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Finzi, Aldo

(February 4, 1897 - February 7, 1945)

Aldo Finzi was born in Milan on 4th February 1897. His family, Jewish and originally from Mantova, had been involved in the world of music for generations. In fact, his father’s sister was the famous soprano Giuseppina Finzi Magrini. After obtaining his high school diploma at the Parini Classical Languages High School in Milan he took a law degree at the University of Pavia. At the same time he took a diploma in composition as an external student at the Accademia Nazionale Santa Cecilia in Rome.

Considered a promising musician right from his youth both on account of the ease with which he composed and for the originality of his style, he began to publish with Ricordi in 1921.

It was in this period that he wrote the songs Barque d’Or and Serenata. Subsequently he wrote the symphonic poems Cirano di Bergerac (1929) and L'infinito (1931). In 1937 the Teatro all Scala held a competition for a new work to be performed in the following season. Finzi took part submitting the playful, three-act comedy La serenata al vento. Riccardo Pick-Mangiagalli, a member of the jury, informed the young composer privately that he had been chosen as the winner. The official announcement, however, due out in the spring of 1938, never arrived. The jury’s decision had been overturned on account of a veto imposed by the government in anticipation of the imminent promulgation of the Italian race laws. The laws actually prohibited the composer from having anyone perform his music. Finzi was hugely disappointed but he was not discouraged and continued to compose.

In 1939 he wrote a symphonic poem, whose title Come all’ultimo suo ciascun artista (drawn from a verse of Dante), was assigned after the war had concluded by one of the composer’s two surviving sisters. Finzi’s next compositions were Danza, a concerto for two pianos, saxophone and orchestra (1940) and Shylok (1942), a dramatic opera on a libretto by Rossato, in which the author centred the action on the plans that Shylok had to combat the persecutions of the Jews, of which he himself was a victim. Unfortunately, the composer managed to write the music only for the first act. In order to survive Finzi was constrained to work either anonymously or under a false name. During this period he realised his rhythmic Italian translation of Franck’s Beatitudini and in 1944 – during the Nazi occupation of Turin, where he had taken refuge – he wrote Preludio e fuga per organo
Following a tip-off the Italian SS located the house where Finzi’s son was hiding. To avoid a search of the house and the capture of his son, the composer spontaneously gave himself up to the SS, managing subsequently to bribe them so as to secure his release. Following this dramatic event, between 1944 and 1945 he composed Salmo per coro e orchestra to thank God for having saved him and his son and to express his faith in divine protection.

The composer died on 7th February 1945 and was buried under a false name. His wife had to wait for the war to come to an end and for the race laws to be abolished before she was able to transfer his remains to the family tomb in the Cimitero Monumentale in Milan.