Franco Alfano - Songs by Tagore

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  Introduction to CD Songs by Tagore
Reviews on CD Songs by Tagore

CD Nuova Era 7388 (Torino, 2004) producted by Rive-Gauche Concerti with the support of Pedemont Region and CRT Foundation

Interpreters: Duo Alterno - Tiziana Scandaletti soprano, Riccardo Piacentini piano


Tre Poemi di Tagore (1919)
• Mamma, il giovane Principe
• Egli mormorò
• Parlami, amore mio

Da “Sei Liriche” (1919)
• Non partire, amore mio

Tre Liriche di Tagore (1929)
• Perché allo spuntar del giorno
• Finisci l'ultimo canto
• Giorno per giorno

Da “Nuove Liriche tagoriane” (1936)
• Perché siedi là?
• Non nascondere il segreto del tuo cuore

Da “Due Liriche di Tagore” (1943?)
• T'amo, diletto mio (manoscritto inedito di proprietà del M.o Rino Maione)

Da “Sette Liriche” (1947)
• Si addensano le nubi
• Venne e mi sedette accanto

Da “Due Liriche” (1948?)
• Il giorno non è più (manoscritto inedito di proprietà del M.o Rino Maione)

Da “Cinque nuove Liriche tagoriane” (1948)
• Sì, lo so


The project

This is the fourth monographic CD which Rive-Gauche Concerti has dedicated to first recordings of Italian vocal chamber music of the early twentieth century – with the support of the Piemonte Region and of the CRT Foundation and the co-operation of the "Carlo Mosso Centre for Music Studies and the Library of the "Giuseppe Verdi" Conservatory in Turin.
The first three CDs, featuring music by Giorgio Federico Ghedini and Alfredo Casella, are now joined by this work containing some of the most beautiful lyrics by Tagore. In these years of "re-examination" of the muchdiscussed finale of Turandot, exactly 50 years on from Alfano’s death, these works stand as a fresh viewpoint for a more far-reaching reappraisal of the composer.
Our special thanks go to Andrea Lanza, director of the Library of the Turin Conservatory, and to Rino Maione who has put at our disposal a lot of material about Alfano, especially the manuscript "T’amo, diletto mio and Il giorno non è più which belongs to him personally. (Riccardo Piacentini)

