Biography: Cesare Pugni was an Italian
composer of ballet music, a pianist and a virtuoso violinist. In his early
career he composed operas, symphonies, and various other forms of orchestral
music. Pugni is most noted for the ballets he composed while serving as
Composer of the Ballet Music to Her Majesty's Theatre in London (1843–1850),
and as Ballet Composer of the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres and to
the Court of His Imperial Majesty in St. Petersburg, Russian Empire (1850–1870).
Pugni was among the first composers of ballet music to employ the technique
of leitmotif, which he utilized for his score for the ballet Elerz e Zulmida
Cesare Pugni is the most prolific composer of the genre of ballet music that has ever lived by the end of his life he had composed close to 100 known original scores for the ballet and adapted or supplemented many other works by other composers. He composed a myriad of incidental dances such as divertissements and variations, many of which were added to countless other works. A great deal of Cesare Pugni's complete scores and incidental dances, etc. were published in piano reduction, and sold very well, while other dances were sold as "traditional" by publishers such as T. Boosey or Jullien after the copyright expired with no credit given to the composer.
Of Pugni's original scores for the ballet, he is perhaps best-known today for Ondine, ou La Naïade, (also known as La Naïade et le pêcheur) (1843); La Esmeralda (1844); Éoline, ou La Dryade (1845), Catarina, ou La Fille du Bandit (1846); The Pharaoh's Daughter (1862); The Little Humpbacked Horse (1864); and Le Roi Candaule (1868). Of his incidental dances, etc., he is most noted for the Pas de Six from La Vivandière (also known as Markitenka) (1844); the Pas de Quatre (1845); La Carnival de Venise pas de deux (also known as Satanella pas de deux) (1859); the Diane and Actéon Pas de Deux (1868); and his additional music for the ballet Le Corsaire (1863 and 1868).
Pugni's works were written for the most influential ballet masters of the 19th century, among them Arthur Saint-Léon, Paul Taglioni, Marius Petipa and Jules Perrot (who staged almost every one of his works to Pugni's music). Most of the ballerinas of the Romantic era (including Marie Taglioni, Fanny Cerrito, Lucile Grahn, Fanny Elssler and Carlotta Grisi danced in ballets set to his music.