Curt Cacioppo’s compositions synthesize and reflect multiple dimensions of his musical and humanistic experience. Like his mentor Leon Kirchner, and other composer/performers such as Frederic Rzewski and George Walker, he is a formidable pianist, fully grounded in the traditional solo, ensemble, and concerto literature, and avidly involved with new repertoire. Well over a dozen composers have dedicated works to him. He collaborates internationally with writers such as Friedrich Thiel, Luigi Cerantola, Renzo Oliva, and Claudio Saltarelli, and with visual artists such as Ying Li, Lia Laterza, Renato D’Agostino, and Alessio Mancino. He finds inspiration not only in the Italian side of his personal ancestry, but in the ways, beliefs, and cultural expression of the Native American community. His work with Navajo elder and spiritual leader John Co’ií Cook to preserve the sacred Coyoteway Healing Ceremony was a major contribution.
In a December 1995 interview on Bayern Zwei Radio, Cacioppo said that early on, he was taught to feel that music should be for its own sake (“ars gratia artis”), but soon realized that “consciously, or involuntarily, my music has some kind of political motivation behind it.” This is most certainly the case in his cantata Wolf (on Navona release NV5889), based on a poem by Mohawk author Peter Blue Cloud, a scathing indictment of the genocide perpetrated on indigenous populations of the Americas. Equally so, this is the case in his Vision of the Crusades (Capstone CPS-8713), a resolute denouncement of what Sir Stephen Runciman concluded was “a barbarian invasion of a superior civilization in the name of God,” founded (according to Edward Gibbon) on “savagery, intolerance, and fanaticism.”
Cacioppo has written for the Chicago and Milwaukee Symphonies, the Emerson String Quartet, and many other esteemed ensembles and soloists worldwide. His work is represented on 18 discs, including the album RITORNELLO (Navona NV5956), which features the Quartetto di Venezia, with whom he has enjoyed a working relationship for 20 years. Cacioppo’s further mentors included composer George Rochberg, pianist Ruth Laredo, and ethnomusicologist David McAllester; he was significantly influenced by jazz artists Pat Pace, Bill Dobbins and Chuck Israels. He has received awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Howard Foundation, among others, and served in the professoriate for over 40 years. He retains the title Ruth Marshall Magill Professor of Music Emeritus from Haverford College.