The Sociable One: Tito I Ricordi. The period from 1853 to 1888

Tito I (1811—1888), who has worked in the business since 1825, takes over as the head of the Ricordi publishing house after Giovanni’s death in 1853. It is reported that he was a gentle man in delicate health. His marriage to Giuseppina Arosio is blessed with nine children. He is a draftsman, engraver, printer and a talented pianist. His numerous trips abroad bring him into contact with figures from the European music scene, whom he invites to concerts in Milan — among them Franz Liszt, with whom he is said to have played piano pieces for four hands. In 1863 Tito founds the Società del Quartetto, still existent, to promote chamber music in the city.

The network of branch offices in Italy and Europe is expanded in Tito’s time. The company’s partners are the brothers Pietro and Lorenzo Clausetti in Naples and Stefano Jouhaud in Florence, who has worked for Ricordi since 1824. In 1871 Rome becomes the capital of the newly formed Kingdom of Italy, and Ricordi founds a branch there. Tito I Ricordi also proves his political judgment and patriotic spirit by announcing in the Gazzetta on June 30, 1861 that he has opened a branch in the “Regno d’Italia”. Further branches are set up in London (1878), Palermo and Paris (1888). A new catalog containing 45 000 items is published in 1875. In a letter to the London correspondent Tamplini, Tito I writes confidently: “Dando una scorsa a questo Catalogo si può già comprendere che si tratta del più grande Stabilimento musicale che esista.” — “One look at this catalog and one can see that this is the biggest music company there is.” During this period, which is characterized by a European financial crisis, Tito I seems to be considering a sale of the company and has it valued: he pegs his profits at over 100 000 lire annually, and the value of the company at two million. Instead of a sale, new strategies for expanding the company’s scope for action are developed.
Copyright law has become an important issue since the beginning of the 19th century, and the Ricordi publishing is particularly dedicated to copyright issues specific to the field of music.

In Italy a strong pirate market of scores undermines the author’s copyright, as well as the common practice for impresarios to adapt the music to a given performance and its interpreters. Preventing this is in the interests of the Ricordis, whose primary business is the rental of music material for performance.

Casa Ricordi cultivates close ties with its authors and strictly defends their rights, prompting Giuseppe Verdi in 1847 to no longer negotiate with theater impresarios over the rights to his operas, but with the Ricordi publishing house. Giovanni Ricordi himself already experienced several incidents of music piracy: In the cases of Semiramide (Rossini) in 1823 and La Sonnambula (Bellini) in 1831, this led to pecuniary losses as well as a lowering of artistic standards. Giovanni thinks about ways to prevent this. In the absence of legislation, he initially sees one way forward in signing detailed authors’ contracts, and later in their publication in the Gazzetta and other important Italian newspapers.

His collaboration with publishers in Europe, for example Boosey in London, also has the aim of preventing music piracy and protecting copyrights. The introduction of legislation is difficult in the pre-unification era (the Risorgimento) because of the country’s fragmentation into various dominions. Giovanni Ricordi is one of the three publishers in attendance at talks about a multinational convention at the Milan censorship office in 1839, with representatives from Austria and the Regno di Sardegna. In 1840 an Austro-Sardinian convention is adopted. The copyright protection laid down in it includes works for the theater and also covers piano reductions and arrangements. But asserting the convention proves difficult. The political public is not very interested: the distribution of music lies mainly in the hands of impresarios. Copies and adaptations are agreed between copyists and theaters. The censorship authorities claim their right to make changes to the content, but are not interested in the matter of rights.

Both Tito I and his son Giulio advocate more extensive legislation. In 1858 Tito I participates in the international congress on copyright regulation in Brussels. Giulio publishes essays on the subject, in which he emphasizes the consequences that arise from violations of the protection of authors’ rights: “… in a word: art would have to endure unbearable pain, which cannot be the wish of either the authors or the public in a country as eminently artistic as Italy.” With the adoption of the “legge Scialoja” in 1865 and the Berne Convention in 1886, copyright in Italy and Europe is regulated, a process that was decisively helped by members of Casa Ricordi.

Tito I and Giulio’s great coup is the acquisition of Francesco Lucca’s (the publisher of Wagner in Italy) inventory in 1888 from his widow for the price of one million lire, ending a long-standing rivalry. This also relates to the issue of “Wagner and Verdi” — as a publisher the Ricordi publishing house had always taken a critical stance towards Wagner’s work and thus Casa Lucca had obtained the Italian rights. Now, however, the limited partnership “G. Ricordi & C.” emerges from the two companies, with 3 800 000 lire in capital. Its shareholders are Tito I and Giulio Ricordi as well as several citizens of Milan: Erminio Bozzotti, Luigi Erba, Francesco Gnecchi, Giuseppe Pisa and Gustavo Strazza. Giulio takes over the management of the company before Tito I dies on September 07, 1888.