Notes about the composer
by Patrizia Di Martino
Aladino Di Martino was born on November 13th, 1908, in a small village of Molise, San Pietro Avellana in the province of Isernia. His father, Luigi, played in the village band; under his guidance, young Aladino began playing the trumpet at the age of eight. He immediately demonstrated skill and musical gifts; when he performed as a soloist in the musical ensemble of the Daunia, he elicited the audience’s applause. His mother, Giacinta Di Giacomo, was a simple but strong woman; she was the village seamstress, “the best”, in everyone’s opinion. She had five sons, two of whom would die during the war. Under the bombings, the village was destroyed. Luigi was forced to emigrate to America in search of fortune; however, after landing here, he vanished, leaving moneyless and in serious hardships the members of his original family in Italy (he would create a new family in America). Without despairing, and once more thanks to his mother Giacinta’s matter-of-factly intuitions, Aladino (whose name had been chosen as if dreaming of the fabulous East of the Arabian Nights), once finished the elementary school, began his musical studies in Naples, at the Convitto G. Verdi; this institution prepared his eventual admittance to the Conservatoire San Pietro a Majella in 1923.
At that time (1915-1935), the Conservatory was directed by a famous operatic composer, i.e. Francesco Cilea. Aladino underwent all of the normal examinations, under the guidance of teachers such as Emilia Gubitosi (solfege), Gennaro Napoli (composition), Giovanni Barbieri (piano) and Giuseppe Cotrufo (organ); afterwards, he obtained a diploma in composition, signed – once more – by Cilea; two years later, the young composer from Molise would dedicate his Scherzo op. 2 for the piano to him. In 1930, he applied for teaching posts in Bari and Foggia; there – as he liked to narrate – he was appointed directly, following the recommendation of director Francesco Cilea. Thus he began his activity as a teacher in Avellino, Foggia, Taranto and Bari. Shortly after, he won a competition for a Chair in Composition at the Conservatorio Umberto Giordano of Foggia, where he would meet the woman who would become his first wife – Luisa De Paola, a mezzosoprano. Sadly, Luisa would prematurely die towards the middle of the Forties. Once more in Foggia, a few years later, he would marry again, this time with a Conservatoire student of singing. His second wife, soprano Maria De Rienzo, was his junior by twenty-eight years. From their union were born three children: Gianluca (who died at the age of nine), Grazia and Patrizia.
In the meanwhile, he left Foggia (his city of election) for Naples: at the prestigious Conservatoire San Pietro a Majella he was appointed to the post of Professor of Composition, Fugue and Counterpoint. In Naples, by virtue of his fame as a composer and erudite professor, he gained acceptance into a musically elitist society. He also received recognitions: twice, he was awarded Honours as an Officer of the Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana under the Presidency of Gronchi, toward the end of the Fifties, and, twenty years later, he was nominated a Commendatore al Merito della Repubblica Italiana under the Presidency of Pertini.
His home, in Via Morghen 92, was full of students; they came from all over Italy, wishing to study with him not only at the Conservatoire, but also privately. Some of their names were those of Carlo Napoli, Renato Piemontese, Marco de Natale, Enrico Renna, Vincenzo De Gregorio, Carmen Mazzarino, Paola De Simone, Gaetano Panariello, and of a very young Riccardo Muti, who remembers him thus: “He was an excellent composer, a great teacher, a man of exquisite kindness. I knew Maestro Di Martino by utter chance; I had recently finished my studies at the Liceo Classico and was in the process of completing, with honours, my pianistic education, under the guidance of Maestro Vincenzo Vitale. Then, I was advised to turn to orchestra conducting, and thus I had to study harmony… So it happened that I was brought to him, who was considered, in those years, as the most knowledgeable expert on the rules of harmony. Even today, I am still grateful for the extraordinary foundations he gave me. What is the inheritance I owe to him today? The solidity of those first, fundamental teaching, whence originate my present awareness of the musical writing, and my fantasy when studying a score. And, if even today I can trust on having (pardon my presuming) such a well-prepared method of analysis, I owe it to him, to Aladino Di Martino”.
After an intensely lived compositional and pedagogic career, both in and for the musical South of Italy, choosing Naples as his fulcrum and his residence, he is remembered as one of the last outstanding figures in the Neapolitan tradition and in the Neapolitan school. Aladino Di Martino died, aged eighty-one, in his native village, San Pietro Avellana, on July 16th, 1989.
This is a youthful and lesser-known work for solo piano: forty-five measures in Allegro (per marcia), written and published in Foggia in 1935.
The genuine traits of the Neapolitan specificity are found in the Suite Napolitana, written for the piano and dedicated to the appreciated performer Ornella Puliti Santoliquido; the piece was also transcribed for orchestra. Its Neapolitan features seem suspended between the nineteenth- and twentieth century; it is a clear example of Di Martino’s capability to transfer into his own language the stylized forms of the Neapolitan song and of the tarantella. The result never becomes trivial or banally sentimental; rather, he modernizes these forms in the free atonality of the twentieth century.
This piano work, dating from his first period, is dedicated to Camillo Baccigalupi. The Toccata bears witness to the composer’s interest in and will to test the dialectics between experimented formal structures and a linguistic freedom respecting the mechanic-timbral peculiarity of the instrument. It won the Rispoli Prize in 1934.
Tema con Variazioni
This is a work with a strong character, on the planes of both technical difficulty and expression; it was composed and published in the second half of the Seventies. This theme with variations is developed on an original theme, characterized by a melody which comprises, and already puts into relief, all the elements of the variations which will follow. These seven variations, with a well-defined character, are developed in a felicitous articulation, always rich in new creative resources.
Introduzione e Burlesca
This suite is not only typical for the composer’s style (he was particularly fascinated by the short forms, those having genuine irony, humorous and a savoury local flavor), but also for this very genre in contemporaneous music. This work is articulated into four movements, each differently characterized in rhythm and melody; they embody the felicitous combination of the melancholic introductory Adagio and the brilliant Burlesca. Here, one finds a creative spirit with an uncommon feeling for harmony, rhythm and timbre.
Adagio e Allegro
The group of works with cello and piano, plus violin, in trio, reveal (even more than the other chamber music works) the composer’s deep knowledge of the absolute balance among instrumental lines which are at the forefront. The piece is marked by a limpid, clear writing style, which is very efficacious in determining the most congenial instrumental resources in order to fully exploit their ideal range.