Musical Times, Summer 2006 by Sciannameo, Franco
Italian music during the Fascist period Edited by Roberto Illiano Brepols (Turnhout, 2004); xiv, 746pp; euro160. ISBN 978 2 503 515175.
ITALIAN FASCISM has been studied in great detail both by historians and cultural analysts. For example, there are the multi-volume Mussolini by Renzo De Felice (Turin: Einaudi, 1965-97) and the biographies of various other leading figures of the regime - from Bottai to Starace. Biographies of the members of Casa Savoia and the Vatican's key figures also continue to receive ample attention. Events in politics and popular culture too have been examined from many perspectives, as have the worlds of literature, the figurative and plastic arts, and radio and cinema. One needs only to flick through the pages of Cannistraro's Historical dictionary of Fascist Italy (1982) or De Grazia & Luzzatto's Dizionario del fascisme (2002-03), glance at their bibliographic apparati and marvel at the amount of research work done by scholars so far. Musical culture in Fascist Italy has also been thoroughly surveyed, by Fiamma Nicolodi in her Musica e musicistinelventennio fascista, published in 1984, and by Harvey Sachs in Music in Fascist Italy, published in 1987. Nicolodi's book offers complete documentation and an objective assessment of the values and flaws of the regime vis-á-vis musical matters. Sachs, the author of excellent books on Toscanini, leans toward ridiculing a situation which, especially at its beginning, had some ideological and social merits. But for all their merits both these studies are two decades old. The present volume, Italian music during the Fascist period, is therefore the first important step toward bringing this area of scholarship up-to-date.
Edited by Roberto Illiano, it includes 23 essays, in English, German, Italian and Spanish, and is divided into four parts. Part One begins with 'The reception of contemporary Italian music in Britain during the Fascist era', a perceptive dissection by Erik Levi of the favouritism shown by British musical journals towards the music of Italian composers in the wake of the British ban on German music during the war years. Periodicals such as The Musical Times and The Chesterian were quick to recognise in Gian Francesco Malipiero a major figure, followed by Ildebrando Pizzetti, who paid a visit to London to perform his own music. The publication of eight profiles of contemporary Italian composers written by the indefatigable and never-Fascist propagandist Guido M. Gatti drew parallels between music and Fascist ideologies, thus identifying Mussolini as a source of major inspiration. Such notions were not lost on the British critics Percy Scholes, Edward Dent and Arnold Cooke. Indeed the latter went so far as to affirm that '[i]t is encouraging in these days of intense nationalism to find that a Society [the ISCM] with such aims and ideals should receive so much hospitality in a country [Italy] to which music owes such a great debt under the patronage of the Duce himself.'
Meanwhile, on 21 February 1936, the BBC orchestra and chorus produced an all-Malipiero concert, propelling an appreciation for the Venetian composer which remained solid until his death in 1966. Levi draws on the writings of Ferruccio Bonavia, who praised Adriano Lualdi and Pizzetti, while writing on a variety of musical subjects. Bonavia, of Italian descent, was one of those spirits who made England his home without forfeiting an unwavering love for the country of his origins. At the time of Sir Oswald Mosley's promotion of British fascism in the 19305, similarities with the dicta of Benito Mussolini were abundantly drawn in the British press. Indeed the The Musical Times even boasted an article, Harry Beard's 'The state patronage of music in Italy', praising the situation. As an added curiosity, as late as January 1941, The Musical Times, again, revealed the fact that Mussolini had an 18th-century musical ancestor who made a career in London and published music there. Levi concludes his detailed essay with a sensitive coda reflecting a 1945 memorandum dictated by Captain Peter WA Moyes, Supervisor of Programmes on the Italian Radio Network, who summarised biographical material on various composers based on Allied Commission reports, shedding light on the comparative leniency on the part of the British towards Italian musicians. He concluded, 'As fascism was, after all, the creed of the country, it embraced the best talents and artistic endeavours and we must accept the fact that very few Italians were untainted by it.' Of these, Alfano, Casella, Cilea, Dallapiccola, Giordano, Malipiero, [Riccardo] Nielsen, Petrassi, Pick-Mangiagalli and Tommasini were described as being either 'not unduly connected with fascism' or 'anti-fascist', leaving only the relatively obscure Casavola, Lualdi and Porrino as the guilty parties. With this relatively positive view of Italian composers, the green light was given to BBC officials to open up the prospect of hearing much more of their music once again.
