HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF WITH INFINITE VARIATIONS

Prof. Massimiliano Messieri / San Marino / – composer, Conservatory of San Marino

Historie se opakuje s nekonečnými variacemi

History teaches us that music has been transmitted through interpersonal relations among musicians, also thanks to the benevolence of passionate contributors who spread music all around the world. It might be redundant to say that music is a language that expresses the thought of who creates it and that it is translated and reinterpreted by those who perform it. But the concept of universality is implicit in this “triviality”: it is clear that the language of music is comprehensible all around the world because it is made of symbols, of a grammar and of a syntax that are common to everyone. Many schools of thought came in quick succession during history: they all sought a common thought, alternating subjective with objective ideology but music has survived thanks to its internationalization and to the will of every musician who wanted people to know their compositions. My task is not to hold a history lesson but to make this concept clear: now we are going to compare six musicians to understand the infinite variations that our predecessors showed us with their life and their activities without judging their actions, since everyone expresses himself in a different way, in his historical period, with his experience and his abilities:

  • Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monteverdi (Cremona, 9 May 1567 – Venice, 29 November 1643) was an Italian composer;
  • Giuseppe Domenico Scarlatti (Naples, 26 October 1685 – Madrid, 23 July 1757) was an Italian harpsichord player and composer;
  • Ridolfo Luigi Boccherini (Lucca, 19 February 1743 – Madrid, 28 May 1805) was an Italian cellist and composer;
  • Giovacchino (Gioachino) Antonio Rossini (Pesaro, 29 February 1792 – Passy, 13 November 1868), was an Italian composer;
  • Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini (Lucca, 22 December 1858 – Bruxelles, 29 November 1924) was an Italian composer;
  • Luigi Dallapiccola (Pisino, 3 February 1904 – Florence, 19 February 1975) was an Italian pianist and composer.

Comparing the biographies of these composers we can see that during their lives they travelled both because they wanted or they were forced to. They had to move to another country: some of them just for a short time, others changed residence. Claudio Monteverdi, child prodigy, studied music and started to play organ with Marc’Antonio Ingegneri, who was maestro di cappella in Cremona Cathedral: in 1582, when he was just 15, he published the collection Sacrae Cantiunculae, followed by the four-part Madrigali Spirituali in 1583; he travelled with Duke Vincenzo I Gonzaga first in 1595 to Hungary and then in 1599 to Flanders where he came in contact with the French-style music. Domenico Scarlatti was baptized by Don Domenico Marzio Carafa Duke of Maddaloni who, five years before, had  given Alessandro Scarlatti, Domenico’s father, a chance to perform his work Gli equivoci del sembiante, that was triumphantly acclaimed the year before in Capranica Theatre in Rome. After studying music with his father, Domenico became composer and organist in the Chapel Royal of Naples in 1701 and in 1703 he staged his first play - L’Ottavia restituita al trono. In 1709 he went to Rome in the service of the exiled Polish queen Marie Casimire: here he met Thomas Reseingrave who had great respect for him and who first introduced successfully Scarlatti’s Sonatas in London (Scarlatti returned to London in 1715-1719 to direct his opera Narciso at the King’s Theatre). Later he moved to Lisbon in 1719 where he had been teaching music to the princess Maria Magdalena Barbara for six years, then he moved to Rome, Seville and Madrid. Luigi Boccherini followed his father to Vienna when he was 14; here, they both played in the orchestra of the Imperial Court Theatre (Boccherini became famous here, learning new musical forms such as the quintet and the quartet). When he returned to Rome he finished his studies; in 1764 he went back to Lucca and he became the first cellist in the Cappella Palatina; some years later he founded the first permanent string quartet that has ever been mentioned with Filippo Manfredi, Pietro Nardini and Giuseppe Cambini. Boccherini performed several times with Manfredi, then he went to Paris in 1767, where he published his first collection of quartets with him: after gaining success he was invited to King Charles III’s Court by the Spanish Ambassador. Gioachino Rossini enrolled in the musical lyceum in Bologna, despite he spent several time away due to family commitments. He soon developed  a passion for Haydn and Mozart. He debuted at the Theatre S.Moisè in Venice at the age of 18 with his opera La cambiale di Matrimonio that gained a reasonable success: he continued composing in the following two years, alternating successes and failures. On the 26th of September 1812, he made his debut at La Scala theatre in Milan with La Pietra del Paragone that had 53 reruns. After a decade of intense activity he married to Isabella Colbran in Bologna and the following day Rossini went to Vienna, where he had a great success with some of his old operas. Giacomo Puccini, after getting his composition degree at the age of 22 in his hometown, he went to study to Milan Conservatory (1880-1883) with Antonio Bazzini and Amilcare Ponchielli thanks to a scholarship of Queen Margherita of 100 lire per month. In 1883 he took part in a one-act opera contest announced by the music publisher Sonzogno with Le Villi (libretto by Ferdinando Fontana): he didn’t win the contest but his opera was performed in 1884 at Teatro dal Verme in Milan under the patronage of the publisher Giulio Ricordi, competitor of Sonzogno. Encouraged by the success of Le Villi, Ricordi commissioned a new opera to the duo Puccini-Fontana that had to be performed at La Scala: however, Edgar (1889) – written in four years – received a lukewarm response and in the following decades it underwent radical revisions, without entering the repertoire. Puccini had his first big success with Manon Lescaut (1893), followed then by La Bohème, Tosca and Madama Butterfly. Despite his return to Tuscany (Città del Lago), Puccini began to travel first to France and England, then to Buenos Aires in 1905 and to New York in 1907. Luigi Dallapiccola was born in a small town in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (current Croatia) to a couple from Trento. He spent his childhood in his hometown and later he moved to Graz with his family during World War First (his father, headmaster of an Italian-language school in Pisino, was considered a “subversive element” and “politically untrustworthy” by the Austro-Hungarian administration and he was placed in internment). “This agonizing period of internment – crucial for the composer because it happened during his adolescence – will be transmitted in his compositions Canti di Prigionia and Il prigioniero and it has a positive side: Dallapiccola began playing the piano for fun and he became a very frequent Opera-goer; this allowed him to know a large repertoire of the German theatre, Mozart, Weber and above all Wagner, the composer who gave Dallapiccola an important mark in his musical adolescence (Bruno Zanolini, “Luigi Dallapiccola – La conquista di un linguaggio”). Learning German and his unlimited thirst for knowledge would put Dallapiccola in contact with the French (Proust) and English language (Joyce).

