Luigi Rinaldo Legnani

a virtuoso and guitar-maker from Ferrara

Luigi Rinaldo Legnani was one of the greatest guitar virtuousi of the Nineteenth Century. He was born on the 7th of November, 1790, in Ferrara. When he was eight years old, his family moved to Ravenna; here he began the study of voice and guitar. At the early age of seventeen he made his vocal debut at the theater in Ravenna, singing arias from the operas of Donizetti and Rossini. At the same time he cultivated deeply his interest in the guitar, and in 1819 he published his first compositions with the Ricordi firm in Milan. He lived in that city in Lombardy up to October 1822; then he began his numerous tours as a concert guitarist, which carried him throughout Europe. Legnani frequently sang at his recitals, accompanying himself on the guitar. His recitals were quite successful. He based himself first in Vienna, where he lived until at least 1823. He lived in Germany after 1823; later he lived in Switzerland and in Russia. These residencies were followed by stays in Vienna, in Italy (1825), and in Paris (1829). Legnani was back in Italy by 1835, staying in Genoa. Here he had the opportunity to meet Paganini and plan with him some duet concerts. This activity has not been well documented: there exist only some announcements of their charity concert at the Corignano Theater in Turin on the 9th of June, 1837.

However, Legnani cooperated with other great musicians, such as Leidesdorf, with whom he composed some chamber works.
In 1838 Legnani performed in concert in Dresden, then in Vienna, and the following year in Munich. His recitals were once again all very successful. In 1842 he moved to Spain, playing concerts in Madrid and Barcelona.

His concert activity lasted at least until 1850; in that year he decided to come back to Italy and settle in Ravenna. In this, the city of his childhood, he pursued the second career of luthier, an activity that he had already started in 1833 when he had worked in Vienna. There he had worked with the guitar maker Stauffer in planning his (Legnani) own model of guitar. In Ravenna he built violins and guitars of good quality, some of which still exist.

He died in his home on the 5th of August, 1877, after a long, fruitful career.

Legnani was a prolific composer: his works for guitar number approximately 250, and all of them have virtuoso effects and require appreciable skill. Among his works we find a method that is worth mentioning; however, it is not considered to have much didactic value. He published with the principal European publishers from 1819 to about 1850. In his output one can find works worthy of being included in the best repertoire of Eighteenth Century; there are also compositions of poor musical quality.

(Transl. M. Penny)

Printed works of Luigi Legnani

  1. TERREMOTO Op. 1 (guitar)
  2. GRAN SINFONIA Op. 2 (guitar)
  3. GRAN RICERCARIO Op. 3 (guitar)
  4. VARIAZIONI Op. 4 (guitar)
  5. DUETTO Op. 5 (guitar)
  6. GRAN CAPRICCIO Op. 6 (guitar)
  7. CAVATINA "Languir per una bella" Op. 7 (guitar)
  8. CORO E RONDÒ Op. 8 (guitar)
  9. SCHERZO CON VARIAZIONI Op. 10 (guitar)
  10. GRANDI VARIAZIONI Op. 12 (guitar)
  11. VARIAZIONI Op. 16 (guitar)
  12. FANTASIA Op. 19 (guitar)
  13. TRENTASEI CAPRICCI Op. 20 (guitar)
  14. VARIAZIONI Op. 21 (guitar)
  15. DUO CONCERTANTE Op. 23 (flute & guitar)
  16. VARIAZIONI Op. 24 (guitar)
  17. VARIAZIONI CONCERTANTI Op. 28 (guitar & pianoforte)
  18. POT POURRI BRILLANTE Op. 31 (guitar)
  19. POT POURRI E CAPRICCIO Op. 32 (guitar)
  20. GRAN CAPRICCIO Op. 34 (guitar)
  21. GRANDE FANTASIA Op. 61 (guitar)
  1. INTRODUZIONE E RONDÒ Op. 62 (guitar)
  2. VARIAZIONI Op. 64 (guitar)
  3. GRAN DUETTOOp. 87 (flute & guitar)
  4. VARIAZIONI Op. 201 (guitar)
  5. ANDANTE E ALLEGRO Op. 202 (guitar)
  6. POT POURRI Op. 203 (guitar)
  7. RONDOLETTO SCHERZOSO Op. 204 (guitar)
  8. POT POURRI Op. 222 (guitar)
  9. VARIAZIONI Op. 224 (guitar)
  10. VARIAZIONI Op. 237 (guitar)
  11. GRAN POT POURRI Op. 238 (guitar)
  12. SEI CAPRICCETTI Op. 250 (guitar)
  13. GRAN CAPRICCIO (guitar)
  15. RIDUZIONE D'OPERA (guitar)
  16. TRE BALLI NAZIONALI (guitar)
  17. VARIAZIONI (guitar)
  18. VARIAZIONI (guitar)
  19. VARIAZIONI (guitar)
  20. VARIAZIONI FACILI (guitar)
  21. VARIAZIONI FACILI (guitar)

Bibliographical notes

  1. Danilo Prefumo, L'attività concertistica di L. Legnani nei resoconti dei giornali dell'epoca in "Il Fronimo" no. 41 p. 8-23.
  2. Daniela Rossato, Luigi Rinaldo Legnani in "il Fronimo" no. 27 p. 5-15.
  3. Bruno Tonazzi, La chitarra a Trieste nella prima metà dell'800 in "Il Fronimo" no. 37, p. 30-40.
  4. Paolo Rigoli, Otto concerti di Luigi Legnani a Verona in "Il Fronimo" n.49, p. 12-16.
  5. Josep Maria Mangado Artigas, Quattro concerti di Luigi Legnani A Barcellona in "Il Fronimo" no. 106 (April 1999), pp. 41-46