May 31, 1901
|Died||November 3, 1983(aged 82)|
|Occupation||Conductor, Composer, Musical Director|
|Awards||Emmy Award |
Order of Merit of the Italian Republic
Alfredo Antonini (May 31, 1901 – November 3, 1983) was a leading Italian-American symphony conductor and composer who was active on the international concert stage as well as on the CBS radio and television networks from the 1930s through the early 1970s. In 1972 he received an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Religious Programming on television for his conducting of the premiere of Ezra Laderman's opera And David Wept for CBS television during 1971. In addition, he was awarded the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic in 1980 
|You may listen to Alfredo Antonini with tenor Nestor Mesta Chayres and the CBS Pan American Orchestra performing Agustin Lara's bolero Granada in 1946 here|
Maestro Antonini was born in Alessandria and pursued his musical studies at the Royal Conservatory in Milan. He was a student of Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini. In addition, he distinguished himself as both an organist and pianist with La Scala Orchestra in Milan prior to emigrating to the United States in 1929.
During the 1940s he distinguished himself as a conductor of several leading orchestras while performing on the CBS radio network. These included: the CBS Pan American Orchestra (1940–1949), as part of the cultural diplomacy initiative of the Department of State and the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs during World War II, the Columbia Concert Orchestra (1940–1949) and the CBS Symphony Orchestra. His performances with the CBS Pan American Orchestra were noteworthy for helping to introduce Latin American music and the Mexican bolero to large audiences in the United States.
He also conducted live radio broadcasts of the program Viva America Archived 2012-02-06 at the Wayback Machine on the CBS radio network and La Cadena de las Americas (Network of the Americas) in collaboration with such noted artists as Nestor Mesta Chayres (Mexican tenor aka "El Gitano De Mexico") Terig Tucci (Argentine composer/arranger), Juan Arvizu (Mexican tenor), Elsa Miranda (Puerto Rican vocalist/actress), Eva Garza (Mexican American vocalist/actress) and John Serry, Sr. (Italian-American concert accordionist). He also appeared with Nestor Mesta Chayres (tenor) and the New York Philharmonic in the Night of the Americas Concert series at Carnegie Hall., which, according to The New York Times, was eagerly anticipated by the general public. Additional performances in collaboration with Juan Arvizu ("El Troubador de las Americas") and the CBS Tipica Orchestra for the Inter-America Music Fiesta at Carnegie Hall attracted widespread acclaim. In 1946, Antonini recorded several popular Latin American songs with Serry on the album Latin American Music - Alfredo Antonini and Viva America Orchestra for Alpha Records (catalogue #'s 12205A, 12205B, 12206A, 12206B) including: Tres Palabras (Osvaldo Farres), Caminito de Tu Casa (Julio Alberto Hernández), Chapinita (Miguel Sandoval) and Noche De Ronda (Augustin Lara). Critical review of the albums in The New Records praised his conducting talents and hailed the collection as among the best new albums of Latin American music.
Later in the 1940s, Antonini collaborated with the vocalist Victoria Cordova and John Serry Sr. in a series of recordings for Muzak, featuring compositions familiar to audiences in both North and South America. Included among these were: What a Difference a Day Made - Maria Grever, You Belong to My Heart - Agustin Lara, Siboney - Ernesto Lecuona, Amor - Gabriel Ruiz, Edelma Passilo - Terig Tucci, Say It Isn't So - Irving Berlin, How Deep is the Ocean - Irving Berlin and A Perfect Day - Carrie Jacobs-Bond He also collaborated with the Latin group Los Panchos Trio in a recording of the Chilean cueca dance La Palma for Pilotone records (#P45-5067). In addition, he recorded several songs for Columbia records with operatic baritone Carlo Morelli which included La Spagnola (#17192-D), Alma Mia (#17192-D) Canta Il Mare (#17263-D), Si Alguna Vez (#17263-D). Additional collaborators included: the Italian operatic tenor Nino Martini for a recording of the song Amapola (Columbia, #17202-D) and the Mexican tenor Nestor Chayres for a recording of Granada (Decca, #23770 A) It was during the 1950s that Maestro Antonino was Professor of Music at St. John's University, then in Brooklyn, NY. He taught the Music Appreciation course.</ref>[St.John's College Yearbook,1954] As a musical director at the College of Arts and Science, CBS Television during the 1950s, Antonini was instrumental in presenting a program of classical and operatic music to the general public. His collaboration with Julie Andrews, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II in a production of Cinderella for CBS television was telecast live in color on March 31, 1957 to an audience of 107 million people. During this decade he also appeared in concert with such operatic divas as Eileen Farrell (soprano) and Beverly Sills (soprano). Later in 1957, Antonini became the musical director and conductor of the Tampa Philharmonic in Florida.
