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Stéphane Grappelli

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(1908 – 1997)

Stéphane Grappelli (26 January, 1908 – 1 December, 1997) was a pioneering violinist who founded with Django Reinhardt in 1934 the “Quintette du Hot Club de France”, it was one of the first all-string jazz bands. He has been called “the grandfather of jazz violinists” and continued playing concerts around the world well into his 80s.
For the first three decades of his career, he was billed using a gallicised spelling of his last name, Grappelly, reverting to “Grappelli” in 1969. The latter, Italian, spelling is now used almost universally when referring to the violinist – even on reissues of his early work.

Grappelli was born in France at Paris’ Hôpital Lariboisière, and was christened with the name Stéfano. His Italian father, marquess Ernesto Grappelli, was born in Alatri, Lazio, and his French mother, Anna Emilie Hanoque, was from St-Omer. Ernesto was a scholar who taught Italian, sold translations, and wrote articles for local journals. Stéfano’s mother died when he was four, leaving his father to care for him. Though he was living in France when World War I broke out, Ernesto was still an Italian citizen, and was drafted to fight in 1914. Ernesto had written an article about dancer Isadora Duncan during his time as a journalist, and turned to her when he needed someone to care for his son. Stéfano enrolled in Duncan’s dance school at the age of six, and it was here that he learned to love French Impressionist music. With the war encroaching, Duncan was forced to flee the country and turn over her château to be used as a military hospital.

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