Antonio Pasculli

Antonio Pasculli, perhaps the greatest oboe virtuoso of historical memory, was born in Palermo (Sicily) on the 13th of October 1842. He began his career at the age of 14, travelling predominantly in Italy, Germany and Austria. In 1860 he obtained the position of a professor of oboe and English horn at the Royal Conservatory of Palermo, where he taught until 1913. Using a boxwood oboe and English horn, each with 11 keys (built in Paris by TriƩbert,and given to Omar Zoboli by his surviving daughters in 1985), he succeeded in playing with a facility and lightness hitherto unimagined. In 1884 he suddenly stopped performing in public; his vision was terribly impaired, and according to his doctor, had he continued to play, he would have risked total blindness. He established himself permanently in Palermo, where he married and raised six daughters - two of whom studied the harp - and three sons, all of whom died prematurely. In 1877 he became the director of the Municipal Musical Corps of Palermo, and dedicated much of his time and energy to elevating its musical level. In addition he instructed all the wind instrumentalists in the playing of string instruments, thereby creating a "symphony-band" after a period of time. This ensemble was capable of successfully executing, apart from its usual repertoire, works of Pasculli's contemporaries, previously rarely heard in Italy, such as Wagner, Debussy, Grieg, Sibelius, along with some of his own compositions, and also the symphonies of Haydn and Beethoven. In 1913 he retired, and within a short period of time the "symphony-band" ceased to exist. He died on February 23, 1924, shortly after having received the remains of his youngest son, killed in action at Caporetto, in the First World War. Like Paganini, not finding compositions which could fully exploit his extraordinary capacity, he composed the major part of the works he performed, writing fantasies on themes from the lyric operas of his era: La Favorita (The Favorite), I Vespri Siciliani (Sicilian Vespers), L'Elisir d'amore (The Elixir of Love), Gli Ugonotti (The Huguenots), Rigoletto, Il Pirata (The Pirate), La Sonnambula (The Sleepwalker), Un Ballo in Maschera (A Mask Ball), Poliuto, as well as "Ricordi di Napoli" (Memory from Naples), three characteristic Studies with piano accompaniment, a Trio Concertante for oboe, violin and piano on themes from Guglielmo Tell, a collection of progressive Scale Studies and Exercises and a transcription for oboe of Rode's "Caprices for Violin" . For his "symphony-band" he composed a "Fantasia 8 Settembre ad Altavilla" (Fantasy The 8th of September at Altavilla), several Symphonies, "Libera" for 4 voices and orchestra, the Symphonic Poem "Naiadi e Silfidi" (Naiads and Sylphs), an Elegy in memory of his son "Di qui non si passa" (Beyond this one cannot pass).