Duo Alterno - The Italian Contemporary Voice 4

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  Introduction to CD The Italian Contemporary Voice 4
Reviews on CD The Italian Contemporary Voice 4


CD Stradivarius (Milano, 2009) producted by Rive-Gauche Concerti with substain of Regione Piemonte and Fondazione CRT.

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

Interpreters: Duo Alterno (Tiziana Scandaletti soprano, Riccardo Piacentini piano),
with the partecipation of Penderecki String Quartet.

Musicological notes by Quirino Principe.


Sylvano Bussotti, Lachrimae (1978)
per ogni voce. Un balletto ideale
Versione per voci e pianoforte autorizzata dall'Autore
Frammenti di lingua inglese, tedesca, francese antica, italiana
Edizioni Ricordi

Mauro Bortolotti, Schatten (1995)
Ein Spiel (1995) (...)
per soprano e pianoforte
Testi di Michael Marshall von Biberstein

Marcello Abbado, Vocalizzo sopra “Ma se mi toccano dov'è il mio debole” dal Barbiere di Siviglia (1997) (...)
dedicated to the Duo Alterno
per voce femminile e pianoforte
Dedicato al Duo Alterno

Gilberto Bosco, ...im Traume (2007)
dedicated to the Duo Alterno
Testo di Heinrich Heine
per soprano e pianoforte
Dedicato al Duo Alterno
Edizioni Suvini Zerboni

Cathy Berberian, Stripsody (1966)
per voce sola. Graphics by Roberto Zamarin
Edizioni Peters

Franco Donatoni, ...ed insieme bussarono (1978)
per voce femminile e pianoforte
Testo di Kabir
Edizioni Ricordi

Riccardo Piacentini, An Mozart (2008)
versione per soprano, pianoforte, quartetto d'archi e foto-suoni
Testi liberamente tratti da Johann Georg Jacobi e Johann Peter Uz
Con la partecipazione del Penderecki String Quartet
dedicated to the Penderecki String Quartet

The Duo Alterno recount...

Etymologically tradition means “a handing on”, “transmission”. This comes about, to use the terminology of the ethologist Richard Dawkins, in two ways: the “genes” and the “memes”, in the sense of the sum of information transmitted by culture. Apparently, or by studied recital, many of the composers who first began to work in the 1950s and ‘60s showed a strong propensity for making tabula rasa of the “memes” of the past. And we may also say that a frequent misunderstanding linked to the word “creative”, applied as a mark of guarantee to every artistic expression as of the early decades of the 1900s (cfr. Cor Blok in Feyerabend and Thomas [edited by] Arte e Scienza, It. transl. Milan 1989), contributed to ratify a close though unnecessary relationship between art and novelty, better still if desecrating.

The fourth volume of La voce contemporanea in Italia is dedicated to this illusory desecration, responsible indeed for the creation of remarkable masterpieces; the volume is conceived transversally from past to present, amidst the urgencies of today and the memories of a past as a distant voice – with an abundance of quotations of texts, even medieval ones, and of music by Debussy, Brahms, Schumann, Rossini, Mozart and beyond – a past which does not cease to be “memetically” alive and rich in suggestions.

The two emergent moments in this process of research which has captured the attention of the Duo Alterno are perhaps the, now historic, works by Sylvano Bussotti (Lachrimae) and by Franco Donatoni (…ed insieme bussarono). A coincidence perhaps, but both were written in 1978, which is the year immediately before the date in which one of the two halves of the Duo Alterno struck out along the path of “contemporary composition”, and did so on a path that crossed Bussotti’s own. This was 1979. A few years later and in 1983 there was the meeting with Donatoni, more than a meeting a real series of “close encounters” that continued without interruption for four years and then became far more rarefied. The Duo Alterno had not yet been founded, but in some way its foundations had already been laid.

Both Bussotti and Donatoni, though quite different, have (and for Donatoni unfortunately we must say had) exceptional historical awareness and a farreaching knowledge, at least as far as the western tradition is concerned. The “totality” with which Bussotti expressed himself, and still does today – from composition tout court, to painting, dance, literature, theatre – is for the Duo Alterno an example to be translated in every artistic performance, where the performer is amplified in the figure of the hermeneutist and creator who participates in the work and creates the work itself, in all possible declinations, no less than the composer can. Lachrimae, which the Duo Alterno prepared maintaining a constant link with Sylvano but preserving their own independence as interpreters, is in this sense an almost ineffable volcano of stimuli that catapults you into several dimensions from past to present: the texts are in four languages (early French, English, German, Italian often broken down into syllables and phonemes), the graphic signs that evoke suggestions of gesture are deliberately poly-vocal and hover between simpering dance motions and prosaic everydayness, the sequence of notes are in varying degrees secret and intimately expressive, variously similar to something déjà vu or, more precisely, déjà écouté. Immersing oneself in this creative frenzy, which in a single page ranges through centuries and centuries of history, is a unique, exciting adventure that can be renewed in a thousand different ways.

For …ed insieme bussarono what matters is the affection, the memory, the lessons of school and of life given to us by our teacher and friend Franco (this again is tradition!). We are talking about almost twenty years. Between 1980 and 1990 Donatoni would often refer to composers of the 18th and 19th centuries and frequently quoted Haydn, at times Beethoven, especially Bach, on whom he elaborated a 12-voice version of the counterpoints of The Art of the Fugue. But in later years he had taken up an attitude which, flying in the face of the structuralism which was still dear to him, approached a sort of “post-anarchism” in which the motto of Paul Feyerabend, and others, “anything goes” worked well. He left us with this image, and it is this image that Duo Alterno keeps of him, transferring into their reading of…ed insieme bussarono rigour and anarchy together.We feel that any “philologically correct” reading of Donatoni’s music shows how this is possible.

