Calligaris: Pianist and Composer
The artist's life and career
Argentinian, born in Rosario, Sergio Calligaris lived for a long time in the United States, later to become a citizen of Italy, where he has lived since 1974.
Active internationally as a soloist from the age of 13, his career was guided by such
masters as George Fanelli, Arthur Loesser, Adele Marcus, Nikita Magaloff and Guido Agosti.
He concertized extensively in his native Argentina, and launched his international career
during the 1967-69 seasons with a highly acclaimed début at the Brahmssaal of the
Musikverein in Vienna, followed by equally successful presentations in the Konzersaal
Bundesallee (for the Hans Adler Konzert-Direktion) of Berlin; in the Società del
Quartetto of Rome; in the Institute of Hispanic Culture of Madrid.
The Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française in Paris commissioned him to record a
special program, and he was also presented in Paris and London in recitals officially
hosted and sponsored by the local Argentinian Embassies.
In 1966 he was awarded the coveted Artist's Diploma from The Cleveland Institute of Music, where, as a teacher, he was a member of the piano faculty, of which he held the Main Scholarship of Piano, a post he also held at the California State University in Los Angeles from 1969. In 1973 he founded, together with California State University in Los Angeles, the American Academy of Arts in Europe, in Verona. As its first artistic conductor he also gave master classes in piano there. He has been teaching in Italy since 1974, first at the state Conservatory of Music "S. Pietro a Majella" of Naples, and at the "Luisa D'Annunzio" of Pescara, and then at the "Alfredo Casella" of L'Aquila.
As soloist with the Vatican Symphony Orchestra, Sergio Calligaris was formal recording
artist of the Vatican State Radio, which produced his two highly acclaimed albums
"Fantasia" and "Bis Celebri", released in Italy in 1969, that met with
great success and exceptional critical approval. In the United States he was, in the same
years, a recording pianist for Orion Records of Los Angeles, under the artistic
sponsorship of the Yehudi Menuhin Foundation.
Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, 1971 Edition, G. Schirmer, New York, included Sergio Calligaris' biography, written by Nicolas Slonimsky, an honor bestowed upon few living musicians.
Sergio Calligaris is frequently invited to act as a member of the jury for important national and international piano competitions. Moreover, several national and international piano contests have dedicated for years special prizes to the rendering of Maestro's music, sponsored by his publisher Nuova Carisch of Milan. Among them the T.I.M. (International Music Tournament, which Artistic Director is Luigi Fait), with a special piano prize dedicated to Sergio Calligaris and sponsored by Assicurazioni Generali of Trieste; and the "City of Rome" International Piano Contest, of the Italian capital "Fryderyk Chopin" Association (which Artistic Director is Marcella Crudeli) which "Carisch Award" was recently won on two successive editions by Duo Maclé (Sabrina Dente and Annamaria Garibaldi): in 2004 with Scene coreografiche Opus 12 for 4 hands piano and in 2005 with B.H.S. Opus 20 for two pianos.
In fact, towards the end of the 1970's, after two decades dedicated exclusively to concertizing, he began composition again, which he had abandoned in his youth. He was given the opportunity to do so in 1978 with a work, which has since then entered the standard repertory, entitled "Il Quaderno Pianistico di Renzo" ("Renzo's Piano Notebook"), a musical gift inspired by a fraternal friendship. In a short number of years this composition won the admiration of the public and of the most qualified international critics, a happy fate to which his successive works were also destined, making Sergio Calligaris one of the contemporary composers most often performed in the world. Essentially the musical language of Calligaris presents two opposing aspects, one "dithyrambic", passionate and wildly primordial and the other "elegiac", lyrical and evocative.
