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Alfredo D'Asdia pianista e compositore siciliano

This site contains information about Alfredo D'Asdia, an Italian late-romantic pianist and composer who dedicated his entire life to the teaching and writing of music in the period between the 19th and 20th century, until he died in 1947, aged 77.

All the material in this site, including mp3 and pdf files are freely available to anybody, as long as they are used for non-profit and private purposes. The owner of this blog must be informed beforehand about any use which goes beyond one's own personal enjoyment, such as public perfomances (whether for-profit or no-profit), recording of sound and/or video (including publishing on personal blogs, facebook, youtube and similar), use for tests and examinations, etc.

Apart from this, please feel free to enjoy the content of these pages. Any comments, suggestions, feedback and help will be more than welcome. And please, spread the voice.

Ermanno Romano

A family of musicians

Numerous are the musicians in the D’Asdia family, of which the baron Pietro Pisani (Palermo 1761-1837), also founder of the Real Casa dei Matti di Palermo (Royal Madhouse of Palermo), can be considered the precursor. He undertook strict musical studies in Naples, under the guidance of the Maestro Zingarelli. High Bourbon officer for his specific competences in music, he was given the task to reorganise and direct the Convservatorio di Musica di Palermo, where he changed the programme of studies by introducing new classes of composition and by entrusting the chair to a famous poliphonist of that time, Pietro Rimondi. Pisani was also interested in archaeology, but throughout his life he particularly cared of mad people and musicians: interesting curiosity!

After him, Ignazio D'Asdia (Palermo 1802-1865), son-in-law of Pietro Pisani having married his daughter Rosalia. Ignazio was composer, conductor, as well as teacher of piano and composition in Naples and Palermo. For two years he was director of the Real Teatro Carolino and under his direction the Palermitans were able to enjoy for the first time the Norma and La Sonnambula (The Sleepwalker). Of him we have many compositions, printed and handwritten, kept in Palermo and Naples where he carried out his artistic and teaching activities for about 18 years. He composed symphonies, masses, numerous pieces for piano (nocturnes, variations) and vocal musics, well appreciated for their considerable melodic inspiration.

Two of his brothers were musicians, too: Giuseppe (Palermo 1821-1861), of whom we don't know much about his career, if not that he was and instrumentalist; and Matteo (Palermo 1824-1895) barefooted Augustinian, talented as much in the Holy Scriptures (as we read in a register of the Order), as in music. He composed sacred choral music, including a Tantum Ergo for solo, choir and orchestra, of which the manuscript is kept at the library of the Conservatoire of Palermo.

Pietro d'Asdia (Napoli 1838 - Palermo 1875), Ignazio's son, was pianist and composer. He was pupil of his father and undertook specialisation classes in Naples with the illustrious Sigismund Thalberg.

Alfredo D'Asdia, to whom this site is dedicated, undertook and completed his music studies at the Real Collegio di Musica (Royal College of Music) belonging to the Convservatorio di Musica "V. Bellini" in Palermo, particularly distinguishing himself as a pupil of the piano school held by Maestro Edoardo Caracciolo, renowned pianist of the Napolitan school.

One of his sons, Armando (Palermo 1913 - 1982), graduated in organ and organ composition, and in direction and composition for band. As well as being qualified to the teaching of music and choral singing, for many years he held the chair of music theory in the conservatoire of Palermo. He was also teacher and music director at the “Rieducatorio per Minorenni di Palermo” (reformatory for juveniles), engaging himself in the opening of the conservatoire to the youths of the reformatory, overcoming the many prejudices and bureaucratic resistances. Some of them became instrumentalists of national fame.

And finally, Ermanno Romano (Palermo 1973) son of Anna Maria D'Asdia grandaugher of Alfredo D'Asdia. As well as being the maker of this site, I play (ish) the piano, but am not yet able to play any of the pieces by my great grandfather, although I am expecting to prepare one within the next 6 months, hopefully!

