Federico Mompellio (Genova 9/9/1908 – Domodossola 7/8/1989)


Federico was born on the 9th September 1908, in Piazza Garibaldi 8. His parents were Paolo Mompellio and Celeste Paronelli. His father was a Genoese employee and his Turinese mother taught at the Swiss school in Genoa.


At the age of four, he became fascinated with the organ music he heard at his local church, S. Maria delle Vigne. As soon as he got home, he played the song on his father’s piano. Thus began Federico’s musical education. His father also harboured a passion for music and played the mandolin. He was a foreign correspondent for a number of Italian companies and so Federico’s mother had lived in Berlin, St. Petersburg, London, Paris and Lugano. She would read stories to Federico in French, German and English. He soon learnt French and familiarised himself with German, a language that will be important for his future musical career. His first public concert, whose program has been salvaged, was in 1922. When he was 14 years old, he was already a working musician, accompanying singers, violinists and silent movies in his local cinema. He began studying complementary subjects, such as music theory, harmony, music history, violin and the organ. He played in a trio and a quartet with friends and fellow music lovers. He hosted conferences with a musical theme. Berri, who would go on to study Paganini in depth, was among his friends,

On the 21st August, 1925, before turning 17, he graduated from the Liceo D’Oria high school in Genoa, specialising in classical humanities. During this time, he continued to practice the piano (taught by Domenico Bellandi and Raisa Lifschitz) and music composition (taught by Mario Barbieri, from 1922 to 1928).

He earned his piano diploma on the 11th July 1926 from the Conservatorio A. Boito in Parma and passed his organ exam on the 10th November 1926, at the Civico Istituto Paganini in Genoa. On the 25th July 1928, he obtained his diploma in Music Composition, from the same institute in Genoa. Subsequently, he obtained his diplomas in Composition and Band Composition at the Conservatorio A. Boito in Parma. He began his teaching career precociously, from 1926 to 1933, he taught Complementary Harmony at the Istituto Monteverdi. At the same time, he taught History and Aesthetics of Music at a private music high school, the Liceo Zanella in Genoa. On the 11th November 1932, he earned a degree in Literature at the Università di Genova, passing with flying colours. His thesis was entitled: “Il melodramma di Giuseppe Verdi” (The melodrama of Giuseppe Verdi).


In 1933, he studied Conducting and in October of the same year, earned a teaching position for History of Music and a position as a librarian at the Conservatorio di Palermo. He stays there for a year, before winning a fellowship for the same job, in October 1934, this time at the Conservatorio di Parma. He stayed in this post until 1938. During those years, he began nurturing an interest for two new fields of study, which were the leitmotiv of his entire musical career. The first was his in-depth research of the life and works of Paganini. He will eventually review and complete Conestabile’s 1851 narrative of the famous violinist. The book was published in Milan, in 1936 (Dante Alighieri Edition). His second area of interest was the study and practice of ancient musical notation, in collaboration with M° Adlemo Damerini. These studies were seen as an essential philological tool, needed to fully comprehend history’s rich musical testimonials.


In 1936, he was in Vienna, conducting research on Pietro Vinci at the Nationale Bibliothek. His work produced: “Pietro Vinci, madrigalista siciliano” Pietro Vinci, Sicilian madrigal composer (Hoepli, 1937). He then collaborated on the book: “Il segreto del quattrocento” Secrets of the fifteenth century (Hoepli, 1939). He curated the musical extracts with M° Fausto Torrefranca, the librarian at the Conservatorio di Milano and a scholar of music from the 15th Century. After this, he obtained a composition scholarship at the Conservatorio di Parma. During those years, he combined his work as a teacher with his role as a concert player, composer and musical critic (Corriere Emiliano).

In November 1938, he was transferred to the Conservatorio di Milano accepting the role as Library Director, and succeeding to M° Torrefranca. During the war, he catalogued 300,000 volumes from the library and curated their transfer into safe storage, protecting them from wartime events. In 1939, he was nominated as a voluntary assistant to M° Torrefranca at the Università Statale in Milano. In 1940, he actively participated in the Mostra Paganiniana (Paganini Exhibition) in Genoa. During that time, upon the request of the Director, Pick Mangiagalli, he wrote the book “Storia del Regio Conservatorio di Milano” History of the Royal Conservatory in Milano (Monnier, 1941).


