Duo Alterno - The Italian Contemporary Voice 2

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  Introduction to CD The Italian Contemporary Voice 2
Reviews on CD The Italian Contemporary Voice 2


CD Stradivarius (Milano, 2006) producted by Rive-Gauche Concerti with substain of Regione Piemonte and Fondazione CRT.

This is the second CD of the serie dedicated to the Italian vocal chamber repertoire in XXth century.

Interpreters: Duo Alterno (Tiziana Scandaletti soprano, Riccardo Piacentini piano) and Madeleine Shapiro violoncello



Ennio Morricone, da Epitaffi sparsi per voce e pianoforte (1992/3) (ca. 11’)
I) Epitaffio degli Epitaffi
II) Iperteso
III) Tu che passando osservi
VIII) Si dette
XIV) Per anni studiò da pianista

Texts by Sergio Miceli
BMG-Ricordi Editions

Bruno Maderna, da Liriche su Verlaine per voce di soprano e pianoforte (1946/7) (ca. 8’)
- Aquarelles
- Sérénade

Texts by Paul Verlaine
Suvini Zerboni Editions

 Ada Gentile, La giornata di Betty Boop
Piccole scene buffe per pianoforte e voce femminile liberamente intonata (2005) (ca. 7’)
Dedicato al Duo Alterno
I) I pensieri di Betty Boop
II) A passeggio con Boby
III) Giocando a palla
IV) Lezione di solfeggio
V) Pattinando sul ghiaccio
VI) A scuola di ballo
            - A tempo di valzer
            - American rock

Texts by
Sandro Cappelletto
RAI-Trade Editions

Carlo Mosso, da 12 Canzoni piemontesi (dalla raccolta di Leone Sinigaglia) (1968/70) (ca. 8’)
- Son le fiëtte di Moncalé
- Ò muliné dla bon-a ventura
- Timidezza
Anonymous popular texts
Lycos Musical Editions

 Luciano Berio, Quattro Canzoni popolari per voce e pianoforte (1946/73) (ca. 10’)
- Dolce cominciamento
Testo di anonimo siciliano del XIV secolo
- La donna ideale
Testo di ignoto genovese
- Avendo grand disìo
Testo di Jacopo da Lentini
- Ballo
Texts by anonymous siciliano
Universal Editions

Salvatore Sciarrino, da Vanitas per voce, violoncello e pianoforte (1981) (ca. 16’)
- Ultime rose
Madeleine Shapiro, violoncello
Texts by Martin Opitz, Johann Christian Günther, Christoffel von Grimmelshausen
Ricordi Editions

The Duo Alterno recount...

“The relationships that can spring up between a Duo devoted to the music of the twentieth-century and contemporary music and the cultural universe in which it is immersed and from which every day it draws (and returns) energy are indeed many and various. On the one hand there is the direct thread that activates the links between its activities and those of living composers (or, for those who have passed on, their heirs: family and publishers); on the other, there is the “correspondence of amorous senses” that is created with the public and the various targets, including students, a correspondence that could not come about if there were not a third element, that is a dense linking network with the organisers and those who decide on cultural strategies both inside and beyond concert halls.

Above all, however, there is the music, the written page that the composer, in our Western tradition at least, hands over to the performer either directly or indirectly through his publisher, so that it can be translated into living sound for those who are to receive it, the audience namely and those who mediate in the organisational and strategic-cultural sector. The path might then look rather circular: there is a public and there are requests that are social and cultural rather than properly musical; there is a someone who commissions the work who, if the conjuncture of the stars and the monetary fund permit, distributes funds for culture; there is the person who writes music (not always in the conjuncture); there are those who edit and publish it; there is the person who studies it and “translates” it into living sound, in a word the performer; there are those who ceaselessly seek out opportunities for performance (agencies, and , more frequently, the performers themselves in a D.I.Y. version); there are those who organise and decide on cultural lots, in agreement or not with the other forces; there are those who amplify the event, beating the big drum of the media... and again, there is the public, unaware in various ways, upon whom this walking mountain will fall.