The life and works of Alfredo D'Asdia

Alfredo D'Asdia, judged "amongst the most praiseworthy in the literary and musical studies" in 1888, having deserved in the final exams the highest grade, obtained the "first degree prize for pianoforte superior studies" at the Conservatoire of Palermo. In order to be able to participate to the orchestral activities of the Conservatoire, as it was compulsory for all the students, Alfredo chose as his instrument the hunting horn and regularly attended the course until completion obtaining a "second degree prize". He integrated his music instruction by completing a course in harmony and counterpoint. The Director of the muscial studies of the College, Maestro Giorgio Miceli, wrote: " He has completed his mucic studies, especially those of counterpoint, under my direction, with excellent risults, showing uncommon sensibility and constance in the studies" (1889). As soon as he finsihed his studies, Alfredo D'Asdia attended some specialisation classes held by Beniamino Cesi, reputed pianist and teacher, for some years teacher at the Conservatoire of Palermo. He further enhanced his pianistic preparation, technical and interpretative, at the perfectioning school of the illustrious pianist and teacher, ingenious and well learned composer and conductor Pietro Floridia (Modica 1860 - New York 1932). Already in his first public performances, Alfredo gained very positive feedbacks from the listeners and music reporters alike. For his exhibition in the "Academy" of the school of Floridia, he not only gained "a storm of applause" (Gazzetta del Popolo, Catania 19/9/1890), but he was also praised with the following words by the Giornale di Sicilia: "A Fantasia in F# by Mendellssohn closed the exhibition, executed by Mr D'Asdia, son of the late lamented Maestro Pietro D'Asdia, who left in this way a good memory of him. The young musician has inherited all the good qualities of his father: correctness of style, extremely light touch, sensible use of the pedals, elegant phrasing..." (13/9/1890). In 1926, in the occasion of the conferring of the "Commenda della Corona d'Italia" (Commenda of the Italian Crown) for artistic merits, the Giornale d'Italia reported: "the Maestro D'Asdia is an artist of unusual modesty... a pianist worthy to compete with the most famous concert artists... It's certainly regrettable that such great value is to be overcome by an excessive modesty and by the torment of an incurable obsession of self-criticism (or self-underestimation), an "evil", this, common to many great Sicilian artists" (18/6/1926). Alfredo D'Asdia carried out an intensive teaching activity and, "working modestly and silently, he demonstrated to continue the traditions of the school of Floridia" (L'Ora March 1904). The academic exhibitions and concerts of his pupils were always very much appreciated by the audience and in the musical milieus, as well as praised by the press. At the end of one of his concerts, the illustrous composer and condcutor Guglielmo Zuelli (Reggio Emilia, 1859 - Milano 1941), who then was a teacher of composition and director of the Conservatoire of Palermo, declared that he was "glad and astonished to have discovered a solid pianistic school, based on higly noble artistic purposes" (L'Ora)
For many years D'Asdia carried out his teaching activity independently. Later, he accepted a chair of teacher of pianoforte in the Conservatoire. But since the years of his professional "independence" he had already been nominated many times external member of the examining board of the Conservatoire, gaining high esteem of eminent Maestros that followed in the years in the direction of the music institute (Guglielmo Zuelli, Francesco Cilea, Guido Alberto Fano, Antonio Savasta). For many years D'Asdia was Artistic and Music Councillor of the Associazione della Stampa Siciliana (Association of Sicilian Press), the Association Musicale degli Amici della Musica (Music Association of the Friends of Music), and the Circolo Artistico di Palermo (Palermo Artistic Circle).
His rare public performances as soloist, in duet or as accompanist of singers, were always very much appreciated, especially in the execution of his own compositions. These were occasions when he confirmed, more in-depth and enriched, those talents that had ben recognised to him since his younger years. He cultivated with devotion music composition and was always able to express a poetic vein of inspiration, characterised by a particular fineness and delicacy of sound.

So wrote in 1995 Maestro Franco Mannino about Dasdia's lyrics:
"He was a real musician ... he had a natural gift of inventiveness for which his lyrics, written in another epoc, today they prove to be "not outdated". I had great pleasure to read them".
On D'Asdia as composer we like to quote the following words by the writer and journalist G. Gallegra Rebaudenco:
"In the music pages of D'Asdia..., who among the gigantic durmasts of the big forest of music literature that do not want to have major ambitions than the small and humble flowers in the fields, you find a tenuous vein, but constant of fresh inspiration, a thread of soft and gentle poetry ... (La Sciabica d'Oro, July 1951).
On his death, a commemorative press article by the cronist and music critic Maestro Salvatore Pintacuda (composer and music history teacher in the Conservatoire) was published on the Giornale di Sicilia:
"As a Maestro, he gave art an innumerable troop of excellent pupils, as a composer he attained a depth of feeling, a transparent luminosity and sincerity of expression such to make, through all his music, an act of faith: a pure artist's faith which he served with religious passion, with humility of heart, with austere faith in the arts... Many youths owe him not only for having deepened their technique and music culture, but - and we think this is more valuable - also for having learnt from him the necessity of the artistic fatigue, the humility of devotion, the cult of earnestness. He was a model for his love for art, for his enthusiasm, for the nobleness of his kind and generous soul. This is proved by the sincere grief that now has hit anybody who knew him" (Giornale di Sicilia, 13/2/1949).