His works, masterfully composed and harmonically sophisticated, have been performed with great success for some of the most important musical associations, as part of international and Italian festivals, by the RAI, not to mention in very numerous cities all over the world, from Japan to the Republics of the ex-Soviet Union and in China. Places particularly to be remembered: the Accademia di Santa Cecilia, Rome; Salle Gaveau, Paris; the Philharmonic Hall of St. Petersburg; Israel Philharmonic Orchestra Hall, Tel Aviv; the Prado Museum, Madrid; Kammer-Oper, Vienna; Rachmaninoff Hall of the Tchaikovsky Conservatory of Moscow; the Teatro dell'Opera, Rome; Purcell Room, London; Kaway Hall, Tokyo; The National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin; the Konservatorium, Copenaghen; the Conservatorio "Giuseppe Verdi", Milan; Broadcasting Corporation of China, Taipei - Taiwan; Charlier Museum, Bruxelles; the Teatro Comunale, Florence; Festival du Vigan, France; Teatro Ghione, Rome; Musikhalle, Hamburg; Konzertsaal der Kunsthalle, Brema; RAI Auditorium of Turin; Culture Palace Pravda and Glinka Music Museum Hall, Moscow; Société Française de Musique Contemporaine, Paris; XIV Festival d'Art Sacré de la Ville de Paris (1991); Los Angeles County Museum of Art; RAI Auditorium, Naples; Roosevelt University, Chicago; Juilliard School of Music, New York; New Delhi Music Society; the Accademia Chigiana, Siena; the Fryderyk Chopin Society, Warsaw; Salle de l'UNESCO, Paris; Boston University Concert Hall, Boston; École Normale de Musique de Paris, Paris; the Conservatoire National de Musique, Brussels; Harvard Hall, New York; St. James' Piccadilly, London.
His "Three madrigals" - with choreography by Vittorio Biagi - were performed numerous times in important theatres such as l'Opéra of Lyon, the Petruzzelli of Bari, the Romolo Valli of Reggio Emilia, the Argentina of Rome, the Massimo of Palermo; they were also transmitted by the RAI Radio Televisione Italiana, the Italian National TV Network. With this composition Sergio Calligaris participated in the "Premio Italia" 1985 representing RAI 2.
In 1986, in commemoration of its 40th Anniversary, the Società Aquilana dei Concerti "B. Barattelli" included in its prestigious cycle of concerts an entire program saluting Sergio Calligaris both as composer and as pianist with the Choir of the Academy of S.Cecilia of Rome, conducted by Fausto Di Cesare, Calligaris himself and Marcella Crudeli at the pianos, and timpanist Adolf Neumeier. That same season the program was repeated with great success in Rome at the Auditorium in Via della Conciliazione to the acclaim of the public and critics alike.
In 1989, commissioned by the Istituzione Sinfonica Abruzzese in L'Aquila, he composed the "Concerto Opus 25" for strings orchestra, immediately performed successfully on different occasions. Particularly important were the two dates of Solisti Aquilani on tour in Poland: on 16th October 2005 at the Fine Arts Museum in Cracow and on 18th October at the Mirrors Hall of the Royal Palace in Warsaw.
The "Symphonic Dances (in homage to Bellini) Opus 26, for large orchestra" - commissioned by the Teatro Bellini of Catania for its centenary and for the occasion of the 2nd Bellini Festival - were composed by Calligaris in 1990, and at their first performance, on October 4th of the same year, under the direction of Tamás Pál, were a triumphal success. The same work opened the Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra 1993-94 Symphonic-Season in Bulgaria, with Wladimir Ghiaurov as conductor.
The first world performance of the "Seconda suite di Danze Sinfoniche Opus 27" on February 8th , 1995 in Tirana with the Symphonic Orchestra or the Albanian Radio and Television Corporation conducted by Vittorio Parisi won unanimous success with both public and critics. Success recently repeated during the Gala Concert the of New Year Eve of the Philharmonc Orchestra George Enescu of Bucharest, conducted by Stefano Trasimeni, at the Atheneum Hall of the Philharmonic, on 29th December 2004.
The following year Sergio Calligaris composed the Suite Opus 28 for solo cello, commissioned by the well-known bulgarian cellist Emilia Baranowska, soon acclaimed with success.
