GIUSEPPE MARTUCCI (1856 - 1909)
Giuseppe Martucci was born in Capua on 6 January 1856 and had initial piano lessons from his father. He gave recitals with his sister before he was nine and was a full-time student at the Reale Collegio in Naples from 1868, studying the piano with Beniamino Cesi and composition with Paolo Serrao, whose advocacy of the Austro-German repertoire, unusual in Italy for that time, had a decisive influence on Martucci. Returning to the concert platform in 1874, he gave his first Milan recital the next year and subsequently toured to London and Dublin. 1878 saw him in Paris, where his abilities as pianist and composer were warmly applauded, but more significant had been his appointment the previous year as principal conductor of the newly formed Orchestra Napoletana, which gave its first public concert in January 1881 and by 1884 was widely considered the best in Italy.
In 1886 Martucci was appointed to three major posts in Bologna, notably the directorship of the Liceo Musicale, which enabled him to develop further as an academic and conductor, championing a broad range of nineteenth-century orchestral music and appearing as a guest-conductor in cultural centres throughout Western Europe, while also acting as mentor to many younger Italian composers. In 1902 he returned to Naples to take up the directorship of the Conservatorio (formerly the Reale Collegio), in which city he continued his programming of new or unfamiliar orchestral and operatic repertoire, though his health was by now declining and he died in Naples on 1 June 1909.
From the start of his career as a pianist Martucci extended the repertoire, with Bach, Rameau and Scarlatti all prominent in his recitals. As a conductor, he helped to make Berlioz, Schumann and Brahms (the Italian première of whose Second Symphony he gave in 1882), familiar to Italian audiences, while his championing of Wagner saw the Italian première of Tristan und Isolde in 1888 and Neapolitan première of Götterdämmerung less than a year before his death. British music was also well represented (he programmed Stanford’s Irish Symphony on several occasions), while his interest in French music saw him advocate Franck, d’Indy and latterly Debussy.