August’s composer of the month is Giulio Briccialdi, thought of as one of the finest and most virtuostic flutists in history. He was and is still known as “the Paganini of the flute,” Paganini being one of the most famous violinists to this day. He was a remarkable virtuoso who toured Europe as a soloist and was responsible for several technical improvements to the flute—now standard features on the instrument.
Briccialdi was born in Terni, Italy in 1818 and began studying flute with his father. After his father’s death, the 14-year-old Briccialdi moved to Rome to pursue a musical career and avoid family pressure to join the priesthood. His first appointment was to the Accdemia di Santa Cecilia in Rome at the age of 17. While in Rome he studied composition and, in 1835, began teaching flute at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia. He then moved to Naples, where he was the flute teacher for the royal family. In 1841 he toured Europe and America, finally settling in London the following year. In London he became a director of the instrument making firm Rudall and Rose and was responsible for several mechanical developments which are still in use today.
As a composer, he devoted himself mainly to the composition of paraphrases and variations on operatic themes, this being the most popular genre for the public and the most suitable to achieve fame and success. The concept of Paraphrase or Air with variations, along with the taste for famous operatic themes and for pure virtuosity, captivated an entire generation of performers throughout Europe and in Italy. However, one of the most famous pieces that he is known for today is the “Carnival of Venice,” which has been transcribed for nearly every instrument and is a virtuostic hallmark.