The circle and the metaphors are a little simplified, we must admit, and an occasional fragment of the circumference could break off and spin away from the centre, but on the whole they reflect the direct experience that we, Duo Alterno, have lived in these first nine years of tours in 22 countries in the world and four continents. It is quite clear that the relationships we are talking about modulate, and indeed entangle, aspects that are both human and artistic-professional, bringing with them an unpredictable degree of complexity, and it is also clear that the story that emerges is rather like the “coloratura arias” of the bel canto tradition: full of apparently improvised embellishments and “varied reprises”.

But let’s get down to the first point and here we touch upon a raw nerve for the composer-performer. If the written page explicitly affirms what the living composer then denies, what is the performer to do? Reading a score is not the same thing as reading a book: the former demands to be “listened to”, the latter not necessarily. And so, if the page offers precise confirmation of a metronome, a rallentando or accelerando sign, an indication of expression that cannot be equivocated, an instruction that the still-living composer does not remember or confuses with another from a previous or later version or simply thinks should be changed, what is the deontologically correct attitude for the performer? What is his legitimate scope for action? An old problem, you will say, one on which polemics arose as long as a hundred years ago.

We are talking, obviously, about works that have been published, works that have been officially delivered up for public consumption and which, once the paperwork with the local branch of the authors’ and publishers’ society has been dealt with – and therefore the composer, publisher and, where applicable, the heirs – pose no more “moral” urgencies other than that they should be performed with all the seriousness that the professionalism of the particular performer is capable of. And again we are not talking about printers’ errors or slips of the hand or software errors made by the copyist and consequently ratified by the printed edition, but of alternative solutions that involve different expressive and communicative results. In the star system that collates dozens and dozens of performances of a single Beethoven symphony which are declared to be different one from the other, this would seem to be a question of little or no importance. Yet Beethoven maintains a disquieting holy aura which – together with the aura of the “star” of the day (conductor, singer, pianist...) and all the cultural-promotional hype that exalts the one and the other – seems alone to legitimate, indeed to imply, any “inspired” reading, quite regardless of what is really written on the page by the no-less inspired dead composer. Philological practice does not seem to favour any better solutions and, meanwhile, the living composer or his heirs demand more say in the matter...

After talking directly with Lucian Berio, Ennio Morricone, Ada Gentile and many others – to name only the composers included on this CD – we decided to respect first and foremost the written page and, when this proved contradictory or not explicit, the composer’s word. When Franco Donadoni was asked once which of his works he preferred, he replied: “None. They are all my children.” There we are, we would opt for a condition in which the child is seen as having an independent life, even in contemporary music, without denying his family background and at the same time without being subjected to untimely paternalistic attitudes. A drastic choice, perhaps, but one which, apart from slips made by the composer and the performer, could be a guarantee for study and research in which the music itself comes before the star of the moment, composer or interpreter, to whom, for this very reason, the utmost reciprocal respect will not be lacking.

Second and third points: the “correspondence of amorous senses” with the public and the strategies of organisation and of those who handle cultural programming. “Correspondence” is an aspect to which we have always paid great attention. Among the most intense, moving experiences we have fond memories of moments in the countries of central Asia (in particular the two tours in Uzbekistan and the concertos and master-classes in Kazakhstan) but also of the “contact” that was created with the public at the Aarhus Universitet in Denmark, or the splendid, unexpected collaboration with the Wilfrid Laurier University of Waterloo-Toronto in Canada, or again the “electric experience” (this being the title of a review) at the Madras Musical Association of Chennai, or more recently the interest shown by students and teachers at the Mannes College of Music in New York and the appreciation expressed by the audience in St Petersburg at our concert at the Composers’ Union... The shared feeling experienced in these situations generated in us a boost of energy greater than what is provided by a splendid review.

