Boston-based freelance composer James Ricci has been composing new and compelling music for over three decades. Born in New York City in the mid-1950s, Ricci was exposed to a wide-variety of musical idioms and styles. As a guitarist he has performed everything from atonal free-form jazz to C&W to psychedelic rock. Fired by the global crosscurrents and experimentation of the 1960’s and 70’s era avant garde, Ricci branched out into the world of contemporary concert music.
He studied with jazz guitarist Steve Khan while in high school, but was largely self-taught until 1972 when he received conservatory training at Juilliard. He moved to Boston in 1973 and attended the Berklee College of Music where he obtained a degree in music composition (B.M.1976). Further studies and advanced degrees followed at the New England Conservatory (M.M. 1980 with distinction) and at Brandeis University (M.F.A. 1986, Ph.D. ABD).
Ricci's principal composition teachers were Donald Martino and Martin Boykan. He has participated in diverse seminars and master classes both in Europe and the United States with composers György Ligeti, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Earle Brown, Jacob Druckman, Ralph Shapey, Betsy Jolas, Sylvano Bussotti, Anthony Payne, and others. He studied under Milton Babbitt at the Indiana University Composer's Forum and at the Yale Norfolk Summer School of Music with Elliott Carter.
As a former co-director of the LUMEN Contemporary Music Ensemble, Ricci curated concerts of new music - including several celebratory retrospectives of work by his teachers. His String Quartet (1984) - a work that won mention in the 1985 Boston League-ISCM Competition - has been recorded by the QX String Quartet for future commercial release.
In the early
1980s Ricci was a bell ringer at Boston's Old
North Church and was awarded a Brandeis Sachar travel grant in 1984 to
study English Change Ringing.
He has rung in bell towers throughout the US, Canada, and England.
An impressive roster of musicians have performed his works, including Irina Chirkova, Jan Insinger, Kenneth Radnofsky, Wouter Schmidt, Willemien Insinger, Wilma Smith, the Lydian String Quartet, the QX String Quartet, the Xanthos Ensemble, Duo Atlantica, the LUMEN Contemporary Music Ensemble, the Fauxharmonic Orchestra, the Annex Players, Solar Winds, Collage New Music and pianists Martin Amlin, Donald Berman, John McDonald, Catherine Remus Shefski, I-Yun Chung, and Janice Weber.
New Music Connoisseur described Ricci’s Sonatina for solo viola as “…cleverly expressed, while the string writing is emotive, showy, and telling--a fine listen.” Ricci was nominated three times for an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
DodeKagon (1975) for Clarinet
Performed by Larry Scripp (Annex Players) at
Quintet (1976) for Fl., Cl., Vln., Vla. and Vlc.
String Trio (1977) for Vln., Vla., and Vlc.
The Frog Prince (1977) for Soprano and Bassoon (Text from "Transformations" by Anne Sexton)
Shadows of Synchronicity (1977) for Fl., Ob., Cl., Tpt., Trb., Vln, Vla, Vlc, Pno, and Perc.
Performed at NEC Composers Concert, Jordan Hall, 1978
Three Taoist Songs (1978) for Soprano and Clarinet
Performed at NEC Composers’ concert, 1979
The Round and the Square (1978) for Violin and Piano
Invention (1979) for Guitar
Performed by John Armstrong
at Dunster House Library, Harvard University,
Syntropy (1979) -Electronic Music (Text from by R. Buckminster Fuller, read by Ezra Sims)
Nexus (1979) for Orchestra
Read by the New England Conservatory Repertory Orchestra, 1979
Four Movements (1980) for Flute and Piano
Performed by Judy Chemey and Martin Amlin at Brandeis University, 1980
Metalogue (1981) for Solo Violin
Performed by Wilma Smith at Brandeis University,
Edaneres (1981) for Chamber Orchestra
Read by Yale Norfolk Summer School Orchestra, Arthur Weisberg conductor, 1981
Diafonia (1981) for Two Pianos (Finalist, Boston ISCM Competition 1983)
Performed by Martin Amlin and Janice Weber at
Fantasy (1984) for Bassoon (also exists as a Bass Clarinet transcription)
Performed by Amy Travis at
String Quartet (1984)
Honorable Mention, Boston ISCM
Performed by the Lydian String Quartet at Brandeis University, 5/18/1985
and by the QX String Quartet at Brookline Public Library, 12/3/2007
Duo (1986) for Two Violins - to Tony and Titia
Minute Waltz (1989) for Clarinet and Piano - to David and Beth
Plain Hunt on Eight (1990) for Flute and Guitar
Performed by Willemien Insinger and Armand Qualliotine, 1990
Duo (1999) for Flute Duo
Performed by Willemien Insinger and Mies Boet-Whitaker (Duo
Three Pieces (1999) for Piano
Performed by John McDonald
Concerto for Piano and Chamber Orchestra (2000)
Sonatina (2000) for Solo Viola
Performed by Wouter Schmidt
Birthday Tune (2003) for Piano (for Cathrien Insinger-Soutendam's 80th Birthday)
Performed by Loukie Insinger
Lyric Piece (2003) for Flute Duo
Performed by Willemien
Insinger & Mies Boet-Whitaker (Duo Atlantica)
Quintet (2003) for Fl., Cl., Vln., Vlc., Pno. Mov.
I (.Pdf) Mov.
II (.Pdf) Mov.
III (.Pdf) Mov. III (.MP3)
Performed by the Xanthos Ensemble 6/3/2007 (Newton Public Library), 6/4/2007 (Berklee College of Music)
Performed by Willemien Insinger with John McDonald 6/20/2004, and Victor Troll 11/16/2008
Performed by Jan Insinger 2004 (
Commissioned by the Arlington Council for the Arts
"an evocatively musing and third-laden essay subtly tinged with early Berg" - www.newmusicon.org
Donald Berman 2/5/2006 John Knowles Paine Hall, Harvard University
I-Yun Chung 11/19/2010 The Lily Pad, Cambridge, MA
Cathy Remus Shefski 3/19/2011 Salon Concert Series The Music Studio Clarks Summit, PA
Waltz (2005) for Piano Score (.Pdf)
014 Blues (2006) for Piano Score (.Pdf)
Lux Aeterna (2006) for Choir (SATB)
Harold in Italy (2007) for Alto Saxophone and Piano
(a sonata in three movements "...some nostalgic and poignant
moods, though it finished with a rollicking tango" -
Performed by Kenneth Radnofsky and John McDonald 4/29/2007 (LUMEN) and by
Rachel G. Cox and Robert Jeter 10/2/2010 ETSU
Music Dept., Mathes Hall East Tennessee State University Johnson City, TN
Two-Part Invention (2008) for Piano (Also exists with added Cello part as Three-Part Invention)
by Jasper and Jan Insinger 3/13/2011 in Landsmeer, the Netherlands
Fantasia (2008) for String Quartet (Also exists as Quintet for three Violins, Viola, and Cello)
Chamber Symphony (2009) in three movements
Pong (2009) for two Flutes
Variations (2009) for Piano (dedicated to David Rakowski)
Soliloquy (2010) for solo Flute
Performed by Willemien Insinger
Three Perambulations (2010) for Fl, Cl (doubling on B. Cl), Vln, Vlc, Pno, and Perc.
Performed by Collage New Music 3/6/2011 Pickman Concert Hall, Longy School of Music, Cambridge, MA
(2011) for Violin and Piano