Artist(s): Italian Saxophone Quartet, Federico Mondelci, Soprano Sax | Davide Bartelucci, Alto Sax | Pasquale Cesare, Tenor Sax |Michele Paolino, Bariton Sax
In this album, dedicated to Italian composers, the Italian Saxophone Quartet contrasts three great composers of the past, Antonio Vivaldi, Domenico Scarlatti, and Gioachino Rossini, with three extraordinary composers of film music, Nino Rota, Ennio Morricone, and Nicola Piovani.
To better understand the proposal and the stylistic choices of this CD, it is helpful to consider some historical aspects of the evolution of the saxophone quartet literature.
The saxophone is the only acoustic instrument in the history of music whose invention can be ascribed to a single person. Its inventor, the Belgian Adolphe Sax (Dinant, November 6, 1814 – Paris, February 7, 1894), from whom the instrument takes its name, created a whole family of saxophones in 1840 that included all the voices, from the low to high registers.
The news was resounding, and success for the invention was not long in coming. In June of 1842, Hector Berlioz wrote an article in the “Journal des Débats” in which he highlighted the merits of Adolphe Sax as an eclectic inventor and acousticist. In this article, Berlioz stated his strong appreciation for the new instrument: “The sound of the saxophone is of such a nature that I do not know another instrument currently in use that is able to be compared to it. A beautiful, soft, full, vibrant sound with enormous power, yet capable of sweetness.”[…] (Translation by ISQ)
Antonio Vivaldi: (b Venice, 4 March 1678; d Vienna, 27/8 July 1741). Italian composer. The most original and influential Italian composer of his generation, he laid the foundations for the mature Baroque concerto. His contributions to musical style, violin technique and the practice of orchestration were substantial, and he was a pioneer of orchestral programme music.
Domenico Scarlatti (b Naples, 26 Oct 1685; d Madrid, 23 July 1757). Composer and harpsichordist, sixth child of (1) Alessandro Scarlatti and Antonia Anzaloni. He never used his first Christian name (which could have led to confusion with his nephew Giuseppe): his name is always given in Italy as Domenico (or the familiar Mimo) Scarlatti, and in Portugal and Spain as Domingo Escarlate (Escarlati or Escarlatti).
Ennio Morricone: (b Rome, 10 Nov 1928). Italian composer. A favourite pupil of Petrassi, he also deputized secretly for his trumpeter father in a light music orchestra. He thus developed two distinct sides to his musical personality: one of these led him to embrace serialism (e.g. in Distanze and Musica per 11 violini, 1958) and the experimental work of the improvisation group Nuova Consonanza (from 1965); the other gained him a leading role, principally as an arranger, in all types of mass-media popular music, including songs for radio, radio and television plays, and the first successful television variety shows. In the early days of the record industry his innovative contribution played a decisive part in the success of the first Italian singer-songwriters (‘cantautori’), including Gianni Morandi and Gino Paoli.
After many minor cinematic collaborations, Morricone achieved wider recognition with Sergio Leone’s series of four Westerns, beginning with Per un pugno di dollari (1964). There followed important collaborations with directors such as Bernardo Bertolucci (from 1964), Pier Paolo Pasolini (from 1966) and Elio Petri (from 1968), and particularly successful films with Paolo and Vittorio Taviani (Allonsanfàn, 1974; Il prato, 1979), Valerio Zurlini (Il deserto dei tartari, 1976), Roland Joffe (The Mission, 1986) and Brian De Palma (Casualties of War, 1989). Despite inevitable self-repetitions over a total of more than 400 film scores, his work provides many examples of a highly original fusion of classical and popular idioms: this is noticeable already, albeit in somewhat crude form, in Leone’s series of Westerns, where the music for the opening titles juxtaposes three distinct types of music: a synthetic folk idiom, using the jew’s harp, acoustic guitar and harmonica to accompany human whistling; a contemporary, urban rock sound, featuring the electric guitar; and an unabashedly sentimental choral-orchestral style. With Giù la testa (1971) Morricone entered an experimental phase in which he developed a technique based on melodic, rhythmic or harmonic ‘modules’ (usually of 4, 8 or 16 beats in length), each differently characterized and often featuring a particular instrument. These are juxtaposed and combined to create very different stylistic atmospheres. The most impressive application of the modular technique is found in The Mission, where the single modules, more extended and clearly defined than before, interact dialectically, assuming very clear symbolic functions.
