versione italiana _ english version
CD Stradivarius (Milano, 2010) producted by Rive-Gauche Concerti with substain of Regione Piemonte and Fondazione CRT.
This is the fifth CD realized by the Duo Alterno on the Stradivarius label and dedicated to the Italian vocal chamber repertoire in XXth century.
Interpreters: Duo Alterno (Tiziana Scandaletti soprano, Riccardo Piacentini piano).
Musicological notes by Cosimo Colazzo.
Francesco Paolo TostiDue piccoli notturni (1911)
I. Van gli effluvi delle rose
II. O falce di luna calante
Texts by Gabriele D’Annunzio
Gian Francesco MalipieroI Sonetti delle Fate (1914)
VI. Oriana - Oriana infedele
Texts by Gabriele D’Annunzio
Giorgio Federico GhediniTre liriche di Pascoli (1918)
I. Notte dolorosa
III. Con gli angioli
Texts by Giovanni Pascoli Alfredo Casella
La sera fiesolana (1923)
“Laude” by Gabriele D’Annunzio Valentino Bucchi
Quattro liriche per canto e pianoforte (1935/40)
II. Rio Bò
III. El fior robà
IV. Vocalizzo notturno
Texts by Paul Verlaine (I), Aldo Palazzeschi (II), Giacomo Noventa (III)
Franco AlfanoDa “Tre nuovi poemi” (1939)
I. Ninna nanna di mezzanotte
Texts by Cesare Meano
Il Duo Alterno recounts...
One hundred years after the birth of the Italian movement of “futurismo”, the Duo Alterno delves into the repertoire of the “crepuscolari” (twilight) poets. A case of being awkward? (the expression, interestingly enough was theorised by, among others, Alfredo Panzini in the very years that saw the birth both of Futurismo and of Crespuscolarismo). Not exactly. In 1910, one year on from the publication of Marinetti’s Futurist Manifesto, the critic Giuseppe Antonio Borgese first used the term “poesia crepuscolare [crepuscular poetry] with reference to a particular literary category. Thus we have a new centenary, opposite and complementary to the first, less talked about yet certainly no less significant, with reflections on the world of music that are far from secondary.
The double anniversary is, therefore, the first reason for this CD which, prepared in the year of the futurist celebrations, appears in the following year which will be remembered as the anniversary of “crepuscular” poetry. But that is not all. Perhaps the sincerest reason is the fact that we are convinced that the “crisis of grand narrations” and the “legitimisation through ‘parologia’, that Jean-François Lyotard talks about in La condition postmoderne (Paris 1979) which finds a response almost in unison on the other side of the Atlantic in Richard Rorty’s “post-philosophy” (Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Princeton 1979), have one of their most authentic roots in the crepuscolari attitudes of the early twentieth century.
For those who, like us, love post-modernism and post-philosophy, the scorn of Futurism may be physiologically countered by the intimate poetry of the crepuscolare school, child of the same historical period and of the same disenchantment, yet so different, so sweet and charming, often ironic and disarming, absorbed into the most sensitive folds of the soul, poetic in the highest and most shared category sense. Anti-heroic, anti-bombastic, attentive to the slightest gesture rather than to the most striking and extroverted, Crepuscolarismo is expressed in the leading poets and musicians of the early twentieth century in Italy inspired by “simple” things, without any banality, in rhetorical forms that are progressively refined, steeped in poetry that is always intense and subtle.
The philosopher and psychologist Umberto Galimberti, a great admirer of Karl Jaspers and a connoisseur of the cultural and social muddle of the early twentieth century, defines “the poet” with words that seem to fit the aesthetics of the Crepuscolari perfectly: “Poets [...] tiptoe alongside situations and things [... like] wanderers set on their way by the path [...] The poet has [...] renounced his safety and invulnerability, and can thus encounter and, encountering can recognise [...] without the right to speak, the poet says just what is necessary to create conditions for listening [...] Between heaven and earth, poets are guardians on the threshold, and therefore Heidegger calls them ‘the greatest risk-takers’ [...] in total absence of protection poets speak, they dare to pronounce that which is held silent, certainly they do not hold themselves back in ‘manners of speaking’. The people, those who have no right-to-speak, feel at home with them [...] a home that is open to all the messages in the world” in Polizia moderna, year LXI, n. 10, Rome, October 2009).