Franco Alfano's Songs

We must state from the very beginning that the Liriche by Franco Alfano (1875-1954) should not be regarded as pieces that are marginal or even separate from his more elaborate, proud and indeed intimidating works: operatic works, Symphonies, Quartets, etc.: they are extremely terse forms that bring together and perfect very specific virtues of the spirit and material of music.
They are the ultimate and most absolute synthesis of expressive tangibility and masterly craftsmanship. Invited to present a concert of his own music in the hall of the Naples Conservatory on 16 March 1953, Alfano himself said: “In my production the Liriche occupy a position of no small importance, certainly not of secondary importance compared to the more complex operatic and symphonic compositions. I have always thought that a Lyric, a beautiful Lyric of course, is to a Sonata, a
Quartet or a Symphony as a sonnet is to an epic poem.”
Among the many poets from whom he drew inspiration (Lamartine, Hugo, De Musset, Rilke) Alfano had a privileged relationship with the Indian Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), who also created plays, critical essays, philosophical and religious works and even paintings. Tagore is Alfano’s poet par excellence. In the corpus of Lyrics by the Neapolitan musician (some sixty pieces) the most significant section is represented by texts by the poet from Calcutta: no fewer than 26.
This fact brings a wholly singular and preponderant significance to Alfano among the host of composers who drew on Tagore’s poetry: Janacek, Zemlinsky, Schönberg, Respighi, Frank Bridge, Pizzetti, Szymanowski, Milhaud, Malipiero, Casella, Ghedini, Castelnuovo-Tedeschi and Ravi Shankar, to name but the most famous.
Alfano “fraternises” with Tagore in the unique quality of the feelings in which the ecstatic joy of the senses and religion for Nature form a single myth of love. Their artistic partnership was created through the transfusion of spirits, both being sensuals and spiritualists, like those spirits for whom sense is not the immediate “passion” but the perception of a passion that delivers itself over to the consolation of an arcane sigh of love which may even be taken for a type of mystical invocation. Physical love becomes love for the transcendental and vice versa. Eroticism handled rather as in the Song of Songs in the Old Testament. The sensuality in Tagore’s and Alfano’s art
is not a wild, primitive type of sensuality, as the word is often used with a negative intention; it is rather a sensuality in which the contemplative expression of the sense is shaped: a sensuality eager for poetry and music, something astral and magical that opens itself out to the expression of amorous, astonished lyricism.
Tagore’s poetics are thirsty for beauty and intoxicated with love; his desires, wandering through platonic heavens, have a prayer-like meaning: communicating with the divine that is in every creature. The breath that inspires him is love as the cult of feelings and of voices that delight in poetry in a pantheistic celebration of life, now fathoming the mystery of being, now evoking the nostalgia of things, now burning in passionate tremors. It is in love and in nature that Tagore glimpses a trace of the Being and the One; the infinite in the finite. Alfano was fascinated by this Indian mysticism set between Theism and Pantheism; he was stunned by the natural profession of
such poetic elevation as he had never before known and by such faith in human feelings.
Lyrics of Love and Life is the title Tagore gave to his poems; and Alfano, who was about to give songs and harmony to the India of what was to be his operatic masterpiece Sakuntala, declared: “Never have I felt so full of music as in the human and religious myth of India.” in these Liriche d’Amore e di Vita Tagore’s poetry becomes Alfano’s music, and Alfano’s music becomes Tagore’s poetry. Poetical and musical virtue seem to belong to the same soul. Their song wells up from the intoxication of earthly affection for the religious and does not distinguish whether the singer is man or woman, whether it is the soul that seeks the divine or the bride that desires her bridegroom. What is certain is that both the poetry and the music burn with erotic content, with that eroticism that is so frequent in mystics of all ages and places which, in its transcendent search for the divine expresses itself in a manner similar to sensual, earthly love. The two collections of poetry by Tagore from which Alfano selected twenty-six texts are: Gitanjali – “Songs of offering” – which we might also define “Collection of prayers”, and the Gardener, i.e. the man who cultivates his own conscience. Alfano used the first Italian translation published by Gino Carabba of Lanciano in 1914-1915. Alfano’s musical vision is a secret song that does not involve long developments and is held mainly within the central register, never pushing the voice to extreme limits, as indeed befits Tagore’s platonic lyricism. Furthermore he makes use of two procedures of musical construction which then flow into one another revealing the singularity of their source. The first indulges more in melodic affection; the second, on the other hand, devotes itself insistently to weaving vocal and instrumental structures with inexorable doctrine, at times with harsh sounds, which, however, enclose and protect ranges of lyrical emotion. The former exalts the cordiality of the melody; the latter takes upon itself the sublime affliction that Alfano holds within himself and which makes his song all the more intense and arcane. Many of his Lyrics are still not known in all their wealth of invention. They are, indeed, difficult both in their demanding instrumental material and in the conception of virtuality of singing that is too absorbed and hidden in their underlying lyric of fancy and inspiration. Concentrated, tense and blatant lyrical emotion is one of the distinguishing modes of Alfano’s poetics – the very technique, we might say, of his sensibility. (Rino Maione)

Some reviews on CD Songs by Tagore

From “Musica e Scuola” – 15th June 2005

“Duo Alterno's activity, both in concerts and CDs, goes on [...] The chances are the intense “Liriche da Tagore [Songs from Tagore]” by Franco Alfano or the beautiful “Songs” by Alfredo Casella [...] or the “Canti e Strambotti [Songs and Strambotti]” by the refined Giorgio Federico Ghedini. Tiziana Scandaletti and Riccardo Piacentini are two interpreters specialized in this sort of repertoire [...] The Duo Alterno, sure point of reference in the view of modern and contemporary music, brings [...] all over the world [...] a literature of XXth Century which otherwise remains in the drawer.” (Michele Gioiosa)

From "Ópera Actual" – May 2005

“[...] great and logic ["poderosa y logica"] stylistic coherence [...] The soprano Tiziana Scandaletti offers a solid vocal line which [...] transmits all the sensuality of a extremely personal and expressive language. Riccardo Piacentini follows her lucky interpretation with an impeccable piano accompaniment which, though the evident difficulty, concentrates a great idiomatic difference and variety of registers. The good interpenetration of the two interpreters allows to know extensively a chamber language which sometimes is a bit disconcerting and unforeseeable but always extraordinarily attractive of a composer who deserves to be discovered.” (Vladimir Junyent)

