Francesco Cilea

Trio in D major for piano, violin and cello (Rev.Massimo Anfossi) DV 20116 56 Pages url

35,90 Euro

Trio in D major for piano, violin and cello, with parts (Rev.Massimo Anfossi) DV 20116P 78 Pages url

45,90 Euro

(b Palmi, Reggio Calabria, 23 July 1866; dVarazze, nr Savona, 20 Nov 1950). Italian composer and teacher. The son of a prominent lawyer, he was intended by his father for the same profession; however, the influence of Francesco Florimo, the famous archivist and friend of Bellini, procured him entry to the Naples Conservatory in 1879, where his teachers included Paolo Serrao, Beniamino Cesi and Giuseppe Martucci, and his fellow pupil Umberto Giordano. There he made rapid progress, becoming a maestrino in 1885. His Suite for orchestra (1887) was awarded a government prize and on 9 February 1889, his final year, his opera Gina was performed at the conservatory. Despite a poor libretto the editor Sonzogno thought sufficiently well of it to commission from him an opera on a fashionable low-life subject. La tilda was given with moderate successs at the Teatro Pagliano, Florence, with Rodolfo Ferrari as conductor and with Fanny Torresani in the title role. Sonzogno included it in his Italian opera season mounted later that year in Vienna, where it earned the gratifying approval of Hanslick. Cilea spent three years on the composition of his next opera, L’arlesiana, to a libretto based on Alphonse Daudet’s play, for which Bizet had supplied incidental music. The text of Rosa Mamai’s aria (‘Esser madre è un inferno’) was provided by Grazia Pierantoni, the wife of the senator in whose house Cilea was staying at the time. The opera was well received at its première at Sonzogno’s Teatro Lirico, Milan, where it helped to launch Caruso on his international career. Not until the following year, however, did L’arlesiana achieve its definitive three-act form.

In 1900 Cilea began work on his most famous opera, Adriana Lecouvreur, whose subject appealed to him because of its 18th-century ambience and its mixture of comedy and pathos. The première proved another triumph for Caruso as well as for the composer. At a season of operas mounted by Sonzogno at the Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt, Paris, in 1904, Alfred Bruneau singled out Adriana Lecouvreur as the worthiest product of the Italian ‘giovane scuola’. A projected collaboration with Gabriele D’Annunzio on Francesca da Rimini came to nothing owing to Sonzogno’s unwillingness to meet the poet’s financial demands. In his search for a subject that would offer a choral dimension Cilea turned to Gloria, a story of star-crossed lovers set in 14th-century Siena at the time of the siege. Despite the advocacy of Toscanini the opera was cooly received and failed to circulate; nor did a revised version of 1932 to a new text by Ettore Moschini fare substantially better. A last operatic attempt,Ritorno ad amore, foundered on Renato Simoni’s failure to complete the libretto. From then on Cilea ceased to compose for the stage. His only other large-scale work was the ‘Poema sinfonico’ Il canto della vita for tenor, chorus and orchestra, written to a text by Sem Benelli in commemoration of the Verdi centenary in 1913. The previous year Leopoldo Mugnone had conducted a revival of L’arlesianain Naples, for which he had persuaded the composer to enlarge the part of Vivetta and cut the aria of Rosa Mamai and her scene with L’Innocente. The result so disappointed Cilea that he withdrew the score from circulation for the next 20 years. It was not heard again until a radio transmission in 1932. The Museo Cilea in Palmi contains the manuscript of an unpublished ‘Intermezzo arlesiana’ dated 1938.

Until his retirement in 1935 Cilea pursued a distinguished career in musical education. He taught harmony and the piano at the Naples Conservatory from (1890–92), and held the chair of harmony and composition at the Istituto Reale (later the Conservatorio Luigi Cherubini) in Florence (1896–1904). In 1913 he assumed the directorship of the Palermo Conservatory, moving to that of the Naples Conservatory, a post which he held for nearly 20 years. He was elected to the Academy in 1938. Though justifiably proud of his record as a teacher, he regarded it as secondary to his operatic career, which he believed to have been blighted by the intrigues of others.

More of an all-round musician than most of his colleagues of the ‘giovane scuola’, Cilea shows a lighter touch. Besides Bellini, his chief gods were Bach, Beethoven and Chopin. An accomplished pianist, his keyboard writing is always inventive, and several of his pieces composed between the wars show an attempt to come to grips with the styles of Ravel and Casella. If his operas conform to the manner of Mascagni and his school, they never descend to brutal excess. Thematic recurrence plays an important part in them, even though the motifs themselves are rarely very theatrical. If Adriana Lecouvreur remains his most popular opera, largely due to its appeal to the aging prima donna, his best-loved single aria is the ‘Lamento di Federico’ from L’arlesiana, to this day one of the gems of the tenor repertory.

From The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians

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  1. Pingback: Trio Francesco Cilea – Massimo Anfossi

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