by Pasquale Troìa
Born in Rome on May 30, 1910, Elio Piattelli graduated in 1931 from the University of Rome with a degree in Literature with the highest mark of “110 out of 110”. He studied with Maestro Cesare Dobici (1873-1944) and graduated in composition at the Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Rome in 1941. In the same year he took part in the competition of the Royal Roman Philharmonic Academy with two works for choir. Also in 1941, his four-act play Inés de Suàrez (libretto by G. Guerra) was performed in Santiago de Chile on the occasion of the fourth centenary of the foundation of the city of Santiago.
In the immediate post-war period, Piattelli directed the choir of the Politeama in Palermo. He gave courses in liturgical chants in Hebrew in Italy (Rome, Palestrina, Turin, Milan, Florence, Naples…) and in France (Sénanque Abbey near Avignon, Saint-Louis in Paris, Strasbourg).
Choirmaster of the Tempio Maggiore in Rome from 1948 to 1984, he animated the liturgical life of the synagogue with the Choir that sang melodies from the oral tradition of the various rites of the Roman Jewish community and compositions of his own melodies for the liturgy of the feasts and for the Jewish holidays. All his musical, literary and musicological productions are preserved in 44 files that make up the Piattelli Collection at the IBIMUS in Rome, thanks to the support of prof. Giancarlo Rostirola, the passionate interest of Maestro Lino Bianchi (1920-2013), the donation of his archives by his daughter, Dr. Daniela Piattelli, and the cataloguing work of prof. Pasquale Troìa.
During his long career, Elio Piattelli has been active in four main areas:
- The transcription of the songs of the oral tradition from the voices of the ancient singers of the various Italian Jewish rites and traditions.
- The composition of songs that renew the meaning and value of Jewish liturgical vocal traditions, songs that are still performed today by the Tempio Maggiore Choir in Rome.
- A literary production as a translator, facilitated by his knowledge of Hebrew and European languages (many still remember him as an English teacher) and by that simple and synthetic narrative versatility that his character gave him.
- Musical activity and musicological works: Master of the Tempio Maggiore Choir in Rome from 1948 to 1984, he animated the liturgical life of the synagogue with the Choir which – as mentioned above – sang melodies from the oral tradition of the various rites of the Roman Jewish community and compositions of his own melodies for the liturgy of the feasts and for the Jewish holidays. He also published 4 collections of liturgical songs based on transcriptions made from the various holders of the Italian Jewish oral tradition:
- Canti liturgici ebraici di rito italiano (Liturgical Jewish Chants of the Italian Rite), transcribed and commented by E. Piattelli Edizioni De Santis, Rome 1967;
- Canti liturgici ebraici del Piemonte (Jewish Liturgical Chants from Piedmont), transcribed and commented by E. Piattelli, Edizioni De Santis, Rome 1986;
- Canti liturgici di rito spagnolo del Tempio Israelitico di Firenze (Liturgical Chants of the Sephardic Rite of the Israelite Temple in Florence), transcribed and commented by E. Piattelli, Editrice La Giuntina, Florence 1992;
- Canti liturgici ebraici di rito spagnolo di Roma (Jewish Liturgical Chants of the Sephardi Rite of Rome) transcribed by Elio Piattelli (edited by P. Troìa), Fondazione Istituto Italiano per la Storia della Musica, Rome 2003-5763.
Elio Piattelli died in Rome on 13 January 2001.
Giacomo BAROFFIO, Pasquale TROIA, Elio Piattelli in memoriam, Revue liturgique, année LXXXVIII, Third series, n° 5 September-October 2001, 669-677. More information in P. TROIA, Canti del Tempio Maggiore à Rome, tome II, Gangemi Editore, Rome, to be released in 2022.