From “Hortus Musicus” – April-June 2005

“After having approached Ghedini's and Casella's chamber vocal repertoire, the two interpreters of the Duo Alterno offer in this CD a precious “dowel” to their researches, presenting a sylloge of Alfano's songs (included two inedited pages) on Tagore's texts [...] It is beyond doubt that this proposal is of great cultural interest [...] The soprano Tiziana Scandaletti and the pianist Riccardo Piacentini face this unusual repertoire with the well reknown skill and stylistical adhesion: each work is translated focalizing perfeclty the expressive potentiality of the single pieces through a dynamical care which is absolutely praiseworthy (besides a cohesion reached with the same coherence and rigorousness) [...] Piacentini [...] gives a proof of advanced elegance, sensibility and refinement. An artistic result [...] of so high level to do justice to a creative corpus which would deserve much more attentions by studiouses and performers, contributing to make less repetitive and monotonous the concert programs of our seasons [...]” (Claudio Bolzan)

From “l'Opera” – March 2005

“Well reknown for the care and philological seriousness through which since many years it devotes itself to discovering and revalueing our chamber repertoire in XXth Century, the Duo Alterno from Torino proposes a new musical path to reveal a composer which is unfortunately reknown to most people for having completed the last Puccini's masterwork. After the CDs devoted to Casella and Ghedini, now it is turn of Alfano with the proposal of fourteen chamber songs [...] Everything is made more precious through the proposal of two pieces recorded thanks to recovering inedited manuscripts [...] Describing within few lines such as a complex and sophisticated relation between Alfano's music and Tagore's texts is quite impossible [... neverthless] we can say this CD gives us an intimate Alfano, courageous and great never banal experimenter. From the voice, here warmed through the beautiful timbre of Tiziana Scandaletti, the Neapolitan composers demands a clear telling, always pressing [...] So it is not easy duty for the piano closing in upon these tails with the softness of a veil of refined sounds and exotic atmospheres: target perfectly hit by the pianist Riccardo Piacentini [...]” (Enrico Ercole)

From Corriere del Teatro – December 2004

"[...] With great elegance the duo from Turin approaches Alfano’s music [...] There is an admirable timbral refinement [...] in ‘Parlami amor mio’ [Talk me, my love], which Tiziana Scandaletti highlights with real taste and appropriateness of musical accents, or in the serenade "Giorno per giorno" [Day by day] with its singing in high range and its silvery pianistic carillon realized with remarkable charm by Riccardo Piacentini. A nice CD which gives 50 minutes of intense emotion thanks to Scandaletti’s flexible voice, careful in making so expressive every secret value of the texts, so skillful in changing colors from the dramatic fiery blaze of ‘Mamma il giovane principe’ [Mother, the young prince] to the delicate rarefactions of many other pages, from the effusive passion of ‘T’amo diletto mio’ [I love you, my darling], full of quick excursions to high pitches sustained by a dense pianistic texture, to the traces of melancholy of ‘Sì, lo so’ [Yes, I know]. It is worth remarking Piacentini’s beautiful touch, diaphanous and iridescent when it is needed, but also capable of ponderous sonorities in those moments (they are many) where the instrument is perfectly and expressively symbiotic with the voice. [...] one CD that we warmly recommend to everyone loves the voice in all its energetic expressions and to everyone who likes to explore the endless universe of vocal expression [...] one CD that presupposes culture and intelligence [...]" (Attilio Piovano)

From Suono – November 2004

"[...] exceptional performers who inspired Giacomo Manzoni and Ennio Morricone among others. Tiziana Scandaletti interprets with such a musicality Alfano’s songs. The voice is soft, unfailing in her own expressive technique. The phrasing is elegant; the interpretation is particularly careful and rich in color. Riccardo Piacentini accompanies her voice at the piano respecting the melodic line and underlining all expressive shadings. [...] a refined performance that gives us one hour of emotions [...]" (Paola Raschi)

From ©arnet – November 2004

"[...] Nuova Era label [...] adds to its catalogue of CDs this Alfano’s world premiere, committed to the voice of Tiziana Scandaletti and the piano of Riccardo Piacentini, very smart duo devoted to Italian XXth Century’s repertoire [...]" (Luciana Fusi)


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