On February 23rd, 1994 the world première in the Santa Cecilia Auditorium in Rome of the "Concerto Opus 29 for piano and orchestra" by Sergio Calligaris, commissioned by Nuova Carisch, was extraordinarily well received by the public and the critics. The composition, performed by the Symphonic Orchestra of the Albanian Radio and Television, with the author himself at the piano, and conducted by Massimo De Bernart, was sound-recorded by the Vatican Radio and offered for broadcasting to E.B.U. Also RAI RADIO 3 broadcasted the same audio recording. Only three days later, on February 26th, 1994 it was repeated, conducted by Vittorio Parisi with the same performers, at the Auditorium "Alessandro Scarlatti" of the RAI of Naples. The Neapolitan performance was recorded by RAI and broadcasted on June 5th, 1994 on RAI 3 for the musical series "I Concerti di RAI 3". In March 1998 the Concerto Opus 29 had great success at its first Asian performance at the Main Theatre of Manila, with Calligaris at the piano and the Philippine National Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Ruggero Barbieri.
"Toccata, Adagio and Fugue Opus 36 for string orchestra" had its world première on 8th October 1997, during the season of the Istituzione Sinfonica Abruzzese in L'Aquila, conducted by Vittorio Parisi; at the end of the same month, on 29th it was the "Double Concerto Opus 37 for violin, piano and string orchestra" to be received with enormous enthusiasm by both press and audience, for its world première at the National Mégaron Theatre of Athens, in the brilliant performance of the duo Stefania Mormone-Sergei Krylov, with the orchestra "La Camerata", Friends of Music, of Athens, conducted by Alexandros Myrat. A success which was repeated on June 29th, 1998 with the triumphal performance - the South American première - at the Teatro Colón of Buenos Aires, again with the duo Mormone-Krylov, and the Buenos Aires Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Garcia Navarro; on July 3rd at the Teatro "3 de Febrero" in Paraná with the Entre Ríos Symphony Orchestra and the same soloists; on August 30th in Rome with the Bulgarian Symphonic Orchestra conducted by Vittorio Parisi. The Milanese première of 14th February 1999 at the Palazzina Liberty, with the duo Mormone-Krylov and the Orchestra da Camera Milano Classica conducted by Massimiliano Caldi, also made a great impression. Among the most recent performances by the duo Mormone-Krylov, one accompanied by the International Orchestra founded and conducted by Anton Nanut, on September 1st, 2000 (at the inaugural concert of the International Festival of Modern Music in Lubiana, recorded by the Slovenian State Television) and the first Chile performance with the Symphony Orchestra of Chile conducted by David del Pino Klinge in Santiago on August 30th and 31st, 2002: in both occasions the duo earned an enthusiastic and unanimous success.
The Maestro's catalogue has been increasing with compositions that confirm his creative
inspiration, gaining wider and wider approval. Among them, the "Sonata Opus 38 for
clarinet and piano" stands absolutely out and was performed as its world première by
Dimitri and Vladimir Ashkenazy, to whom the work is dedicated - in a memorable, exciting
and at a very high-artistic-level performance, immediately acclaimed triumphally by both
audience and critics -, on June 30th, 2001 at the inaugural concert of Festival Pontino di
Musica, at Teatro Grande del Palazzo della Cultura in Latina (Italy). The manuscript and
the sketches of the composition have been donated by the Composer to The Institute of
Music "Goffredo Petrassi" of Latina, organizer of the Festival.
In 2002 Calligaris wrote the "Suite Opus 43 for two pianos and four timpani ad
libitum", another work intended to a great impact for the audience and dedicated to
the memory of his beloved mother Carlota. The world première took place on 16th October
2004 in Rome, during the XXI European Conference of EPTA (European Piano Teachers
Association), performed by pianists Irina Ossipova and Michele Gioiosa.
Opus 45, written in Summer 2003, is entitled "Il Giorno" (The Daytime), Suite
for the Childhood for Boys' Choir (or Mixed Choir), piano, violin (or flute) and
Year 2004 opened with an extraordinary international acknowledgement for the work and
the artistic production of Maestro Calligaris: his nomination as International Musician of
the Year for 2004, by virtue of his outstanding contribution to pianism and contemporary
composition, conferred by the International Biographical Centre of Cambridge, England.
Even in Summer 2005, as every year since 1989, Maestro Calligaris found in Rocca di
Mezzo, on the Plateau of Rocche among the Apennines of the Abruzzi, the ideal site to
spend his summer holidays, his inspiration taking benefit for almost all his creations
"from its beauty, from the impressive space of its landscape, from its limpid air and
its verdant woods". A familiarity for which the Rocche Cultural Development
Consortium, in cooperation with the Solisti Aquilani, the Province of L'Aquila, the Region
of the Abruzzi and the Ministry of Culture wanted to express their gratitude to the
Maestro, organizing a cycle of three concerts called "Tribute to Sergio
Calligaris", on 23rd July (in Ovindoli), on 20th July (in Secinaro) and on 24th
August (in Rocca di Mezzo).