In the context of this stimulating reflection on poetry to listen to, or rather to auscultate, with open mind and ears, daring that which is held silent where the world is dominated by acoustic aggressions and by (preferably spectacular) events, the Duo Alterno feel like a wanderer following the same path. And this is where we find the third reason, a more personal, autobiographical one, that binds us to the fascinating, rare repertoire presented on this disc. Whilst the musical Futurism of the early twentieth century does not have unanimously recognised masterpieces but does possess late legacies of exceptional interest - especially as of the gestualism of the Sixties and Seventies, with works that the Duo Alterno recorded in the previous volumes La voce contemporanea in Italia (we need only mention the inimitable Stripsody by Cathy Berberian, of 1966, or the surprising Lachrimae by Sylvano Bussotti, of 1978, and the more recent Epitaffi sparsi by Ennio Morricone, of 1991/92) -, for Crepuscolarismo in music works of great depth, if not indeed masterpieces, can already be found in the early twentieth century on condition that we look for them, and these works do not fail to leave traces and scents in some of the perhaps less clamorous aspects of contemporary repertoire.
In other words, in our concert trips, which to date have taken us to over thirty countries, in our master-classes (from the first held at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver to our most recent class at the Taras Shevchenko University of Kiev), in our activity promoting vocal chamber music, especially Italian, we have always found great sensibility towards the “poetic” aspects of twentieth-century and contemporary music. When the tonal system no longer guarantees its most incorruptible certainties, admitted that it ever did, and for the Western world this begins in a clearly verifiable manner in the closing decades of the nineteenth century, the polarities change and, whilst on the one hand the spectacular component seems to dominate (and we have not drawn back from this, re-evaluating the finest legacy of Futurismo), on the other there remains a need for intimate poetry, of twilight shade expressing not flight but rediscovery.
Thus, after four discs dedicated to the contemporary panorama and four more dedicated to early twentieth-century Italian chamber music, our journey as “tip-toe wanderers” finds along its path the origins of a suffused poetry which appears not infrequently in today’s pieces and which curiously astonishes and even excites part of a public whose often stereotyped image of so-called “contemporary music” oscillates between hermetic intellectualism and the rather tacky spectacular nature linked to grand events. As though culture had no alternative other than more or less contorted lucubration or blows to the heart with relative arrays of “special effects”.
In this sense, the crepuscular roots of our chamber vocal style, as these are its true roots between the nineteenth and twentieth century, help us to find a less extreme, more reserved, dreamlike and nocturnal dimension, making us reflect on the fact that dreams are no less scientifically proved than so-called “objective reality” and, even more relevantly, that they have no less influence on the course of our life. It is not without significance that one of the most symptomatic collections of crepuscular poems, by Carlo Chiaves, should be called Sogno e ironia [Dream and irony], where the irony, in a manner that was to be recovered well by post-modernism, acts as a keystone for the reinterpretation of the many points of contact between dream experience and daily life.
Moving into specific detail, our exploration of the crepuscular voice in the early decades of the twentieth century picks out five cycles of compositions written over a period of thirty years, from 1911 to 1940, in which the motive of the night always recurs explicitly. To these five cycles we may add the famous Sera fiesolana by Gabriele D’Annunzio set to music in 1923 by Alfredo Casella, who had recently returned to Italy after a long stay in Paris.
It should also be said that the choice of poets like the archetypes D’Annunzio and Pascoli, together with the choice of the French poètes maudits (from Verlaine on) and of others who are strategically crepuscular like Aldo Palazzeschi, Giacomo Noventa and Cesare Meano, is wholly in line with the critical-literary tradition that recognises D’Annunzio and Pascoli as the official sources of inspiration for all crepuscular poetry. And it is interesting to note that the “nocturnal” D’Annunzio of the Sonetti delle Fate, of the Sera fiesolana and of the two lyrics set by Tosti, as well as the Pascoli of the “simple things” are taken up and transformed for poetics that has nothing of nineteenth-century rhetoric nor anything bombastic (a risk that is always lying in wait when D’Annunzio is set to music). All this is splendidly translated in the music we have worked on.