In 1940, he married Giuseppina Mondini and in 1941 his first son, Paolo, was born. In the meantime, Italy entered the war. In 1942, their Milanese home was destroyed during an air raid. The family was temporarily separated in an evacuation, but were reunited in Vigevano. They returned to Milano permanently in October 1948. In February 1943, the Conservatorio di Milano was bombarded and partially destroyed by fire. Some musical instruments were salvaged and taken to the Teatro alla Scala. The school continued to hold classes, until a new horrific bombardment struck the building, on the night between the 12th and 13th of August.


1943: he revised the “Manuale d’armonia e sonate” from Benedetto Marcello, for Mondadori publishing.


1944: he composed music to some of the lyrics  by the poet and future Nobel Prize winner,

Salvatore Quasimodo. Federico continued teaching his courses at the Scuola Musicale (musical school) in Milano. Along with the poet, Nino Pivetta, he worked on the text of a ‘cantata’ dedicated to the miracle of Fatima. The project culminated in a published musical score at the end of the 1970s. Its musical debut was at the Angelicum in Milano, in 1983.


1945: he sustained his post as a teacher, concert player and conference organiser.

1946: he continued his work as a composer: “Poemetto eroico” is performed at the Teatro Cagnoni in Vigevano. In August, the first draft of “Fatima” is complete.

Franco, his second son, is born.


1947: he composed the ‘cantata’  “S. Caterina da Siena” with lyrics by Nino Pivetta. He adapted “Panis angelicus” by César Franck for an orchestra.


1948: He held a series of conferences in Como, featuring the late organ player and composer Marco Enrico Bossi (1861-1925), whose life and works he studied in-depth, producing the book “Marco Enrico Bossi” (Hoepli, 1952).

Alberto, his third son, is born.


1949: In November, he left his post as a library director and began teaching Music History classes.


1950: In November, he held his first class as a Music History professor at the Università di Pavia.


1951: he commemorated Giuseppe Verdi at the Università di Pavia and published an important essay on “I Vespri siciliani” The Sicilian Vespers, in the journal “Verdi Oggi” (Diapason, 2° year, n°2). He adapted “Fatima” for an orchestra. He conducted research on the 17th century Sicilian musician, Sigismondo d’India, bringing forward his life and his significant madrigals.


1952: completed the revision of the ‘ludo scenico’  show “Le jeu de Robin et Marion” (one of the oldest examples of Medieval profane theatre) by Adam de la Halle, a 13th Century French composer. The piece was performed at the Angelicum, Milano, on the 29th March. He concluded the orchestral string adaptation of Monteverdi’s “Lamento di Arianna” (Arianna’s lament).

He reduced a ‘cantata’ melody from Cavalli into a song and a piano piece. In October, he accepted a teaching position in Musical Paleography at the Università di Pavia (on the annexed campus in Cremona). He, therefore, gave in his resignation as Music History professor and vice-director of the Conservatorio di Milano. Successively, he was entrusted with the teaching position for History of Musical Instruments and Interpretation of transcribed musical sources.


1953: he commemorated the Renaissance poliphony composer Luca Marenzio (1553-1599) on his 4th centenary and published six “Madrigali a 5 e 6 voci” Madrigals for 5 or 6 voices (Le chant du monde, Milano); in 1980 he curated a second collection from the same madrigal composer. He started a collaboration with the German musical encyclopedia "Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart " and curated some of the articles. Along with the Florentine editor Olschki, he published “Sigismondo d’India e il suo primo libro di musiche da cantar solo” Sigismondo d’India and his first book of songs for soloists.

The article “Un “grillesco capriccio” di Adriano Banchieri” was published in the Musicale Italiana (year LV, edition IV).


1955: the faculty students at the Università Statale in Milano asked him to start a series of classes on musical history. He wrote an article about Mozart for the Edizioni del Teatro alla Scala “Dai primi saggi drammatici al Ratto del Serraglio” First dramatic essays at Ratto del Serraglio. Amongst many other jobs, he continued his collaboration with the editor of Ricordi and with RAI. His piece “J.S.Bach e i Promessi sposi di Kleinzschocher” (year IX, n° 2) was published on Rassegna musicale Curci. “L’Anfiparnaso e le percosse de fulmini” was published on the Commemorazione di Orazio Vecchi (Accademia di Scienze, lettere e arti, Academy of sciences, humanities and arts, Modena).