Morricone’s non-film works form a large and increasingly widely performed part of his output. Many of them use his technique of ‘micro-cells’, a pseudo-serial approach often incorporating modal and tonal allusions, which, with its extreme reduction of compositional materials, has much in common with his film-music techniques. His most fruitful season of concert-music composition began with the Second Concerto for flute, cello and orchestra (1985, from which the Cadenza for flute and tape of 1988 is derived) and continued with Riflessi (1989–90), three pieces for cello which represent perhaps the highpoint of his chamber music output, attaining a high degree of lyrical tension.
Morricone is an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and a Commendatore dell’Ordine ‘Al Merito della Repubblica Italiana’. Among other honours, he has received four Academy Award nominations, a Grammy and a Leone d’oro. In 2000 he was awarded the Laurea Honoris Causa by the University of Cagliari. Between 1991 and 1996 he taught film music (sharing a post with Sergio Miceli) at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana, Siena.
Gioacchino Rossini: (b Pesaro, 29 Feb 1792; d Passy, 13 Nov 1868). Italian composer. No composer in the first half of the 19th century enjoyed the measure of prestige, wealth, popular acclaim or artistic influence that belonged to Rossini. His contemporaries recognized him as the greatest Italian composer of his time. His achievements cast into oblivion the operatic world of Cimarosa and Paisiello, creating new standards against which other composers were to be judged. That both Bellini and Donizetti carved out personal styles is undeniable; but they worked under Rossini’s shadow, and their artistic personalities emerged in confrontation with his operas. Not until the advent of Verdi was Rossini replaced at the centre of Italian operatic life.
Nicola Piovani: (b Rome, 26 May 1946). Italian composer. He studied privately and after graduating in the piano at the Milan Conservatory (1967) became a pupil of Manos Hadjidakis (1969). Of his more than 80 film scores, the first was for Silvano Agosti. A spare, personal idiom – contemporary but also suffused with archaic traces – is to be found in his work with Marco Bellochio (Nel nome del Padre, 1970; Sbatti il mostro in prima pagina, 1973; Marcia trionfale, 1975) and the Taviani brothers (La notte di San Lorenzo, 1982; Kaos, 1984; Good Morning Babylon, 1987; Il sole anche di notte, 1990). His scores for Fellini (Ginger and Fred, 1985; L’intervista, 1987; La voce della luna, 1990), however, are memorable more for the prestige they brought than for their expressive qualities. As well as other film collaborations with Sergio Citti, Mario Monicelli, Giuseppe Bertolucci, Luigi Magni, Nanni Moretti and Bigas Luna, Piovani has written a considerable amount of incidental music (for Carlo Cecchi, Luca De Filippo, Maurizio Scaparro and Vittorio Gassman) and has had great theatrical success with his racconti musicali on texts by Vincenzo Cerami (La Cantata del Fiore, 1988; La Cantata del Buffo, 1989). Other works include a musical, I setti re di Roma (1989), to a libretto by Luigi Magni, a ballet, Fellini (1995), further racconti musicali, Il signor Novecento (1992) and Canti di scena (1993), and chamber music, including an octet (Quattro canti senza parole), a piano trio (Il demone meschino), a flute and piano duo (Ballata epica) and a saxophone quartet (L’assassino). He has been awarded a Nastro d’argento.
Nino Rota: (b Milan, 3 Dec 1911; d Rome, 10 April 1979). Italian composer. He grew up surrounded by music: his mother Ernesta Rinaldi was a pianist and the daughter of the composer Giovanni Rinaldi (1840–95). At the age of eight he was already composing, and in 1923 a well-received performance of his oratorio L’infanzia di S Giovanni Battista established him as a child prodigy. In the same year he entered the Milan Conservatory, where his teachers included Giacomo Orefice. After a brief period of study with Pizzetti, he moved to Rome (1926), where he studied with Casella, and took his diploma at the Conservatorio di S Cecilia three years later. On the advice of Toscanini he studied at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia (1931–2) with Rosario Scalero (composition) and Fritz Reiner (conducting). He formed a friendship with Aaron Copland and discovered American popular song, cinema and the music of Gershwin: all these elements were grafted on to his passion for Italian popular song and operetta.
