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Marco Enrico Bossi (Composer)

Born: April 25, 1861 - Salò on Lake Garda (province of Brescia, Lombardy), Italy
Died: February 20, 1925 - at sea (mid-Atlantic)

The Italian Italian organist, composer, improviser and pedagogue, Marco Enrico Bossi, was born in 1861, the year of Italy’s unification, into a family of musicians: his father Pietro (1834-1896) was organist at Salò Cathedral and composer, his son Renzo (1883-1965) became one of the most renowned professors of composition in Italy. Marco Enrico had two brothers, Costante Adolfo Bossi and Pietro Bossi. Marco Enrico received his musical training at the Liceo Musicale in Bologna and the Milan Conservatory, where his teachers included Francesco Sangalli (piano), Amilcare Ponchielli (composition) and Polibio Fumagalli (organ). In Milan he was first awarded his piano diploma (1879), then his diploma in composition (1881).

Marco Enrico Bossi never finished his organ studies, despite years of study with the renowned organist and composer Polibio Fumagalli (1837-1908), which could be interpreted as an act of criticism against Italian organ practice of his time, which was heavily influenced by the prevailing taste for opera. Instead, he travelled throughout Europe and America, made numerous international organ recital tours, establishing ties with well-known fellow colleagues, such as Joseph Bonnet, Charles M. Courboin, Marcel Dupré, César Franck, Alexandre Guilmant, Camille Saint-Saëns, Karl Straube and others, who strengthened his resolve to bring the organ culture of his native country into line with central European standards.

In 1881, Bossi became director of music and titular organist at Como Cathedral and served 9 years in this post (1881-1890). In 1890, he embarked on a remarkable ‘official’ career, first as lecturer in organ and composition at Naples and Bologna, then as head of the Conservatories of Venice (1895-1901), Bologna (1902-1911), and Rome (1916-1923). In 1897 he was also appointed to the Commissione reale per l’arte musicale. This plethora of high-ranking offices made it possible for him to exert almost unequalled influence on the musical life of the young nation. Under Bossi’s influence, educational standards were introduced, which are in place to this day - state-certified organ classes were introduced, enhancing the artistic status of the organ as a free concert instrument, unencumbered with liturgical restrictions. His notable pupils included Giulio Bas, Giacomo Benvenuti, Giorgio Federico Ghedini, and Gian-Francesco Malipiero. From 1893 he published the Metodo teorico-pratico per lo studio dell’organo, which paved the way for modern organ practice and its literature (including J.S. Bach) in Italy. Bossi, who was never again connected to the church after his time in Como, also personified a type of artist never before encountered south of the Alps, namely the freelance ‘concertista d’organo’, and mostly played at the innumerable organ dedications which proliferated in Italy at the time of Caecilian reforms.

Apart from his ‘first love’, the organ, Marco Enrico Bossi fought (along with Giovanni Sgambati, Francesco Paolo Neglia, and Giuseppe Martucci) as composer for the establishment of an Italian instrumental music which could hold its ground independently of the all-embracing opera culture. The spread of musical theatre in the 19th century had led to the abolition of all symphonic institutions on the Italian peninsula: the composers named above became advocates of a chamber music and orchestra culture modelled on the French and German example, opening the way for the Generazione dell’Ottanta (Ottorino Respighi, Gian-Francesco Malipiero, and Alfredo Casella, among others). Throughout his life, Bossi had considerable success as a composer, for instance with his Trio sinfonico, Op. 123, for violin, cello and piano (1901), the Intermezzi goldoniani, Op. 127, for orchestra (1905), and the Canticum Canticorum, Op. 120, for soloists, choir and orchestra, the première of which at the St Thomas church in Leipzig (1900) made a lasting impression. Bossi’s symphonic works abruptly fell out of favour after World War II - the reasons for this are not only to be found in his conservative adherence to the Brahmsian tradition, but almost certainly also to his joining the Fascist Party in 1921.

In November 1924, Marco Enrico Bossi embarked on a recital tour to New York and Philadelphia, where he made important appearances at Wanamaker's department stores in New York and in Philadelphia, where he played the Wanamaker Organ, the world's largest pipe organ. He died unexpectedly in mid-Atlantic while returning from the USA on February 20, 1925.

Marco Enrico Bossi wrote more than 150 works for various genres (orchestra, five operas, oratorios, choral and chamber music, as well as pieces for piano and organ). His catalog of compositions is still largely unknown, except for his organ works.


