Sunday, June 16, 2013

Giovanni Ricordi

Giovanni Ricordi was an Italian violinist and publisher born (in Milan) sometime in 1785.  Mozart was then still very much alive.  Ricordi is a good example of violinists who give up their performing careers to pursue other interests – violinists such as Iso Briselli, Arthur Judson, Patricia Travers, Laura Archera, and Olga Rudge.  He began his violin studies at an early age but who his teachers were is a mystery.  He was good enough to become the concertmaster of a theatre orchestra in Milan.  However, by age 18, he was already working as a music copyist and dealer in instruments.  By 1806 he had a contract with the Carcano Theatre to supply parts and scores for their productions.  He liked the business well enough to undertake a trip to Germany in 1807 to study in Leipzig at the Breitkopf & Hartel printing establishment.  A few months later, he returned to Milan to start his own publishing company – Casa Ricordi.  He was 23 years old.  He must have been a little bit of a workaholic because he was also the prompter at the opera house (La Scala) during this time.  It can be said he established one of the first music libraries.  Ricordi gradually acquired most of the theatrical works by Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini, and Verdi, among many others.  By 1814, he had published his first catalogue, by that time already owning almost 800 scores.  He had by then probably given up violin playing in public completely though I am not certain of that.  In 1840, Ricordi persuaded the Austrian government to establish something akin to copyrights for composers and publishers in Italy.  The idea – which we now take for granted - soon spread worldwide.  Ricordi died (in Milan) on March 15, 1853, at age 68.  By 1908, the number of Ricordi Editions had reached 112,446.  Ricordi eventually also got into printing books and advertising posters.  Some of the posters are collectors' items although still quite affordable.  

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