The founder

Joseph Robbone

(Vercelli, 1916-1985)

Joseph Robbone was born in Vercelli on 16th June 1916, the son of a literature professor and of a primary school teacher. He gained a degree in Economics and Commerce at the University of Turin. Along with his high school and university studies, he graduated brilliantly in piano, composition and conducting at the Conservatory of Turin, under the direction of Franco Alfano, Giorgio Federico Ghedini and Alfredo Casella. From 1938 to 1949 he taught mathematics in secondary schools; in the Second World War he was a cavalry officer on the French front.


As a composer, he published, in the early ’50s, some works for piano such as the Jim Crow Suite, Danza del Falco e canzone, a Sonata Romantica for piano and violin, a Trio for violin, cello and piano and many compositions for choir; some of his music was also performed by Italian Television (RAI).


At the end of 1949 he abandoned his teaching career and founded the International Music and Dance Competition ‘Giovan Battista Viotti’; later on, the Liceo musicale ‘G. B. Viotti’, the ‘Viotti d’oro‘, the Viotti Festival, the advanced courses, the ‘Vacanze musicali’. He re-established the Società del Quartetto, collaborated in the lyrical seasons of the Teatro Civico in Vercelli and produced, at the end of the 60’s, “Le Grandi Opere Liriche” by Fratelli Fabbri Editori (Milan), the first series of records to be distributed successfully in Italian newsstands.


The primitive structure of the “Viotti” Competition went far beyond the pure and simple concept of awarding prizes and turned to a mission of professional training of new talents for opera houses: a sort of an ‘impresario’ which started to promote and produce operas and concerts, in collaboration with numerous theatres all over Europe. The original Voice School of Specialization added new classes, such as Music theory and various instruments, including the piano as a must; in fact, it turned to a true ‘liceo musicale’ (music high school).


The fame of the “Premio Viotti”, coveted by everyone and everywhere, was well-established when Robbone, in 1958, created the “Viotti d’Oro Prize”, an award for those artists who have achieved the top level of their artistic career on the international stage.


Joseph Robbone passed away on 23rd April 1985. He was awarded the title of Grand’Ufficiale of the Italian Republic on 2nd June 1975; the award “Vercellese dell’Anno” in the early ’80s; a memorial “Viotti d’oro” in October 1985; a memorial Kiwanis “We build” prize in 1997. The Sala Dugentesca of Vercelli, the hall that hosted many Viotti Competitions, was named after him in 2006.