Michael Walter's essay 'Italienische Musik im nationalsozialistischen Deutschland ' proposes an engaging thesis dealing with the idiosyncrasies of the Nazi regime's cultural politics and their ramifications upon the world of music and musicians. The regime's aim was the restoration of a pure Germanic musical idiom through the elimination of any 'contaminating' stylistic, racial and international elements. 'Foreign' music was therefore tolerated, either for diplomatic reasons or on convoluted grounds of 'belonging'. The process of the Aryanisation of German music repertoire led censors to such extremes as purging the biblical texts of Handel's oratorios, setting aside Bach's religious works in favour of his abstract instrumental masterpieces, and drastically altering, through new German translations, the librettos of Mozart's operas written by the Jewish Lorenzo Da Ponte. Even Richard Strauss was given a hard time for using Hofmannsthal's texts. All things considered, Italian music fared relatively well in Nazi Germany. First of all, Italian 19th-century operatic repertoire was too firmly established in German opera houses to warrant immediate purging. None the less, a process of selection took place favouring Bellini's Norma, because it showed the Sicilian composer choosing a Nordic subject to express his 'inner glow and profound truth', and Verdi, for his music's unmistakable 'völkishen Charakters'. Walter demonstrates how the Nazis viewed Verdi as the depicter of heroism and the bearer of an Italian 'soil and blood' characteristic very akin to the spirit of the German people. So much akin, in fact, that a racial Nordic pedigree was established for the Italian composer. On even more theoretical terms, a Wagnerisation of Verdi's spirit was detected in Otello. Italian contemporary music was appreciated to varying degrees, mostly according to socio-ideological affinities between the political climates of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Herbert Gerick, editor of the powerful journal Die Musik, despised Casella's internationalism and his assiduous promotion in Italy of works by Jewish composers as well as by those, like Hindemith, who shifted in-and-out of favour with Joseph Goebbels's office. However, Gerick found Casella's II deserto tentato to be nothing more than an opportunistic work propagandising the Italian conquest of Ethiopia. The opera Dafni (1928) by the traditionalist Giuseppe Mule was favourably compared to Stravinsky's ballet Apollon Musagète, and verismo operas by Cilea, Giordano, Mascagni, Zandonai, Camussi and Pedrollo received many performances. At the other end of the spectrum, Malipiero was considered a new leader in Italian opera despite Goebbels's dislike for the musician and the polemic surrounding the performances of La favola del figlio cambiale in Braunschweig and Darmstadt, which anticipated Mussolini's disapproval of the opera at its Italian premiere. Among the most performed composers in Germany was Respighi, a champion volens nolens of the Mussolinian brand of romanitá and italianitá, whose Roman tone poems, operas and works such as the Concerto gregoriano and Quartetto dorico made the rounds of German concert halls. Finally, the Italian adoption of the 1938 racial laws and the signing of the 'Pact of steel' fully opened the doors of German theatres and concert stages to a legion of budding and seasoned Italian musicians who made good careers in Germany and in other countries controlled by the Third Reich.
Compared to Germany, musical activities in 19305 Spain seem rather barren. Gemma Pérez Zalduondo's essay 'Música y músicos italianos en España (1931-1943)' offers an objective view of the situation in her country by sifting through some of Spain's most relevant music journals and periodicals. She observes musical activities during the Second Republic period (1931-36) through the pages of Ritmo and the writings of Adolfo Salazar, the author of the popular Música y músicos who favoured French avant-garde music above all. However, Salazar did constructive criticism of works by Pilati, casella and Respighi among others, and attended international music festivals in Italy, reporting his impressions back to Spain with an evident antifascist leaning. The Catholic periodical Cruz y Raya (1933-36) also leaned toward French intellectualism and the condemnation of German National Socialism, publishing essays by Falla on Wagner and Jacques Maritain on musical forms. Giménez Caballero, director of La Gaceta Literaria and the author of Art y estado, on the other hand, was very connected to Italian Fascism. Italian music in Spain received a continuous boost from the Italian Cultural Institute, always attentive to promoting, especially after the outcome of the Civil War, the most Fascist representations of Italian culture and music through Alfredo Casella - its most pre-eminent 'unofficial ambassador', as Petrassi defined him. casella was particularly active on the Spanish scene as composer, conductor, lecturer and member of the Trio Italiano. Figures such as Ettore Desderi, Adriano Lualdi and the composers of verismo operas also made themselves visible in the Spain.