As far as organisational strategies and cultural promoters are concerned, we were not surprised to discover that even the most insensitive performers, acting on the basis of far-reaching and, especially, highly qualified, projects can somehow condition the “masters of ceremony” and more generally the “scenographic set up” (as Paul Feyerabend would call it) through which culture transmits its own genomes and with them the “genetic errors” that permit their evolution. Thus it comes about that we see that the cultural system, now as in the past, can even take into account many of the inputs – absorbing them but also being modelled by them – that only the swarming heritage of “living” culture, represented by composers and performers of our time, even those who are less imbued with the need to be protagonists, can communicate to it with insistent vitality.”

Interviews and biographies of the composers, prepared by Carmelo Di Gennaro


1. The form of the chamber lyric is generally known under its German acceptation, that is to say the Lied, which succeeded in blending great poetry – especially romantic works – and great music. Yet in the Italian musical culture there is no such tradition, except for the works of Tosti, Alfano, Casella and Ghedini: has this singular fact been influential in any way in the conception and then in the realisation of your piece?

 2. Fundamentally, as we suggest above, the relationship and rapport with the text. In your opinion, must the text somehow remain intelligible or did it serve you merely as a purely phonic-rhythmic stimulus? And then, how did you choose the text for your work and how did you decide to handle it, musically and rhythmically?

 3. In the genesis of the piece, how important was it to consider the performers – real or virtual? What I mean is that, in your opinion, should a musical work be seen – even in a theoretical sense – on the basis of the potential of a performer, of an instrumentalist, or should the music be conceived in a purely abstract manner, even in its practical realisation?

 4. Lastly, a question of general nature: what does being “modern” mean for you in the Europe of globalisation and the post-avant-gardes ? Is this a question that concerns the types of music that you approach, their musical form or does it only regard the creative thought. Does this definition still hold a meaning for you?


Ada Gentile replies

1) The answer is NO. My piece was written for the piano and it was only later, at the request of the Duo Alterno, that I thought about adding a text which will be declaimed and not sung.

2) I believe that the text must always be intelligible. I asked Sandro Cappelletto to write a witty, amusing text that I could link with the character whose name is in the title (BettyBoop).

3) When I write a piece (normally on commission) I always think about the performers’ potential.

4) In my opinion the definition “modern” has no meaning. The only modernity, if there be any, concerns nothing other than the creative thought, as you yourself say.


Ennio Morricone replies

1) My Epitaffi sparsi were not influenced in any way by the grand tradition of the German Lied. Obviously, if we talk about music for voice and piano we can find some similarity between the Lied and my piece; but what I really want to highlight in my work is the satirical, critical aspect, the invective that inspires the poetic text. Clearly this aspect cannot be traced back to the Lied or to the Italian tradition that you cite (in this ambit I should also like to recall the works of Goffredo Petrassi).

 2) The text must always remain clear, intelligible, though the musical idea that arises, indeed, from the text must have a fairly free development. So, in a sense, the text may be “sacrificed” by its logical musical development. In my own case, I take the text as a stimulus, but then – spoken by one who has always seen music as the word’s handmaiden – I try to react and to give the music its freedom.

3) The Epitaffi were written thinking about a singer/actor who could thus mime certain caricatured gestures of the text and the music. These pieces are to be recited, some even mimed, as happens for example in some of Paolo Castaldi’s compositions; I feel that the polemical substratum of these poetical texts (by Sergio Miceli) should be brought out as fully as possible. Miceli has got it in for musicians, you see, for one musician in particular, but he also bears a grudge against critics, and one critic in particular: my way of underlining this polemical bent is, for example, to indicate that at a certain point the pianist should sing in unison with the vocal performer the phrase “me ne sbatto/I couldn’t give a damn”.

