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Franchetti, Arnoldlocked

  • Imanuel Willheim

(b Lucca, Italy, 1905; d Middletown, CT, March 7, 1993). American composer, son of Alberto Franchetti. Following studies in physics at the University of Florence, he enrolled at the Salzburg Mozarteum where he was awarded its top distinction, the Lilli Lehmann prize, for his opera Bauci. Between 1937 and 1939 he lived in Munich where he came under the influence of Richard Strauss. After the war, during which he spent time in Sweden and the Italian Alps helping to rescue Allied airmen, he emigrated to the USA (1947). He taught at the Hartt School of Music, Hartford, Connecticut (1948–79), serving as chair of the theory and composition department until his retirement. His honours include awards from the Fromm, Guggenheim and Koussevitzky foundations and Columbia University’s Ditson award.

After exploring late-Romantic and neo-classical styles, Franchetti developed a non-serial, 12-note compositional language featuring primarily diatonic motivic material. With the appearance of Lendvai’s Bartók, Weg und Werk (Budapest, 1957), he adapted features of Lendvai’s axis system to what he referred to as ‘pandiatonicism’, a style prominent thereafter in both his music and his composition teaching. His highly idiosyncratic approach to form derived from the manipulation of melodic and rhythmic cells through repetition, intervallic expansion, transposition, or contrapuntal combination with contrasting fragments. This technique resulted in imaginative improvisatory writing (Canti, 1969; Saxophone Sonata, 1970) and pointillist, miniaturist textures (Concerto dell’autunno, 1983). Striving for a synthesis of musical sophistication and accessibility, he also drew on Italianate folksong flourishes (Il Giglio Rosso), commedia dell’arte characters (Three Italian Masques) and literary texts by the black American revolutionary Eldridge Cleaver (Lazarus).


(selective list)


The Lion (children’s op, 2, R.H. Sanderson and M. Franchetti), New London, CT, 16 Dec 1950

The Princess (Tapestry) (1, M. Franchetti), Hartford, CT, 16 March 1952 [pt 1 of trilogy]

The Maypole (1, E.R. Mills), Westport, CT, 6 July 1952 [pt 2 of trilogy]

The Game of Cards (1, A. Franchetti), 1953, concert version, 20 March 1955, staged, Hartford, CT, 9 May 1956 [pt 3 of trilogy]

The Anachronism (1, Mills), Hartford, CT, 4 March 1956

The Dowser (1, Mills), 1956

Prelude and Fugue (1, C. Bax), Hartford, CT, 21 April 1959

Notturno in La (As a Conductor Dreams) (2, L. Berrone, after A. de Musset), Hartford, CT, 20 Oct 1966

The Suncatcher (1, B. Sargeant), Hartford, CT, 8 Feb 1973

Soap Op (comic op, 1, K. Lombardo), Hartford, CT, 1973

Married Men go to Hell (The Devil takes a Wife) (3, E. Willheim, after N. Machiavelli), 1975

Dracula (1, A. Franchetti), 1979


Canti, sax, wind, perc, 1969

Sax Sonata, e, 1970

Concerto dell’ autunno, wind, 1983

Il Giglio Rosso, movt, str qt; many orchestral and band works; much chbr music, incl. 6 str qts; 39 solo kbd works, incl. 12 pf sonatas; 3 works for solo perc


c33 songs; 7 pieces for small vocal ens; 7 choral works

MSS in US-Hhc


  • B. Archibald: Review of ‘Three Italian Masques’, Notes, 27/1 (1970–71), 146–8
  • W.W. Morrison: The Piano Sonatas of Arnold Franchetti (diss., Boston U., 1971)