1956: he prepared a series of lessons for the Piccola Scala and continued his studies on Sigismuondo d’India, curating a volume called “Opere recitative, balletti et inventioni di Sigismondo d’India per la corte dei Savoia” (Opera recitals, ballets and inventions of Sigismondo d’India for the court of the Savoia) for Olschki. The article “Muzio Clementi ritrattista armonico” (year X, n°6) appeared on the Rassegna Musicale Curci.

“Aspetti dell’espressione profana del ‘500 vocale italiano” Aspects of profane expressions in Italian 16th century vocals appears in Prospettive di storia della musica (Centro interuniversitario di studi musicali c/o the Teatro alla Scala).

He also wrote: “L’esecuzione “espressiva” nella pratica musicale del ‘500” Rendition of “expressions” in musical practices of the 16th century (Musica sacra, year I, n°1) and “In memoria di Fausto Torrefranca” In memory of Fausto Torrefranca (Acta musicologica, vol. XXVIII, edition. 1).


1957: he worked on a series of madrigals for RAI, taught classes at the Piccola Scala and continued his collaboration with Casa Ricordi. He wrote the article “Die Kirchenmusik” for the “Italien” section in the MGG encyclopedia. He wrote the section: “Le madrigal “dramatique” and Claudio Monteverdi” for Histoire de la Musique, Gallimard (Paris, vol. 1, 1960). On the 1st August, he was given the title of Cavaliere (Knight) for the Republic.


1958: he taught a course on Mozart at the Piccola Scala. He was given the position of Music History professor at the Università Statale in Milano, which he kept until 1966.


1959: the Accademia Musicale Chigiana asked him to provide the instrumentation for the 5th Concerto of Paganini, which was left with a violin soloist. In 1973, he was entrusted with guaranteeing the authenticity of n°3, 4 and 5 concert manuscripts. He discovered that the manuscript of the n°5 had orchestration notes from the author. He had not yet found these notes in 1959, when he oversaw the Dacci/Franzoni. In one article, he wished for the next orchestration to take this into account. The concert was performed by the violinist Franco Gulli on opening night, on the 3rd September at the Teatro Comunale in Siena. It was engraved on an album by Gulli himself and Salvatore Accardo. He worked on the revision of “Filius prodigus”, an oratorio by Marc Antoine Charpentier, a 17th century French musician. From 1959 to 1961, he was a musical critic for the weekly journal “Candido” by Giovanni Guareschi.


1960: he focused on putting the Storia della Cappella del Duomo di Milano (Story of the chapel of the Duomo di Milano) in writing (the main stories from the liturgical service). He collaborated on a third program with RAI, making a series of madrigals. In August, he taught a class about Benedetto Marcello in Venice. He commemorated Scarlatti at the Piccola Scala. He was coopted at the Rotary Club in central Milano.


1961: the Ministero della Pubblica Istruzione (ministry of public education) awarded him a silver medal for his contributions to musical culture. He published “La cappella del Duomo da Matthias Hermann di Vercore a Vincenzo Ruffo” (1522-1753) in Nella Storia di Milano (Fondazione Treccani, vol. IX, 1961). He curated a presentation of “Vespri” by Monteverdi on the Swiss Italian radio. Paganini’s 5° concert was recorded at the Angelicum (the soloist was Franco Gulli, the conductor Luciano Rosada). He held a summer course for foreign students at the Villa Feltrinelli di Gargano, organized by the Università di Milano.


1962: “La cappella del Duomo dal 1753 ai primi del ‘900” was published in Storia di Milano (Fondazione Treccani, vol. XVI)

1963: he continued his research work on Lodovico da Viadana (1560 circa-1627) for the upcoming celebrations of the 4th centenary of his birth. “Critiche di Verdi ai critici” came out in “A Ettore Desderi nel suo 70° compleanno” (Conservatorio G.B. Martini di Bologna).

1964: he continued to teach Music History and was nominated vice-president of the Società Italiana di Musicologia. He held that post until 1968.

1965: the article “S.Filippo Neri e la musica pescatrice d’anime” (Chigiana, vol. 22) was published. He became a member of the Accademia Musicale Chigiana.