PART TWO, 'Italian music during the Fascist period , consists of five essays, beginning with an illuminating survey of the cultural politics that shaped musical life in Mussolini's Italy by Fiamma Nicolodi, the most authoritative scholar of the period under review - and casella's grandniece. She begins her essay, 'Aspetti di politica culturale nel ventennio fascista', by discussing the Mostra del '900 Musicale Italiano taking place in Bologna in 1927. This was the first festival of its kind personally patronised by Mussolini, a gesture that, thanks to the tenacious efforts of casella, linked Il Duce with support of the major public Italian musical events of the ventennio.
These festivals were marked by a great deal of unusual openmindness, making Italy a special place much praised by foreigners, including Edward J. Dent, who wrote to Mussolini on 15 September 1928 at the conclusion of the ISCM festival in Siena: 'Our congress took place in a suggestive and serene environment which constantly surrounded us with an atmosphere of balance and liberalism, making us feel, not only the traditional poetry and beauty of the Italian spirit, but the new imprimatur your Excellency has affixed to such a marvellous nation.' Nicolodi, though, notes that the situation was perceived so benevolently because of the absence of rigour manifested by the typically flexible and chameleon-like attitude which misrepresented Mussolini's desire to move culture toward the people to give the sense of a return to democracy. Nicolodi's essay offers important views about the significance of II Congresso Internazionale di Musica di Firenze (1937), an interesting international symposium dedicated to the issues of audience reception and taste. In the course of her essay, Nicolodi devotes much space to works inspired by the cult of romanitá. Beginning with Casella's Il deserto tentato, she discusses Mascagni's Nerone, Malipiero's Giulio Cesare and Antonio e Cleopatra, Respighi's Lucrezia and Ennio Porrino's Gli Orazi, all written during Fascism's highest degree of public consensus. Furthermore, she emphasises the relevance of musicological festivals such as the commemorations of Verdi (expressly wanted by Mussolini), Rossini and Monteverdi. In addition, the initiatives of the Accademia Musicale Chigiana, under Casella's guidance, began the systematic rediscovery of important Italian composers of the past, with Antonio Vivaldi heading the list.
In 'La musica del cinema italiano del periodo fascista: dalla primavera di Giovinezza all'autunno delle rose appassite', veteran film music historian Ermanno Comuzio writes colourfully about the music of the people and the sounds of everyday life. Forget about Casella's Il deserto tentato, heard by too few and criticised by too many, and pay attention instead to the popular impact of Faccena nera, a catchy song by Mario Ruccione that accompanied every step of the African campaign. Incidentally, the song remained in the repertoire well after 1945, almost as a reminder of the popular belief that there was always something good in whatever the Italian people did, even invading a foreign country. Another song, Mille lire al mese, a fox-trot by Carlo Innocenzi, assumed the character of a national petit-bourgeois hymn, quickly bouncing out of kilter with the official Fascist hymnology. Comuzio's heartfelt essay shows that cinema, songs, and songs-in-cinema - sentimental, dramatic, or satirical - had become the sustaining bread-and-butter of the people, the ultimate escape from political and social oppressions imposed upon them by the regime, as well as by the Catholic Church. Comuzio surveys the work of several composers who viewed cinema as their opportunity to think in terms of cinematic opera, a concept that reached its apogee some 30 years later through the film scores of Ennio Morricone. Comuzio praises Italian film music pioneers such as Giorgio Federico Ghedini, Enzo Masetti, Alessandro Cicognini, Antonio Veretti and Renzo Rossellini, while emphasising that the sporadic film music by celebrities like Ildebrando Pizzetti assumed a character of its own.