Pieces dotted with expression indications with an unmistakeably crepuscular flavour. “Poetry”, in the meaning explained above by Umberto Galimberti, in a pure state. Let’s take the second of the Pascoli works (Notte) in the musical translation of Giorgio Federico Ghedini, a young composer but one who was already stylistically aligned. Here are all the indications that appear just on the first page, without any omissions: “Allegretto dolcemente mosso”, “mormorando”, “sempre tutto in penombra [always wholly in twilight], “delicate”, “grazioso e leggero”, “sottovoce”. There are no others. A similar situation in the third piece (Con gli angioli): “Andantino, dolce e soffuso”, “sensibile”, etc. Again the piece by Alfredo Casella, this time on texts by D’Annunzio, has indications like: “Andante misterioso”, “mezzo confuso, con molto pedale” [half confused with plenty of pedal], “tranquillo”, “a mezza voce, quasi mormorando [in a hushed voice, almost murmuring]”.
Following a chronological order, our journey begins with the Due piccoli notturni (1911) by Francesco Paolo Tosti, compositions of rare transparency, especially when compared to central-European Lied production of the time or to the emotive clamour that distinguishes post-Verdi opera, and then proceeds with I Sonetti delle Fate (1914) by Gian Francesco Malipiero, six D’Annunzio tableaux on fable roles, a concentrate of expressive connotations that accompany the listener in a dream lasting nearly twenty minutes. From D’Annunzio to Pascoli, we move on to the Tre liriche di Pascoli (1918) which Ghedini handles with concise elegance and affectionate tenderness, the first two being expressly dedicated to night and the third to angels. From this it is but a short step to the twilight of La sera fiesolana (1923) by Alfredo Casella and, whilst Ghedini indulges in colours that seem to look back with renewed energy now to Schumann, now to Franck and Fauré, in Casella the lesson of French impressionism and of his own masterpiece of a few years previously, L’adieu à la vie, return to this fresco laden with seduction and mystery. Then the Quattro liriche per canto e pianoforte (1935-1940) by the Roman composer Valentino Bucchi, four little gems, hovering between the cultured and the popular, on texts by three excellent crepuscular poets: Paul Verlaine, Aldo Palazzeschi and Giacomo Noventa, real name Giacomo Cà Zorzi, who was born in Pieve di Noventa and lived in Turin for many years. Lastly two of the Tre nuovi poemi (1939) by Franco Alfano, the first of which, Ninna-nanna di mezzanotte on texts by the Turin poet Cesare Meano, an epic rather than a poem, an accumulation of fable and nostalgia moods, of great suggestive force and somewhat unsettling.
The disc follows this order exactly, with chronological arrangement in harmony with musical order, as in a concert programme demanding careful balancing of weights so that homogeneity and heterogeneity, coherence and contradiction take on the eternal human game of chasing one another, this time in the half light of dusk.
In an unexpected correspondence of this type there seems to be no Kuhnian “paradigm shift”, from the axis of pure chronology (and, in a wider sense, of musicological demands) to that of a genuine, poetic musical syntax. Something similar characterizes, increasingly as the days go by, our research in the field of vocal chamber music, especially Italian. Like the pieces of a mosaic that takes form almost unexpectedly as the research progresses, or rather – as Gombrich said in his unforgettable “The Story of Art” – as happens when you look at a painting very close up and see only brush strokes but then as you step back figures suddenly appear, and the brush strokes disappear as brush strokes; this has been our work for over twelve years, and it is always a surprise to discover the painting which, beyond the individual strokes, is brought to us finally by the music. A dynamic, performing vision of making music, poetry as “poièsi”, fruit of an action of constant research and at the same time of progressive (re)composition. Even without the blinding light of the spotlight, in a suffused half light.