The CD includes, to tell the truth, another work now acquired historically and of undoubted merit: this is the highly gestual Stripsody by Cathy Berberian, of 1996, which we have tried at least a couple of times, though without success, to have Luciano Berio listen to during our meetings in Florence and Rome; Berio preferred to listen to other pieces and probably felt that this piece should remain among the masters recorded by Cathy and by her alone.We, like other performers, have desecrated this taboo, working on the one hand on the sign contained in the score and on the other on Berberian’s recordings. Here again the result is a mixture of past and present, not merely because the score holds quotations from Brahms to the Beatles, but because Tiziana’s temperament grafts itself without any false modesty, here and now, onto pre-existent materials assumed as the fulcrum for further investigation. Certainly it was problematic and at the same time highly intriguing to have the physical gestuality of the piece transferred with studied enchantment onto a rigid, indeed digital, optical support.

The gestual adventure, this time with a declared link to that most famous of barbers, Rossini’s, continues with the equivocation, though not excessively so, Ma se mi toccano […] by Marcello Abbado, a work dedicated specifically to us, which gives us a version brought up to date and … “contestualised” (given that the Duo Alterno is a duo even beyond its artistic activity) of the wiles of the character of Rosina. Here the theatrical in its traditional understanding and contemporary gestuality are blended, with generous use of extended techniques both from the piano and the voice, now sighing, now lamenting, now excited and shrill, in a delightful game of titillation in progress that suit the works of Bussotti and Berberian so well. Tradition could not be better respected, and, at the same time, betrayed.

Smiling, and moreover the most post-modern, the Mozart piece that the Duo Alterno has prepared for this CD together with the Penderecki String Quartet. We tried it out live three times before recording it: at the SoundaXis Festival in Toronto, at the Mozart Festival in Rovereto (with the Kernel Quartet) and at the Musiche in mostra season at the GAM in Turin. The work does not, however, seek to be desecrating in itself, far less towards Mozart, but (only?) to use the melodic materials of two Mozart Lieder whose titles begin with An setting them in counterpoint using today’s codes that are variously cryptic. Presented like this it might seem an aesthetic operation of purely mechanical nature, but a rich presence of photo-sounds (that is acoustic reports in this instance gathered in Graz and Vienna and on the strings on a splendid Grotrian- Steinweg piano) linked to the modular characteristics of the work (which can be performed by quartet alone, or by quartet with photo-sounds, or again by quartet, photo-sounds, soprano and piano) with a mischievous voice that minces and recomposes the Mozart quintessences, communicates a curious, rather destabilising mobility of perspectives, like a game of boxes which slip more or less unpredictably one over the other, and, in the version with voice, the voice somehow pilots them and puts everything back in place. The voice is the true guardian of this piece, the “stunt” that transforms their sense with a click.

More serious, though certainly not frowning, the references to a post-impressionism tempered by Viennese motions (genuine quotations of style) in the two pieces in German by Mauro Bortolotti. To this composer, formerly a pupil of Petrassi who died shortly after the publication of our third volume of La voce contemporanea, we have chosen to dedicated double space. Mauro always wished these two little Lieder to be performed together, though, judging by the score, there is no obligation for this to be done. As well as presenting them on several occasions in public, we have performed them face-to-face in his studio and discovered that they required a central-European rather than a French interpretation. We also performed one of the works, the second, in his presence in Rome just a few months before he died. It was a truly interesting experience. At first Bortolotti was upset because the work was not performed with the other (where is it written that it must be?), but then the applause of the public for that single Lied, so brief and lightning-fast, were so convinced and convincing that he soon changed his mind. This is why we would like to invite you to listen to these two Lieder both separately and together, almost a diptych whose parts are perfectly independent, confirming that both types of listening will work and obviously with different results. Another example of “multiple perspectives”.

Finally the work that Gilberto Bosco has recently dedicated to us links up with Schumann; when it was just written we performed it in Berlin, Wolfsburg, Munich and Cologne. The voice moves in spirals of strong emotional impact on the impassioned verses of Heine, which Schumann had used for his unforgettable Dichterliebe opus 48. The “memic” qualities are translated here into a deep identification by the composer in the famous text Ich grolle nicht and in a type of reading that is very similar to Schumann’s, though projected into a sensibility closer to today. Immersion in tradition is complete, the piano reproposes restruck notes similar to those of the Schumann Lied, the voice is expressively tense from the very start and grows, grows…The weft is basically the same and, for this very reason, the “betrayal” is implicit, no less than sincere.

Musicological notes by Quirino Principe

Following the voice we keep coming back to the capital question which Giovan Battista Marino first expressed with a clarity equal to nostalgic regret for a time transformed into an archetype, and thus rendered myth: “Music and poetry are two sisters / restorers of the afflicted” (Adone, VII, 1623). As we return, we are aware of the sense of dialectic unease felt in the preface that Giulio Strozzi wrote in 1639 for his drama La Delia: “Music is sister to the poetry that wishes to be her sister”.What is all this? Do two Italian authors of four centuries ago, with a clarity like Descartes, pose the problem of the “Ton- ort” relationship, commonly held to be wholly romantic, and, basically, consanguineous to German culture? Is it not perhaps German culture that possesses, exclusively, the linguistic, lexical, terminological-philosophical instruments that are fittest to define and analyse this relationship?

