(January 12, 1876 – January 21, 1948)
Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari was born in Venice on 12 January 1876.
His father, the painter Augusto Wolf, was German, while his mother, the Venetian Emilia Ferrari, was Italian (it was her son who chose to use both surnames). He showed great musical talent from a very early age, but his artistic training, split between painting and music, was complex and uncertain. Residing in Munich in 1892 with the initial aim of going on with his study of painting, at a certain point he decided instead to dedicate himself entirely to music and enrolled at the Münchner Akademie der Tonkunst. Three years later he returned to Venice, though not without passing through Milan, where he had the opportunity to get to know the local music scene and to enter into contact with Arrigo Boito and Giulio Ricordi, establishing a close relationship with Casa Ricordi.
Back in his home city he worked as director of the Benedetto Marcello music high school and dedicated himself to composition.
The first of his operas to be performed was Cenerentola
(1900), followed by (to cite just a few) Le donne curiose
(1903) by Goldoni – he also put to music Goldoni’s I quattro rusteghi
(1906) – Il segreto di Susanna
(1909), I gioielli della madonna
(1911), L’amore medico
(1913) by Molière, Gli amanti sposi
(1925) and Il campiello
(1936), both by Goldoni, and La dama boba
(1937) by Lope de Vega.
The special character of Wolf-Ferrari’s education is reflected in his music: on the one hand, the German academic rigour developed in a family environment founded on solid cultural underpinnings, and on the other, the Venetian vain that refined the academic rigour, though without succumbing to decadent influences. His highly original style is quite distinct both from verismo (very fashionable at the time) and from atonality and twelve-tone technique, which had emerged out of the German cultural scene. His language is modelled on Mozart-like stylemes and on the final works of Verdi (above all Falstaff).
Wolf-Ferrari also composed instrumental music. Of particular note are the Suite Concertino
for bassoon and orchestra (1932), the Idillio-Concertino
for oboe, two French horns and strings, the Suite Veneziana
(1936), the Trittico
for orchestra, the Concerto per violino
(1944), the Concerto per violoncello
(1944) and the Piccolo Concerto
for cor anglais, two French horns and strings (1947).
Wolf-Ferrari died in Venice on 21 January 1948.