On his return to Italy, barely into his twenties, Rota attracted the attention of audiences and critics with a large body of music, predominantly chamber and orchestral works. At a time of open warfare between innovators and traditionalists (sustained by the mood established by the Fascist régime favouring warfare), Rota’s style, in part building on the example of Malipiero, displayed original characteristics. Works such as Balli (1932), the Viola Sonata (1934–5), the Quintet (1935), the Violin Sonata (1936–7) and his first two symphonies (1935–9 and 1937–41) show Rota’s trust in an unbroken link with the music of the past. This made Rota’s idiom exceptionally and uninhibitedly responsive to the widest variety of influences, supported, as it was, by a masterly technique, an elegant manner and a capacity for stylistic assimilation. His language at this time is strikingly different from the contemporary predominant directions in Italy. For example, the symphonies draw on a middle-European, Slav symphonic tradition (Tchaikovsky, but possibly Dvořák even more so), probably absorbed during his American period and already infused with cinematic mood. He contributed to the renewal of Italian music with a body of work that has an immediacy of gesture and is rooted in a rare lyricism, built on harmonic languages, formal structures and a rhythmic and melodic idiom which sound distinctive and original. Gianandrea Gavazzeni commented of the Sonata for flute and harp (1937) that he heard ‘the voice of an Italian Ravel, archaic, intimate, the voice of one who has invented a style that did not exist before’.
After World War II, Rota’s critical fortunes altered considerably when, in the wake of the post-Webern movement, his work was increasingly judged to be anachronistic. This opinion was strengthened by his growing establishment as a film composer, held by many to be insignificant and uninvolved in the contemporary music scene. He continued, however, to write music for the concert hall and the opera house, with a constant cross-fertilization between the two areas: for a European composer this was an oblique, pioneering approach. In film music he used his eclectic inclinations and treated the boundaries of the film medium as a challenge, so producing some of the finest music of the genre.
He became a lecturer at Bari Conservatory (1939), and later its director (1950–77). In 1942, Rota began his long collaboration with the Lux Film company, directed by, among others, Guido M. Gatti and Fedele D’Amico. He created the music for around 60 films in ten years by such directors as Renato Castellani (Mio figlio professore, Sotto il sole di Roma), Mario Soldati (Le miserie del signor Travet), Alberto Lattuada (Senza pietà, Anna) and Eduardo De Filippo (Napoli milionaria, Filumena Marturano). In 1952, with Lo sceicco bianco (The White Sheik), he began an association with Fellini which lasted until the composer’s death. Of their 16 films, some achieve an extraordinary marriage of music and image, such as I vitelloni, La strada, La dolce vita, 8½, Amarcord and Il Casanova di Federico Fellini. Although it is generally thought that the director dominated the composer, the situation was more subtle and problematic as the music was required to fulfil a narrative and psychological role, frequently featured at the expense of the text itself. Fellini’s film style owes a great deal to Rota’s virtuosity, adaptability and insight. Examples include the many circus marches inspired by Julius Fučík’s Einzug der Gladiatoren and the engaging parody of Weill’s Moritat von Mackie Messer in the theme of La dolce vita. In addition, Rota’s tendency to quote, sometimes to the point of plagiarism – the theme for Gelsomina in La strada is based on the Larghetto of Dvořák’s Serenade, op.22 – was a genuine inclination which converged with Fellini’s imagery, to the point where it identified with it and lent it dignity. Rota’s film career, amounting to over 150 titles, included collaborations with Luchino Visconti (Rocco e i suoi fratelli and Il gattopardo [The Leopard]) and directors such as René Clément, Franco Zeffirelli, King Vidor, Sergei Bondarchuk, as well as on the first two parts of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather.
Rota composed in a wide variety of genres, writing pieces of an almost provocative simplicity. His Ariodante (1942), audaciously 19th-century in manner, was followed by works reminiscent of operetta and vaudeville, such as I due timidi (1950), La notte di un nevrastenico (1959) and the overwhelming farce Il cappello di paglia di Firenze (1955). These works show an ability to produce instant sketches which the composer himself described as the product of his familiarity with the rhythm of film-making. Another favoured genre was that of the fairy tale as in Aladino e la lampada magica(1968) and La visita meravigliosa (1970), considered perhaps his finest score for the theatre.
