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Gnecchi, Vittorio

(July 17, 1876 - February 5, 1954)

Vittorio Gnecchi Ruscone was born in 1876 in Milano, the son of Francesco Gnecchi Ruscone, a successful businessman, and Isabella Bozzotti. He pursued the classical curriculum in high school and went on to graduate from university with a degree in law, but in the meantime had also discovered a love for music and studied counterpoint with Michele Saladino and composition with Gaetano Coronaro. 

His first opera, Virtù d’amore made its premiere in 1896 in Como, at his family’s Renaissance-epoch villa. In attendance, among other notable personages, was Giulio Ricordi. In 1902 and 1903 Gnecchi Ruscone composed Cassandra, based on Aeschylus’s The Oresteia, which premiered on December 5, 1905 at Teatro Comunale in Bologna, conducted by Arturo Toscanini. It saw little success, perhaps due to its use of Hellenic scales and the severe, or Early Classical style. In 1909, shortly after the premiere of Elektra by Richard Strauss, there appeared an article entitled Musical Telepathy by the musicologist Giovanni Tebaldini, in the magazine Rivista musicale italiana, which pointed out the numerous musical analogies between the two works. Performances of Gnecchi Ruscone’s work in Italy were halted, while at the same time his music was enjoyed in Germany and Austria.

His next opera was La Rosiera, which premiered seventeen years after he wrote it, in 1927. It was followed by the Greek dances in the symphonic ballet Atalanta (1929), Missa Salisburgensis (1933), performed in Salzburg, Cantata biblica (1934), and his last opera, Giuditta (1953).

Vittorio Gnecchi died in Milano, on February 5, 1954.