Renzo Rossellini

(01 January 1908 — 01 January 1982)

Renzo Rossellini, Roberto Rossellini’s younger brother, was born on February 2, 1908, in Rome. He began his musical studies under Giacinto Sallustio, and went on to the Santa Cecilia Conservatory, where he studied composition under Giacomo Setaccioli, and conducting under Bernardino Molinari. He began teaching in 1934, and was named Director of the Varese Musical High School, and later taught composition and served as Assistant Director at the Rossini Conservatory in Pesaro. He was also a fellow at the Santa Cecilia Conservatory, music critic for the Italian daily Il Messaggero, and artistic director for the Monte Carlo Opera.

Rossellini’s music makes use of a lyrical language that tends toward the dramatic, which appeals to listeners for its immediacy and communicative power. Indeed, in terms of musical ideals, Rossellini aspired to the theater. This theatrical sentiment comes out in other kinds of works as well, which include operas, ballets and even his orchestral and chamber music.

Through his brother, he had always been close to the world of cinema, and by the 1930s he was composing film soundtracks. He gained fame during the period of neorealismo and won two Nastri d’Argento awards: one in 1947 for the soundtrack of Paisà, and one in 1948 for the music in The Brothers Karamazov. At this time he also worked with other directors, including Mario Soldati, Dino Risi and Luigi Zampa.

He did not begin composing operas until 1956, when he had already reached artistic maturity. He took inspiration from 19th-century opera and realism, especially in the librettos that he himself wrote. This is clearly seen in La guerra (1956) and Il vortice (1958). By the time Rossellini turned fifty, he had begun focusing his research on transfigured human poetry, and made a stylistic breakthrough in 1963 with Il linguaggio dei fiori ossia Donna Rosita nubile. In the years 1964-65 he wrote a dramatic poem, La leggenda del ritorno (1966) based on an episode from Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Two years later came a more realistic drama, L’Avventuriero. We see a more spiritual side of the composer in the music he wrote for Paul Claudel’s Annonce faite à Marie (1970), as well as in the polyphonic piece Cori vespertini (1969).

Rossellini also composed numerous orchestral compositions.


He died on May 13, 1982, in Monte Carlo.