4) No. In my opinion the question concerns only the creative thought. The creative, and musical, thought must give the composer the chance to communicate with a “legitimate” language, in the sense that a century has passed now since the Schoenberg revolution and by now it should have been long since taken on board by composers. Creative liberty must always come to terms with the possibility of communicating with the listener.


(Translations by Timothy Alan Shaw)

Some reviews on CD Duo Alterno - The Italian Contemporary Voice in Italy 2

From “il Venerdì di Repubblica” – November 30th 2007: The duo that give voice (and piano) to the Italian XXth century

“[...] The three recent cds titled La voce contemporanea in Italia [The Italian contemporary voice] represent a beautiful anthology of many tendences retraceable in the XXth century and give a very precise idea of some our maximum composers. The first cd is historicly remarkable. It includes pieces by great and ‘grandissimi’ composers. A true discovery is Tre canti di primavera [Three Spring Songs] by Giacinto Scelsi [...] so sweet and animated from a dimension of celestial and ecstatic harmony [...] Masterworks of the following decade are Due liriche di Saffo [Two Saffo Lyrics] [...] by Goffredo Petrassi. Two marvellous songs in which the idea of a di una classical style that prescinds by the commonplace of the harmonic solution of any disagreement is formulated in a perspective that makes overlapping what is far and what is near [...] And also Dallapiccola's Tre poemi [Three Poems] are wonderful [...] free and structured at the same time, the dreamy Liriche written in 1951 by Domenico Guaccero [...] the strong pieces, written in the first Sixties, by Azio Corghi and Luigi Nono. By this one Mrs. Scandaletti perform Finale for solo voice from La fabbrica illuminata [The illuminate factory] in an acrobatic lightening of archaic trillings. And very interesting is Piacentini's piece on texts of Sandro Cappelletto, 2001, a kind of post-modern evocation of an hypothetical and humorous futurism. Important the other two cds too, where some cospicuouses things appear by Maderna, Morricone, Berio, Sciarrino, Clementi, Manzoni, Vacchi and others, in a musical landscape that does honor to the Italian art of XXth century.” (Claudio Strinati)

From “Musica e Scuola” – June 2007

“It is going on the contemporary trip of the Duo Alterno [...] In this CD there are works by several maestros [...] Ennio Morricone [...] Bruno Maderna [...] devoted to the Duo Alterno the funny sketches of La giornata di Betty Boop [Betty Boop's daytime] by Ada Gentile [...] Carlo Mosso [...] Salvatore Sciarrino, with the partecipation of the cellist Madeleine Shapiro [...] Tiziana Scandaletti's voice is always at the top of the situation both in singing, so particular in this kind of repertoire, and in declaiming and acting. Riccardo Piacentini, pianist and composer, is the right musical partner in this search, hard but with sure and great artistic results.” (Michele Gioiosa)

From “Il Corriere del Teatro” – October-December 2006

“[...] Tiziana Scandeletti - meticulous care in phrasing, clear intonation, care also in making palpable the recondite meanings of every single frame [...] perfect harmony of the ensemble, thanks to the exquisite qualities of ‘accompanist’ of the composer and pianist Piacentini [...] A really precious, enjoyable and rare CD.” (Attilio Piovano)

From “Corriere della Sera” – July 9th 2006: Scandaletti e Piacentini, direct line with the composers of 20th century

“Duo Alterno, that is the voice of Tiziana Scandaletti and the piano of Riccardo Piacentini, is an ensemble which exists since ten years and devotes itself to a tireless work of apostleship in the music of 20th century, mostly Italian. The Duo realized four CDs, dedicated to personalities such as Maderna, Ghedini and Casella, and now it adds other two anthological CDs. So now the two harmonious artists record works by Nono and Petrassi, Corghi and Sciarrino, Morricone and Berio and many others with the clear purpose to show not only the various technics in writing music, but also the manifold cultural and expressive horizons of the ‘patrol’ of composers that have made the history of the vocal music in the last one-hundred years. To their merit is to add the philological trustworthiness that comes from the scrupulous search and study through which they perform the scores and from having a continuous direct line with the same composers, really happy to give to Duo Alterno their new creations.” (Enrico Girardi)