Organ Solo:
Tempo di Suonata per Organo a Pieno, Op. 3
Ouverture per organo, Op. 3 No. 3
Intermezzo Tragico, Op. 10
Scherzo in F major, Op. 49:1
Scherzo in G minor, Op. 49:2
Impromptu à la
Chopin, Op. 49:3
Inno Trionfale, Op. 53
Res Severa Magnum Gaudium: Prima Suite di 4 pezzi per organo, Op. 54: Preludio, Allegro moderato, Corale, Fuga
4 Pieces, Op. 59: Toccata, Pastorale, Meditazione, Offertorio
First Sonata in D minor, Op. 60
Fuga sul tema Feda a Bach, Op. 62
Fantaisie, Op. 64
Marcia di Processione, Op. 68
6 Pieces, Op. 70: Prélude, Musette, Choral, Scherzo, Cantabile, Alleluja Final
Second Sonata, Op. 71
Marche héroïque, Op. 72
Siciliana E Giga,, Op.73 (arrangement?)
3 Pieces, Op. 74: Preghiera, Siciliana, Offertorio
Cantate Domino. Westminster Abbey - Hymne of Glory/Hymne de Gloire, Op. 76 for organ solo or organ and choirs
Étude symphonique, Op. 78
3 Pieces, Op. 92: Chant du soir in F major, Idylle in B major, Allegretto in A-flat major
2 Pieces, Op. 94: Élevation in E-flat major, Noël in G major
Scherzo, Op. 95
3 Pieces, Op. 97: Andante con moto, Aspiration, Grand Chœur
5 Pieces, Op. 104: Entrée Pontificale in C major, Ave Maria in F major, Offertoire in D minor, Résignationin G major, Rédemption in C major
Missa pro Sponso et Sponsa, Op. 110: Graduale, Offertorio, Communio, [Savoya-Petrovich.] Marcia Nuziale/Hochzeits-Marsch, Op. 110 No. 4
5 Pieces, Op. 113: Offertorio, Graduale, Canzoncina a Maria Vergine, In memoriam, Laudate Dominum
Thema und Variationen, Op. 115
10 Compositions for Organ, Op. 118: Preludio, Fughetta, Pastorale, Angelus à 3, Toccata di Concerto, Melodia, Invocazione, Marcia festiva, Intermezzo à 3, Finale
Pièce héroïque in D minor, Op. 128
Concert Piece in C minor, Op. 130
5 Pieces in free style, Op. 132: Legende in D-flat major, Trauerzug in B-flat minor, Ländliche Szene in D major, Stunde der Weihe in B major, Stunde der Freude in C major
Improvisation, Op. 134 no. 2
3 Momenti francescani, Op. 140: Fervore, Colloquio colle rondini, Beatitudine
Triptico ..., Op. 142
Meditazione in una Cattedrale, Op. 144
2 Morceaux caractéristiques without opus: Preghiera. Fatemi la grazia in E major, Marcia dei Bardi in A-flat major
Intermezzo lirico in A-flat major without opus
Flora mistica without opus
Postludio in E minor without opus
Ave Maria without opus
Scherzo (terzo tempo della Sinfonia tematica) without opus
Rapsodia without opus

Organ with other instruments:
Ave Maria [#1], Op. 50, organ, voice & violin
Siciliana E Giga,, Op.73
Adagio in A-flat major, Op. 84 for Violin and Organ
Concerto in A minor, Op. 100 for Organ, String Orchestra, 4 Horns and Timpani
Entrata Pontificale, Op. 104 No. 1 ftwo organs
Benediction nuptiale for cello & organ,, Op. 111/1 (1897)
Concert Piece in C minor, Op. 130 for Organ and Orchestra
Epousailles - Sposalizio, Op. 134:1
Méditation Réligieuse (violino, vioncello, arpa e organo)
Fantasia Sinfonica for organ & orchestra,, Op.147

Romance in A-flat major, Op. 89 (1894) for cello or viola and piano
Four Pieces in the form of a suite, Op. 99 for violin and piano
Trio in D minor, Op. 107 for piano, violin and cello
Sonata No. 2 in C major, Op. 117 for violin and piano
Trio sinfonico, Op. 123 for piano, violin and cello
Santa Caterina da Siena without opus: Poemetto for violin, string quartet, harp, celesta and organ
Improvviso without opus for flute and piano

7 Waltzes, Op.93 (for piano duet)
5 Morceaux, Op. 95 [opus # doubtful]
4 Pièces en forme d’une suite ancienne, Op. 103
4 Morceaux, Op. 109
Album for the Youth, Op. 122: 1. Caresses, 2. Souvenir, 3. Scherzando, 4. Nocturne, 5. Babillage, 6. Gondoliera, 7. Valse charmante, 8. Berceuse
Intermezzi goldoniani, Op. 127
6 Kinderstücke, Op.133
Satire musicali without opus
Papillons dorés ?without opus

Vocal and orchestra:
Sinfonica-Ouverture for orchestra in E major, Op. 1
Salve Regina, Op. 8
Missa pro defunctis, for chorus, Op. 83
Dio sietè buono, Op. 98
The Blind, Op. 112: Lyric Scene for baritone, choir & orchestra
In memoriam, No. 4, for chorus, Op. 113/4
Canticum Canticorum, Op. 120: biblical cantata in three parts for baritone, soprano, choirs, orchestra & organ
Il Paradiso perduto, Op. 125: sinfonic poem in one prologue and three parts for soloists, choir, orchestra & organ
Suite in D minor, Op. 126 (timpani, percussion, harp, strings.)
Intermezzi Goldoniani, Op. 127 for string orchestra
Johanna d’Arc, Op. 135: a mystery in one prologue and three parts (12 images) for soloists, mixed choir, male choir, children's choirs (boys' & girls' parts), large orchestra & organ
Il Viandante without opus: lyric drama
Sanctus et Benedictus without opus for alto & organ
A Raffaello divino without opus for mixed choir a capella

Source: Naxos Website (Author: 2008 Pier Damiano Peretti; English translation: Bernd Mueller); Wikipedia Website (June 2011)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (August 2011)

Marco Enrico Bossi: Short Biography | Arrangements/Transcriptions: Works | Recordings

Links to other Sites

Marco Enrico Bossi - Bio (Naxos)

Marco Enrico Bossi (Wikipedia)


Marco Enrico Bossi: "Ancora sulla questione degli organi". Gazetta Musicale di Milano, XL/34 (August 23, 1885), p. 203.
Marco Enrico Bossi & Tebaldini (eds.): Metodo teorico pratico per organo (Milan: Carisch, 1893/1897).
Ennio Cominetti: Marco Enrico Bossi (Sannicandro Garganico: Gioiosa Editrice, 1999).
Federico Mompellio: Marco Enrico Bossi (Milan: Ulrico Hoepli, 1952).

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