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Giovanni Sgambati
(1941 - 1914)


He began his career as a blue-eyed child prodigy. Born in Rome, son of an English mother and an Italian father, he was conducting an orchestra and giving piano recitals by the time he was seven years old. At the age of twenty, he became a pupil and life-long friend of Liszt. They spent evenings playing cards and piano duets. Together they attempted to revive instrumental music in Rome. This was not an easy task in a country that had an almost exclusive taste for opera. He mixed with the rich and famous, was requested by Queen Victoria to give a private recital and by Queen Margherita to form a Royal Court Quintet . Other Heads of State showered him with awards including the French Légion d’Onore. Meanwhile Sgambati also gave free lessons to poor students - an act of generosity that was to result in the creation of the Liceo di Santa Cecilia.
As a pianist, he was famous for his formidable technique as well as for his ability as a teacher. As a composer, he was best known for his piano pieces and a piano concerto (three recordings are available). His birth date is often erroneously given as 1843, probably the result of his father trying to make his talented son seem even more prodigious.
Sgambati never heard his 2nd symphony in full. The only time it received a complete performance was on the occasion of the memorial service in January 1915 after his death. Then the score went missing and the symphony was never played again. That was nearly the end of it, but in November 2006, Roz Trubger published the work for the first time after painstakingly reconstructing a score from the original orchestral parts. It took three years to complete the task which was done with the permission of the Ministero per i Beni e le Attivita Culturali and the Biblioteca Casanatense where the archives are held. The first performance of the Sinfonia 2 in modern times was given in Rome in February 2014 followed by the first broadcast performance on September 9th, 2016 performed by the Württembergische Philharmonie conducted by Ole Rudner. The orchestral set for the Symphony no. 2 [Sinfonia 2] is available to hire from this site. For more information contact us

About the Symphony no 2. The symphony opens in the key of Eb minor with a slow introduction that could suggest a choir singing the words lux perpetua. This is followed by the first movement proper, marked Agitato in which major and minor 3rds vie for dominance. The Second movement is a Scherzo with delicate, simple themes that seems to derive their inspiration from Italian folk melody but which become imbued with a twisted character as the major and minor 3rds battle it out again. The Third movement also has folk-like qualities but now the atmosphere is introspective with the main theme entrusted to the throaty tones of the Cor Anglais. The 4th movement begins in typical Finale manner full of light-hearted energy but, a few bars into what may be described as the development section, the music seems to break down and then set off again in an entirely different, exciting direction. It sounds as though Sgambati is filled suddenly with an unstoppable creative energy that rushes forward to a fanfare conclusion The whole work is characterised by chromaticism, ironic dissonances, memorable melodies, thematic development and a preference for deep, rich textures.
Using the combined power of Finale music software & Garritan Personal Orchestra plus many hours of attention to detail, a full orchestral performance of the symphony has been created and an audio CD is available with every full score or to purchase separately. I should like to acknowledge the help and support that was given to me during my years of research into Sgambati’s life by Antonio Latanza, Domenico Carboni and by the staff of the Biblioteca Casanatense, Rome.

For more information on how to book an entertaining and illustrated talk entitled
‘Sgambati, symphonic pioneer in the land of opera’ contact Roz Trübger by email or telephone 0441202884196