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Calligaris, Sergio

Sergio Calligaris was born in Rosario, Argentina. He is one of the last musicians to incarnate the traditional 19th century figure of pianist, teacher and composer, inaugurated at the beginning of the 19th century by Muzio Clementi and carried on after that by a sequence of famous names that the history of music has handed down to us.

Of Italian descent, Calligaris, a child prodigy, began to study piano under Domingo Scarafía, a disciple of Vincenzo Scaramuzza, himself a product of the great Neapolitan school of Beniamino Cesi, who was in his turn a pupil of Sigismund Thalberg.

As a pianist, he began to give public performances at the age of 13, making his debut in his home town Rosario. Following this success, he embarked upon an extremely busy career as a soloist, giving numerous recitals in Buenos Aires and other cities in Argentina. He continued to take advanced lessons with eminent exponents of the most prestigious international piano schools: Jorge Fanelli in Buenos Aires; Arthur Loesser at the Cleveland Institute of Music (Ohio); Adele Marcus at the Aspen Music Festival and School (Colorado); Nikita Magaloff at the Accademia Chigiana in Siena; and Guido Agosti at Santa Cecilia in Rome (in chamber music as well as piano). Right from his international debut in the Brahmssaal at the Musikverein in Vienna in 1967 he was acclaimed for the many recitals and concerts he performed in famous concert halls throughout the world (from the United States to Europe, from South Africa to the Philippines). In 1974 he became an Italian citizen and settled in Rome, teaching piano as principal instrument at the 'S. Pietro a Majella' State Conservatory in Naples, the 'Luisa D'Annunzio' Conservatory in Pescara and the 'Alfredo Casella' Conservatory in Aquila.

As a composer, he began - at just 9 years of age - to study in the rigorous school of Paul Hindemith, under the guidance of Father Luis Machado, from whom he inherited a love of counterpoint and a strong taste for harmony by fourths. He took a diploma in composition, counterpoint and fugue at the age of 16 at the "Amigos del Arte" Society in Rosario, going on in 1964 to do an advanced course in 12-tone counterpoint at the Cleveland Institute of Music. After setting composition aside for over twenty years on account of his busy career as a performer, he took it up again in 1978, writing a collection of 10 short piano pieces - each one more demanding than its forerunner - for his dear friend Renzo Arzeni. The work, published by Carisch as Op. 7 under the title Il Quaderno Pianistico di Renzo, became the forebear to a long line of compositions, in which the composer never fails to insert a citation of the initial work - be it merely in the form of a fleeting reference – to pay tribute to a friendship that had and still has a fundamental role in his life.

The catalogue of his compositions, which has now reached Op. 55, encompasses a huge range of instrumental/vocal chamber music and symphonic works: a vast and articulated catalogue, in which Sergio Calligaris’s composition expresses its inspiration through the dramatic development of a dialectical contrast between the two natures of the composer’s personality – the elegiac and the dithyrambic – which confront and interact with each other giving rise to artistic outcomes of a deeply moving nature. This spontaneous communicative quality of his language manifests itself in the profound empathy that it installs between audiences and the interpreters of his music.

Furnished with a vast and deep musical culture, Calligaris is recognised today as one of the most illustrious figures in the world of music. He has received a number of important awards including the "2004 International Musician of the Year" from the International Biographical Centre in Cambridge (Great Britain) and the 2007 "Giuseppe Verdi 'Una vita per la musica' International Music Prize" in the Sala del Museo Greco in Sabaudia (Latina) for his contribution to piano playing and contemporary composition. (Renzo Trabucco*)

*Editor of the composer’s Internet site