Composer(s): Arditi, Busoni, Sgambati, Tosti
When I started studying the piano, virtuoso and agile repertoires always attracted me, however, when I began to play along with singers and then, encouraged by my teachers, I undertook the study of singing, I found out that piano could “sing” as well as accompany.
Therefore, in my personal chamber repertoire I have always tried to develop a dialogic discourse between voice and instrument as though they were a sole auditory source.
I realized this record with the aim of giving the listener a musical conversation that combines two seemingly different elements like wood, hammers, strings , metal pedals, damper felts and piano alloy steel strings with the matter “human body” made of flesh, muscles, tendons, bones, oropharyngeal, cranial and tracheal cavities which develop the production and diffusion of sound-singing.
During a trip to England, I learned about two Italian composers of the end of 1800, Luigi Arditi and Francesco Paolo Tosti, who, in United Kingdom, have been very successful thanks to their rich chamber repertoire. As a result of this experience, I felt the desire to delve into their creations. Their pieces, mostly vocal, enlivened the royal salons whereas in Italy they used to be underestimated by the accredited musicological environment since romanza da salotto was considered less important than opera. Such prejudice prevailed until a few years ago though many writers of the period (D’Annunzio, Negri, Costa) contributed by writing memorable lyrics for this vocal genre. I also fancied the idea that authors’ last names Arditi &Tosti (in English Brave&Tough, T.N.), could be qualitative characteristics of their personality, if treated as adjectives. […] (Translation by Chiara Damia)
Ferruccio Busoni: (b Empoli, 1 April 1866; d Berlin, 27 July 1924). Italian composer and pianist, active chiefly in Austria and Germany. Much to his detriment as composer and aesthetician, he was lionized as a keyboard virtuoso. The focus of his interests as a performer lay in Bach, Mozart and Liszt, while he deplored Wagner. Rejecting atonality and advocating in its place a Janus-faced ‘Junge Klassizität’, he anticipated many later developments in the 20th century. His interests ranged from Amerindian folk music and Gregorian chant to new scales and microtones, from Cervantes and E.T.A. Hoffmann to Proust and Rilke. Only gradually, during the final decades of the 20th century, has his significance as a creative artist become fully apparent.
Francesco Paolo Tosti: (b Ortano sul Mare, 9 April 1846; d Rome, 2 Dec 1916). Italian song composer and singing teacher. He entered the Naples Conservatory in 1858, studying the violin under Pinto and composition under Conti and Mercadante. In 1869, illness and overwork as maestrino at the college enforced a period of convalescence in Ortano. There he wrote Non m’ama più and Lamento d’amore, songs which subsequently became popular but which he initially found difficult to publish. Sgambati helped Tosti establish himself in Rome (where his admirers included D’Annunzio) by composing a ballad for a concert at the Sala Dante which Tosti himself sang in addition to his own works. Princess Margherita of Savoy (later Queen of Italy) was present and immediately appointed him her singing teacher and shortly thereafter curator of the court music archives. Tosti first visited London in 1875, and then made annual spring visits until he settled there in 1880. In the same year he was appointed singing teacher to the royal family, and from 1894 he was professor of singing at the RAM. He became a British subject in 1906, was knighted in 1908, and retired to Italy in 1912.
The songs Forever, Goodbye, Mother, At Vespers, Amore, Aprile, Vorrei morire and That Day were among his earliest successes in England. He was a prolific composer to Italian, French and English texts, with a graceful, fluent melodic style that quickly found favour among singers of drawing-room songs and ballads; the ballad ‘alla Tosti’ also found many imitators. His Vocal Albums, the 15 duets Canti popolari abruzzesi, and later songs such as Mattinata and Serenata all enjoyed great success.
Giovanni Sgambati: (b Rome, 28 May 1841; d Rome, 14 Dec 1914). Italian composer, pianist and conductor. He first played the piano in public at the age of six and soon afterwards began to compose. After the death of his father in 1849 he moved with the family to Trevi, where he continued his musical studies with Natalucci, a pupil of Zingarelli. In 1860 he returned to Rome, where he quickly made his mark as a pianist, studied counterpoint with Giovanni Aldega and in 1866 received the diploma di socio onorario of the Accademia di S Cecilia. Meanwhile, in 1862, he had met Liszt, who at once recognized his talent, seriousness and receptivity to the various types of non-operatic music then neglected in Italy. He became Liszt’s pupil and protégé, and the two remained close friends until the older man’s death. This friendship was decisive for Sgambati’s development, and in return he did much to promote Liszt’s music (along with that of other important foreign composers). In 1866–7 he introduced the Dante Symphony to Italy and conducted the première of the first part of Christus.
In 1869 Liszt took him to Germany, where he met Anton Rubinstein and first encountered the music of Wagner, whom he was to meet in 1876 in Rome. On that occasion Wagner was impressed by Sgambati’s two piano quintets and recommended them to Schott for publication. By then Sgambati had become internationally known as a pianist; he played in England in 1882 and 1891 and in many other countries. In 1881 he was offered a teaching post at the Moscow Conservatory, which he refused. He evidently did not wish to uproot himself from Rome, where he had made lasting and important contributions to the city’s musical life. Notable among these was his founding (in collaboration with Ettore Pinelli) of the Liceo Musicale (later Conservatorio) di S Cecilia, linked to the much older Accademia. The Liceo began informally, as early as 1869, as a free school for poor piano students in Sgambati’s house; in 1877 it was put on an official basis, and he continued to teach there until his death.