The most significant orchestral works are the 3 piano concertos, the Sinfonia sopra una canzone d’amore (1947), the Variazioni sopra un tema gioviale (1953), Symphony No.3 (1956–7) and several concertos for various instruments. His piano and chamber music includes many original compositions, such as the 15 Preludes or the Due Valzer sul nome di Bach for piano (1975; re-used in Casanova), the Violin Sonata (1936–7), the String Quartet (1948–54), two trios (1958 and 1973) and a nonet (1959–77). His vocal music includes the oratorio Mysterium (1962) and the rappresentazione sacra, La vita di Maria (1968–70), in which a style derived in part from the neo-madrigalist manner of such composers as Petrassi and Dallapiccola results in an operatic-sounding eclecticism, with influences filtered through Stravinsky but rooted in other Eastern European styles (Musorgsky, for example).
Rota had frequent recourse to self-borrowing, increasingly apparent in the later film music and stage works. As a whole, Rota’s work is a dense web of continual, multiple references where – in line with the composer’s declared intention – film music and art music are allowed equal dignity. As early as Il cappello di paglia di Firenze he drew together material from preceding works, but it is particularly in a masterpiece like the ballet La strada (1966) and in the opera Napoli milionaria (1977) where self-quotation becomes a point of synthesis and revelation of his essential style. His first film score for Fellini, Lo sceicco bianco, stands out as a source-composition, a model of one of Rota’s specific musical languages; other scores for Fellini as well as Il cappello di paglia, Il giornalino di Gian Burrasca and the incidental music for Much Ado about Nothing draw material from it. La strada makes use of themes from many works, including Lo sceicco bianco, Le notti di Cabiria, Rocco e i suoi fratelli, Concerto soirée and 8½, while Napoli milionaria uses quotations from Filumena Marturano, Plein soleil, La dolce vita, Rocco e i suoi fratelli and Waterloo. Rota’s uninhibited language corresponds in aesthetic terms to this flood of quotation, and the two aspects offer new definitions of such terms as ‘new’ or ‘originality’.
Italian Saxophone Quartet (Saxophone Quartet),
Federico Mondelci, Soprano Sax
Davide Bartelucci, Alto Sax
Pasquale Cesare, Tenor Sax
Michele Paolino, Bariton Sax
The Italian Saxophone Quartet was founded in 1982 by four saxophone soloists, close friends determined to join together to perform chamber music for saxophone at the very highest artistic level. Now nearing the thirty-year mark as a group, they have played to wide acclaim in more than 500 concerts in Italy (including the most important concert institutions), France, Germany, Spain, Greece, Japan, USA, Sweden, Lebanon, Bermuda and Russia. The quartet’s concerts have been recorded and broadcast by the Italian RAI-Radio 1 and RAI-Radio 3 as well as by Swedish, German, Japanese and American national radios.
The quartet has won a number of important chamber music competitions including the unanimous First Prize, plus a special prize, at the prestigious “Premio Ancona” in Italy. Among their important projects, in 1999 the quartet performed Berio’s work “Outis” with the Symphony Orchestra of Milan’s Teatro alla Scala. They recently appeared as soloists with the Malipiero Symphony Orchestra in works by P. M. Dubois and A. Piazzolla, and collaborated with the Fonè String Quartet on the creation a new arrangement of the Art of the Fugue by J.S. Bach for string and saxophone quartets, which was premiered at the 22nd International Chamber Music Festival in Asolo. Since 2002 the ISQ’s annual tours of the United States have brought them to New York City (where they showcased at the annual Arts Presenters Conference), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and other venues in California, Florida, Georgia, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Idaho and Alaska. Recent international activities include concerts at the Bermuda International Festival, the Alicante Festival (Spain), the Oleg Kagan Musikfest in Munich (Germany), the Palaces of St. Petersburg Chamber Music Festival (Russia), and the Al Bustan Festival in Beirut (Lebanon). Highlights of their discography include two CDs on the Delos label and a CD of contemporary music on the Pentaphon label.