On the 16th of November 1954, Gaetano Poloni wrote the following on the “Giornale di Vicenza”: “Camillo Oblach, distinguished concert performer and cello teacher, passed away last Thursday in Bologna due to a heart attack”. After illustrating the artist’s life and work, he concluded as follows: “…exceptional temperament as an artist, as a performer and as an educator, his life was characterised by a loving commitment and a strong determination to leave a long-lasting and affectionate mark of himself. This generous and natural passion for his large field of activity as a performer and as a teacher was never separated from a severe discipline of study and from an unremitting and painstaking sense of self-criticism. He had an outstanding ability to play with an easy and orderly technique, with the vibrant accents of an alternatively passionate and pleasantly meditative eloquence, in the different musical pieces that he finished with meticulous care, especially wherever the traditional “singability” of the ‘human’ instrument required poetically emotional expressions. And now, all of a sudden, he has left us: we shall no longer hear from his masterful fingers and his generous touch that musicality that stemmed from the unusual sound awareness and rhythmic expressiveness of his vibrant phrasing as an intelligent, warm and extraordinarily expressive artist”.
Born in Padua on the 21st of August 1985 to a bourgeois family, since his childhood he devoted himself entirely to the music. At the age of six, he was fortunate enough to start his studies at the renowned cello school of the Istituto Musicale Cesare Pollini and to have Arturo Cuccoli as his teacher, who had been a pupil of Francesco Serato's and was educated at his famous school, soon becoming one of his favourite students and, later on, when he reached his artistic maturity, taking the place vacated by his very Maestro at the Teatro Verdi in Padua and at a number of outstanding musical events. Newspapers of the time frequently showed interest in this young man, who in spite of his age – he was only twelve – thrilled the audience “with his quick and skilful performance”, “his interpretation full of elegant effects”, “his perfect technique”, “his ample and resonant phrasing” and “his incomparable touch”. But Oblach never rested on the laurels as an “enfant prodige” and seriously and tirelessly carried on with his slow and precise study of the instrument. Soon after obtaining his diploma, he was invited to play in many world-famous chamber orchestras and was called by the most important conductors. Toscanini wanted him as a member of the orchestra made up of 98 instrumentalists who, on the 23 rd of October 1920, started rehearsing at the Conservatorio di Musica of Milan in preparation for a long tour of the United States of America with the Maestro. In March 1922, he wan a competition and was appointed as a teacher at the Istituto Musicale Civico of Caglieri where, at the local Teatro Civico, on the 11 th of June 1923, he performed before H.E. Benito Mussolini who asked for an encore of his Boccherini's sonata and offered him a photograph with a dedication. In December 1924, following the retirement of Prof. Cremonini, Oblach was called to take the important chair as a cello professor at the Liceo Rossini of Pesaro. There he became a member of the Trio Pesarese with Amilcare Zanella and Attilio Crepax. In 1925, he wan the competition for the greatly-coveted post as cello professor at the Liceo Musicale of Bologna, where he taught for 28 years. He was also actively performing with Maestro Fasano, with Cicognani, Scimeca and Molinari Pradelli. Thanks to his qualifications, he also wan the important cello professorship at the Regio Conservatorio of Palermo and obtained a beautiful report by the Examining Commission. He brilliantly wan the cello professorship at the Liceo Paganini of Genoa. In Bologna, on the 13 th of April 1934, he re-established the Nuovo Quartetto Bolognese, with Enrico Campaiola, Alessandro Materassi and Federico Barera. Later on, he founded the Trio del Liceo Musicale with Enrico Campaiola and Nino Rossi and another trio with Renato Fasano and Ettore Bonelli. Camillo Oblach's concert activity schedule contains the names of the most renowned concert halls in Italy and abroad. Among the most significant musical events in his schedule, it is worth mentioning his participation in the Orchestra dei Solisti Italiani conducted by Antonio Guarnieri in Cremona in 1937 for the celebrations of Antonio Stradivari and in Genoa, in 1940, for the celebrations of Nicolò Paganini. The Second World War, 1940-45, caused a slackening in all artistic activities, especially in Italy, but Oblach travelled throughout Europe (Germany, France, Spain, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Finland, Norway, Denmark, England) with the famous "Quartetto di Roma" by Oscar Zuccarini (First violin), Francesco Montelli (Ivo Martinini successor - Second violin) Aldo Perini (Viola) Camillo Oblach (Cello). He performed as a soloist in many concerts, as a duo performer and in orchestras for the Italian, German and Swiss radio.
Some of the most influential critics provided ample recognition of Oblach's exceptional qualities and much was written on the press about him, also on account of a curious incident that received coverage in the news and got a full colour page on the Domenica del Corriere, the most popular and important magazine of the time. It is worth including the full report published in the news section of the Giornale dell'Emilia of January 1949: “The well-known cellist Camillo Oblach, just come back from a tour of concerts abroad, was involved in a quite peculiar incident. At the Austrian border in Tarvisio, a moustached and authoritarian customs officer looked at the bulky case of the cellist and asked: “Can you open it, please?”, Oblach immediately opened the case and the officer, after carefully examining the instrument, remarked ‘This is extremely valuable stuff, is it from the old Italian school?' “It is a Nicola Gagliano” the other replied, “Then you will be charged a considerable amount for customs duties”, “I don't think so“ the passenger replied ”this instrument is part of my professional baggage, I am a cellist” “and…how can you prove it?” “But, aren't my papers enough?” “They are not enough, they could be false” “and then?…” “Then you have to play!”. There was nothing else that he could do, the customs officer insisted and the musician had to obey. He pulled out the instrument, people gathered around him, and he started playing Chopin's Nocturne. As the notes started flowing gently out of the instrument, the officer's expression began to clear up, his gaze becoming softer and he was soon in an ecstasy. At the end of the piece, the officer warmly shook the artist's hand “I am sorry”, he softly apologised, his voice full of gratitude, “I knew you were not a smuggler, but up in this rocky land one very seldom gets a chance to listen to some good music”. The incident made a lot of sensation among those who heard about it. On the 7 th of November 1943, in the middle of the night, a group of Wermacht officers driving through Riccione, the place where the Oblach family had moved during the war, being informed that the artist was there, stopped by at his residence and asked him to play for them, after to have listened a Bach suite and other short pieces, the colonel Hans Ahdler and the others three military thank leaving a signature in memory of that "concert".