Musicological notes by Cosimo Colazzo
The chamber romance represents a clearly defined genre in the nineteenth century. It is a model of well-framed grace, based on criteria of strophic breath, recognizably singable with easy appeal to listeners. It is intended for an audience of music lovers, amateurs, for whom this repertoire is accessible. They can even perform it. It is drawing-room music. Not simply because, in specific moments, it is suitable for accompanying social gatherings with all their shared rites. But also because it is an occasion for making music together, for those who delight in playing an instrument or singing. With it, a musical salon is created.
In the second half of the nineteenth century one of the champions of this repertoire is Francesco Paolo Tosti (1846-1916), a man who enjoyed immense success at the time. Appreciated in Italy, but also in London where he was a much sought-after and financially-successful artist.
The chamber romance was one of the keys to the success of Italian publishers abroad. It represented an important market and offered an opening towards international markets.
Even by the end of the nineteenth century, and more so in the early decades of the twentieth, the genre went through an evolution which brought it to a crossroads. On the one hand continuing with the characters of the genre structured according to traditional conventions, and as such recognised socially with a role, an audience and a consolidated economy. On the other the idea that it was necessary to break with these characters, to open the text-music relationship to other possible relationship patterns.
A contrast arose between those artists who were more strongly linked to tradition and those who, on the other hand, sought to break with all the contexts of easy consumption, with music that expressed recognisable effects, that fed on success and did not tackle the question of the direction that it wished to follow and to extend.
The two trends existed side by side. The radical one, however, grew stronger in time. The musicians of the “Generazione dell’Ottanta” [The 80s Generation] were the bearers of a new perception. Casella, Malipiero, Pizzetti, Resphighi urged an idea of music as enquiry, research. They started off from an idea of music as art, participating in the wider cultural movement. In terms of the relationship between music and word, they were highly active in the direction of enhancing an approach not dictated by occasion or convention but one that was fruit of a choice, an option, and that opened towards a dimension of creative research. Poetry was to be elevated. Thus in chamber lyrics poetry should rather possess its own independence, and not be written expressly to be set to music. These composers often looked to poems that had already been created autonomously as poetic forms.
For these composers Gabriele D’Annunzio (1863-1938) represented an artistic point of reference. Indeed, he was such in a more general sense for Italian society and culture. Only a little before their generation he was a champion of experimentalism, of a drive for innovation. The man who shook up Italian culture.
In reality, D’Annunzio was ambivalent. One the one hand, to be sure, he urged towards the new. In his ideological declarations he favoured that which interrupts tradition: conventions must be surpassed, a new dimension of cultural and aesthetic feeling must be adopted. On the other hand, the public that sustained him was the high society of the drawing room, that basked in an unmoving world to which, if anything, he intended to add, here and there, the spices of something new, some sign of transgression.
It was not by chance, then, that for Tosti D’Annunzio should have written expressly poems to be set to music. With his left hand, indeed, but with intention. He sought a relationship with Tosti. He lent him his texts. Both were natives of Abruzzo, and this too fostered their work together. Yet with Tosti, D’Annunzio wove a relationship which brought them united to the attention of the drawing rooms that doted on the poet’s affected, flowery images, set here in perfect strophic form, and at the same time delighted in full-bodied music, that tended towards the lyrical, to sweet ascents, to the swelling expectancy of the phrase, to regulated release of tension.
And yet, at the crossroads we mentioned above, even Tosti sought to adjust his style. And in the closing years, the ones corresponding to the Due piccoli notturni, of 1911, he looked to the greater poetry of D’Annunzio, preferring in it the work of his youth, of the Canto novo (1882), steeped in romantic moods, vitality, sense of primitive nature, and at the same time set in regular metrical forms. The same may be said of Van li effluvi de le rose, or of O falce di luna calante. This is strophic language, sweet images, echoing calls, vibrating sensations. The music matches the poetry with a singing melodic form, regular curves, expected rests which ease listening. Harmonic pressure is rare and soon overcome. The entire piece unwinds in a full, round package, tailored with an expert hand: gems of delight for amply consumed lyricism.