Sgambati is of unquestionable historical importance as a leading figure in the late 19th-century resurgence of non-operatic music in Italy. Yet his works have endured far less well than those of his younger contemporary Martucci. He nevertheless had a fluent talent, and a movement such as the First Piano Quintet’s mercurial scherzo, which begins and ends in fast 5/8 time, shows that in his youth he was not without originality. Occasionally later pieces, too, reveal signs of independent thinking, as in the unexpectedly adventurous Prelude in the Suite op.16 (published as op.21), with its piquant, glittering dissonances. Nor was he without Italian characteristics, despite the influence of various foreign composers, from Mendelssohn, Chopin and Schumann to Liszt. Like Martucci’s, his music sometimes has a sunlit radiance reminiscent of Domenico Scarlatti (see, for instance, the Gigue published as op.23 no.6), and at other times there are reminders of Liszt’s consciously ‘Mediterranean’ side – the fifth Nocturne op.24 (op.31), with its languid cantabile melodies and its indolent diatonic dissonances, might almost be called a ‘poor man’s Sonetto di Petrarca’.
Even in compositions such as these, however, the danger of lapsing into facile, easy-going charm, with repetitive rhythms and figurations, is not altogether overcome, and such dangers weigh heavily on many other pieces. Moreover, Sgambati’s larger instrumental works (with the possible exceptions of the early quintets) do not indicate that he needed large abstract musical forms to embody his ideas. The D minor Symphony is more satisfactory than the Piano Concerto precisely because it is lighter and less pretentious. Even the once internationally popular String Quartet in C minor is too rhapsodic, and at times too turgid, to convince as a whole. Nevertheless, for all their shortcomings, these works played an essential part in preparing the ground for more durable Italian instrumental music; and special mention should be made of the Requiem, repeatedly used at Italian royal funerals, whose sober dignity and manifest sincerity can still impress, despite the extreme conservatism of the style.
Luigi Arditi: (b Crescentino, Piedmont, 22 July 1822; d Hove, Sussex, 1 May 1903). Italian conductor and composer. He studied the violin and composition at Milan Conservatory with Bernardo Ferrara for violin and Nicola Vaccai for composition. From this period come many of his chamber and orchestral works today found at the Milan Conservatory. His first opera, I briganti, was given there in 1841. Arditi began to work as first violin-conductor in Vercelli and in Milan, 1842–46, in minor opera houses like Teatro Re and Teatro Carcano. After working in Vercelli and Milan, 1842–6, he went with Bottesini to Havana, where he worked at the Teatro Imperial and directed a one-act opera, Il corsaro, at the Teatro de Tacón in 1847. He later conducted in Canada (1853) and the USA (1854–6), and his opera La spia was produced in New York in 1856. His later compositions were mostly occasional orchestral pieces and songs, notably the famous vocal waltz, Il bacio.
After European tours Arditi settled in London as conductor at Her Majesty’s Theatre in 1858. He remained there for 11 years, conducting Italian operas and taking the company on tours, especially to Dublin. He made many tours to Europe, chiefly with Italian opera companies. In 1869 he succeeded Costa at Covent Garden for one year and followed this with seasons at the St Petersburg Italian Opera (1871 and 1873). From 1870 he conducted annually in Vienna, and from 1874 to 1877 directed the promenade concerts at Covent Garden. Between 1878 and 1894 Arditi was largely concerned with Mapleson’s annual opera tours of the USA, but he also worked at London theatres and toured with the Carl Rosa company (1894). His Reminiscences were published in London in 1896. Shaw wrote of him: ‘He can conduct anything, and come off without defeat’. Arditi’s considerable contribution to London musical life included the introduction of 23 important operas; these included new works, among them Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera (1861) and La forza del destino (1867), Gounod’s Faust (1863), Thomas’ Hamlet and Mignon and Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer (1870), Boito’s Mefistofele (1880) and Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana (1891); and also works of historical significance such as Cherubini’s Médée (1865) and Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride (1866).
Luciani, Antonio (Pianist)
Vulpi, Marta (Soprano) After completing a classical high school education, she took a diploma in piano and graduated as a singer, with top grades and honors, from the Santa Cecilia Conservatory of Music in Rome, under the tutelage of tenor Angelo Degl’Innocenti. She then attended Master Classes with Charlotte Lehmann, Margaret Baker, Sesto Bruscantini, Enzo Dara, Katia Ricciarelli, Giuseppe Sabbatini, Daniela Dessì and Gabriella Tucci. She has won various scholarships, as well as national and international competitions, including the “G. Di Stefano”, “G. Pavese” and “O. Ziino”. In 2003 she was awarded the “G. Verdi” International Music Prize. She devotes herself to Italian and foreign operatic, symphonic and chamber repertoires, singing regularly in Latin, English, French, German, Spanish and Russian under direction of Wolfgang Sawallisch, Myung Wung Chung, Yuri Temirkanov, George Pretre, Luis Bacalov, James Conlon, Ennio Morricone and Antonio Pappano.