This short historical comparison that analyzes four centuries of history is just illustrative because it would have been possible to do it with other musicians coming from different countries. The most important fact to underline is the desire to know different cultures from ours. Coming back to the present day, the communicative importance of International Festivals such as the Forfest Festival of Kroměříž, allows musicians from different cultures and backgrounds to know each other and to confront. It is no coincidence that Maskfest – International Festival of New Music (Republic of San Marino) was born after Forfest’s invitation to expand the communicative and didactic horizons of New Music in its Schumannian sense.

The problems of the contemporary musical thought are of vital importance to the survival of music itself because from the second half of the XX century the post-weberian ideological movement activated a short-term process of ‘extinction’, drifting the consumer apart from the producer, or changing the producer into consumer. The general belief that a mathematical algorithm set on a regular alternation could be called music just because it is produced by a musician’s brain, has produced so much waste paper that in the mid-90s Aldo Clementi (Italian composer and regular student of Darmstadt summer courses) came up with a thought: “music is dead”. However, Clementi didn’t admit, like most of his colleagues, that the musician - and not the music itself - was dead. The musician as a creator of music has changed by an algorithm into a composer and the word ‘musician’ nowadays refers not anymore to who writes music but to who plays it, the performer. The heritage received from the post-weberian school, that started music’s “count-down”, is the awareness that the musical thought is using up just like the audience, that doesn’t receive any more emotional messages from the sounds. It’s clear that the society has developed (or changed), technology allows men to know all news from around the world, both false and true, in “almost” real time on internet and we become aware most of the time of abuses. Despite this, we can’t justify an eternal munchian primordial scream, because even if in the last century mankind “opened” its eyes, realizing what it caused on itself, the intellectual world, the “late-musician” himself, has always been informed of the events: it’s not possible to blame with an objective sound without taking a subjective responsibility.

Meeting different musical cultures carried out with dialogue and with an auditory debate among composers, performers, musicologists and music enthusiasts can just produce a positive effect on a society. The communicative relationship between musicians from different backgrounds and cultures lies outside the actual globalization, bringing added value to the development of the national education through the influence of their experiences. A contemporary musical thought communicates to its interlocutor and leaves a sign on him, that will go down on history without competing with it, but on the contrary extending its existence.

                                                                                        Massimiliano Messieri

                                                                                      (translator Martina Berardi)

 

 

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