Thursday, June 15, 2017

Ennio Bolognini's Personal Papers and Artifacts Added to the UNCG Cello Music Collection

The Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections & University Archives recently welcomed the addition of Ennio Bolognini's personal papers and artifacts to the UNCG Cello Music Collection. Bolognini is the 13th cellist represented in the Cello Music Collection, which is the largest single holding of cello music-related material in the world. While the collection is small, it contains a few manuscripts, musical sketches and caricatures drawn by Bolognini, articles, concert programs and photographs relating to his life and career.

Ennio Bolognini (1893-1979). Image courtesy of
UNCG Special Collections & University Archives
Bolognini was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina on November 7, 1893. His mother was a prominent singer and opera coach at the Teatro Colón. His father was an Italian correspondent for the Paris-based newspaper Le Figaro and an amateur cellist, who taught his son the instrument. Bolognini made his debut at the age of 12 and soon enrolled in the St. Cecilia Conservatory in Buenos Aires. At 15 he won the Iberian-Am

erican international cello competition and was awarded as first prize a cello made by the Argentine violin and cello maker Luigi Rovatti. At 17 he performed Le Cygne, accompanied by Saint-Saëns himself, and later the Richard Strauss cello sonata, also with its composer at the piano.

As he continued his musical education he also became a professional boxer and won the welterweight championship of South America. Upon graduation, he worked in Chile for two years as a cellist and conductor.

Caricature of Sammy Davis, Jr. on manuscript music. Image
courtesy of UNCG Special Collections & University Archives
In 1923 Bolognini came to the United States to serve as a sparring partner for Luis Firpo in preparation for Firpo's legendary world heavyweight championship fight against Jack Dempsey. Afterwards he joined the Philadelphia Orchestra. Four years later, he moved to Chicago, where he became principal cellist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Often described as a charismatic man with a fiery temper, Bolognini became known for such eccentricities as bringing his dog to all rehearsals and playing all the other instruments of the orchestra.

He became an aviator in the early days of flight and was one of the founders of the Civil Air Patrol. During World War II he trained cadets to fly B-29 bombers. He was also a notable marksman, swimmer, sketch artist and gourmet cook. He spoke fluent Spanish, Italian, French, German and English and was conversant in Hebrew, Greek, Japanese, Hungarian, Russian and 15 different Italian dialects.

After leaving the Chicago Symphony in 1930, Bolognini toured as a soloist and became a popular conductor of the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra, as well as an instructor.
In 1951 he moved to Las Vegas, where he lived for the remainder of his life and founded and conducted a symphony orchestra. He disliked musical recordings and refused to allow his performances of major cello works, such as the Bach Suites, to be recorded. The few professional recordings in existence today are limited to musical vignettes and his own short compositions.

Bolognini died in his sleep at the age of 85 on July 31, 1979, at his home in Las Vegas. His Rovatti cello was donated by his widow, Dorothy Bolognini, to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., where it remains in its permanent collection. 

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