Quite coincidentally these texts were also set to music by Respighi, in reverse order, as part of the Sei liriche (prima serie). Two years before Tosti, together with other pieces by other writers than D’Annunzio. Comparing the two we detect the difference, in musical style certainly, as we should expect, but also in the interpretation of the text. In Tosti sweetness, extenuation but like a sheen of craftsman production “à la Tosti”. In Respighi an original interpretation, staying within the text which determines the music and certain unexpected evolutions. The strophic structure is no longer applied strictly, the piano part is not a simple accompaniment; it presents a high degree of autonomy, especially in O falce di luna calante. The other lyric, Van li effluvi, defines a game of alternation of sound registers, giving the idea of airy, fluid circulation of sound presences.
And thus we are at the crossroads. With the new composers, with Alfredo Casella (1883-1947), Gianfrancesco Malipiero (1882-1973) and the others the music follows the poetry closely. It is no longer strophic, no longer regular. It is composed together with the text. The music takes shape with the text. Certainly it then tends to find its place in musical forms too. But meanwhile it is generated and unfurled as a poetic-musical discourse. Even the vocal language is different: more syllabic, in the rhythm of the text, it follows the curves of spoken language, of recitation, it sings with the words.
In relationship with the composers, D’Annunzio can become a gymnasium for exercising his own poetic propensities, his choices of research and experimentation.
In the Malipiero of I sonetti delle fate (published in 1915, declared composed by the musician in 1909) the poetic choice falls upon a series of images, coloured with imagination, animated by vibrations and impressions. These are poems which D’Annunzio published in 1890, contained in the collection La chimera, published by Treves. This is the vibrant D’Annunzio of images, but also of careful study of synthesis and poetic distillation. There is the idea of magic charm, of transformation, but also the sense of a poetic touch that delights, stops and eternalises time. All defined in a structured poetic machine, made up of hendecasyllables and geometric use of rhymes.
Malipiero creates a music that lives on impressionist moods, soft, resonant, made of long pedals, juxtaposition of chords rendering suggestive timbres, and then correlated with consonant chords, parallel slidings, precious arpeggios in long sequences, textures that envelop the text. These are elements of impressionist language, though created with an original hand, and always in a sensible, knowing, measured relationship with the text. At times the music becomes a faithful mirror to the text, with modest grace such that it follows the text, underlines it and is influenced by it. It is all carefully gauged: even the surface underlinings, there is a capacity for integrating the excursion into what is different within a discourse of continuity: the local dimension can be absorbed into a global project. A certain stylistic refraction, moments of open expressivity link up in an ambit of continuity. Malipiero here demonstrates sensitivity and technical skill, profound culture. The sonnets are realized in six episodes - Eliana; Mirinda, Melusina, Grasinda Morgana, Oriana – Oriana infedele - each dedicated to a female character, with fantastic, evanescent pedigree. We find ourselves among fairies, goddesses, legendary warriors, references to the Arthurian cycle. D’Annunzio here looks back to a predecessor who had clearly influenced him, Bernardo Tasso (father of Torquato) and his poem Amadigi di Gaula, where we find these characters, caught up in stories of love, enchantments and battles.
The Casella of La sera fiesolana (1923) is quite different. Different too the D’Annunzio that he chooses, the drier one of the lauds. In the discourse of these poems the music becomes syllabic, controlled, restrained language. He intends to express the idea of language that is sharp, clear, precise and agile. Modern, for him, means entering this dimension of a language that burns away all rhetorical excess, music that is functional and clear. We are in 1923 and Casella is turning towards vocal music (previously little visited, with excursions into literature based on Carducci). In this year he is to write, on texts from the Italian fourteenth century (Tre canzoni trecentesche opus 36 for voice and piano), on a laud by D’Annunzio (La sera fiesolana) and then on a popular text by Trilussa (Quattro favole romanesche, again for voice and piano).
It is no chance that his choice should have been thus. On the one hand the Italian poetry of origin, example and model of a form that is not sublimated in extenuated mediations, but solid and “rocky”, virgin, even anonymous in its figures; on the other the D’Annunzio who indeed in the early years of the century had sought to develop his poetry in this manner, seeking a more fractured discourse, governed by its own flow, in the style of the ancient lauds, quite free in metrical structure; on the other hand again, the lure of popular roots. There is also an ideological level in the recuperation of the cultural history of Italy, with its peculiarities: a call to a Mediterranean life for the modern, taken up again in the sense of construction, in clear form, in passion for right angles, as has apparently been said.