There is an answer. The first part is easy and immediate, Athe second bitter. In the age in which Marino theand Strozzi wrote, exercising authoritative prestige in Europe, Italy was the source of all strong ideas, of all cultural innovation, and no foreigner would have been able to exercise an activity of art or thought with any originality and personality without knowing the Italian language. If today this condition seems to have been turned upside down the responsibility lies entirely with the last four centuries of Italian culture. Most importantly, the devastating collapse of musical culture in Italy is due essentially to the type of philosophical education which produced the so-called managerial class of united Italy as of 1861: half-baked and not even half-digested neo-Hegelianism, which had assimilated a guiding idea from Hegel’s Aesthetik, the idea that music is the only one of the arts that has no logical, definite meaning (!). Starting with Francesco De Sanctis, convinced as he was that music was an “unmanning” activity, unsuitable for shaping the youth of the new Italy, and therefore, in his function as the first minister of Public Education in the unitary State, the first to demolish the immense tradition of musical knowledge acquired by Italy, then through the neo-Hegelians Benedetto Croce, Giovanni Gentile, Antonio Gramsci (disciple of Gentile educated in the hive of his thought, not of Marxist thinking), a grandiose criminal historic process of “alienation” of music from Italian culture was brought about, and in particular (a tragic paradox, a cruel nemesis set against the words of men like Marino, Strozzi, Crescimbeni…) a sorrowful severance of music from literature and poetry.

The supremacy of opera over instrumental and non-operatic vocal music, a phenomenon that was as striking as it was unhealthy, unbalancing and deleterious (men like Benedetto Marcello, Ranieri de’ Calzabigi, and later Arrigo Boito were aware of this) was a giant standing on the sand: the crisis of opera in Italy today, due also but not only to the criminal stupidity of public powers, is further retribution.

True: it is very difficult to find in Italian twentiethcentury poetry authors with a musical training worthy of a leading role in culture (the exceptions like Michelstädter or Sbarbaro or Montale, can be counted on half the fingers of a hand), and it is even harder to find them among narrators or among essayists who, even one generation ago, were mostly influenced by Croci. Who does not remember manuals of the history of Italian literature which talked about Petrarch, Tasso, Leopardi, Berchet, Manzoni, D’Annunzio and Pascoli but which contained not a single word dedicated to the music variously connected with the writings of the above-mentioned writers? It would be like writing a monograph on Goethe or Nietzsche without ever naming Schubert or Wagner.

Good: we have performed our good deed for the day, preaching our customary “useless sermon” in the style of Einaudi and pointing out the past and present responsibilities of those who, to our immense common misfortune, hold the reins of the politics, economy, culture, judiciary and ecclesiastical institutions in our land. But for now we will abandon the limits of this reflection: it corresponds to the truth, but is partial and restricted. The difficulty in the relationship between poetry and music is one that affects all western culture today, the entire “system of the arts” as the philosopher Alain (real name Émile) Chartier conceived it in his utopian splendour. We too can make the analysis, perhaps anyone could, but we cannot overlook a book which stands among the finest in aesthetic thought in the last three centuries, and that book is the best guide, a sort of grand development of Hölderlin’s Patmos in its recapitulation of the sorrow and greatness (“Leiden und Größe”) of the West.

We are alluding to Verlust der Mitte (“Loss of the centre”, 1948) by Hans Sedlmayr. The central theand sis of this work should be known to all: a time existed in which all the arts were reunited in a single elected place (the cathedral: this, however, is not a claim staked by religion, far less by Catholicism, on the history of art “im Abendlande”, it is simply a historical circumstance, the coincidence of lines of force), and the building for worship was the highest aspiration of architects of the time, indeed it was architecture “tout court”, but it also contained painting and sculpture, poetry and music and post-ancient theatre, all the expressions of art which would not have found any other venue. Then the arts separated, acquired autonomy, transferred to art galleries, sculpture halls, noble and regal homes or the houses of the well-to-do bourgeoisie or academies, paying public theatres or universities or … editorial offices of newspapers and radio-television corporations. This too was a grandiose phenomenon, and what grandeur!

In this separation the arts found their independence, were removed from the sphere of religion and made free, and in consequence they became stronger and more refined, each according to its own idiom and the most suitable means for communication. But, moving away from one another, creating a well-educated, civil “safety distance”, they also became melancholy, and in the long run found themselves like two old friends often do: after the initial outburst of joy when they first meet again, they then discover that they do not know what to say to each other.

Without any bitterness we return to the cultural quality of the relationships between music and poetry in Italy, and thus to the use of the voice with reference to a “strong” system of poetic-musical meanings, bound by knots of authentic vigour. If it is true that the “Ton-Wort” relationship has gone through a crisis in the last century of Western music (the golden ages were, for the Anglo- Flemish and Italian areas, the 15th and 16th centuries; for the Austro-German, French and Russian area the 19th and first two decades of the 20th century), it is no less certain that convergences between poet and musician like the ones formed in vocal music by Goethe and Schubert, Eichendorff/Heine and Schumann, Storm and Brahms, Pushkin and Tchaikovsky, Baudelaire and Debussy, Verlaine and Fauré, Mallarmé and Ravel, would have been unthinkable in Italy.

