Curt Cacioppo

Curt Cacioppo is a composer whose expressive power and emotional appeal continue to captivate listeners and performers worldwide. He derives inspiration from sources as diverse as the medieval poetry of Dante, aspects of Native American culture, or the vernacular music he grew up with. His creative work is founded upon a virtuoso background of solo and collaborative piano playing, and he pursues an active role as pianist on stage and in recording. An engaging speaker and writer on a wide variety of musical topics, he is able to communicate his enthusiasm for the art to a broad constituency.

His distinctive voice attracted national attention in a 1997 lifetime achievement award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, an honor conferred in the past upon such recipients as Leonard Bernstein, William Schuman, and Gian Carlo Menotti. With commissions both domestic and international, he has written for the Chicago Symphony and Milwaukee Symphony orchestras, the American Composers Orchestra, the Philadelphia Classical Symphony, the Network for New Music and Lyric Fest (Philadelphia), the Yale Symphony, the Bach Society Orchestra of Harvard, the Carmel Bach Festival, the Emerson, American, Moscow and Borromeo string quartets, the New York Chamber Brass, the Quartetto di Venezia, the Nuovi Spazi Musicali series in Rome, the International Venice Festival, the NED Ensemble of Brescia, the Duo Alterno of Turin, the Settimana Organistica Internazionale of Piacenza, and other fine ensembles and soloists. Having completed his String Quartet No. 6 for the Quartetto di Venezia while a Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome, he also composed a piano quintet for them in commemoration of their 30th anniversary year. Cacioppo is represented as a composer on 16 compact discs, more than half of them containing exclusively his works alone. The most recent of these, “Ritornello,” earned a Grammy nomination and inclusion on the Fanfare critics year-end “must have” list. Cacioppo’s music has been presented in prominent venues around the globe, from Carnegie Hall in New York to Segerstrom Concert Hall in Orange County, California, Munetsugu Hall in Nagoya to the Gasteig Cultural Center in Munich, Teatro La Fenice in Venice to the Jane Mallett Theatre in Toronto, from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. to Sala Felipe Villanueva and Teatro San Benito Abad in Mexico, and often at cherished sites such as the Villa Aurelia in Rome, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles (there in conjunction with exhibitions of Venetian drawings and Tiepolo paintings) and the Fogg Museum at Harvard (in tandem with a show by American Indian artist Dan Namingha).

As solo recitalist he is not limited to performing his own work, but has championed the music of at least 30 fellow contemporary composers. A dozen composers have written for or dedicated pieces to him, among them George Rochberg and the Venetian avantgardist Marino Baratello. In early 2012 he recorded an entire CD of music by his colleague Mark Hagerty now released on Meyermedia. As a collaborative pianist he has concertized with the Quartetto di Venezia, and with members of the Guarneri, Borromeo and American string quartets, the Orpheus Chamber Ensemble, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Pacific, National and Boston symphonies, and the Minnesota, Metropolitan Opera and Leipzig Gewandhaus orchestras. Of particular meaning was his “Beethoven for Bosnia” benefit concert series in which he and violinist Geoffrey Michaels played the complete Beethoven sonatas for piano and violin, raising funds to aid Bosnian student refugees during the ’90’s war. At home in standard solo, chamber and vocal repertoire, he enjoys now and then performing baroque literature on harpsichord.

An award winning teacher of long experience, Cacioppo has spoken to audiences and given lectures, workshops and masterclasses in a wide range of contexts. From the Interlochen Arts Academy to the Richard Strauss Konservatorium in Munich, the Espoon Institute in Helsinki to the National University in San José, Costa Rica, the Universití  Ca’ Foscari in Venice, Italy to the Orange County High School for the Performing Arts in California, from King’s College, London to the Mid-American Center for Music and Art in Bowling Green, Ohio, from the Deutsch-Amerikanischer Freundeskreis Niederrhein to Villanova University’s Peace and Justice Education Center, his message is ever warmly received. Because of his colloquial nature, performers of his music never hesitate to call him on stage to offer remarks when he is in the house.

Born in 1951 in Ravenna, Ohio, Cacioppo began his first piano lessons at age 9 under the guidance of his mother. His first recital was at age 11 at Kent State University’s School of Music, where he received his baccalaureate degree a decade later, studying composition and majoring in piano. He participated in master classes led by Arthur Loesser, John Browning, Ruth Laredo, Robert de Gaetano, and others, and studied jazz with pianist and composer Pat Pace. At the Blossom Festival School he coached chamber music under principal members of The Cleveland Orchestra, including oboist John Mack and violinist Josef Gingold, and pianist Tung Kwong Kwong. From Ohio he went to New York University and earned a Master of Arts degree (1976) in musicology. Advised by Gustave Reese, his thesis dealt with music of the liégeois composer Johannes Ciconia, who flourished in Padua in the late trecento/early quattrocento. He finished his studies at Harvard University with Leon Kirchner, Earl Kim and Ivan Tcherepnin. Ethnomusicologist David McAllester gave formal direction to his explorations of Native American music. He received the MA (1979) and Ph.D. (1980) in composition, and was appointed to the Harvard faculty for a four year period. In 1983 Cacioppo moved from Cambridge to Philadelphia to join the faculty of Haverford College, where he is Ruth Marshall Magill Professor of Music.