La sera fiesolana is made up of three stanzas of varying length, periodically punctuated by the moment of the laud, exposed in three verses. The rather long stanzas hold mixed lines of 11, 7, 5, 12 and 13 syllables. Everything is very open and fluid, as we see in the only rare presence of punctuation marks.
Nature in the evening opens up to various possibilities. Man too is animated by a different relationship. A condition of reciprocal abandonment is created, with slips and reflections, transformations of the ego towards nature: being in the mobile infinity of nature, feeling the alliance of man and nature.
And thus to the music, which becomes spoken melody, not interrupting the meaning of the discourse that flows and unwinds. After a piano introduction that sketches out a pattern of a crisp, clear, diatonic melody, over an ostinato base calibrated in the directions and detail of a number of studied dissonances, the song emerges, moving on the waves of the words, even in psalm hints at times. The piano accompanies with alternating chords, precise clear formulas, as though in a toccata. The dynamics are generally restrained, and this exalts the sense of structure and of agile motion. Again in the following stanzas this character is reproduced, with varied elements, seeking however a collected, defined sound quality, carefully handled in every detail.
Every stanza, as we have said, is followed by the laud, which repeats each time the prayer of thanksgiving addressed to the evening, for the beauty it exudes and that fills man. In this space, which is mystic, of contemplative abandon, the music too opens up to another temporality: slowing down, expanding, suspended, ecstatic. A few chords resound, in studied dissonance composition, providing them with evocation but also with temper. And then a more abandoned breath of the singing, as of the instrumental phrases.
Throughout the piece we encounter this alternation of long stanzas, corresponding to a precise musical set, and of the lauds, bearing the sense of ecstatic slowing down of time, opening into a suspended dimension, where sound encircles us like silence.
Clearly drawn shapes, carefully-managed details of sound, expressive but also contained in the preponderance of generic nuances. Everything must contribute to a plan, contribute to a general balance. And at the same time each element succeeds in emanating beauty and balance. What Casella proposes is the ideal of a “Mediterranean” form as a national way towards new languages for music.
Giorgio Federico Ghedini (1892-1965) comes from a slightly later generation, but, though he is still young, he is already part of the perspective of new musical researches, sought after by musicians who wish to extend musical horizons for the nation, opening it up to what is happening in Europe, in upheavals that generate a host of new prospects. Ghedini, however, unlike Casella or Malipiero or Pizzetti, seems reluctant to make intellectual declarations. Not for him, or at least to a lesser extent, that cultural circulation that draws musicians into alliances with men of letters, that urges them to take part in shared battles, to intervene in magazines, to gather with painters. In this sense, he is in a more isolated position. Yet his music, from his youth, is already defined, moving towards a research into form which must call upon authoritative sources, like the great literature of the Italian Rinascimento. Hence the idea of music governed by pure formal criterion, which takes priority over expressivity, and which must be realised in a setting of defined measure. We are in 1918 when he looks towards vocal music too, for the youthful Tre liriche di Pascoli. He responds to the sensitive verses of Pascoli with knowing, sober, intimate music, in line here with the inner resonance and homely bending of the ego to self-reflection that is in Pascoli. There are no rhetorical outbursts, the poetic evolution is followed by variations of the musical plan, which are dictated in detail, in slidings, light shifts in harmonic colour. There is also a search for rarefication of sound, in points, which links in well with the pronunciation of Pascoli.
Even in his youth Ghedini expresses his option, for controlled music, carefully directed in means and results. In the following years, and we are talking about the Twenties and Thirties, he turns his attention to vocal music again, with poems that are significantly drawn from early Italian poetry, and in particular from the religious poetry of the thirteenth century (Jacopone da Todi, St Francis of Assisi, and others). He thus radicalises his cultural choice in an anti-rhetorical function and also chooses a popular line alongside a classical one.