The essay by Massimiliano Sala, 'Dal muto al sonoro: le musiche di Pizzetti per Cabiria e Scipione l'Africano, in fact, analyses Pizzetti's involvement in Cabiria, a film by Giovanni Pastrone with captions by Gabriele D'Annunzio, and Scipione l'Africano, the Italian kolossal which capped the victorious outcome of the Ethiopian campaign. For Pizzetti, writing for the cinema at the time of Cabiria was something of an ethical struggle. The composer first accepted and then rejected the task because he viewed writing for the screen beneath his status as a serious composer. In the end, though, and much to D'Annunzio's exasperation, Pizzetti composed one piece for the film, the dramatic and colorful Sinfonia del fuoco, a ten-minute cantata for baritone, chorus and orchestra. However, when he received the 'call' in 1936 to compose the entire soundtrack to Scipione l'Africano - the most talked about and costly film of the Fascist regime - the composer's scruples managed to vanish and he produced a work of quality, as well as a written essay in praise of composing for the cinema. Indeed, Scipione I'Africano placed Pizzetti at the forefront of Italian musical personalities, and his award of the coveted Coppa Mussolini ushered in his entry to the Accademia d'Italia. Confident of the romanita of the film's soundtrack, Pizzetti proposed to Mussolini that the Inno a Roma, the film's musical centrepiece, be adopted as the new Imperial Hymn. However, Il Duce declined the offer. Sala accurately retraces this meandering story, touching upon the issues of nationalism, patriotism, opportunism and even a blatant form of artistic servitude towards the 'Mussolinian Patron State' that by 1937 had reached a hyperbolic stage.
Carlo Piccardi's is one of the most original theses presented in this book. His article 'Alla ricerca del grado zero dell'espressione' seeks a tabula rasa from which the new Fascist man and his culture would have emerged. Beginning with an analysis of Poema della rivoluzione (1924) by Rito Selvaggi, a good Apulian composer whose name has been forgotten even by the most accurate music dictionaries, he surveys an array of compositions which, echoing the nationalistic operatic climate of the Risorgimento, appeared at the dawn of Fascism dressed in new clothes, waving the musical banner of a new social class. Another very engaging topic discussed by Piccardi is that of 'musical infantilism', intended here not as a form of children's music but, literally, as the music of an infant nation, revealing a certain candour or naïveté which spread out among Italian composers like an epidemic.
As an ironic segue to Piccardi's thesis, Vincenzo Alaimo's essay 'La razza in musica nel ventennio fascista' deals with the thorny issue of race and its repercussion in Italian music and politics, focusing on the emerging figure of what Alaimo calls the 'compositore di regime ', a conniving composer totally devoted to serve, aggrandise and 'underscore' Fascist politics and events. It is interesting to note here how all Italian classically trained composers, from Alfano to Zandonai, wished to be considered, at least by Mussolini, as the musical representatives of Italian Fascism, the rhapsodists of a racially superior people. In reality, the palm of such primacy was given de facto to figures active in the popular music arena such as Giuseppe Blanc, Mario Ruccione and a bunch of canzonettari who emerged along with radio, cinema, the recording industry, sheet music publishing and popular music magazines. In the course of discussing the debate about race and musical doctrines, the author touches upon the problem of jazz and its acceptance in Fascist Italy as a legitimate art form. Jazz, Italianised as 'Gez', always had a small but faithfully strong group of followers, beginning with Casella, who wrote an appreciative article on the genre in 1922, and ending, ironically, with Romano Mussolini, Il Duce's youngest son, who was to become a professional jazz pianist.
PART THREE, a dense 313-page section covering a large gamut, begins with contributions by Michela Niccolai and Giovannella Pacini on the Carri di Tespi, mobile tented theatres which brought opera and drama to the masses. Revealing the mechanical details of these complex operations, Niccolai dwells on the involvement of Antonio Valente, the chief architect of the project, the stage director Ciovacchino Forzano and the extraordinary designer Mariano Fortuny, while Pacini examines the Carro di Tespi lirico, the mobile opera house which literally and figuratively wheeled La Scala's productions to the most unlikely places, and its inaugural production of Puccini's La bohème in Torre del Lago.
