Alfredo Barili (1854-1935)
In 1880 the Italian-born pianist Alfredo Barili
Barili was born in Florence, Italy, on August 2, 1854. Members of his family were actively involved in premiering a number of operas in Italy and the United States; Barili's aunt, Adelina Patti, was perhaps the most celebrated soprano of the century.
Barili was the first professional concert pianist to make his home in Atlanta. He introduced the city to the Ludwig Beethoven sonatas, and his programs and those he supervised consistently included major works by Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt, Frederic Chopin, and others.
He also played a central role in encouraging the performance of major choral and orchestral works. In 1883 he organized the first Atlanta Music Festival, which included a chorus of 300 accompanied by Carl Sentz's orchestra from Philadelphia. During that one weekend Barili introduced symphonies by Franz Schubert (no. 8), Franz Haydn, and Beethoven, as well as a number of Felix Mendelssohn and Giuseppe Verdi overtures.
Later that same year, the noted conductor Theodore Thomas and his orchestra joined with Barili's ninety-voice Musical Union. In a spectacular gesture of respect, Thomas handed Barili the baton and stepped aside as the young musician conducted the combined choral and orchestral numbers.
In the fall of 1899 Barili opened his own school of music, which offered instruction in piano, voice, organ, Italian language, music history, and music theory; the school had a small instrumental ensemble as well. Though the enrollment probably never exceeded fifty, Barili's school was among the first in the South to offer professional musical instruction. Into the twenty-first century former students continue to speak highly of the training they received there.
N. Lee Orr, Alfredo Barili and the Rise of Classical Music in Atlanta (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1996).
N. Lee Orr, Georgia State University
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.