At the time of my enrollment at the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music in 1947, I was assigned to the composition class of Maestro Armando Renzi; and soon after i realized what a great chance that had been for me, one of those chances that changes your life. Renzi would very generously infuse all his endless music knowledge into the soul of an intelligent pupil, and his human warmth was such that to his students he was not only the teacher but also a father figure and a friend. “If a student would ever surpass me – quite difficult! – I couldn’t be happier about it” he told me. Nevertheless, how could one outdo such a gifted, educated and extremely versatile musician?

Every day we witnessed the range of knowledge in the world of composition, through his lessons in harmony, counterpoint and fugue, the superior forms of composition, the orchestration. His teaching was never arid but always marked by the most exquisite musicality. One would probably learn more by writing for recitals than for classes; and indeed, he found the particular talent of each student with unerring intuition. “You are a born opera composer!” he would tell me, “and how happy would I be if you would continue on the path of Perosi with oratorios!” And I tried to follow his advice.

I was lucky enough to be near the Maestro as his trusted organist in concerts, recitals and at the Giulia Chapel in S. Peter for five whole years, from 1975 to 1980 when the Chapel was terminated. An organist, he would say to me obviously exaggerating, such as grandfather Remigio. How many works he had me write for the Chapel! He would conduct them with passion, while often the great Nino Rota was gladly sitting next to me on the organ’s bench. His example as a composer of sacred was, and still is today, the model of that “modern” sacred music that most fits the Roman basilicas. Not St. Peter, but Santa Maria Maggiore was destined to me by Faith, where I have been working as Chapel Master for over 42 years! However, I must say that I would not have stayed in Rome if not for Maestro Renzi’s strong interest. One of my last privileges was to be able to follow “Canti pindarici”

I was able to attest to his international fame as pianist in concerts and recitals, but especially in sight reading of operas and oratorios during classes. Verdi, his favorite, Bizet, Perosi, they all came alive under his hands, which were able to convey the most incredible nuances of the orchestra.

From Renzi I have also learned a lifestyle based on honesty and integrity at all costs. He would never compromise, he shied away from false adulation and any superficial display of friendship and affection, from easy success; he trained himself to have infinite patience, almost to the point of martyrdom, in enduring exploitation and wrongs that were done to him. I too have been loyal to the Teacher of music and life, and I know all too well the price that one pays for such a noble willpower. Nevertheless, it is also true that good conscience is priceless. The power of hostile forces is, after all, transitory, while the example of what is “just”, in art as in life, does not fear time’s harm.

That is why Maestro Renzi’s personality, thirty years after his death appears more than ever immortal.

Mons Valentino Miserachs Grau
Composer, Director of Cappella Liberiana of Santa Maria Maggiore
May 2014