|You may listen to Alfredo Antonini conducting the New York Philharmonic, Licia Albanese and Richard Tucker performing operatic arias by Giacomo Puccini in 1959 here on wqxr.org|
Antonini also served as a conductor of the open-air summer concerts held at the landmark Lewisohn Stadium in New York City during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. He appeared at least once during each season while featuring leading talent from the Metropolitan Opera. His appearances with the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra and the Lewisohn Stadium Orchestra during the series of Italian Night concerts frequently attracted audiences which exceeded 13,000 guests. These performances featured arias from the standard Italian operatic repertoire and showcased such operatic luminaries as: Jan Peerce, Eileen Farrell, Richard Tucker, Beverly Sills, Licia Albanese, Eva Likova, Robert Weede, Cloe Elmo and Robert Merrill
During the late 1950s and early '60s, Antonini conducted the CBS Orchestra on "American Musical Theater." This was a TV show produced by the New York City Board of Education as a public service before the advent of the Public Television Network. It chronicled the evolution of musical theater in America in front of a small audience of high school students. Guests included Richard Rodgers, John Bubbles and many others. During this time Antonini also collaborated as a guest conductor with instrumental soloists, including Benny Goodman in 1960 for a performance of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto at Lewisohn Stadium. In addition, he conducted the Symphony of the Air in the live prime-time television special Spring Festival of Music for CBS Television. This collaboration with the pianist John Browning and the producer Robert Herridge showcased a virtuoso performance of a movement from Sergie Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto. The performance was noted for its musical excellence as well as its dramatic visual presentation on television.
In 1962, Antonini collaborated with First Lady of the United States Jacqueline Kennedy, director Franklin J. Schaffner, and journalist Charles Collingwood of CBS News for the groundbreaking television documentary A Tour of the White House with Mrs. John F. Kennedy. The documentary television program was watched by more than 80 million viewers throughout the world and received wide critical acclaim.
In 1964, Antonini appeared as conductor of the CBS Symphony Orchestra in an acclaimed adaptation of Hector Berlioz's sacred oratorio L'enfance du Christ for CBS Television. His operatic soloists included: Sherrill Milnes, Giorgio Tozzi, Ara Berberian and Charles Anthony as supported by the choral voices of the Camerata Singers. At this time he also collaborated as conductor for a televised episode of The CBS Repertoire Workshop - "Feliz Borinquen", which showcased the talents of such leading Puerto Rican performers as: Martina Arroyo and Raul Davila
In addition to performing as a conductor on WOR radio in New York City during the 1940s, he appeared as a guest conductor for leading symphonic orchestras in Chicago, IL, Milwaukee, WI, Oslo, Norway, and Chile during the 1950s. During this time he also founded the Tampa Philharmonic Orchestra in Tampa, Florida, which eventually merged into the Florida Gulf Coast Symphony. In the 1960s Maestro Antonini also appeared as a guest conductor with the New York Philharmonic at Philharmonic Hall during a grand opera benefit concert which featured the artistry of Jan Peerce and Robert Merrill. Throughout the 1960s he continued to collaborate with such operatic luminaries as Jan Peerce (tenor), Robert Merrill (baritone)and Franco Corelli (tenor), Nicolai Gedda, Giorgio Tozzi, Gabriella Tucci and Dorothy Kirsten in a variety of gala concerts. He also performed with Roberta Peters at the Lewisohn Stadium at City College for an audience of thousands.
In 1971, Antonini excelled once again as Musical Director on the CBS Television premier of Ezra Laderman's opera And David Wept, earning an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Religious Programming (1972). He collaborated in this premier production with such operatic luminaries as Sherrill Milnes, Rosalind Elias and Ara Berberian. Several years later in 1975 he joined forces once again with Berberian and the mezzo-soprano Elaine Bonazzi for the CBS Television movie, A Handful of Souls.
Antonini's collaborations at CBS Television extended beyond the realm of opera to include prominent figures from several professions including: Philanthropy - (John D. Rockefeller III), Government - (Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis) Journalism - (Charles Collingwood,)) Walter Cronkite, Daniel Shorr) Art - (Henry Moore, Kenneth Clark) Dance - (Mary Hinkson) Drama -(John Alexander, Julie Andrews, Ingrid Bergman, Betty Comden, Henry Fonda, Jackie Gleason, Steven Hill, Ron Holgate, Celeste Holm, Richard Kiley, Howard Lindsay, Michael Redgrave) and the Concert Stage - (Charles Anthony, John Browning). Maestro Antonini's musical legacy has been preserved on a variety of LP recordings which reflect his interest in symphonic compositions, popular music from Latin-America and grand opera. He has recorded for Coral Records, Columbia Masterworks and SESAC Records.
Alfredo Antonini died at the age of 82 during heart surgery in Clearwater, Florida, in 1983. He was buried in Sylvan Abbey Memorial Park cemetery in Clearwater and was survived by his wife Sandra and a son.
|You may listen to Alfredo Antonini with lyric tenor Nino Martini performing the songTorna a Surriento by Ernesto De Curtis in 1941 here|
|You may listen to Alfredo Antonini with lyric tenor Nino Martini performing Joseph Lacalle's song Amapola in 1940 here|
|You may listen to Alfredo Antonini with Juan Arvizu and John Serry Sr. performing Vival Sevilla, Mi Sarape, Que Paso?, El Bigote de Tomas, De Donde? in 1942 here|