Piatti, Alfredo Carlo



Probably the greatest violoncellist of recent times. Born and died at Bergamo, Italy. His father was a violinist of note, leader of the town orchestra, and his great-uncle, Zanetti, was an excellent musician. At five years of age Alfredo began to study the cello under his uncle, and advanced so rapidly that at the end of two years he played in the orchestra with his father, and after the first season took his uncle's place. When ten years old he entered the Milan Conservatory, where he studied for five years, and where, in 1837, he made his debut as a soloist, playing one of his own concertos. He then returned to his old post at Bergamo, and from there made frequent visits to the neighboring towns. Going to Paris in 1844, he played both in public and private, met Habeneck, and received a fine Amatis cello from Liszt. He made his London debut at a concert in Her Majesty's Theatre. He played at the Dohler concerts and elsewhere, and visited Moscheles, where he met Mendelssohn. The great composer immediately recognized his genius, and just before his death, in 1847, started to write a concerto for him, the manuscript of which is lost. In 1846 he returned to London, which henceforth was his winter home. There he appeared with Sainton, Ernst, Sivori and Vieuxtemps. He took part in a concert given by the Beethoven Quartet Society to Mendelssohn, and was often soloist at the National concerts at Her Majesty's Theatre. In 1851 he became a member of the Sacred Harmonic Society; in 1852 first cello of the New Philharmonic Society, and that year performed Bennett's Sonata Duo in A minor for the first time at a concert of the Quartet Association. He also 'introduced at the Philharmonic, in 1853, the concerto which Molique had composed for him, and, at the Crystal Palace in 1866, a concerto written for him by Sullivan. He spent his summers in Italy at his villa on Lake Como. He was always very fond of England and was equally beloved there. He was also honored by King Umberto of Italy with the Order of the Crown.


His technique was perfect, his playing refined and artistic, the tone pure and large, the intonation true, and the phrasing beautiful, while his interpretation was intellectual and poetic. Like Joachim, he shone not only as a violinist but as a quartet player, his ensemble work nearing perfection. In composition Molique was his teacher, and his works are excellent. They include Introduction et variations sur un theme de Lucia di Lammermoor; Une Priere; Chant Religieux; Souvenir d'Ems; Souvenire de La Sonnambula; Mazurka Sentimentali; Fantasie Russe; Air Baskyr; Souvenir de I Puritani; Amour et Caprice; Fantasie; La Suedois, caprice; Divertissement sur un air Napolitain; Souvenir de Linda di Chamounix; Theme varie; Bergamasca; Serenade Italienne; Siciliana; nocturne; concerto; Dodici Capricci; concerto; concertino; Fantasia Romanesca; serenata; songs with cello obligate, among them Tennyson's O Swallow, Swallow, Flying Forth; and transcriptions and arrangements. Piatti led a simple life, being a quiet and modest man. His daughter married Count Lochis, and at her home, near Bergamo, he spent the last few months of his life. He was buried with state ceremonies in the private chapel of the Lochis family.