Sgambati, Giovanni, celebrated Italian pianist, conductor, teacher, and composer; b. Rome, May 28, 1841; d. there, Dec. 14, 1914. He studied piano with Amerigo Barbieri, and appeared in public at the age of 6. In 1849 he was taken by his family to Trevi, where he studied with Natalucci; returning to Rome in 1860, he received lessons in counterpoint from Giovanni Aldega. In 1862 he became a pupil of Liszt, remaining his lifelong friend and champion. After taking his diploma di socio onorario at the Accademia di Santa Cecelia in Rome (1866), he embarked upon an outstanding career as a pianist, making tours of Europe with enormous success. In Rome he also was active as a conductor. Historically, Sgambati’s concerts were important as the first systematic attempt to introduce to the Italian public a varied fare of symphonic music. Sgambati continued to tour as a pianist. After a concert tour in Italy and Germany, he established in 1868 a free piano class annexed to the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome, which in 1877 was formally recognized by the government as the Liceo Musicale; it became the foremost music school in Italy, and Sgambati taught piano there until his death. He was an ardent admirer of Wagner, whom he met in 1876; Wagner recommended Sgambati to Schott of Mainz, who subsequently brought out many of Sgambati’s works. As a pianist and teacher, Sgambati enjoyed a very high reputation in Germany and Italy. His own music betrays strong Germanic influence; unlike most Italian composers of his time, he devoted his energies exclusively to instrumental music, avoiding all service to the theater.
ORCH .: 2 syms.: No. 1 in D minor (Rome, March 28, 1881) and No. 2 in E-flat major (1883); Piano Concerto (1878–80); Epitalamio sinfonico (1887); Te Deum laudamus for String Orch. and Organ (1893; also for Large Orch., 1908). other: Sacred music, including a Requiem for Baritone, Voices, and Orch. or Organ (1895–96; rev. 1901); chamber works, including 2 string quartets (1864; c. 1882); String Nonet (1866; not extant); 2 piano quintets (1866; c. 1876); songs; numerous piano pieces; transcriptions for Piano.
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire