Victor Salvi 1920–2015
harpist, harp builder, philanthropist
Harp builder Victor Salvi died May 10 in Milan, Italy. He was 95.
For more than a half-century, Salvi was a major figure in the harp world. Best-known for the instruments his company built since the 1950s in Italy, Salvi’s life and work entailed much more than the iconic instruments he built.
Victor Salvi was born Mar. 4, 1920, in Chicago. His father was an instrument maker and Victor, his brother Alberto, and his sister Aida all became accomplished harpists. During World War II, Salvi began his career as a harpist, playing in the U.S. Navy bands. Following the war, he continued his performing career in Chicago and later New York where he played with the New York Philharmonic and the NBC Orchestra. Salvi performed under the baton of renowned conductors including Bruno Walter, George Szell, Pierre Monteux, and Arturo Toscanini.
Salvi returned to his family’s tradition of instrument making, building his first harp in 1954, and starting his own company, Salvi Harps, in his family’s native Italy the following year.
Salvi quickly became one of the world’s preeminent harp makers. In 1987 Salvi surprised the harp world when he acquired competitor Lyon & Healy. But he emphasized his intention to keep the two companies’ harp-building processes separate in a 2001 interview with Harp Column. “When I bought it, it was with the idea to keep Lyon & Healy as Lyon & Healy, as it always was, and keep Salvi going in a different direction—[keep it]a different instrument.”
Salvi felt passionately about the quality of his instruments, and his background as a performer gave him a unique perspective on the sound he wanted his harps to produce. “The sound is the first thing a musician looks for in an instrument—I was aiming at a different type of sound,” Salvi told Harp Column in 2001. He went on to describe his instruments. “They have a musicality. It’s a warmer sound—the harp really responds to the touch.”
Salvi’s work in the harp world was not limited to instrument making. He established the philanthropic Victor Salvi Foundation to bring the harp to the concert stage, record and promote young performers, and commission new works for the instrument. In 1996 the World Harp Congress honored him with its Award of Recognition for Service to the International Harp Community. Harp Column named Salvi to its list of Most Influential Harp Forces of the 20th Century in 1999. Salvi was appointed an Honorary Member of the Royal College of Music in London in 2004. He saw a long-time dream realized in 2006 when he opened the Salvi Harp Museum in Piasco, Italy, where the Salvi Harp factory is located. •
— Harp Column staff, for July-August 2015 issue of Harp Column
Original post by Harp Column Staff on May 14, 2015
Leaders in the harp industry are mourning the death of harp builder Victor Salvi, who passed away May 10, 2015, at the age of 95. Funeral services are scheduled for May 14, and Lyon & Healy has announced that the company will be closed May 14–15 in honor of Salvi. “All of us here at Lyon & Healy Harps mourn the passing of its chairman, Victor Salvi, and unite in honoring the exemplary life of a great harp entrepreneur and philanthropist,” said the company in a May 14 email. “We fully appreciate the fact that in 1987, Mr. Salvi kept Lyon & Healy Harps from continued changes of ownership and allowed us to instead focus on making the Lyon & Healy harp as it has since 1889. We unite in offering our condolences to the Salvi family in their time of mourning. …”
Jakez Francois, head of Camac Harps, also paid tribute to Salvi on the company’s Facebook page saying, “As a harp maker and a harpist, I would like to express my great admiration for Victor Salvi, and my profound respect for what he has achieved. … I am proud to be of the generation of harpists whose first harp was a Salvi harp. One of the results of Victor’s dedication to harp making has been to make the harp available to a greater number of harpists. My deepest sympathies to Victor’s family and my best wishes to those who will continue his work. …”
Information about funeral services for Victor Salvi can be found on the company’s Facebook page.