For this very reason the work done by many Italian composers of recent generations in regaining lost ground, and in the reconstruction of the cultural and emotional setting of an Italian vocal style of high tradition it has been precious. Consequently the action of collecting and witnessing in which this recording plays its part has been precious too. We should add that the seven authors represented here, carefully chosen so as to offer the opportunity to hear authors of different training, distributed over various generations, tending towards different choices of idiom and style, all work in accordance with a strong line of collaboration between text and music in the search for vocal style.

The choice of texts, or the invention of texts by the composers themselves, is in itself a path that furrows the ground and leaves its mark. There is a grand solitary figure of the West, Heinrich Heine (1797- 856) and a grand solitary figure of the East, the Indian mystic Kabir (1440-1518), persecuted by two religious groups for having sought the union of Hinduism and Islam and the abolition of the castes. A poet of our own time, a harsh and separate figure, Michael von Biberstein, acts as a counterbalance to two authors of the 18th century whose literary work stood halfway between true poetry and philosophy in verse, between the enlightenment promotion of culture and the attraction of esoteric mysteries: Johann Georg Jacobi (1740- 1814) and Johann Peter Uz (1720-1796). Mario Lavagetto has defined the opera librettos “those most modest novels”, and certainly they do stand, if not beneath than at least on the edges of genuine literature, offering themselves as “applied literature” or “service literature”.

But the alchemistic mysteries hidden in the marriage of word and music are such that, at times, a libretto text can be drawn along and made memorable by the music that gives it energy, and thus become energy itself. In Rossini’s operas, at least in those not affected by disuse even in the decades of Rossini’s eclipse, this comes about in profusion. Fragments of dialogue no longer escape the collective memory, they enter the vocabulary even of those who are insensitive to music: “Nacqui all’affanno e al pianto”, “Di tanti palpiti…”. But Il Barbiere di Siviglia, on the libretto of the skilled, intelligent, cultured polyglot Cesare Sterbini (1783-1831) – who with all these talents was (incredibly!) a senior official of the Pontifical Customs - gives us the greatest collection of “strong” textual fragments: “La calunnia è un venticello…”, “Tutti mi cercano, tutti mi vogliono…”, “…ma se mi toccano dov’è il mio debole…”. We will return shortly to the latter, but in a somewhat eccentric manner. Finally, there are the “Babel texts” and the “non texts”. Of the latter we can say that “non text” does not mean “non language”. Of the “Babel texts”, we declare that they do not demand the confusion of languages: they are only instruments for activating a sort of mental high speed.

In Culture and Anarchy (1869), Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) applied to historical analysis the distinction between organic ages and critical ages. For at least three centuries now we have been living through a phase of the second type, nor do we need any demonstration of this. One of the characteristics of the critical phases is the tendency of every art to be “other” compared to arts which follow parallel paths. The seven composers presented here intervene in the phenomenology of the voice in the most varied ways, and their artifices seem to converge upon a common aim: to liberate as far as possible music and text from their reciprocal otherness.

In his Vocalizzo sopra “Ma se mi toccano dov’è il mio debole” from Barbiere di Siviglia, Marcello Abbado (born Milan, Thursday 7th October 1926), whose predilection for periphrastic operations on the matter-form of music already rooted in memory and consciousness, especially on those fragments that are so deeply deposited and so historical as to act almost automatically, subjects the melody defined by the title (the second semi-phrase of the cabaletta “Io son docile”, in turn the second section of the cavatina “Una voce poco fa” in Act I of Il Barbiere) to a treatment of radical de-structuring. According to the composer’s indications, “the singer sings leaning into the piano so that her voice resounds in its sound box”, and meanwhile “the pianist plays standing; the lid of the piano will be raised as high as possible, the music stand removed, there will be a music stand to the side”. The text as such disappears in the fluid substance of the vocalisation, which alternates singing with humming, which means that the composer distances himself by three steps from the text: from the memory of words which are no longer there, to a melody sung without words, to intonation without singing. Thus the voice is reduced to a ghost of itself. Of the text there remains the rhythm, but unboundedly expanded, as happens to the Geneva Psalter in Bach’s Cantata BWV 130. The only feature of the vocalisation that seems, for a fleeting moment, to be the germ of a verbality, is found in the sighs of the singing voice, articulated in various vowels: “Ah”, Eh”, “Ih”, “Oh”. The pianist imposes a similar de-structuring of sound on his instrument: he strikes the strings with his knuckles, with his fist, flicking fingers, or, alternately, pinches them with his fingernails. How far can this type of de-structu ring go before the amused and mischievous experimentation becomes the tragedy of destruction that threatens the music even in its most flourishing, vital expressions?

With her legendary micro-composition, Stripsody (1966), Cathy Berberian (Attleboro, Massachussetts,Wednesday 4th July 1928 – Rome, Sunday 6th March 1983) is certainly far removed from elaborate material: no longer the shadow of a text, a shadow which however much it be extended and “de-textualised” is still recognisable when viewed from a distance, but interjections, onomatopoeias, expressions imitating noises, or rather analogical transcriptions of noises following the conventions used in America cartoon strips (“strips”, whence the title of the composition, where the suffix “-ody” in English has the universal meaning of “configuration in music”). Indeed, technically far removed from Abbado’s Vocalizzo, but “on the same side” in its intention to de-structure and rethink what is possible in the sphere of sounds.

