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Legacy of Alfonso Cavallaro

ALFONSO CAVALLARO (1904–91) was born in Scaffati, Italy, and emigrated to the United States in late 1920. He graduated from the Yale School of Music in 1928, capturing the Lucy Bell Woodward Prize in harmony, the Isadore Troostwyck Memorial Prize in violin performance, and the Louis Felsburg Memorial Scholarship. He also appeared twice as soloist with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra.

In 1935, he went abroad, studying composition with Ottorino Respighi and conducting with Bernardo Molinari at the Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia, and later violin with Carl Flesch and Jules Boucherit. He enjoyed a very successful concert tour abroad before returning to the USA. After earning an M.A. from Columbia (1942), Cavallaro held faculty positions at several secondary schools and colleges. He always felt the highlight of his academic career occurred when he conducted Gian Carlo Menotti's opera, The Medium, at Converse College in Spartanburg, SC, and garnered mention in the NY Times.

Respighi’s unexpected death (April, 1936) appears to have deflected Cavallaro away from composition to at least some extent. Respighi was reportedly most impressed by his student’s orchestral work, Scherzo-Tarantella, and String Quartet, both of which received awards. The Scherzo-Tarantella has, in fact, been paired with Pines of Rome by orchestras in both the U.S. and Italy. Cavallaro claimed to have been the last student to meet with the maestro before the latter’s untimely demise.

Although the Respighi influence is obvious in the compositions from the 1930s, Cavallaro was also adept at other styles. His mastery of contrapuntal writing is most apparent in two organ works, a chorale prelude and fugue in f minor, a fugue on B-A-C-H for string quartet, and a canon for violin, viola, and piano. He also wrote a set of short violin pieces in the style of Fritz Kriesler, a number of songs, and other pieces for various instruments. 

Cavallaro’s Op. Posth. #1 was released in 2013 by Forton Music. The three pieces for oboe (or flute) and piano were transcribed from his songs, “Far Away,” “Tears,” and “A Man-Child’s Lullaby.”

Cavallaro’s “Serenade” and “Tango” (for Violin and Piano) were published by Broadbent and Dunn in 2014 as his Op. Posth. #2, as two parts.

Cavallaro’s Op. Posth. #3 – his chorale prelude (“Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten”) was released by Wayne Leupold Editions in 2015 as part of The Organist’s Companion.

An obscure yet noteworthy 20th century composer, Alfonso Cavallaro left a number of splendid new works waiting to be discovered.


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Awarded by Conservatory of St. Cecilia
Performed by Cape Ann Symphony
Rick Vanstone, Conductor


Notte e Tempesta

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Lenny Cavallaro, Piano
Paul Halverson, Tenor

‘Nfronte Due Stelle

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Lenny Cavallaro, Piano
Paul Halverson, Tenor

Canzone à Maria

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Lenny Cavallaro, Piano
Paul Halverson, Tenor

Suonne Gentile d’Amore

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Lenny Cavallaro, Piano
Paul Halverson, Tenor


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Lenny Cavallaro, Piano
Paul Halverson, Tenor

Ride Mari

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Lenny Cavallaro, Piano
Paul Halverson, Tenor

Still Loving You

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Lenny Cavallaro, Piano
Paul Halverson, Tenor

Fugue in f minor for Organ

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Charles Krigbaum, Organ

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