About this Recording
2.110324 - MUSICAL JOURNEY (A) – ITALIAN FESTIVAL: A Musical Celebration of Italy (NTSC)
English 

Italian Festival
With music by Ruggiero Leoncavallo, César Cui, Jules Massenet, Charles Gounod, Luigi Denza, Benjamin Godard, Franz Liszt and Felix Mendelssohn

 

CHAPTER 1

Sestri Levante: Fishing Boats

Liguria stretches from the French border to the northern border of Tuscany. Sestri Levante is a popular coastal resort, lying between Genoa and La Spezia.

Music Leoncavallo: Mattinata

Leoncavallo’s song Mattinata was written in 1904 for Caruso and the G & T recording company. This and the opera Pagliacci are the two significant successes of an uneven career, and it is for these compositions that Leoncavallo is chiefly remembered.

CHAPTER 2

Sestri Levante: Harbour

The rocks round the harbour at Sestri Levante provide a place for fishing by rod and line. In the distance can be seen the neighbouring settlements of Cinque Terre.

Music Cui: Tarantella

Russian composers were among those who found interest in Italy, which offered holiday resorts for travellers. César Cui, one of the five leading nationalist Russian composers of the later 19th century, was of French descent and served as a professor of military engineering, in addition to his musical activities. For his Tarantella he drew inspiration from Naples and the South, recreating the exotic dance that some said was provoked by the sting of the tarantula.

CHAPTER 3

Montepulciano and Contucci Vineyard

Set on a hill-top in eastern Tuscany, the historic town of Montepulciano is at the centre of a thriving wine-producing area. The Contucci family have had a close association with Montepulciano and its industry for some five hundred years. Grapes are collected from the Contucci vines and pressed.

Music Massenet: Scènes napolitaines – I. La danse

The French composer Jules Massenet captures the magic of Italy in the three scenes from Naples that form his fifth orchestral suite, written in 1876. The first of the three scenes suggests the tarantella in its rhythms.

CHAPTER 4

Montepulciano and Contucci Vineyard

Scenes from the old town of Montepulciano include the figure of the bell-ringer on the clock tower, while in the fields grape-pickers are busy with the annual harvest.

Music Massenet: Scènes napolitaines – II. La procession et l’improvisateur – III. La fête

Bells are heard as the procession starts, a contrast to the lively actions of the street-entertainer. With the festival all is movement and celebration.

CHAPTER 5

Montepulciano and San Biagio

The Church of the Madonna of San Biagio, by the elder Antonio da Sangallo, who lived in the first half of the 16th century, lies below the city walls of Montepulciano. The alleys, houses and historic buildings of the city are seen, with the main square and the Palazzo Comunale.

Music Gounod: Saltarello

The French composer Charles Gounod’s Saltarello dates from 1865, an imaginative version of the popular Italian dance of the title, a cousin of the Tarantella.

CHAPTER 6

Genoa: Cable Car

The funicular in Genoa takes passengers up the hill to Righi, where terraces provide a fine view of the city below.

Music Denza: Funiculì, funiculà

A prolific composer and ar one time a professor of singing at the Royal Academy of Music in London, Luigi Denza is chiefly remembered for his song Funiculi, funiculà, one of some five hundred songs, but so well known that it was later taken as a folk-song by Richard Strauss, who used it in his own evocation of Italy, Aus Italien. The work was also orchestrated by the Russian composer Rimsky-Korsakov.

CHAPTER 7

Florence: River Arno and Ponte Vecchio

The River Arno runs through Florence, crossed by various bridges. The most famous of these is the ancient crossing-point of the Ponte Vecchio, with its shops.

Music Godard: Scènes italiennes – I. Sérénade florentine

Parisian by birth, Benjamin Godard won a contemporary reputation principally as a composer of salon music. His three Italian Scenes open with a Florentine Serenade.

CHAPTER 8

Florence: Duomo

The Florence Duomo (Cathedral), with the adjacent bell-tower and baptistery, is famous, among other things, for its dome, devised by Brunelleschi. The East Door has bronze reliefs by Ghiberti, showing episodes in biblical history, from the Creation to Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, and the exterior walls of the cathedral are covered in coloured marble, white, green and red.

Music Godard: Scènes italiennes – II. Sicilienne

The second of Godard’s Italian Scenes is a Sicilienne, a dance the origins of which are attributed to Sicilian shepherds. It is characterized by a lilting dotted rhythm.

CHAPTER 9

Florence: Fountain of Neptune

The Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall of Florence since the Middle Ages, dominates the Piazza della Signoria. Here Michelangelo’s David was erected in 1504, although it has now been replaced by a copy, in order to preserve the original. Other sculpture is seen in the piazza, with its Neptune fountain, which includes carvings by Giambologna. The Palazzo degli Uffizi, which houses a famous art collection, leads from the Piazza della Signoria to the River Arno.

Music Godard: Scènes italiennes – III. Tarantelle

The third and final Italian Scene by Godard is a Tarantella, a lively dance, stemming either from Taranto or, as suggested, from the effect of the bite of the tarantula spider.

CHAPTER 10

Montepulciano: Landscape and Il Castello

The 13th century Castello in Montepulciano is now used for weddings and for holiday bookings. The outer walls are of brick and Travertine stone, and the interior is very considerably restored.

Music Liszt: Tarantella

Liszt’s Venezia e Napoli (Venice and Naples) was a supplement to his second year of pilgrimage, a collection of piano pieces inspired by Italy, where he had temporarily settled in 1839 with his mistress, the Countess d’Agoult. The supplement includes the Tarantella, on themes collected by Guillaume-Louis Cottrau, an evocation of Naples, here in an orchestral version.

CHAPTER 11

Venice

Gondolas sway on the waters of the canals of Venice, its buildings seen through the mists and cold of winter.

Music Mendelssohn: Venetian Gondolier’s Song

Felix Mendelssohn was able to spend time in Italy as a young man, enjoying the Grand Tour that was also to take him north to Scotland. His Gondolier’s Song is an orchestrated version of one of his popular short piano pieces, a Song without Words.

Keith Anderson

Recording

‘Italian Festival’: Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra cond. Ondrej Lenárd [Naxos 8.550087]


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