Born: March 15, 1928
Died: March 16, 1994 - New Rochelle, New York
Country: New York City, U.S.A.
Studies: Manhattan School of Music (B.M.1949, M.M.1950), Accademia di S Cecilia (1956)
Nicolas Flagello was one of the last composers to develop a distinctive mode of expression based wholly on the principles and techniques of European late-Romanticism. Born in New York City in 1928, Flagello grew up in a highly musical family with deep roots in Old-World traditions. A child prodigy, young Nicolas was composing and performing publicly as a pianist before the age of ten. While still a youth, he began a long and intensive apprenticeship with composer Vittorio Giannini, who further imbued him with the enduring values of the grand European tradition. His study continued at the Manhattan School of Music, where he earned both his Bachelor's (1949) and Master's (1950) Degrees, joining the faculty immediately upon graduation, and remaining there until 1977. (During the 1960s he also taught at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia.) In 1955, he won a Fulbright Fellowship to study in Rome, and earned the Diploma di Studi Superiori the following year at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia, under the tutelage of Ildebrando Pizzetti.
During the years that followed, Flagello composed at a prodigious rate, producing a body of work that includes six operas, two symphonies, eight concertos, and numerous orchestral, choral, chamber, and vocal works. In addition, he was active as a pianist and conductor, making dozens of recordings of a wide range of repertoire, from the Baroque period to the twentieth century. In 1985 a deteriorating illness brought his musical career to an end prematurely. He died in 1994, at the age of 66.
As a composer, Flagello held with unswerving conviction to a view of music as a personal medium for emotional and spiritual expression. This unfashionable view, together with his vehement rejection of the academic formalism that dominated musical composition for several decades after World War II, prevented him from winning acceptance from the reigning arbiters of taste for many years. However, gradually Flagello's works began to win enthusiastic advocacy.
In 1964, when a group of recordings first introduced Flagello’s music to the broader listening public, The New Records commented, "If this is not great music, we will gladly turn in our typewriter and quit." (More than a decade later, Fanfare selected these same recordings for its "Classical Hall of Fame.") In 1974, his oratorio The Passion of Martin Luther King was premiered with great acclaim by the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The work was subsequently recorded, and has since been performed throughout the United States and Canada. And in 1982, his opera The Judgment of St. Francis was produced in Assisi, Italy.
During the years since his death, Flagello’s music has been performed and recorded at an increasing rate, introducing his work to a new generation of listeners. Violinists Elmar Oliveira and Midori and conductors Semyon Bychkov and James DePreist are just a few of today’s leading performers who have found in Flagello’s work deeply felt musical content, presented in a clear, comprehensible manner.
Works for Percussion