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(1918 - 2012)

Ruggiero Ricci’s performing career spanned seventy-five years, with more than 6000 concerts in sixty-five countries, and over 500 recordings. In his nineties he was still active in giving masterclasses.

His career started with a San Francisco début at the age of ten, playing Vieuxtemps, Saint-Saëns, Mendelssohn and Wieniawski, which amazed the audience and caused him to be hailed as a true prodigy. He had begun learning with his father and then had lessons from Louis Persinger (who also taught Yehudi Menuhin and Guila Bustabo at that time). During the 1930s Ricci studied in Berlin with Georg Kulenkampff, consciously adopting the strengths of the German style of playing and aiming to emulate Kreisler and Heifetz. In 1942 he enlisted in the US Army as an ‘Entertainment Specialist’, giving hundreds of broadcasts and concerts, often without a pianist, and thus developing his knowledge of unaccompanied repertoire. At fourteen his first European tour had been a highly sensationalised series of concerts and it was at this time that Ricci undertook to master Paganini’s Caprices on the premise that in order to excel in technique one should tackle the most difficult music. In 1947 he became the first to record them complete in their original version; further recordings date from 1959, 1975, 1978, 1987, 1988 and 1998 (live at his 80th birthday concert in Hungary).

As one might expect, Ricci gave a number of world premières in his career, including works by Alberto Ginastera, Gottfried von Einem, Alexander Goehr, Joseph White, Gerard Shurmann and Carlos Veerhoff. His discography quite possibly encompasses the widest repertoire of any violinist and his performing career is one of the longest, his last public performances having taken place in 2003.

Ricci taught at Indiana University, the Juilliard School, the University of Michigan and the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, and produced two pedagogical books, Left Hand Violin Technique and Ricci on Glissando.

His large discography reveals him as a performer very much in the post-war international mould. Early performances, including a youthfully spirited Mozart G major Sonata and Vecsey’s fiendish Caprice No. 1 (dates uncertain), show an extraordinary mastery of the instrument at a young age. The brightness of sound in the Mozart sonata recording, with remarkably fast and tight trills and a focused vibrato, lends an intensity to his tone that was to remain throughout his career. As might be expected, Ricci seldom indulges in older Romantic mannerisms such as the portamento, but there is a warmth to his sound that defines him as a fine interpreter of post-Romantic repertoire. His more classical recordings (such as Schubert’s Sonatina in A minor, D. 385) show less understanding than we have today of classical phrase shapes, which he plays molto-legato with little in the way of architectural crafting.

Ricci’s performance of Strauss’s Violin Sonata, Op. 18 (1963) is masterly. Here the longer post-Wagnerian phrases are beautifully connected with a highly emotive and exciting sound especially evident in the effervescent finale. Equally, the Violin Concerto by Benjamin Lees (1976) shows a remarkable power without the tendency towards stridency so frequently to be found in such repertoire when performed by lesser players of Ricci’s generation. The work is quite referential—one can hear echoes of Bartók’s musical language in the finale and the first movement has many passages that are reminiscent of Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2—and displays characteristic playing from Ricci who maintains coherence throughout the more complex and charged portions of the work. Similar virtues characterise Malcolm Arnold’s Sonata No. 2 (date uncertain), in which an elegant yet exciting sound is brought together with evident musical intellect.

Ricci’s musical voice is an important and unmistakable one and his recordings taken overall, as well as his extensive pedagogical work, testify to his greatness as one who has helped to mould modern violin playing.

© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)

View by Role: Classical Artist | Classical Composer | Arranger
Role: Classical Artist 
Album Title
Catalogue No  Work Category 
Concertos (American) - LEES, B. / STARER, R. / KUPFERMAN, M. / COLGRASS, M. / HARRISON, L. (Ricci, Berger, C. Glenn, Statkiewicz, Snashall, Kapp) Vox Box
DVOŘÁK, A.: Works for Solo Instrument and Orchestra (Complete) (Firkušný, Ricci, Nelsova, Saint Louis Symphony, Susskind) Vox Box
Orchestral, Concerto
ERNST: 6 Mehrstimmige Studien / WIENIAWSKI: L'ecole moderne Dynamic
Harp Music - REINECKE, C. / SAINT-SAËNS, C. / GERVAISE, C. / PIERNÉ, G. (Middle Ages to the 20th Century) (Michel, Mildonian, Jamet, Storck, Polonska) Vox Box
PAGANINI, N.: 24 Caprices, Op. 1 (Ricci) (1950) Naxos Classical Archives
PAGANINI, N.: Paganini Edition (Complete) (40-CD Box Set) Dynamic
Concerto, Chamber Music, Instrumental, Chamber Music
PAGANINI, N.: Violin Concerto No. 2 / LISZT, F.: Grandes études de Paganini (Paganini Variations) (Kantorow, J. Rose, Tomšič, P. Frankl, R. Ricci) Vox Box
Instrumental, Chamber Music
PAGANINI: 24 Caprices (arr. for violin and orchestra) Dynamic
PROKOFIEV, S.: Piano Concertos Nos. 1-5 / Violin Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 (Tacchino, R. Ricci, Varga, Luxembourg Radio Orchestra, Froment) Vox Box
RICCI, Ruggiero: Art of Ruggiero Ricci (The) Vox Box
Chamber Music, Orchestral, Concerto, Chamber Music, Concerto, Orchestral, Instrumental, Orchestral, Instrumental, Concerto, Orchestral, Concerto, Instrumental, Chamber Music, Orchestral, Concerto, Chamber Music
RICCI, Ruggiero: Henry Vieuxtemps - An Homage Dynamic
Chamber Music
RICCI, Ruggiero: Legacy of Cremona (The) - Ruggiero Ricci plays 18 Contemporary Violins Dynamic
Chamber Music, Instrumental, Chamber Music
SAINT-SAËNS, C.: Music for Piano and Orchestra (Complete) (Tacchino, Luxembourg Radio Orchestra, Froment) Vox Box
Chamber Music, Orchestral
SAINT-SAËNS, C.: Works for Violin and Orchestra / Cello and Orchestra (Complete) (R. Ricci, Varga) Vox Box
Concerto, Orchestral, Concerto, Orchestral, Concerto
SARASATE: A Homage by Ruggiero Ricci Dynamic
Chamber Music
SCHUMANN, R.: Works for Solo Instrument and Orchestra (Complete) (Frankl, Lautenbacher, Ricci, Varga, Furst, Cao) Vox Box
TCHAIKOVSKY, P.I.: Violin Concerto / PAGANINI, N.: Violin Concerto No. 1 (Ricci, Polish Radio Symphony, Bakels) Dynamic
Violin Music - LALO, É. / BACH, J.S. / BEETHOVEN, L. van / SAINT-SAËNS, C. (Spotlight on Violin) (Rosand, R. Ricci, Gitlis, Lautenbacher, Vorholz) Allegretto
Violin Recital: Ricci, Ruggiero - BACH, J.S. / BRAHMS / VIOTTI / ROSSINI / STRAUSS, R. / PAGANINI / CHOPIN (Hidden Treasures) Dynamic
Chamber Music, Instrumental, Chamber Music, Instrumental, Chamber Music
Violin Recital: Ricci, Ruggiero - BACH, J.S. / MATTHESON / PAGANINI / SARASATE / YSAYE / TCHAIKOVSKY / WIENIAWSKI (A Life for the Violin) Dynamic
Chamber Music, Instrumental, Chamber Music, Instrumental, Chamber Music, Instrumental, Chamber Music, Instrumental, Chamber Music, Instrumental, Chamber Music, Concerto, Chamber Music, Instrumental, Chamber Music, Instrumental, Chamber Music, Instrumental
Role: Classical Composer 
Album Title  Catalogue No  Work Category 
Role: Arranger 
Album Title
Catalogue No  Work Category 

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