Last member of a legendary quartet has died

Last member of a legendary quartet has died


norman lebrecht

January 17, 2016

We regret to share news of the death of Elisa Pegreffi, founder member and second violin of the exceptional and vastly renowned Quartetto Italiano. She was 93 years old.


quartetto italiano2


Elisa played chamber music with fellow students during the second world war. In November 1945, they made their debut in Emilia-Romagna as the Nuovo Quartetto Italiano. By the end of the decade, they dropped the ‘nuovo’, replaced the viola and launched on an international and recording career that continued until their disbandment in 1980.

Elisa married first violin Paolo Borciani in 1953.

The group were always innovative. They did a series of lecture tours with Gerda Busoni, the composer’s widow, formed a closed collaboration with Maurizio Pollini and recorded the complete Schubert canon.

But their most significant impact was to transform perceptions of Italian musicianship. In a period when Italy was known for singers and its orchestras were undervalued, the Quartetto Italiano demonstrated the unique and innate qualities of Italian instrumental playing.

Borciani died in 1985, cellist Franco Rossi in 2006 and the violist Piero Farulli in 2012.

Elisa was cared for from 2007 at the Riposo per Musicisti Giuseppe Verdi in Milan. Her son, the pianist Mario Borciani, recalls that she liked to say, ‘I was somebody because there were others.’

Sic transit harmonia mundi.

quartetto italiano


  • Ppellay says:

    And thus one of the great quartets of the 20th Century has truly passed into history. Its recordings stand as a magnificent legacy.

    • Glenn Hardy says:

      and speaking of those recordings, yesterday my brother gave me the boxed set (and a big box it is) of all of their recordings for Decca, Phillips, and DG…37 CDs. What a treasure trove!

  • Jim Clark says:

    The quartet that sounded so beautiful that I became interested in all sorts of chamber music as a consequence. Magnificently thought out interpretations, and beautifully detailed playing!

    • ruben greenberg says:

      I couldn’t agree with Jim Clark more. Did you ever get a chance to hear them in person? They were every bit as good in the flesh as on their recordings. -right up their with Amadeus, Budapest, the Hungarian Quartet, Borodine. But they had their own personality; their own sound and phrasing.

  • Neil van der Linden says:

    They were as legendary for the artwork of their disc sleeves (yes, LP’s) as for their recordings. And they were so suave and cool. Especially the lady indeed.

  • Ignacio Martínez-Ybor says:

    I revered the Quartetto Italiano more than any other. Recently Decca issued all their recordings. Spartan packaging. No remastering. But all their recordings were great, in terms of interpretation as well as audio-technique. Nearly all were made by Philips, and Philips at their best, which was invariably the best. Thank you Elsa, and all. As she said: “‘I was somebody because there were others.’

  • Philip Koslow says:

    An extraordinary musical experience was the original Quartetto Italiano. I felt greatly inspired as an undergraduate in the 1960’s with their artistry and continue to find the many gems in their interpretations upon numerous rehearings.

  • John Borstlapj says:

    Unforgettable musicians, the late Beethoven quartets got their definite reading, I think (perhaps together with the Alban Berg Quartet), in their hands. A brilliant technique entirely absorbed into the music making. No quartet could equal their rendering of the famous Adagio of B’s quartet opus 127.