Italian-American violin virtuoso Ruggiero Ricci has died at the age of 94.

Born in 1918 in San Francisco, he was a true child prodigy. He took lessons from the great Louis Persinger from the age of six. He made his concert début four years later in San Francisco, in a programme that featured the works of Henryk Wieniawski and Henri Vieuxtemps, astounding the audience and propelling him to early stardom.

He played at Carnegie Hall when he was eleven. A leading music critic gushed “All that great violinist do, he did”.

At his London début on his European tour in 1932, where he played the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, The Strad magazine wrote ‘He possesses wonderful technical ability, irrespective of age, and what is probably of more importance, powers of interpretation which save him from becoming just an extremely efficient music robot.’

Ricci served in the US Army during World War II from 1942-45, as “Entertainment Specialist”. Here he often had to play without accompaniment, which led him to develop his solo repertoire, especially the unaccompanied works of Niccolò Paganini. In his own words, he became a “Paganini specialist”. He was the first to record the composer’s complete, unadulterated 24 Caprices, opus 1. Ricci’s fourth recording of the Caprices was made for the first time on Paganini’s own Guarneri, especially lent to him by the City of Genoa.

He also performed the world premières of several contemporary composers, including Alberto Ginastera, Joseph White and Carlos Veerhoff.

Ricci’s concert career spanned 65 countries and included over 6000 concerts, and his discography exceeds 500 recordings on every major record labels. His last public performance was in 2003.

Apart from masterclasses in the US and Europe, Ricci taught violin at Indiana University, the Juilliard School and the University of Michigan, and the University Mozarteum (Salzburg, Austria).

His books “Left Hand Violin Technique” and “Ricci on Glissando: The Shortcut to Violin Technique” are widely respected by the violin fraternity.

Ricci’s collection of valuable instruments included the famed “ex-Bronislaw Huberman” Guarneri del Gesù (1734).

Here is a video clip of Ricci playing two encores: 1. Preludio from solo Bach Partita no. 3 in E major. & 2. Paganini Caprice 17

And here he is at his 91st birthday (31 July 2009), still going strong! :

Lastly, here’s a recording of the wizard in his prime, playing the Paganini variations on “God Save the Queen”:

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