Martina Weindel's wonderfully erudite essay 'Ferruccio Busoni und der Nationalismus' follows that on the Carro di Tespi lirico's La bohème, thus establishing, in this reader's mind, a somewhat fatalistic link between Busoni and Puccini. Both were born in Tuscany, both died abroad in 1924, both left their last operas unfinished, and both left a lingering question of 'what if?', had they lived longer. Weindel's contribution, though, is not about such parallels but about Busoni and nationalism. Busoni, the son of an Italian clarinet virtuoso and an Austrian pianist mother, was a polyglot, a champion of artistic universality, a citizen of the world and a cosmopolitan individual whose artistic and literary creativities thrived in the bustle of the big city. Thus, Busoni considered the spread of nationalism as a manifestation of provincialism, especially vis-à-vis the war, to which he was vehemently opposed. With Germany and Italy entering the conflict on opposite ends, Busoni lost whatever sense of national belonging his culture and upbringing permitted him to have retained. Furthermore, he was regarded as an enemy alien, a persona non grata, in both countries. He sought political asylum in Switzerland, spending the war years in Zurich. It is from this period that one learns about the musician's patriotic, spiritual and stylistic dilemmas, his soul-searching and its inconclusive results. Regarding Italy and the Italians, Busoni made a remarkable decision when, in 1913, he accepted the position as the Director of the Liceo Musicale in Bologna, with a contract guaranteeing him carte blanche over organisational and artistic matters. Within a year, however, he abandoned Italy and the enthusiastic group of young Italian composers who had surrounded him like disciples around their Christ to their destiny. But the Busoni-Bologna experience did have an everlasting impact on the national conscience of those musicians fortunate enough to have worked with him: they were able to produce and forge ahead during the Fascist period. As for the link with Puccini, perhaps Busoni's Doktor Faust and Puccini's Turandot were endemic not only to the end of opera as a great tradition but to the end of an era altogether.
By contrast, Eleonora Carapella, drawing on Renzo De Felice's Storia degli ebrei sotto il fascismo (Torino: Einaudi, 1961), offers insight into the life and works of Aldo Finzi withn the context of the activities of well-known Italian Jewish musicians such as Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Vittorio Rieti and Renzo Massarani. Finzi emerges here as a figure truly deserving of attention. Aldo's sister, Ada Finzi, was a close associate of Adriano Lualdi, the well-known Fascist musical factotum, further proof that, in Italy, the antisemitic laws were observed with scepticism even on the part of intransigent Fascists.
Christoph Flamm's '"Tu, Ottorino, scandisci il passo delle nostre legioni": Respighis "Römische Trilogie" als musikalisches Symbol des italianischen Faschismus?' questions whether or not Respighi's celebrated Roman Trilogy was absorbed into Fascist symbolism with the composer's cooperation. The conundrum is certainly an engaging one in view of the composer's world fame and the undisputed quality of the works in question. If the imperative in the essay's title ('You! Ottorino, mark the steps of our legions') had been uttered by Mussolini, say at the time of the March on Rome (1923), there would have been little doubt that Respighi had made a special effort to accommodate the needs of the regime and provide an effective soundtrack to the ventennio's cinematic fantasy. Le fontane Ji Roma, composed back in 1917 disqualifies itself as inspired by Fascism: at most, one can perceive in it a hint of pictorial nationalism. I pini di Roma, whose last movement, 'I pini della via Appia', is the referent in the essay's title, was composed in 1924 but, according to Elsa Respighi, had been in gestation long before. The remaining work, Feste romane, was composed in 1928 and incorporated, with great skill and effectiveness, several popular songs pertinent to the everyday lives of 20th-century Romans, thus making the piece, at least in Rome, an instant success. Feste romane could perhaps be discussed as imbued with Mussolinian flair, as a socio-audio piece of performance art which can make people conscious about what seems natural to them, or to reveal something important in their daily lives. Flamm documents the Respighi case very thoroughly by analysing several pertinent writings of the period. Fortunately for Respighi and the world of music, the imperative in the essay's title was not a Mussolini dictum. It was only wishful thinking in the form of a bombastic ending to Respighi's obituary written by the Fascistissimo Alceo Toni for Il carriere della sera of 19 April 1936.
No 20th-century Italian musician was more influential or consequential than Alfredo Casella: pianist, composer, conductor, teacher, lecturer, writer, organiser, traveller and art connoisseur. His name appears more than any other in the pages of this volume. Casella adhered to Fascism with passion but, at the same time, with pragmatism. He enjoyed riding on the crest of the regime, but he also swallowed the bitter pill of the racial laws (his wife was Jewish) and fended off the envy of his colleagues. Mila De Santis's essay is permeated by a singular objectivity that reveals the artist's complex personality alongside the developments of Italian Fascism vis-à-vis music and the arts. A strong promoter of neoclassicism, Casella found himself involved more often than not in polemics concerning the spirit of national music versus the adoption of an international language. Tradition and modernity, the two basic tenets of Italian Fascism, he forged in a style he believed to be a true stile littorio: the elusive idea of Fascist music, as if political ideologies ever penetrated the world of abstract music. But Casella, who was a virtuoso of the piano keyboard and the typewriter, wrote essay after essay, article after article, in all the languages at his disposal for the benefit of any journal that made a request, praising the regime he was loyal to and the artistic dogma it stood for. In De Santis's essay casella, the regime's 'unofficial ambassador', as Goffredo Petrassi dubbed him, emerges from these pages like a continuous flow of ideas that never resolve.
