Leone Sinigaglia


Leone Sinigaglia was not only a composer, but also a keen mountaineer who even immortalised his daring climbs in the Dolomites in a book. As a composer and collector of folk songs, he found his most famous champion in Arturo Toscanini. But Sinigaglia’s works were also heard again and again in Berliner Philharmoniker concerts – for example his concert overture [Le Baruffe Chiozzotte], which Arthur Nikisch presented to the Berlin audience as a novelty on 8 February 1909.

Leone Sinigaglia, who was born into a wealthy Jewish family in 1868, began his violin, piano and composition studies at the Liceo Musicale in Turin. In 1894, he transferred to Eusebius Mandyczewski in Vienna, where he met Johannes Brahms as well as Karl Goldmark and Gustav Mahler. His influence can be seen in Sinigaglia’s violin concerto, which the violinist Arrigo Serato premiered with the Berliner Philharmoniker in 1901. As Brahms never gave lessons, Sinigaglia was taught by Antonín Dvořák, who awakened his interest in folk song in Prague and Vysoká. In 1902, back in Turin, Sinigaglia began systematically collecting and arranging the folk songs of Piedmont – much to the dismay of Italian audiences, who did not want to hear peasant songs in the concert hall, preferring Verdi instead. Arturo Toscanini, however, was very much supportive of Sinigaglia. It was thanks to him that Sinigaglia’s works relating to his homeland – such as the [Rapsodia piemontese], the [Danze piemontesi], the [Serenata sopra temi populari] and the suite [Piemonte] – became part of the standard repertoire at the beginning of the 20th century and were also performed by conductors such as Furtwängler and Barbirolli. But after the First World War, Sinigaglia composed very little, during which time his passion for mountaineering took centre stage. As the so-called racial laws were in force in fascist Italy from 1938 to 1945, Leone Sinigaglia was supposed to be deported to Auschwitz on 16 May 1944 at the age of 75 – but he died of a heart attack on the same day.


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