The cultural theme with which we began, the alliance between the arts and in particular their liberation from a sense of reciprocal otherness, finds a very attentive witness in Gilberto Bosco (born Turin, Wednesday 6th February 1946). This composer is one of those interviewed by Renzo Cresti in the book that tackles the heart of that theme, I linguaggi delle arti e della musica [The idioms of the arts and music] (Il Molo, Viareggio 2007). Bosco declares: “Painting has influenced me greatly. First of all because I have friends who are painters, and have often spoken to them (more than with fellow musicians) about problems concerned with composition; receiving stimuli and suggestions that have generally seemed more acute than the ones my musical friends managed to give me. From painters I have, I believe, learnt an “openness” to the event, to the manifestation of a work, faced with its physicality, which I have never found in musical experiences: again, is this only my problem? […]

Though I tend to live a long time with poetical texts, the beginning of composition is often partly irrational, following the sound qualities and purely musical suggestions of some words […]. The work often later finds substance in a complicated strategy in which tonic accent positions, open and closed vowels, various madrigalisms enter a sort of mental polyphony, making various moments of the composition denser or more rarefied. What the voice or chorus does then provokes different levels of echoes, according to the instrumental formation of the piece, often almost provocations, or false madrigalisms, or games (quite probably wholly private, valid for me alone) of false and real quotations and allusions.”

The work by Bosco that we present here, … im Traume (“… in a dream”, 2007) visits a holy place for European musical Romanticism, the Lied number 7 in the cycle Dichterliebe op. 40 by Robert Schumann, on texts drawn from one of the collections of poems most steeped in the weariness of life, Lyrisches Intermezzo by Heinrich Heine. Here the composer applies directly, onto the “right” material, one of the ideas that guide him in his work and that he feels particularly keenly, the memory as more than a trace of an experience (of an “Erlebnis”): precisely, as a sign that is in us but already is us. In taking up again the famous sequence of repeated chords which accompanies the entire Lied “Ich grolle nicht”, and immediately deforming their harmonic and melodic configuration, today’s musician can glimpse the Maestro of yesterday, master also of the “mal de vivre”, as though in a dream, reconstructing the fundamental poetic situation of the romantic Lied, its dreamlike connotation that is to say. The alienation, according to a Heine text that is already terribly antiphrastic which says “I feel no hatred” and at the same time shudders with inextinguishable hatred and a sense of death, comes from the very beginning, for from the first repeated chords the Lied informs us that it is not what it should be. In this desolate, sorrowfully living announcement, word and sound reciprocally recognise their consanguinity.

Mauro Bortolotti (Narni, province of Terni, Friday 26th November 1926 – Rome, Thursday 15th November 2007), who among his many artistic merits was also a founding member of “Nuova Consonanza”, is present with two works from 1995 in this recording, Schatten (“Shadows”, taking the German word as a plural) and Ein Spiel (“A Game”, but also “A Play”), on texts by Michael von Biberstein. As we enter into the music of Bortolotti, an artist who always sought a relationship with poets who were sorrowful and harsh (Alfredo Giuliani, Elio Pecora…) but affirmative, we stand very far apart from projects of testing through destructuring: the musical scoring is of high, complex tradition, and the “Ton-Wort” relationship is an intricate labyrinth, in which the text invites us to stop and look at the world following an arch from the stars to the deepest caves, and the music fills that space multiplying itself infinitely. In Lachrimae (1978) with the subtile: … per ogni voce; un balletto ideale [for every voice; an ideal ballet],

Sylvano Bussotti (born Florence, Thursday 1st October 1931) works on texts in four different languages: early French, English, German, Italian. They appear in the score, set in the “right” place with scrupulous precision, but in reality can be shuffled like playing cards, lending themselves to a high number of possible combinations. Yet as always what is most illuminating is what Bussotti himself points out to us. “No indication of movement, however. Dynamics, rather. Thus the abstract liberty of confused appearances: a coded writing, reiterating the private, which shuffles the cards of a more intimate game, yielding to feelings. […] In becoming a ballet, Lachrimae takes as its subject that dose of the unreal that the stage and dance can realise perfectly in themselves. […] The texts must be consulted carefully (observing the preponderance of early French), drawing precise elements from the reading, both for the choreography and for the setting or possible dramatic progression.”

Franco Donatoni (Verona, Thursday 9th June 1927 – Milan, Thursday 17th August 2000) is present with a work from 1978. Ed insieme bussarono [and together they knocked], on the above-mentioned text by the Indian poet Kabir. An exquisite, shadowy text again, as its final verse reads, comparable to seed that seeks the strength to sprout: a music of supreme lightness, of irresistible charm, enclosed in the dynamic framework of a series of “nuances” all held in the idea of pianissimo.

Riccardo Piacentini (Moncalieri, Thursday 3rd July 1958), who, among other things, intervenes with his own reciting voice and with the discreet intromission of a piano in Bussotti’s Lachrimae, closes the set presented in this recording with a very recent work, An Mozart (2008), on texts by Johann Georg Jacobi and Johann Peter Uz, whom we have already mentioned. The texts belong to two Mozart Lieder, An Chloe (“To Chloe”) K. 524 (1787) and An die Freude (“To joy”) K. 53 (1768), and are subjected to multiple re-readings “in code”. In the subtitle, the composer defines An Mozart as a Modular piece for string quartet with or without photosounds with or without voice and piano. Everyone who knows Piacentini’s music knows how important the concept of “photo-sounds” (i.e.: soundlight, sound- llumination, sound-flashing) is in it. Piacentini sees it as an “acoustic report”, in which the trace of an organised ambience is left. A reality that is both for the ear and the eye. The musical writing of An Mozart is free of any element of chance, and this is probably the most “structuring” composition of all presented in this series dedicated to the contemporary voice in Italy.