By great contrast, the figure of Gian Francesco Malipiero, perhaps the most non-pragmatic, genial and often bizarre of 20th-century Italian composers, towers over the rest in three essays.
Luigi Pestalozza, a well-known critic from the Left, is a music sociologist of great savvy. He has demonstrated and exhorted, through innumerable publications, how musicians and listeners should practice their art and listen to music socially and culturally. The present contribution about Malipiero is a further manifestation of Pestalozza's analytical acumen and introspective reflection. Malipiero and his beloved Venice are viewed by Pestalozza as an inseparable mother-child, child-womb formation completely extraneous to the rest of the world, thus shaping the composer's character and pitting his artistic expressions against any form of order. Furthermore, he writes, 'Malipiero's isolation and solitude which manifested itself since Le sette canzoni (1919) constituted a sort of declaration of solitude as an actual condition of an unequivocally alienated life so much as to make one think of [his life] as a precocious "theatre of situation".' Pestalozza considers Malipiero's adherence to Fascism as if it were a forced situation. However, there were ways to deal with unfavourable political climates. The problems Malipiero experienced were not so much the constraints of Fascism, but his inability to extricate himself from the grip of his own paranoid demons - thus becoming the victim more often than not. In fact, Malipiero's attitude continued well after the demise of Fascism.
The next two essays deal with Malipiero's struggles in interacting with both the political system and his fellow men. At 118 pages, Laureto Rodoni's '"Caro Lualdi...": I rapport! d'arte e d'amicizia tra G. F. Malipiero e A. Lualdi alla luce di alcune lettere inedite' is a book within a book. Rodoni, the possessor and curator of a formidable private archive of 20th-century musical material, writes exclusively on the basis of primary sources: letters to and from Malipiero and Lualdi in addition to Lualdi's personal papers placed at his disposal by the Lualdi family in Rome. Malipiero is, at this time, asserting his rights as a good Fascist and complaining to Lualdi about situations turning out less than ideally despite his loyalty to the regime, and about people he perceived as hovering around him like spectres. The real revelation of this massive essay, though, is the figure of Adriano Lualdi, generally considered a diligent if authoritative Fascist parliamentarian. But now, thanks to Laureto Rodoni's impeccable analytical skills, Lualdi is portrayed as a man of compassion, openness and great organisational skill. Consequently, one becomes more interested in an appreciation of Lualdi's music, his operas Il Diavolo nel campanile (1925) or La Grançeola (1930), for instance, and his many books of musical chronicles, travels and criticism, as well as a professional life which extended long after the fall of the Fascist regime.
Chiara Bianchi's ' "Caro Bas...": I rapporti tra G. F. Malipiero a G. Bas alla luce di lettere inedite' is an offshoot of Rodoni's essay. Based on material from the Rodoni archive, the author illustrates the correspondence between Malipiero and the obscure composer/pedagogue Giulio Bas who happened to have subscribed to Malipiero's complete editions of Monteverdi's works (1926-42). Since Bas petitioned Malipiero to discontinue his subscription for financial reasons, Malipiero, turned small businessman, deals with the petty matter of monetary refunds and other details which were far beneath his position as the most original Italian composer of his time. Bianchi's essay also brings to the fore other minor figures rotating around Malipiero like Guido Bianchini, Giovanni Tebaldini and the young Domenico De'Paoli, who in the post-war years, became a musicologist and critic of reknown.
THE BOOK might well have concluded at this point. However, Roberto Illiano has included an extra 149 pages in celebration of the Dallapiccola centenary in 2004, which follow logically on from the essays on Malipiero. Dallapiccola, who came of age and began his career under Fascism, inherited, more than anyone else, the independent thinking of the Venetian composer. Ironically, late in life, Malipiero adopted a serial language whose characteristics were introduced into Italy by the younger composer decades earlier, thus forming a sort of aesthetic circle that is reflected in the editorial design of the entire volume.
