19th October 1828
3rd May 1856
Adolfo Fumagalli was a 19th-century Italian virtuoso pianist and composer, known today primarily for his virtuosic compositions for the left hand alone.
Born in Inzago, Italy, he grew up in a very musically-oriented environment. He had three brothers who also became musicians and composers, these being Luca(1837 - 1908), Disma (1826 - 1893) and Polibio (1830 - 1901). Fumagalli studied music with Angeloni at the Milan Conservatory and, in 1848, at the age of 20, made his Milan debut with some success. He then travelled to Turin, Paris, Belgium and Denmark, playing his own operatic fantasies and other salon works to great acclaim.
In 1856 he returned to Italy and, when he arrived, was soon thereafter given an Erard grand piano from the firm as an advertising promotion. On May 1 of that year he gave a concert but, shortly after, fell ill and died days later in Florence.
He created his greatest sensation when he began performing his works for left hand. Although he looked rather frail, as is evident from paintings of him, he had a phenomenal technique and strong fingers that astonished everyone.
Fumagalli's output is quite extensive, though almost all of it is extremely difficult to obtain today. His works consist primarily of operatic fantasies and character pieces. One of his most difficult and virtuosic works is his Grande Fantasie sur Robert le Diable de Meyerbeer, op.106 (dedicated to Liszt) for the left hand. He also composed an arrangement of Vincenzo Bellini's "Casta Diva" from Norma for the left hand. Almost his entire output is for solo piano and the works which employ other instruments all seem to include the piano in some way, a feature that is similar to Chopin's output. Although he was perhaps not a very inspired or ingenious composer, his works for left hand alone stand nonetheless as an important testament of the progress in technique and virtuosity of the period, especially of single-handed works.