Bostonia is published in print three times a year and updated weekly on the web.
Anthony di Bonaventura, a College of Fine Arts professor of music in the School of Music, died on November 12, 2012. He was 83.
“We are deeply saddened by the passing of our beloved Professor di Bonaventura,” says CFA Dean Benjamín Juárez. “A major figure in the music world since his debut as a child prodigy, Tony enriched the School of Music with his passionate commitment to musical excellence and his advocacy of new music by such luminaries as Ligeti, Berio, Ginastera, and Persichetti, all of whom wrote music for him.”
In addition to his position at BU, di Bonaventura was director of the Brandywine International Piano Institute at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. He performed in 27 countries, playing in recital and with the major orchestras and conductors of the world. He appeared in the Great Performers series at New York’s Lincoln Center and at such major music festivals as Saratoga, Ann Arbor, Bergen (Norway), Spoleto and Lucca (Italy), and Zagreb (Croatia). And his recordings for Columbia, RCA, Connoisseur Society, and Sine Qua Non have consistently received high acclaim. His releases include three compact discs on the Titanic label, consisting of 14 Scarlatti sonatas, the complete Preludes, op. 32, of Rachmaninoff, and an all-Chopin recording of his late works.
Acknowledged as a master teacher of international stature, di Bonaventura was awarded the Metcalf Cup and Prize for Excellence in Teaching, Boston University’s highest teaching award, in 1992. He gave master classes at UCLA, the University of Michigan, the Eastman School of Music, Brigham Young University, North Carolina School of the Arts, the University of Toronto, the University of Texas, Tulane University, and the Yamaha School of Singapore.
“He was interested in every student as a person, and I had never seen that before,” Konstantinos Papadakis (CFA’00) told the Boston Globe. “He wanted us to be good, healthy, curious human beings, to do justice to the music, to be honest, to be humble.”
At the Graz Festival in Austria in fall 1986, di Bonaventura gave the world premiere performance of György Ligeti’s Concerto for Piano, written especially for him, and thereafter performed the concerto in Vienna, Paris, London, St. Louis, and New York’s Carnegie Hall. Other world-renowned composers who have written expressly for him are Luciano Berio, Vincent Persichetti, Milko Keleman, and Alberto Ginastera, whose Second Sonata was given its world premiere by di Bonaventura in 1982. In 1991, he premiered Witold Lutoslawski’s Piano Concerto in the Netherlands, with the composer conducting, followed by performances of the work with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Polish National Radio Symphony, and the San Francisco Symphony, on the occasion of the composer’s 80th birthday, in 1993.
Di Bonaventura began his piano studies at the age of 3 and gave his first professional concert at 4. He won a scholarship to New York’s Music School Settlement at 6 and appeared as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic at 13. At 16, di Bonaventura became the pupil of the celebrated Russian teacher Madame Isabelle Vengerova and later entered the Curtis Institute of Music, graduating with highest honors.
Acclaim by critics and audiences came early in his career. His brilliant performances in an early European tour led to his selection by the great conductor Otto Klemperer to perform the complete Beethoven Concerti at the London Beethoven Festival.
Laurel Homer is director of communications at the College of Fine Arts.