Early Life (1878-1902)

Mario Paci was born in Florence, Italy in 1878 and soon became interested in music beginning piano studies at age 7 at the Conservatorio di Musica S. Pietro a Majella in Naples. He progressed quickly and gave his first piano recital at the Teatro Mercadante (formerly Real Teatro del Fondo) in Naples in 1889. Nonetheless, his father did not want him to devote himself entirely to music, and he was also enrolled in a boarding school in Naples for general studies.

Mario Paci in Childhood and His Parents, Telemaco and Augusta

Augusta Conti Paci (mother), Gino Paci (brother), Mario (about 5-6 years old); Palermo; ca. 1885

He was so passionate about music that he ran away to Rome when he was 14 to study with the great pianist Giovanni Sgambati, who was one of the last students of Franz Liszt. Finding that Sgambati did not accept any students without a letter of introduction and having run out of money, he contacted his family. His mother met him in Rome, obtained an apartment, a piano for practice, and the necessary letter of introduction. Sgambati was pleased with his new student, and when he learned of the financial strain this placed on the family, he gave Paci lessons for free. His lessons were so successful that he won the Franz Liszt competition in Rome when he was only 17.

Formal portrait, Mario Paci

Mario (late teens or early 20s); Milan; ca. 1900.

Trio Italiano (Mario Paci at piano), Milan

After winning the Liszt Prize, he launched his career as a pianist with a year of recitals in Italy, Austria, and France. This gave him the opportunity to hear orchestras play under some of the great conductors.

Letter to enter the Accademia di Santa Cecilia signed by Giovanni Sgambati and Luigi Rosati, Rome, 1897 August 11.

He decided to begin the study of composition and orchestration at the Conservatorio di Musica Giuseppe Verdi in Milan, and also became interested in conducting. Puccini was so impressed when he heard Paci play the Beethoven Appassionata Sonata that he offered to recommend him for study at the conservatory. While at the conservatory and with the help of Puccini, he served as an assistant at three opera houses in Milan where he learned conducting with Rodolfo Ferrari, Leopoldo Mugnone, and Arturo Toscanini at La Scala.