His most recent composition inspired during his stay in 2005 in Rocca di Mezzo, "Panis Angelicus" Opus 47 for piano and mixed choir (it exists also in the version for solo piano as Opus 47a), is dedicated to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.
On 30th March 2006, at Teatro Ghione in Rome, the excellent duet Pietro Stella (cello) and Alessandra Gentile (piano) performed the Sonata Opus 9, with a refined, elegant and rich of nuance performance.
On 29th April took place the première of the Double Concerto Opus 37a in the version for flute and piano, for the cycle "Spring in music" in the setting of the parish church of St Mary Rising in Gazzuolo (Mantua). A standing ovation of the whole audience applauded with enthusiasm the performance of the flautist Stefano Maffizzoni and the pianist Stefania Mormone, dedicatees of the composition, accompanied by the String Orchestra Classica Viva conducted by Stefano Ligoratti. A great gift that the composer offered to the two young artists as a token of esteem and friendship.
Among the most significant world-premières of Calligaris' compositions of the same
year, on July 2nd, in the season of the Ateneo of Madrid and under the sponsorship of the
Capital of Spain, it took place, with overwheming success from the public, the
world-première of the Sonata Opus 39 for viola and piano, in the brilliant performance of
Natasha Nikiforova at the viola and Piero Romano at the piano. The work is dedicated to
the memory of Joaquín Rodrigo.
Always in 2006, the Rachmaninoff Society (Newsletter N.66, June 2006) has dedicated a vast interview to Calligaris, signed by Maurizio Brunetti.
Moreover IMAIE (Institute for the Protection of Performing Artists Rights) has sponsored a CD (Rigor y Pasión) for the DAD Records label, enterely dedicated to Calligaris' chamber music, which has received the most enthusiastic reviews from the press.
New and famous artists constantly enter to take part among Calligaris' interpreters. Only in the 2007 Spring, on April 14th, it was the time of the Katowice Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Massimiliano Caldi (on Toccata, Adagio and Fugue, Opus 36). On May 10th, it was the prestigious chamber orchestra "I Solisti Veneti", with Stefania Mormone at the piano and Stefano Maffizzoni at the flute to perform his Doppio Concerto Opus 37a. And on the 21st of the same month, at the Philharmonic Hall of Luxembourg, were pianists Bruno Canino, Antonio Ballista and Marco Sollini (on Passacaglia Opus 18 and the Suite "...a Tchaikovsky" Opus 21, for three pianos). Always with remarkable success, like one year later, on 23rd April 2008 at the Alexander Hall of the Philharmonia of Helsinki.
Other performances of Calligaris' music took mainwhile place in leading music institutions from Canada to England, from France and Belgium to Taipei, by leading artists, among them pianist Marcella Crudeli.
In the summer of the same year 2007 two very important word premières of Maestro
Calligaris' music took place. On 30th July, at the Basilica of Loreto, in front of an
enthusiastic audience of over two thousand people, it took place an official concert in
the honour of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, during which Panis Angelicus Opus 47, for
piano and choir, was performed in an inspiring performance by pianist Marco Sollini and
the Lyric Choir "Vincenzo Bellini" conducted by David Crescenzi.
Less than one month later, on 24th August, it was the time of the Double Concerto Opus 37b, in the version for cello, piano and string orchestra, at the Palace of the Sports in Rocca di Mezzo, L'Aquila. A really breath-taking interpretation by cellist Fernando Caida Greco, pianist Stefania Mormone and the Chamber Orchestra "I Solisti Aquilani" conducted by Andrea Di Mele.
On 27th October, at the Sala del Museo Greco in Sabaudia (Latina), Maestro Calligaris was awarded with the prestigious International Musical Prize "Giuseppe Verdi" (Sixth Edition), a much sought-after acknowledgement conferred on the highest personalities of the musical world, in his capacity as Pianist and Composer. During the ceremony he moreover gave a very high level pianistic performance, winning great approval from the present personalities.