From “Studi piemontesi” – June 2006

Hyperactive on the side of performing [...] the Duo Alterno from Torino [...] goes on also in recording CDs and giving in large amounts its energies and engagements to promote the music of 20th century and today [... now] two important CDs dedicated to «The Italian contemporary voice» for Stradivarius [...] We liked much the first one (2005), with music by Corghi, Dallapiccola, Guaccero, Nono, Petrassi, the same Piacentini and Scelsi. In this CD we appreciated - in respect to the soprano Tiziana Scandaletti - the meticulous treatment in phrasing, the clear intonation of the pitches, the carefullness in doing tangible the hide meanings of each fragment, as well as the perfect fusion of the ensemble, thanks to the exquisite qualities of accompanistof the the composer and pianist Piacentini. Now - Spring 2006 - come out «The Italian contemporary voice - vol. 2»; going through titles and names [...] two beautiful «Twelve Songs from Piedmont» (1968/70) by Carlo Mosso [...] that Scandaletti interprets with spicy irony [...] the «Four Popular Songs» by Berio [... with the] vocal line greatly impressing [...] In «Avendo gran disio» [...] the piano range - gracefully realized and with such timbric finesse by Piacentini - jokes on a modal setting made modern through rhythmic wits scattered with great intelligence. Really agreeable also the «Ballo» on a text by Sicily, an authentic tour de force for voice and piano, like a tongue twister full of acuminate and delirious rhythmic figures that make the page so irresistible (excellent the vocal interpretation and admirable the piano virtuosity). The fine CD starts indeed with a full bodied collection from the «Epitaffi sparsi» by Morricone (1992/93), bristly and humorous pages that request a not common vocal flexibility. Scandaletti second very well their stimmung declining her voice now with decision and emphasized accents («Epitaffio degli epitaffi»), now becoming painful and nearly imperceptible in the mysterious, worrying «Tu che passando osservi». These are pages [...] full of timbric fascination and reach of inventiveness [...] musically performed with great charme and effectiveness by the excellent Duo Alterno. Irresistible the epitaph «Per anni studiò da pianista» all done on the ironic caricature of the piano study made acidulous from a double-tonality, like a crooked and cubist pseudo-Clementi. All to admire. Other scenery for the «Two Songs on Verlaine» by Maderna (1946/47) [...] with their nice allusions to the habanera rhytm, their rearings in the high positions got with sureness and decisionMore than one simple mention we have to deserve to the «Little funny scenes» by Ada Gentile (2005) or «Betty Boop's daytime», reach of effects that are now dramatical, now unreal and fantastic, really concise comic scenes (dedicated to the Duo Alterno and maybe not oblivious of the unforgettable Cathy Berberian) with linguistic and dialectal mixtures, and with a pleasant mix of various vocal emissions: from a simple speech to the pure lyricism and much other more. [...] And the collection is a true very amusing joke. It includes also quotations for instance from the little Papageno's song in the Mozart's «Flute» [...] Really compelling. Elegantly performed by the protean voice of Scandaletti to whome the multi-performer Piacentini interwines his plot. The texts, so nicely fluent, are by Sandro Cappelletto. The CD ends with a arduous and hypnotic page of Sciarrino («Ultime rose» da «Vanitas») shared by the cellist Madeleine Shapiro [...] a really precious, enjoyable and rare CD.” (Attilio Piovano)

From “Specchio” - “La Stampa” – May 16th 2006

“Tiziana Scandaletti and Riccardo Piacentini (voice and piano), since First 20th Century to today, recount the vitality of the scripture for the voice by our composers. And they know perfectly what «theatre of sound» means (Sandro Cappelletto)


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