About this Recording
8.223397 - MALIPIERO: Finto Arlecchino (Il) / Vivaldiana / Invenzioni
English 

Gian Francesco Malipiero (1882 -1973)

Gian Francesco Malipiero (1882-1973)

 

Judged by his best works, Gian Francesco Malipiero (1882-1973) was arguably the most impressive, and certainly the most original, member of that unjustly-neglected generation of Italian composers born around 1880 which in Italy is known as the "generazione dell' Ottanta". Luigi Dallapiccola (1904-75), the most celebrated Italian composer of the next generation, even went so far as to describe him, on at least one occasion, as "the most important [musical] personality that Italy has had since the death of Verdi". However, Malipiero was also exceptionally prolific, and undeniably the quality of his music is variable - as is the case, indeed, with most such hyper-productive composers of recent times: Hindemith, Martinu, Milhaud and Villa-Lobos are well-known instances.

 

With such composers, whose irrepressible creative urges sometimes outran their powers of self-criticism, it is important to focus especially on their best music, which alone can give the measure of their artistic statures. The most substantial of the four works here recorded is undoubtedly the Sette invenzioni (1933), which gives a fair idea of the special qualities of Malipiero's finest instrumental pieces of the 1930s and '40s - the period when he wrote his first seven numbered symphonies and several notable concertos (including the splendid First Violin Concerto of 1932), as well as such radiantly lyrical chamber compositions as the Sonata a cinque and the Fourth String Quartet (both 1934).

 

The Sette invenzioni, together with the lighter and more straightforwardly tuneful Quattro invenzioni of the same year, have an unusual history which has only recently been correctly understood, thanks to the researches of Paolo Pinamonti, Fabrizio Borin and Paolo Cattelan, who have shown that the composer's own statements on the subject were sometimes misleading. It has always been known that the music in both sets of invenzioni was at one time intended for use in the sound track of a film called Acciaio ("Steel"), directed by Walter Ruttmann and rather high-handedly adapted from a scenario provided by Pirandello. As things turned out, only some of Malipiero's music was used in the film - tiresomely mingled (to his understandable chagrin) with commonplace light music by other hands. It was, no doubt, the subsequent urge to dissociate his music from this experience that led him to declare, in an note dated 1952, that ¡§These Sette invenzioni were not 'composed' for a film but written just as they are in this score, and then adapted to the film more or less mechanically¡¨. ¡§It is strange¡¨, the note continues, ¡§but despite the suffering caused by the collaboration, this work is particularly dear to me, almost like a happy memory, whereas in fact it is nothing of the kind¡¨.

 

Study of the composer's sketches has shown, however, that the music of all eleven invenzloni was in fact originally written for Acciaio, and only subsequently adapted and assembled for concert use. For instance, the last of the Sette invenzioni, with its harshly dissonant opening and closing sections, was designed to be juxtaposed with the recorded noises of a steel foundry in one of the film's most visually inventive episodes. Other movements were run together from more than one distinct passage of film music, and the overall effect is undeniably discursive. Yet this is so completely in keeping with the nature of the basic material - and indeed with Malipiero's musical personality in general - that, far from being a defect, it is an important part of the music's special charm. When listening to the Sette invenzioni, one should not expect to find clear-cut musical structures: only occasionally do ideas recur significantly, the most prominent instance being the thematic cross-reference between the third movement and the fifth. Otherwise the music presents an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of evocative imagery, enhanced by a bright, crisply colourful orchestral fabric. The pervading melodic style is pastoral in tone and modal in syntax; and the third invenzione, in particular, has all the free-ranging yet relentless energy of Malipiero's best fast symphony movements.

 

Having been conceived for the same purpose, the Quattro invenzioni naturally have characteristics in common with the Sette. However, they are scored for a smaller orchestra (with a delightfully effective part for piano duet in the last movement); and the relatively large amount of repetition - there are even some immediate repeats of whole passages - gives them a rather more formal air, with intermittent neo-18th-century overtones. The openings of the second and third movements, with their drone basses and simple, clear-cut melodies, resemble musettes in a late Baroque suite. The resultant atmosphere is rustic as well as archaic: the Quattro invenzioni were originally written for scenes in the film depicting village life, the inside of an inn, a country fair. Unfortunately Ruttmann rejected this music in its entirety, and Malipiero - exaggeratedly, though perhaps understandably in the circumstances - in due course repudiated it. Only in 1991 did the Quattro invenzioni have their first Italian performance.