Unfortunately, Camillo Oblach did not have an easy life during those years: in 1915, at the age of 20, he was drafted and performed his duty as a soldier. The post-war period was long and hard. Later on, in the full of recovery, the second world war broke out. He was then 45, Italy was troubled by innumerable problems and the field of arts was neglected for five long years. In 1946, Oblach was again going strong, the war was over, and he resumed his teaching at the Conservatorio as well as his concert activity. He performed in Rome at the Accademia di S.Cecilia, at the Filarmonica, at the Eliseo theatre, at the Argentina theatre with the Orchestra dell'Augusteo, in Milan with the Orchestra della Scala, in Florence and in Bologna with the Orchestra del Comunale, in Turin with the RAI Orchestra, always successfully, renewing his repertoire, bringing in new music, modern music. On the 22 nd of April 1948 at the Teatro Comunale in Bologna, he performed the concert N. 2 by cello and orchestra by Goesta Nystroen conducted by Maestro Ferdinando Previtali and in 1950 his schedule was full of requests for concerts from all over the world. But that was an unfortunate year for him. On the 19 th of July 1950, while in Chiavari for a series of concerts, he was struck by a paresis that affected the right half of his body and paralysed his arm completely. He was lovingly treated by the Head of the Hospital Prof.Giuseppe Vitale, a music lover and an amateur violinist, and after two years of treatment and sacrifice he managed to pick up his instrument again and perform in concert halls. He also performed on the radio in a wonderful “Adagio con variazioni” by Ottorino Respighi. On the 11 th of November 1954, death took him in Bologna, the city where he had given the best of himself and where he had lived among his family, the Institute, the concert hall, the Theatre, always devoted to his art, as set in the destiny of his irresistible vocation. The first anniversary of his death was celebrated at the Conservatorio di Musica G.B.Martini where the Director of the Institute remembered him with the following words: “an exceptional man, who devoted his life to his art, Oblach was really able to make his cello sing and take his notes successfully throughout Europe and overseas, a man of rare sensitivity and outstanding powers of expression.” On the tenth anniversary of his death, the Conservatorio di Musica once again celebrated him in a most suggestive way. Fifteen of his pupils came to pay tribute to Camillo Oblach from Italy and abroad, all moved by their love and veneration for their Maestro, and they agreed not to play as soloists but all together as his pupils in front of their unforgettable Maestro. Amedeo Baldovino, Cesare Bonzanini, Dino Caravita, Donato Caselli, Emiliano Emiliani, Orfeo Giovannini, Lionello Godoli, Marino Govoni, Pietro Grossi, Aldo Marchetti, Aldo Mascitelli, Bruno Morselli, Tristano Pirazzini, Pillade Ricci, Giorgio Sassi. At the opening of the event, a young boy from the 2nd course of Prof. Penazzi's cello school, performed three short pieces composed by Camillo Oblach for the pupils of the 1 st and 2 nd course of the cello school: “Passano i soldatini”, “Gavotta” and “Cucù”, In 1979, the Regia Accademia Filarmonica di Bologna promoted a competition for young cellists devoted to Camillo Oblach and another International Competition in 1982 dedicated to the memory of Camillo Oblach with 18 participants from all over the world. The first prize was awarded to Mario Brunello and the second to Marin Cazacu from Rumania. Special mentions went to cellists Luca Signorini and Antonio Lysi, who was recognised for the best interpretation of the “Caprice” by Tchaikovsky. The event took place in the Mozart Hall and started with an opening address to a very large audience by Prof. Lazlo Spezzaferri, the President of the Accademia Filarmonica, who mentioned the illustrious traditions of the centuries-old Bolognese institution and warmly thanked both the Examining Commission made up of Maud Tortellier, Franco Rossi, Radu Aldulescu, Raphael Sommer and the very active Secretary of the Accademia, Mario Mancini. Due to the particular period during which he lived, very little is left by Camillo Oblach. Only the following four recordings of 1935 on 78 rpm Cetra records with the accompaniment of pianist Mario Salerno: “La Fontana malata” by Rossellini, “Nocturne in C sharp minor” by Chopin, “Lullaby” by Schubert-Oblach, “Adagio e rondo” by Weber. Moreover, one adagio con variazioni by Ottorino Respighi was broadcasted on the radio on the 18 th of June 1953, two years after the onset of his disease. He was a member of the Accademia Filarmonica of Bologna where, under the Presidency of Maestro Fulvio Angius, he was celebrated with a concert performed by Maestro Stefano Veggetti (playing Camillo Oblach's Gagliano) and a beautiful and long address by Maestro Luigi Verdi.
If you have any recordings of concerts (including trios and quartets) no longer available at RAI’s tape libraries, please let us know.