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Silva, Luigi (1903-1961) | Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives

Name: Silva, Luigi (1903-1961)

Historical Note:

Luigi Silva (1903-1961) is remembered as a distinguished musician, teacher, and scholar of the violoncello. Born in Milan, Silva was introduced to music at an early age, as both his parents were noted musicians. Silva began his musical training under his father's tutelage at age five before later studying with Ottorino Respighi in Rome and Rosario Scalero in New York. He graduated cum laude from Liceo Musicale "Sammartini" in 1923 after completing his cello studies with Arturo Bonucci.

Silva became first cellist of the Royal Theatre in Rome at age 22. He performed throughout Europe during the 1930s, winning the Boccherini Prize at the First National Competition in Rome in 1933. After touring Europe with the Quartetto di Roma, Silva migrated to the United States and eventually became a US citizen. Silva debuted as a performer to his American audience during a joint recital with Leopold Mannes in 1941.

Although he is known as a distinguished performer, it is Silva's reputation as a teacher and musicologist for which he is most celebrated. Silva held many notable teaching positions. While in Europe, Silva held the title of Professor at the Conservatories of Music in Venice and Padova in addition to teaching at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Florence. After moving to the States, Silva was named head of the Cello and Chamber Music Department at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester. Silva served as faculty member to the Juilliard School of Music, the Mannes Music School, and the Yale University School of Music.

As a musicologist, Silva is acclaimed for his pedagogical studies of cello techniques and fingering. Silva transcribed for violoncello the primary works of several composers, including Bach and Paganini. Additionally, he authored the five volume treatise, Vademecum, which includes an extensive study of the "Thumb-Position Technique."

Silva died in 1961 before finishing and publishing Vademecum, but the purchase of his scores and personal papers by the Friends of the Library at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1963 has preserved Silva's research and manuscripts for future cellists and researchers of music.


Ricordi Publications Biography of Luigi Silva, Luigi Silva Persoanl Papers Collection, Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, NC, USA.

Walter Clinton Jackson Library, Barbara B. Cassell, and Clifton H. Karnes. 1978. Cello Music Collections in the Jackson Library, University of North Carolina at Greensboro: Part I: The Luigi Silva Collection. Greensboro, N.C.: The Library.

Note Author: Stacey Krim

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