 

Even more frankly 18th-century in its associations is the music from the opera II finto Arlecchino (1925) which the composer subsequently gathered together to form the recently-discovered "frammenti musicali", recorded for the present disc soon after their long-delayed world première. Compared with Malipiero's major operas, such as Sette canzoni (1918-19) or Torneo notturno (1929) or La favola dei figlio cambiato (1932-3), II finto Arlecchino is a light-weight affair - not so much a convincing drama as an amiably inconsequential, deliberately "mannered" evocation of 18th-century Venice. The brief, slow second "frammento" - which is identical with the orchestral prelude to the opera's second scene - is almost a pastiche of real 18th-century music; while other passages - such as the brightly dissonant fast music that immediately follows, at the beginning of the third "frammento" - have a pungent zest which parallels neo-classical Stravinsky. A strong element of parody can be sensed (even when the music is divorced from its operatic context) in the pompous fugue that opens the fourth "frammento", which in the opera accompanies the absurd Don Ottavio's grotesque contribution to a song-contest.

 

An unpretentious but logical conclusion to Malipiero's creative dialogue with 18th-century music is provided by Vivaldiana (1952), in which he used - and re-orchestrated - actual material from the works of his famous Venetian predecessor. Being also a distinguished musicologist, Malipiero had become president of the Istituto Italiano Antonio Vivaldi, which in 1947 had begun to publish the "red priest's" complete instrumental music; he himself edited several volumes of the series. Before long he felt the need to do something freer and more creative with the material he was editing: as he characteristically put it, "I took the poor Red Priest and masked him in my own way: in my own way up to a point, that is, because nothing has been changed in the music's form, harmony or rhythm". Vivaldiana is indeed an imaginatively colourful transcription for a classical orchestra (consisting of double woodwind, two horns and strings) of excerpts from six different Vivaldi concertos: these are gathered together into three double movements, each of them subdivided by a change of tempo and character.

 

John C.G. Waterhouse

 

Veneto Philharmonic Orchestra

 

The Orchestra "Filarmonia Veneta" was established in 1980 with a complement of 45 musicians, augmented as occasion demands. The orchestra is active principally in the Veneto region of Italy, in collaboration with the theatres of Treviso and Rovigo in their opera seasons and in the Summer Opera Festival of Bassano. Performances have been given under distinguished conductors and with well known soloists. The orchestra, under the direction of Peter Maag, has also provided the instrumental element in the Bottega international workshop for young singers and musicians. Additional performances include a staging of Falstaff that opened the 1990 season of the Teatro dell'Opera Giocosa at Savona and performances of the three Mozart - Lorenzo da Ponte operas at the Teatro Vittorio Emanuele of Messina in the Mozart bicentenary year.

 

Peter Maag

 

Peter Maag has long enjoyed a position of distinction as an operatic and orchestral conductor. He was born in St. Gall in 1919 into a musical family and after studies in philosophy and theology at the University of Zürich, studied the piano in Paris with Alfred Cortok and worked in Ganeva with Ernest Ansermet. After a period as student - assistant to Wilhelm Furtwängler, he started his career as music director of the provincial Swiss opera-house of Biel-Solothurn. Five years later, on Furtwängler's recommendation, he became first Kapellmeister in Düsseldorf, followed in 1955 by appointment as Generalmusikdirektor in Bonn. He made his American début in the concert-hall with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in 1959, the year of his début at Glyndebourne and Covent Garden, followed in 1961 by his operatic début in Chicago. In 1972 he made his Metropolitan debut with Don Giovanni. He has continued a distinguished career in opera in the major opera-houses of Europe and has conducted many of the most famous orchestras in the world today. Since 1984 Peter Maag has served as Music Director of the Berne Symphony Orchestra, and is, in addition, Music Director of the Padova Ghamber Orchestra and Principal Conductor of the Teatre La Fanica in Venice. During the last forty years he has recorded for Deutsche Grammophon, Decca, AGA, Conifer, Danon, Vox/Turnabout, Supraphon and Westminster, and is at present recording the complete Mozart Symphonies for RAI Roma.


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