(Translations by Timothy Alan Shaw)

Some reviews on CD Duo Alterno - The Italian Contemporary Voice in Italy 4

From “il Giornale della Musica” – November 2010: Voices of today

“[...] two excellent performers, especially in the contemporary repertoire, in which they allege an extraordinary flexibility in dealing with very different works by aesthetic and compositional technique, demonstrating how much this organic keeps still now enormous potentialities. (Alessandro Mastropietro)

From “Classic Voice” – February 2010: La voce contemporanea in Italia n. 4

“[...] The idea is simple and important at the same time; the two artists [of the Duo Alterno] are devoting themselves to the recording of works for voice and piano by Italian composers, many of which - like s here in the case of Marcello Abbado (Vocalizzo sopra ‘Ma se mi toccano’ dal Barbierre di Siviglia) and Gilberto Bosco (... im Traume) - are dedicated to them. The skill of the two interpreters, as obvious, is not limited to their indubitable technical cleverness, but is properly extended to the very more important capacity to stylistically adhere to so various works, always putting their art at composers' disposal (and not of their own ego). Apart the wonderful and and well known pieces of Franco Donatoni (... ed insieme bussarono) and Sylvano Bussotti (Lachrimae), it is remarkable an intriguing version of Stripsody by Cathy Berberian [...] an out and out ‘sixth degree’ of the voice, magisterially performed by Scandaletti. Next to the amusing and ironic piece by Marcello Abbado [...] remarmable the compositions of Gilberto Bosco (inspired to the greatly famous Lied Ich grolle nicht by Schumann) and of the same Piacentini, An Mozart, who - thanks to the complicity of the Penderecki Quartet - works on the musical base of two Lied by Mozart, utilizing their melodic materials, but transforming them according to modern contrapuntal codes.” (Elvio Giudici)

From “La Stampa – Torino Sette” – February 12nd 2010: Duo Alterno: if the timid Rosina from “Il Barbiere” jokes to act sexy

“Among the most assiduous promoters of contemporary music there is the Duo Alterno from Turin [...] The two performers becomes to the forth recording of the CD series La voce contemporanea in Italia [The Italian contemporary voice] by Stradivarius label (in the previous three CDs, authors such as Dallapiccola, Petrassi, Berio, Manzoni, Maderna, Nono, Vacchi, Mosso, Colla, Pinelli and others). In this forth CD the Duo Alterno joins, in a page of the same Piacentini, the Penderecki String Quartet: the piece is titled An Mozart [...] where the so-called ‘foto-suoni’ play a decisive role [...] In Lachrimae Piacentini's voice intervenes with frames in different languages [...] Franco Donatoni is remembered through an ermetic page over the mysteries of the life and the death. Remarkable the Vocalizzo that Marcello Abbado has dedicated to the Duo Alterno [...] the melody is widely de-structured, often reduced to simple vowels, that Tiziana tranformes in a sympathetic erotic page [...] Gilberto Bosco shows off his skill to get deep meaning of the words leaning on a famous Lied by Schumann. Amidst these pages, Tiziana Scandaletti hurls herself in the solo voice ‘Stripsody’ [...] genial [...] linking noises, bubblings, grunts, onomatopoeic words as in the comics.” (Leonardo Osella)

From “Amadeus” – October 2009: La voce contemporanea in Italia, Vol. 4. Artistic score ****, technical score ****

“This is the forth volume of the CD series of the duo formed by the pianist and composer Riccardo Piacentini and the soprano Tiziana Scandaletti dedicated to the contemporary voice [...] repertoire inscribed in the rut of the nobil tradition of Lieder [...] That world is in fact evocated by Mauro Bortolotti's dyptich in German language Schatten (1995) and Ein Spiel (1995), and also in Gilberto Bosco's Lied ...im Traume (2007) [...] Same discour about same Piacentini's An Mozart (2008), that elaborates Mozart Lied materials, extending the organic to five instrumental parts joining Penderecki String Quartet. Marcello Abbado's Vocalizzo [...] (1997) fingers the world of the lyric opera with a renewed sensuality that makes this page of the best of the CD. Donatoni's and Bussotti's compositions, both of 1978, look at the fashinating Seventies: respectively ...ed insieme bussarono [...] and Lachrimae (in the version for voices and piano licensed by the author we can appreciate a theatrical-gestural [Duo Alterno's] performance on YouTube). At last Cathy Berberian's Stripsody (1966) [...] very aspired field of comparison for today singers.” (Michele Coralli)

From “Musica e Scuola”  – September 15th 2009: La voce contemporanea in Italia, Vol. 4

“On the international stage by several years, the Duo Alterno, composed of two talented specialists, Tiziana Scandaletti (voice) and Riccardo Piacentini (piano), with this forth cd dedicated to contemporary composers [...] presents a different landscape devoted to voice and piano [...] A great approval to the Duo Alterno that with a huge Carthusian work is successful in communicating and leaving through recordings the musical patrimony of our time.” (Michele Gioiosa)

