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Just in: farewell to a Golden Age violinist

Ruggiero Ricci has died, age 94.

San Francisco born, he gave his first public performance in 1928 and made his Carnegie Hall debut before he began to shave. Blessed with flying fingers, he was often referred to as the Paganini of the 20th century.

A man of immense natural warmth, he carried on playing and teaching until he could barely hold a bow. I last saw him at Dartington about eight years ago, giving informal tuition to anyone who cared to drop by.

 (c) Lebrecht Music&Arts

Among the Golden Agers, he was perhaps the most democratic. Well played, Ruggiero, you won’t be forgotten.

The Strad has a tribute. And here’s a late interview on

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  1. Francisco Martinez Ramos says:

    Great violinist. I heard him live only one time, in a recital. RIP.

  2. Mati Braun says:

    Great violinist, I had the honor to meet him socially, play for him. He was a very nice man.

    • doron salomon says:

      I had the pleasure of conducting him with my soloist for his 80th anniversary.It was a unique experience and a lesson for life .I’ll miss him greatly.

  3. Among the greatest! We are lucky he left us enough of his recordings and methods to continue his legacy. May he rest in peace.

  4. Tamara Meinecke says:

    That Left-Hand Violin Technique book’ll sure get a person back into shape in a hurry!

  5. Alessandro Borgomanero says:

    A great loss for the music and violin world. One of the greatest violinists ever, a very generous and simple person that enchanted the whole world. i had the privilege to study with him in salzburg from 1989 to 93.
    The violinists of the golden age are vanishing, long life to Ivry Gitlis and Ida Haendel

  6. A great violinist. I heard him play when I was very young. RIP Maestro……..and thank you for all you shared.

  7. I saw Ruggiero Ricci at the Wigmore Hall about 20 years ago. It was one of the best concerts I have ever been to. He played solo Bach with such profundity in the first half and then in the second half he dazzled in Paganini. People (me included!) were gasping and catching their breath in the way that we read they did when Paganini himself played. A matchless artist.

  8. Romuald Sztern says:

    had the privilege to hear Mr Ricci in Wieniawskis second in Barcelona 1988. Warmth of sound and an effortlessly carried melodic line with the music unfolding as if caught from the air around. Unforgettable!

  9. i have great memories having a masterclass as well as lessons in his salzburg home. he let me warm up in a room that was full of photographs which had personal dedications to him..kreisler, heifetz, hubermann, elman etc. i was in awe! his ears were sharp…he criticized that i had warmed up for my lesson with the piece itself and not with a scale. i have since then practised my scales:-) thank you maestro ricci. rest in piece.

  10. My husband, the violinist Ronald Masin, was discussing the technique of playing tenths on the violin in 1950 when Ricci was visiting South Africa. Ronald was frustrated with the way his reacher was telling him how to solve the problem of playing tenths i.e. initiating the movement from the index finger. Ronald (he was around twelve years old at the time) felt that the only way to play tenths with ease was by spreading the left hand fingers in both directions. Ricci laughed at Ronald’s complaint and advised him that the only sound way to play tenths was indeed by relaxing the palm of the left hand so as to allow the fingers to stretch; the index finger towards the scroll and the other fingers at equal distances towards the desired note.Thank you Maestro Ricci.

  11. Steven Gysler says:

    Ruggiero Ricci was one of my favorite violinists of the Golden Age of violin playing. I will miss him, but he gave me some treasure before he left. One of them is his 70′s recording of the Sibelius d minor, which I’d just listened to yesterday. He must’ve been saying good-bye to his fans before his departure. So long, my good friend; I never met you, but you and I shared many pleasurable moments in melody.

    My heart-felt condolences to Julia.

  12. David Goldsmith says:

    I can remember him playing in the Royal Albert Hall at a Prom in 1977 filling in for an indisposed Perlman. Scintillating playing and a Paganini Variations on God save the King encore ! Brought thehouse down !

  13. Daniel Polowetzky says:

    I remember attending a concert at Town Hall in New York City featuring Ruggiero Ricci and the guitarist Ernesto Bitetti. I was about 16 and siting in the front row with a friend. After the intermission, Mr. Ricci began tapping his violin with the back of the bow. I thought he was attempting to quiet the audience when I realized that this was the beginning of a contemporary commisioned composition. I stuggled to muffle a laugh!

    After the work, Mr. Ricci gave me a knowig wink!

  14. From his Italian origins, Ruggiero Ricci’s playing always had a great vocal quality, an intense lyricism, a warm and generous sonority, a moving simplicity- just as he was as a person! His phrasings never were done with any manierism but with, again, a vocal limpidity and he played the most virtuoso works with elegance and nobility.
    If his spectacular technique made him known for his vivid inerpretation of all the solo virtuoso repertoire, he also was the creator of many important concertis, like Alberto Ginastera’s. (see links below)
    He has during his long and full life played virtually all repertoire!

    As his student during two years at the Salzbourg Mozarteum, I will always remember his great generousity, simplicity and his contagious passion for the violin. The lessons were a feast, very intense, but there was such a joy emanating from them, an endless joy of learning, sharing, discovering!
    It was of course already a great lesson to watch him play- he always had one of his violins at hand. He was extremely picky with intonation, up to obsession, (and made us practice all sorts of scales in 5th, 3rds, unissons drone scales, left hand pizzicatis- all can be found in his book on Left-hand technique)- and always encouraged us to sing every phrase in order to play “inside out”, for that the music becomes our voice.
    He was a very positive person, and even though is was very hard work, difficult at times, nothing seemed impossible with him.
    I also keep great memories of after-lessons in his wonderful studio surrounded by CDs, books, and photos of greats of the past whom he had known: after-lessons when he often took time to listen to LPs ands CDs with his students: with imeense fervour I then discovered Vasa Prihodas’playing, for instance of Schubert’s Litanei, of Busoni playing his own transciption of Bach’s Chaconne…
    He was a living legend and a direct link to a Golden Age.
    I also remember the frequent babequeues he organised with his wife Julia in his garden, when he grilled sausages for all his sutudio!
    For all this, Thank you, Maestro Ricci!

  15. I had the privilege of seeing him but one time, when I was 15 in 1960 at the Italian American Society in Wayne PA, where I grew up (as did Anna Moffo). I have never forgotten this totally solo recital of all Paganini works. His London LP CM9099 was basically this recital, and his variations on God Save the Queen were remarkable as were all the others. His DVD of the Caprices while done in his 70′s at Michigan are, I think the only DVD of the caprices, and his recording of 15 different violins playing the same passage from the Bruch is just a wonderful comparison – part of that London LP. Only James Ehnes has done something similar recently, but on DVD. Fortunately he also recorded a 5 DVD set covering his teaching with several students. He’s the last of the greats of the Heifetz, Oistrakh, Milstein, Menuhin. He will be greatly missed

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