In the first months of 2008 Carisch achieved an important publishing initiative,
through the printing of a piano anthology in two books titled Piano Parnassum. It
is a collection, structured as a progressive piano method, of the most significant
compositions for piano solo of Maestro Calligaris.
In October Maestro Calligaris composed a lyric entitled "Poema Opus 49" for
voice of soprano or tenor and piano, on the text of the Rima VII by the poet and prose
writer of the Spanish Romanticism Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer.
The publishing of the piano anthology Piano Parnassum has continued in 2009 with two other books, focusing respectively on the concert music in the version for piano solo and on original music for piano duet: a remarkable enrichment of the contemporary piano repertoire.
In 2010 there was the publication of two Sonatas. The Opus 50 for flute and piano, dedicated to the duo Mauro Conti and Alessandro Stella, had its first world performance in the prestigious Aula Magna of the Istituto Pontificio di Musica Sacra in Rome, under the aegis of the Embassy of France at the Holy See, on June 1st of the same year with remarkable success. The Opus 51 for violin and piano, dedicated to the young violinist Edoardo Zosi.
Sergio Calligaris has started the year 2011 with the composition of two new important
piano works: the Concerto Opus 52 for piano duo (to perform either four-hands or two
pianos), alternating warlike rhythm, lightness and poetic melancholy; and the Danza
Fantastica "Remembrance" Opus 53 for two pianos (or four-hands piano, ad
libitum), composed as a tribute to Martha Argerich.
«The collaboration with one of the most important composers of this time in proofreading two of his works, and besides receiving the dedication of them, it is understandably reason for great pride and satisfaction, but when the works dedicated to us have the importance and the value of the Concerto Op. 52 and the Danza Fantastica Op. 53, two feelings arise at once: the first a mixture of joy and gratitude and the second a sense of great responsibility. Will we deserve that? The embarrassment does exist, but for sure we will make all we can to deserve such two dedications, that add up with the one of the Paraphrase Op. 16! For the moment we can only say a banal, but deeply sincere, "thank you!!" to the great maestro and friend Sergio Calligaris!»
In October of the same year, the Maestro has dedicated to I Solisti Aquilani and their artistic conductor Vincenzo Mariozzi, commissioned as a mark of a friendship consolidated in many years of artistic cooperation, his Op.54, Imagenes, Three movements for string orchestra (Night, Twilight, Dawn).
Calligaris closed the prolific year 2011 composing in December his opus 55, Allegro brutale con pavana, for four-hands piano or two pianos ad libitum, dedicated to the piano duo Marco Sollini and Salvatore Barbatano.
Both these two works had their first performances in a few days' time, during the
Summer 2012, gaining unanimous and enthusiastic approval by the audiences.
Year 2013 was not outdone by the previous, as for number and frequency of Sergio
Calligaris' music performances all over the world. Here are the most remarkable among
Year 2014 opened with an importan event: the first absolute performance in Lithuania,
on 18th February, of the Doppio Concerto op.37 for violin, piano and string orchestra in
Vilnius, at the Lithuanian National Philharmonic with Sergej Krylov soloist violin and
conductor of the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra and Rostislav Krimer piano, gaining a great
Other important dates distinguished the year 2014.
Moreover a milestone in the Maestro's career occurred in 2014: since February, Sergio Calligaris is numbered among the most prominent artists of Ricordi/Universal Music, that acquired the total amount of rights from Carisch, his historical publisher, and has been proceeding in its complete reprinting.
His most recent composition is a vast chamber work, Trio Op.56 "Méditation", for violin, cello and piano, completed on «10th March 2015 (5:05 pm)». It is the very first unpublished work edited by Casa Ricordi, to which it is dedicated.
Since January 2016, to coincidence with the Jubilee of Mercy, Maestro Sergio Calligaris has been awarded with the title of Honorary President of the new Section of A.Gi.Mus. (Associazione Giovanile Musicale, Youth Musical Association) in Rome called «Rome, Places of the Sacred», as leading personality in the contemporary musical panorama and composer of the very highest reputation.
Edited by Renzo Trabucco: Page updated to 26/03/2017