From “Io Donna – Corriere della Sera”  – September 12th 2009: La voce contemporanea in Italia, Vol. 4

“The soprano Tiziana Scandaletti and the pianist Riccardo Piacentini, that is Duo Alterno, [...] in this fourth stage face very various pages by Bussotti, Bortolotti, Abbado, Donatoni, Berberian, Bosco and the same Piacentini. They do this with their usual stylistic ductility and interpretative intelligence, revealing also forgotten flavors.” (Enrico Girardi)

From “allmusic” – September 1st 2009: La voce contemporanea in Italia, Vol. 4

“Stradivarius' series La voce contemporanea in Italia is a comprehensive survey of new vocal music from Italy [...] The artist on all volumes of the series, of which this is the fourth, is Duo Alterno [...] Scandaletti is a very gifted ‘new music soprano’ [...] especially well-versed in avant-garde techniques; more like Cathy Berberian, Jan De Gaetani, Esperanza Abad and other new music sopranos of a bigone generation. Piacentini appears to be as expert inside the piano and in handling external sound sources as he is at the keyboard. On the Riccardo Piacentini work, An Mozart (2008), they are joined by the Penderecki String Quartet [...] a very strong program that seems to have the legacy of opera at its heart [...] Sylvano Bussotti's Lachrimae [...] comes off like a twelve-tone vampire intermezzo, with wicked laughter and a high sense of campy drama. Macello Abbado [...] is represented by Vocalizzo sopra ‘Ma se mi toccano dov'è il mio debole’ dal Barbiere di Siviglia (1997); the familiar Rossini aria is transformed into erotic moaning with atmospherics courtesy of Piacentini's dexterous handling of the piano strings. The pièce de reistance, however, is Scandaletti's solo take on Cathy Berberian's Stripsody (1966) [...] a tour de force for an operatic soprano looking to stretch out. Scandaletti performs it with considerable enthusiasm and it's a great deal of fun.” (Uncle Dave Lewis)

From “La Gazzetta di Parma” – August 24th 2009: Disco-Classic. Music and poetry. Contemporary voices of the two “sisters” [...]

“[...] this is a very interesting CD devoted to the ‘Italian Contemporary Voice’, forth step of a journey that the Duo Alterno, formed by soprano Tiziana Scandaletti and pianist/composer Riccardo Piacentini, has drawn for Stradivarius label with the aim to rebuild the various attitudes that in 20th century marked the relationship between the ‘two sisters’ [music and poetry]. That is not exactly an idyllic relationship, and the historic reasons are exlplained by Quirino Principe [author of the booklet presentation] with his penetrating intelligence, dwelling on the Italian isolation among the lucky convergences offered by other civilizations, from the Flemish refinements to the enveloping introspections of the Romantic Lieder. Just in order to this brackdrop, the profile of this proposal seems to put itself backlight, through the alternate joke of the two musicians that, not without nagging thought [‘rovelli’] and even utopianly, leave emerging this past and others that seem instead to face the relation between poetry and music after having reset the table. As Donatoni looks to do in his brief page ...ed insieme bussarono signed by that priceless happiness with which he used to give life to the deconstructivist bending [‘ripiegamento decostruttivista’]; and also the more demanding work by Bussotti, Lachrimae, with its restless melting pot in four different languages, screwing them in his congenial choreographic vocation. In this fascinating trip the memory of the resounding vocal vocation of Cathy Berberian could not be lacking, of whom Tiziana Scandaletti renews the fascination with ‘bravura’ and intelligence recomposing one the most famous sortie, Stripsody. And always on the wave of a subtle parody Marcello Abbado jokes among phonemas and gestures in Vocalizzo on a famed page of the Barbiere by Rossini. The past re-emerges without insisting regret, but as an anxious panicky speedwell [‘trepida, allarmata veronica’], from two tender pages by Mauro Bortolotti as well as  Schumann's Lieder evocation Ich grolle nicht becomes extremely inciting from Gilberto Bosco. At last a stimulating joke of the same Piacentini, An Mozart, amusing both for the listeners and the performers, become six as the Penderecki String Quartet joins the Duo Alterno.” (Gian Paolo Minardi)

From “Il Cittadino” – July 15th 2009: The contemporary stage

“Fourth powerful brick of an architecture that, especially in these slim times (‘tempi di magra’), sounds heroic, the last stubborn volume that Stradivarius label dedicates to the contemporary voice in Italy. Really superb in this all Italian ‘restoration’ the Duo Alterno of Riccardo Piacentini and Tiziana Scandaletti, respectively piano and voice of an infinite palette of colors and humours joked in total adherence to the scores and the ensemble. This is a contemporary based on the ancient, on never renegaded univers of the possible order and the lucky word, that is the univers of the liric opera and the dead languages, that emerge as marmoreal busts in a leafy path. An entire compass circle by the time and the space, a personal as universal anthology [...] the highest maestro Bussotti, the scientist Donatoni, the omnivorous Cathy Berberian, the melancholic Gilberto Bosco. One hour of listening that rewinds and clots an handful of feverish years for the national music, at now unreapeatable. Just to seal all, an intense Piacentini, composer bred at Bussotti's school, with a very personal look ‘An Mozart’.” (Elide Bergamaschi)

