Petrassi, Goffredo (1904–2003) By Roderick, Peter
Goffredo Petrassi (b. 1904, d. 2003) was an Italian musician and composer who spent much of his working life in Rome. Alongside Luigi Dallapiccola and Giorgio Federico Ghedini he inhabited an “intermediate” generation in Italian twentieth-century modernism, spanning the gap between the flamboyant trio of Alfredo Casella, Ildebrando Pizetti, and Gian Francesco Malipiero in the 1920s and ‘30s and the avant-gardists Luigi Nono, Bruno Maderna, and Luciano Berio in the 1960s.
Petrassi grew up surrounded by the polyphonic heritage of the Italian renaissance, being born in the same village as Palestrina and studying as a teenager in Rome at the Scuola Cantorum of San Salvatore in Lauro; Weismann notes that “various manifestations of Catholic baroque art displayed on architecture, interior decoration and music … undoubtedly contributed to the formation of his taste” (Weissmann, 1957, 3). His student days were spent at the Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia, where he studied with Bustini and Casella, and produced a flourish of remarkably mature works which combined extreme contrapuntal complexity with the harmonic language of Stravinsky. In addition, Petrassi’s ability to overcome the Italian aversion to the orchestral “set-piece” (for instance, the Partita of 1932, the Concerto for Orchestra of 1933–34) led to fruitful international connections in Britain and Germany.