1966: on the 8th October, the celebrations for Lodovico da Viadana were held. In Florence, “Lodovico Viadana, musicista tra due secoli” (Olschki) went to print. In 1969, he received an honorary citizenship. More scripts followed: “Guglielmo Barblan e la musicologia umana” (Studi di musicologia, Florence, Olschki), the article “Canzone” for the encyclopedia La Musica (vol. 1°) and “Musica provvisoria nella prima Forza del destino” (Verdi - bollettino di studi verdiani, Parma, vol. 2°, n° 6).

1967: “Luci di “verità” nell’Orfeo monteverdiano” (Rassegna musicale Curci, year XX, n° 2). “Premessa all’opera di Leo Janacek: Da una casa di morti” (Associazione Amici della Scala, Milano, extract from vol. “Conferenze” 1966-’67). 

1968: held a series of conferences in Holland. He participated in the Congresso Internazionale Monteverdiano (Venice-Mantua-Cremona, 3rd and 7th May) and gave the “closing speech” (published in the collection of 35 speeches “Claudio Monteverdi e il suo tempo”). He reviewed “The age of humanism 1540-1630” (New Oxford Dictionary of Music, vol. IV, London) on Rivista musicale italiana, n° 3, May – June. He was elected Academic of S. Cecilia. He was nominated extraordinary Professor at the Scuola di Paleografia e Filologia Musicale at the Università di Parma – the Cremona annex. He left the Conservatorio di Milano. In 1971, he left the Università di Parma and joined the Università di Pavia, where he became a tenured professor of Theory and History of Musical Notation in the Renaissance. In 1975, he taught a class on History of Modern Music.

1970: He wrote a literary criticism: “Valori cromatici nei quintetti di César Franck” (in "Memorie e contributi offerti a Federico Ghisi", Quadrivium XII). “Partiture” (Falt libri, Milano – presentation of works by Haendel, Gluck, Rossini, Wagner, Gounod).

1971: he studied Alessandro Striggio, a 16th century madrigal composer from Mantua and curated an edition of “La caccia” The hunt (DeSantis, Rome). In 1973, it will be performed at the Foro Italico in Rome.

1972: he wrote the section of “Frottola” for MGG. He prepared a series about Luca Marenzio for RAI. “Strutturalismo e semiologia in Italia relativamente alla musica” (Structuralism and semiotics in Italy relative to music) it united a series of essays that appear on Strumenti critici (years 1971-’72, n° 24, years 1972-’73, n° 26, years 74, n° 30).

1973: he finished the orchestration of Paganini’s 6° concert (the word “concert” is misleading, it is actually an early opera with only the soloist score). The score was published by the Istituto di Studi Paganiniani in Genoa. He wrote the preface for the Ricordi edition of Paganini’s “Capricci” and the “Viadana” section for the Encyclopedia Britannica Grove.

1974: he prepared a revision of Paganini’s “Quartetti” (“Tre quartetti per due violini, viola e violoncello” Three quartets for two violins, viola and cello, Edizione nazionale, vol. 1°, Rome, Istituto Italiano per la Storia della Musica).

1978: he held one last class at the Scuola di Paleografia in Cremona: he received the silver medal at the Università di Pavia.

1979: he transcribed “Tre madrigali di Luca Marenzio dal 2° libro a 5 voci” Three madrigals from Luca Marenzio from book 2 for 5 voices (Rome, Pro musica Studium, 1980).

1983: on the 6th February “Fatima: racconto mistico” was performed at the Angelicum of Milano for the first time. Two more performances followed on the 7th and on the 8th. He received the Antonio Feltrinelli Prize for music from the Accademia Nazionali dei Lincei.

1984: he was nominated Honorary Professor at the Università di Pavia, in recognition of his teaching career.

1985: an issue of Il Lepricano (Milano) published the violin and piano adaptations for the score of Paganini’s 6th Concert.

1989: he was nominated Honorary fellow at the Accademia di Scienze e Lettere in Genoa. He started working on the critical review of Paganini’s “Balletto Campestre”. On the 7th August, he died suddenly in Domodossola. He was put to rest in the Lambrate cemetery in Milano.

1990: an issue of Il Lepricano (Milano) published his violin and piano adaptations for the score of Paganini’s 5th Concert.