From “Musica e dischi” - July 2009

“[...] the beautiful fourth volume La voce contemporanea in Italia: pages by Bussotti, M. Abbado, Donatoni, Bortolotti, Cathy Berberian and Bosco [...]” (Diana Leva)

From “Blow Up” - July 2009

“The soprano Tiziana Scandaletti, with the subsidy of Riccardo Piacentini at the piano and in one case of the Penderecki String Quartet, compiles an anthology of pieces [... where] we find Lachrimae by Bussotti, ...ed insieme bussarono by Donatoni, Stripsody by Cathy Berberian together with works by Bortolotti, Abbado, Bosco and the same Piacentini. Many and different irons in the fire but well burned through an high level performance.” (Piercarlo Poggio)

From SentireAscoltare” – June 19th 2009: La voce contemporanea in Italia vol. 4, Duo Alterno, Stradivarius

“Ambitious project of the Duo Alterno [...] Single volumes, published beginning from 2005 with quite annual term, that starts from an unifying idea, from a ‘leit-motiv’, as Scandaletti defines it. The first volume is built on the relations between some Italian composers and their contemporary great poets (we can remember, among many others, the artistic links between Petrassi and Quasimodo or between Corghi and Ungaretti); the second one (2006) reflects on the ‘contaminazione’ of different genres and languages (represented by authors such as Morricone, Maderna, Sciarrino) while the third volume deepens the linguistic discour focusing composers that worked on German texts (ClementiManzoni and the younger Alberto Colla and Luca Lombardi). The new ring of the chain, that seems not yet closed as the same performers said us (we have interviewed them for the rubric ‘I cosiddetti Contemporanei’), put together a series of composers inspired, in some their works, to the classics of the past. Among these there is Piacentini too, who presents, together with the Penderecki String Quartet, his An Mozart, a score originally conceived for string quartet and “foto-suoni” (an interesting idea [...] that foresees the interection between sound and photograhic imagine) and elaborated starting from two Mozart's Lieder. A special place is due to Lachrimae by Sylvano Busotti (Riccardo defined it ‘a masterwork of anarchic structuralism’) and to the beautiful interpretation by Scandaletti of the text-no-text of Cathy Berberian, Stripsody, a ‘score’ that requires high skillness in reciting and freedom in performing [...]” (Daniele Follero)

From musicycle.net” – June 19th 2009: Duo Alterno, La voce contemporanea in Italia vol. 4


From corrierebit.com” – June 12th 2009: Vocal pieces of contemporary musicians for Stradivarius

“[...] Leading actors of this interesting work the Duo Alterno and, in one of the eight pieces presented, the Penderecki String Quartet too. The Duo, internationally acclaimed, is formed by the soprano Tiziana Scandaletti and the pianist-composer Riccardo Piacentini. In the cd La voce contemporanea in Italia [The Italian Contemporary Voice] - vol. 4 we can listen to pieces composed between 1966 and 2008 from Bussotti, Bortolotti, Abbado, Donatoni, Berberian, Bosco and the same Piacentini. The female voice has always a central role in all the compositions. The “historic’ pieces by Bussotti and Donatoni, Lachrimae and ...ed insieme bussarono, are both of 1978 [...] a strong gestural and theatrical component is highlighted in the first one and a need of structural freedom, well defined from the first timbric beginnings of the female voice, in the second one. This need of expressive thatricality is even more evident in the solo voice piece Stripsody of 1966 [...] by the great Cathy Berberian. Excellent interpretation of Scandaletti. [...] Vocalizzo sopra ‘Ma se mi toccano dov'è il mio debole’ from Rossini's Barbiere by Marcello Abbado, composed for the Duo Alterno, is a nice example of musical divertissement written in 1997, that is a joke on the infinite possibilities of the vocal timbric variations. ...im Traume, piece of 2007 by Gilberto Bosco, also dedicated to the Duo, has the text in German language: it starts from Schumann to arrive to a passionate transformation in modern way [...] An Mozart, written by Piacentini in 2008, joins the voice and the piano to a string quartet and presents musical qualities where the influences of the German tradition of the first 20th century are mixed, in the final, to a musical past easy to recognize. The search on the text is mediated by a visionary language rich of suggestive images. A very well interpretated cd that we recommend to all lovers of the voice.”

From ESZ News” – June 2009: A postmodern night

“[...] ...im Traume for voice and piano on Heine's text, interpretated by the Duo Alterno [...], is in the miscellaneous CD La voce contemporanea in Italia [The Italian Contemporary Voice] - vol. 4 (Stradivarius 33833), a «beautiful anthology [...] a wide landscape that honours the 20th century Italian Art» (Claudio Strinati on la Repubblica) with which Bosco comes in the important series of contemporary composers presented from the two artists, «spokespersons of absolut reference for sensibility and competence and of laudable coherence in choising the repertoire and the interpretation» (Claudio Bolzan su Hortus Musicus).”

From “4ARTS” – May 3rd 2009: The new CD of the Duo Alterno dedicated to the contemporary voice

“The Duo Alterno [...] comes out with a collection nr. 4 of La voce contemporanea in Italia. It is not easy to find, in the Italian recording stifled landscape, so courageous cultural operations. An hommage to Bussotti, with his extrahordinary Lachrimae, Donatoni, Berberian, just to cite some composers, with the excellent performance of the Duo that confirms itself as one of the most prestigeous ensemble in the Italian panorama.” (Daniele Ribustini)


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