Aldo Finzi was born in Milan on 4 February 1897 into an old Jewish family originally from Mantua in which love for music was traditional (one of Aldo Finzi's aunts, his father's sister, was a famous soprano: Giuseppina Finzi Magrini). After completing his classical studies at the Parini high school in Milan, he graduated in law at the University of Pavia while, at the same time, he graduated in composition as a private student at the S. Cecilia Conservatory in Rome.
He soon achieved success and fame among young Italian musicians: opera, chamber music, symphonic music, a comic opera 'La serenata al vento', and a dramatic opera inspired by the anti-Semitic persecution 'Shylock', which remained unfinished, are among his compositions. By the age of 24, he had become one of the authors whose works were published by Ricordi, whereas previously his publishers were Fantuzzi and Sonzogno. In the Ricordi catalogue of 1931, his compositions include 'Il chiostro' for female voices and orchestra, the symphonic poems 'Cirano di Bergerac', which was singled out in a competition whose jury included Toscanini and Pizzetti, and 'Inni alla notte', a 'Sonata per violino e pianoforte', a 'Quartetto per archi', various lyrics (Barque d'or, Serenata), and a playful comedy in three acts, 'La serenata al vento'. In the following years, his most important works include 'L'infinito', a symphonic poem from 1933; 'Interludio', a concerto for piano and orchestra from 1934; 'Numquam', a symphonic poem for piano and orchestra from 1937.
In 1937, La Scala announced a competition for a new opera to be performed in the following season: Finzi took part in it with 'La serenata al vento'; one of the members of the jury was Pick Mangiagalli, who confidentially approached his young colleague to announce that he had won the competition. The official announcement, expected in the spring of 1938, did not come. Aldo Finzi's disappointment was grave: he claimed that the decision in his favour by the selection board could only have been blocked by a government veto and that this meant that a racial campaign was imminent in Italy too. Unfortunately, he was a prophet: the racial laws came a few months later and he was precluded from having his music performed. But his vein did not dry up: in 1939 he wrote a symphonic poem (a surviving sister of Finzi's gave him a title taken from a verse by Dante after the war: 'Come all'ultimo suo ciascun artista'); in 1940 he composed 'Danza', a concerto for two pianos, saxophones and orchestra; in 1942 'Shylock', a dramatic opera with a libretto by Rossato (the author wanted to centre the action on Shylock's denunciation of the persecution of his people). Only the first act was set to music: Finzi then wrote the rhythmic text for two more acts himself, which he did not have time to set to music.
For a living, he was content to work anonymously or under others' names: his is the rhythmic translation of Franck's 'Beatitudes' into Italian, a translation that runs under another name. In 1944, he wrote 'Preludio e fuga per organo', composed during the Nazi occupation in Turin, where the author had taken refuge. A denunciation caused the Italian SS to go to the lodgings where his son was hiding in order to search for Maestro Aldo Finzi, who was hiding elsewhere; to avoid the search of the lodgings and the capture of his son, the maestro voluntarily handed himself over to the SS. The Italian SS were corruptible: bought off, they released Aldo Finzi.
Between 1944 and 1945 he composed the 'Psalm for Choir and Orchestra' to thank the Lord for the salvation obtained for his son and himself, and to express the certainty of divine protection; the whole psalm glorifies the Lord's goodness. He died on 7th February 1945. Buried under a false name, his wife had to wait until after the war and the repeal of the racial laws before being able to draw up a document that would allow her to bring the composer's mortal remains back to the family chapel in Milan's Monumental Cemetery.