • Lucedia (1934), opera, libretto K. Flaster
  • Piano Concerto (1935)
  • Symphony ‘In memoriam Theodore Roosevelt’ (1935)
  • Organ Concerto (1937)
  • Triptych (1937), soprano choir and strings
  • IBM Symphony (1937), orchestra
  • Requiem (1937), choir and orchestra
  • The Scarlet Letter (1938), opera, libretto Flaster after Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Beauty and the Beast (1938), radio opera in one act
  • Blennerhassett (1939), radio opera in one act
  • Sonata No. 1 (1940), violin and piano
  • "Sing to My Heart a Song" (c. 1942), voice/piano
  • Sonata No. 2 (1944), violin and piano
  • Concerto Grosso (1946)
  • Variations on a Cantus firmus (1947), piano
  • The Taming of the Shrew (1950), opera, libretto by Giannini and D. Fee after Shakespeare
  • Symphony No. 1 (1950)
  • Divertimento No. 1 (1953), orchestra
  • Symphony No. 2 (1955), orchestra
  • Prelude and Fugue (1955), string orchestra
  • Fantasia for Band (1963), band
  • Preludium and Allegro (1958), symphonic band
  • Symphony No. 3 (1958), symphonic band
  • Symphony No. 4 (1959), orchestra
  • The Medead (1960), soprano and orchestra
  • The Harvest (1961), opera, libretto Flaster
  • Divertimento No. 2 (1961), orchestra
  • Antigone (1962), soprano and orchestra
  • Psalm cxxx (1963), bass/cello and orchestra
  • Sonata for Flute and Piano (1964), flute/piano
  • Variations and Fugue (1964), symphonic band
  • Symphony No. 5 (1965)
  • Servant of Two Masters (1966), opera, libretto B. Stambler, after C. Goldoni



  • Simmons, Walter G. 2001. ""Giannini, Vittorio". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
  • Simmons, Walter. 2004. Voices in the Wilderness: Six American Neo-Romantic Composers. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.
  • Simpson, Anne Key, and Karl Wonderly Flaster. 1988. "A Working Relationship: The Giannini-Flaster Collaboration". American Music 6, no. 4 (Winter): 375–408.

Further reading[edit]

  • Haskell, Harry, and Walter G. Simmons. n.d. "Vittorio Giannini". Grove Music Online (OperaBase) (subscription access)
  • Long, Michael. 2008. Beautiful Monsters: Imagining the Classic in Musical Media. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-22897-9 (cloth); ISBN 978-0-520-25720-7.
  • Mark, Michael L. 1969a. "The Life and Work of Vittorio Giannini (1903–1966)". DMA thesis. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America.
  • Mark, Michael L. 1969b. "The Band Music of Vittorio Giannini". Music Educators Journal 55, no. 8 (April): 77–80.
  • Mullins, Joe Barry. 1969–70. "A Comparative Analysis of Three Symphonies for Band". Journal of BandResearch 6, no. 1:17–28.
  • Parris, Robert. 1957. "Vittorio Giannini and the Romantic Tradition". Juilliard Review 4, no. 2:32–46.
  • Price, Jeffrey Wallace. 1989. "The Songs of Vittorio Giannini on Poems by Karl Flaster". DMus diss. Tallahassee: Florida State University.
  • Schaunseer, Max de. n.d. "Giannini, Dusolina". Grove Music Online (subscription access)
  • Simmons, Walter G., "Giannini, Vittorio". 2005. Grove Music Online (updated 22 September). (subscription access)
  • Villamil, Victoria Etnier. 1993. A Singer's Guide to the American Art Song: 1870–1980, with a foreword by Thomas Hampson. Lanham, MD and Oxford: Scarecrow Press, Inc. ISBN 978-0-8108-5217-4.
  • Wynn, James Leroy. 1964–65. "An Analysis of the First Movement of the Symphony No. 3 for Band by Vittorio Giannini". Journal of Band Research 1, no. 2:19–26.

External links[edit]