Silvio de Rienzo (1906-1966)
Silvio de Rienzo was born in Manhattan in 1906 and attended the New York College of Music and the Conservatory of Musical Arts in Washington Heights. Although classically trained, he achieved noteworthy and lucrative success as a performer in popular genres, publishing his novelty piano solos in New York City, working on cruise ships, and touring Europe, Central and South America with jazz ensembles. Back home, he performed at venues which include the Golden Gate Theater in San Francisco and the Salon Madrid at the now-demolished Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York City. He worked with several luminaries of the day, including Fred Astaire, Jack Benny, and Desi Arnaz. He also played regularly with the bandleader Guy Lombardo, performing at his East Point House in Freeport, Long Island.
With his wife, Domenica, he was blessed with four daughters, three of whom are alive today. Silvio served the nation during the war years as an employee of Sperry Corporation, a producer of aerospace electronics. Afterwards, Silvio resumed teaching piano and composition from his home in beautiful Marine Park, Brooklyn.
De Rienzo’s music was published by Alfred and Company, Carl Fischer, and Century Music Corporation. He was a member of ASCAP, and his compositions were catalogued in the Library of Congress. All that remains are but a few recordings of his work with big bands and some silent movie footage of his hands at work. A classical vinyl recording is currently lost.
In October of 1966, just short of his 60th birthday and amidst a period of great productivity, Silvio died of colon cancer. His legacy lives on through his many published compositions, all of which reveal a highly accomplished musician of elegance, virtuosity, charm, and sincerity. His great-grandson, pianist Eric Clark, works to continue his legacy, playing on Silvio’s own Steinway piano.