Giampaolo Bracali


Giampaolo Bracali
a remembrance given at Giampaolo's memorial,January 21, 2007
Church of Saint Paul and Saint Andrew,NYC


Giampaolo first came to Manhattan School of Music in 1967 as a Fullbright Scholar . This was a continuation of a string of fellowships, the first of which from the Italian government, took him from his native Rome to Paris for two years of study with Nadia Boulanger and then to London, where he studied with  Lennox Berkeley for a year. Perhaps when he came here forty years ago, he may have imagined that it was but another stop on his way, but to our everlasting good fortune, he stayed and made New York his home.Giampaolo loved being a New Yorker, loved the city’s ceaseless activity and variety, but an important part of him remained always a Roman. All great cities impress upon their citizens a distillation of their collective history, a kind of shared perspective. The 19th C. Roman poet , G.G. Belli  expressed it this way:


Le Cose Create
(The Things Created)

In this world, God created everything properly
Everything he created is good and well done
Winter is good, firewood even better...

Good is the holy faith and who teaches it
Better is he who takes it with a grain of salt...
Chastity is good, but procreation is better

Only in one thing, I find a weak point
That is, thinking of it a bit
He could have created water red and wine white
In this way, no damn inn-keeper
Would stand at the bar with a brazen face
Selling us wine with half water in it.


One didn’t have to know Giampaolo well to sense his Roman-ness. His wonderful, strong features identified his patrimony. In his movements, walking, conducting, there was a confident calmness about him, purposeful but unhurried. In Giampaolo’s English,too, there remained certain inflections of his native tongue. He was a deeply sympathetic person, yet skeptical of any trace of pretension. A musician with a great depth of education, knowledge and achievement, he wore his learning lightly.Like most great conductors, he communicated more through gesture than speech. Thus at auditions and juries, he said very little. One became attuned, then, to his more subtle ways of responding, the slight shift of his head, the raised eyebrow.  On rare occasions, his interest aroused, he might move from his chair to the piano, to look over the music someone was playing. He was always gracious, even courtly, but he kept his thoughts largely to himself. To those students here who knew him, however, I want to tell each of you that he took your work with the greatest seriousness. He hardly ever missed a concert of your music and at those events, as the lights went down, he would take out a pen and after each piece, write down a thumbnail comment in Italian. On rides home after the concerts, he would refer to his notes recalling the evening’s offerings and nothing made him happier than to observe that someone was moving forward in his estimation, getting closer to expressing themselves with clarity and originality. And so it was when it came time for him to make his comments on the jury reports, he would bring out these collected programs of the years concerts to help him recall what he had heard and thought.

In his own music, he sought to do something very difficult, both to honor the music of the past which he loved but not to become confined by that love. Always the goal was to be alive to the possibility of renewing all sounds, even familiar ones. This he was able to do because his mind was never confused musically. He expressed himself extremely variously, from the often wild and passionate Lampedusa settings which he conducted last spring with the Claremont Ensemble to the slightly rambunctious and eventually serene set of A.A. Milne songs which he heard at school just this past November performed so wonderfully by Sharon Spinetti and David Mayfield .  I am left with the memory of the final song which concludes with a bell sound and a rather famous one at that for Giampaolo fessed up that he had borrowed its construction,an octave with its lower note enclosing a Major second, from the conclusion of Stravinsky’s Les Noces. He then continued his confession that when he played these songs for his former teacher on a visit to Santa Cecilia, his teacher urged him to remove the second, which Giampaolo did for a number of years. But then, with that distinctive, mischievous grin starting to form, he said,”But then I changed my mind again and restored the second. That’s how I had heard it and that’s how it’s going to remain.”

Dear maestro, as always, you were exactly right!





December 16, 2014