There are clear parallels with Casella. A new advanced line of musical research has been achieved in Italy, making demands of new music which bears common features. This involves composers, quite apart from direct frequentation. It is something that spreads because it is realised with a shared conviction, and it concerns musicians, but also the level of criticism and musicology (staying with the question of Ghedini, we know how important his relationship was with Guido M. Gatti and with Andrea Dalla Corte in the Twenties in Turin, developing interest in and real passion for “early” Italian), but it affects no less painters, writers, all the arts.
Valentino Bucchi (1916-1976) represents a somewhat marginal story in this context, but an important one nonetheless. He can be viewed within the framework of what was an original experience. Bucchi grows up in the cultural Florence of the 1930s and it is here that he meets and gets to know Noventa, to whom he will dedicate one of his compositions, included here in the Quattro liriche per canto e pianoforte (1935-1940). On texts by Noventa he is to compose another cycle, Tre poesie di Noventa, of 1940.
Noventa is a poet and a restless intellectual, with European experiences, a man who wandered from town to town in Italy and abroad. He then approaches poetry in Veneto dialect, which is a recovery of roots but also an expression of protest, against all aestheticising passion, a common feature indeed in the world of Italian intellectuals.
This is the cultural line that Noventa expresses through the review that he sets up in Florence with Carocci in 1936, “La Riforma letteraria”, vigorously polemic towards the Italian culture of the period. There is repudiation or protest against D’Annunzio and his epigones. There is a call to invest in reality, in the materiality of things. Italian culture, however, must renew itself, abandon the cult of itself, of its glories, of monuments to tradition, of all aestheticism for its own sake. It is no chance that this review brought up a circle of early young anti-fascists. Still unaware, to be sure, but already with the seed of the change that is to be produced, of the need to cut away from the dominant, authoritarian culture. This is where Franco Fortini, Valentino Bucchi, Giampiero Carocci and Giorgio Spini are raised.
Bucchi composes his Quattro liriche per canto e pianoforte between 1935 and 1940. He refers to poets like Verlaine, Palazzeschi, Noventa and, in the last piece, plays with simple vocalisation. Clearly he makes a very personal choice in the poetry he sets: Verlaine, maudit and French, Palazzeschi with his humour and upsetting irony, Noventa with verses in Veneto dialect, and the final grimace of a vocalisation. Clearly he intends to travel along another path, the path of protest, of mocking play, of paradox. The music, however, is not biting. Whilst the basic intention is clear, the music seems to realise it inside a shell which preserves it in the character of completeness, of a well-finished product. Thus in the initial siciliana, which concerns Verlaine, and again in the following piece on a text by Palazzeschi that follows the intemperance of the verses but without any evident strain, and in the next, on a Noventa poem, produced in sweet, suspended intimism, we find rustling sounds that accompany the verses played on a delicate tone. The last piece, pure vocalisation, verbal and musical fantasy, is closer to the characters of free play.
Franco Alfano (1875-1954) was a musician with a vast cultural background. Open to German culture, to research into harmony and into the delicacies of timbre and orchestral sound. This was the foundation of his world of sound, of linguistic research that he transfused into the fields both of instrumental and of operatic music. And, indeed, into chamber songs. The Tre nuovi poemi (1939) are on texts by Cesare Meano, who was a much-appreciated librettist. Meano is a sensitive poet, and most importantly fully aware of the needs that music takes on for music. He knows the theatre, he knows vocal music. This leads to an alliance, poetry-music, already produced in intention. And yet we are not in the field of occasional poetry, for, in the criteria for poetry for music, which involve a studied pruning of the text, with a studied choice of words and pauses, Meano manages to produce an intimate poetic sense that stirs the music, moves it towards climates of interiorisation, revealed by folds and shadows, assisted by harmony that changes hue, transfused in long chromatic downward motions over extended pedals.
We are in the field of the refined, and of technique and personal adherence. A world is defined in Alfano, his own world that holds the cult of art, of sensuality and of pleasure sublimed in an aesthetic experience, a world waiting to be investigated in further depths.
Some reviews on CD
Duo Alterno - The Crepuscolar Voice