Charles S. Maier and Karen Painter begin their joint essay '"Songs of a prisoner": Luigi Dallapiccola and the politics of voice under Fascism' by outlining with decisive clarity the musical landscape of Mussolini's Italy. They try in earnest the 'black and white' approach: casella, aesthetically open but politically cautious; neoclassicism vs Fascism; casella vs Adorno; and so on. However, after a couple of pages, the scholars fall inevitably into the grey areas and the myriads shades which characterise not only the Fascist ventennio but the whole of Italian history. Maier and Painter's thesis, a very valid one, is based on the precept that any music that carries a political message is mediated by the use of the human voice. The chorus, for instance, would convey a message of political solidarity - an opinion, I may add, strongly advocated by Mazzini in his Filosofia della musica since 1836. The solo voice, by contrast, implicitly threatened the collective consensus.
'"Sed libera nos a malo:" dai Canti di Prigionia ai Canti Ji Lieerazione' is the title of the essay contributed by Roberto Illiano and Luca Sala. Sala explains that, for Dallapiccola, the adoption of a strict dodecaphonic style was similar to an act of liberation from the common musical sense, language and discourse that informed the racial laws of 1938. Therefore, for the composer, this was a way to manifest his anti-Fascist sentiments and political involvement. In fact, throughout the rest of his illustrious career, Dallapiccola elaborated upon his feelings and sentiments originating in the war years. On the more technical side of his analysis, Sala points out affinities between serial elements in Dallapiccola's music that shift from one composition to another, particularly, in this case, between Il prigioniero and Canti diprigionia. For his part, Roberto Illiano illustrates several instances in which Dallapiccola's labor limae is always work in progress. Indeed, such fine tuning begins for Dallapiccola after the composition is actually completed.
Graham H. Phipps's essay 'The classical Italian vocal tradition meets the New Vienna School: Dallapiccola's Liriche greche' discusses at length and very persuasively the many affinities of the use of the voice, or vocaliea, by the composers of Second Viennese School and Italian composers headed by Dallapiccola. Ben Earl's 'The avant-garde artist as superman: aesthetics and politics in Dallapiccola's Volo di notte' concludes this outstanding collection of writings in a clear, exhaustive and truly interdisciplinary fashion, offering the reader, through a set of 12 mini-chapters, a magnificent cultural, historical and technical analysis of Dallapiccola's opera Volo dinotte and the original novel Vol de nuit by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
ROBERTO ILLIANO has done an impressive job coordinating both contributors and contributions pouring in from various parts of the globe, while keeping a stylistic sense of unity - preserving divergent points of views and various writers' idiosyncrasies. He has supervised the making of a typographically superb book, an accomplishment in itself much to be commended. Everything in this volume denotes seriousness of research and disciplined enthusiasm. But this book is not an easy read. Each of the 23 essays requires a different forma mentis on the reader's part, according to language, content and length. Laureto Rodoni's huge contribution is a book in itself, dwarfing a bit the other essays as it takes four times as much time to read and ponder than the others. The reader can also become overwhelmed by the avalanche of topics presented in this book. But it is the feeling of 'satisfied dissatisfaction' which, like gluttony, becomes evermore demanding. Here are, for instance, some desiderata. Franco Alfano, Ildebrando Pizzetti and Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari could have received individual attention had not so much space been devoted to Malipiero. Musical historiography and musicology, music education, sacred music (what about the Perosis, the Casimiris, and all those 'frocked ' musicians who balanced themselves on the precarious wire between church and state?). Women in music might have received attention too, figures such as Maria Tibaldi-Chiesa, Barbara Giuranna and Gioconda De Vito. An essay on the music publishing and recording industries would have been of interest, as well as studies of Italian music of the period in the Americas; millions of Italian there were very attuned to the political, social, and cultural developments in their homeland under Mussolini. Finally, why not celebrate the centennial of Goffredo Petrassi as well as of Dallapiccola? Could these ideas be developed in a companion volume?
With 23 outstanding essays to experience, it is natural to develop preferences in ways of language, style, content or simply personal interest at a particular reading stage. However, scholars will return time and time again to these pages, redeveloping new preferences, sharpening their Spanish, German, English, and Italian, and discovering the subtle differences among the philosophies of older and younger scholars and the personal circumstances that pervade their stories.
There is no doubt that Roberto Illiano's book is the best contribution to Italian music in the Fascist Period to have appeared in print in the last 20 years. This volume is an outstanding scholarly achievement.
Franco Sciannameo is College Distinguished Scholar in Multidisciplinary Studies in the College of Fine Arts at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Copyright Musical Times Publications, Ltd. Summer 2006
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