Italy: a country of poets. Here they are expressing themselves in their living artistic creativity (A. Mei, A. Ottobre), or they may have been already celebrated by history (U. Saba, S. Quasimodo, F. Petrarca).
Italy: a country of saints. Here they are present in the texts of the Catholic liturgy, or, more secularly, they are represented by the sensitive souls of musicians who are moved by a sincere spirituality.
Italy: a country of sailors. “Musical sailors” who move among the various genres and instrumental combinations (the output of each of the composers represented here goes from the vocal to the instrumental music, comprising the most diverse kinds of ensembles). Here, they are united by contemporary musical languages (in spite of their great variety), by refined and evocative lyrics, by similar ages; at the same time, they are separated by time and space, from Rome to Padua, from Milan to Cuneo, with works written approximately in the last quarter of a century.
Here, in this CD, we offer a glimpse on the choral world of contemporary Italy, without pretending to be representative. The CD germinates from a strong poetical-musical nucleus which fascinated us during the last few years. Firstly, the human being is at the heart of the poetical subjects of these pieces; then, there is the topic of song, be it joyful or praising, introspective or pleading; the human voice is the “energetical centre”, a festive circular rondeau: “When I sing, yes, I sing!”.
Different kinds of sensitivity shed different lights on love, on wishes, on the destiny of humankind, on the meaning of existence, on the desire for salvation, on the need for devotion and sacredness, on the mystery of Incarnation; at times with a vivid mystical ardour, at times with pious religiosity; here with a fairy-tale or visionary tone, there with a sad disenchantment, with a paradoxical ardour or with a loving tenderness. Similarly varied are the compositional techniques, producing results which can be sweetly harmonious, pointillistic, or evocative of jazz sounds, or which can remind us of cinematographic expansions, here developing as a great arch, there multiplying themselves in iridescent and varied harmonic turns.
This glimpse on the choral languages of modern Italy, which are made of intense lyrics, set to music with knowledgeable mastery by some important Italian composers, blossoms from our relationships with several musicians, from the feelings of the Ensemble del Giglio singers, from our personal research and from a dialogue with the audience: these are the true instruments for evaluating the musical worth.
Finally, this CD is an outlet for our wish to present a recording of Sergio Sentinelli’s vocal works, represented here by his most important compositions (the only missing pieces are those still waiting to be revised by the composer). Sentinelli’s pieces are mostly homophonic, with the notable exception of Scivolando sui muri, which is a kind of a modern madrigal, full of sparkling and irresistible rhythmical liveliness. His works seem to investigate the possibilities of the harmonic colours, in a process of accumulation which – particularly in the latest works – led him to favour multi-voiced compositions (eight parts in the most recent pieces). Quando canto is paradigmatic from this viewpoint: from a minimal and “circular” text (“Quando canto, sì, io canto”) Sentinelli creates an iridescent palette, expresses an infectious vital energy, employing dense and varied harmonies, and concludes the piece with a chord incorporating both the major and the minor third. That chord had already made a passing appearance in The Waning Moon, a piece efficaciously describing the moon’s swaying through suspended and rocking harmonies. The pictorial skills displayed in Nel Cielo through the coloristic use of harmonies is accompanied, there, by imitative episodes and layers with different lyrics; these strategies allow the composer to sustain a large-scale work, developing a musical narrative in four sections, each having marked features of its own.
The note clashes found in the female piece Praesentia corporis seem to have a different role: not that of extended blocks of harmonies, but rather dissonances, true contacts of sound mirroring the lyrics’ complexity and their relevance to the senses and corporality of the Christ. The Father’s benevolent gaze, sought by those reciting the Prayer of the Lord, is expressed in the Pater noster by Sentinelli through the use of a four-part mixed choir, frequently enriched by sections in eight parts, for a heartfelt and serene music.
We will now write rather more extensively about Riuscirà la nostra voce, the piece which gave birth, years ago, to our relationship with Sergio Sentinelli.
In the original score there are no dynamic or agogic indications; the musical time flows as in a declamation; imitations are entirely missing, and the tune is “plain”, with the exception of a short élan by the First Sopranos. In spite of this, the piece’s intensity immediately surfaces, since it is expressed by other means. Sentinelli paints the lyrics’ phrases and words through varied harmonic hints: at times darkening the harmony in the lower pitches, at times by thickening the internal texture, at times (once, to be precise) with a shining outburst of the soprano reaching high pitches (“finché le notti d’estate continueranno a udire il canto”). The conclusion is an atypical “da capo”; basically, it is a reprise of the initial harmony and rhythm, sealing the piece with a feeling of circularity. It is as if the panting and disquieting lyrics, with their stabbing questions, were to be framed by a dreamlike dimension – where each realization becomes possible – rather than in a historical dimension which is unavoidably condemned to realism. The Ensemble del Giglio performed this piece’s premiere in January 2012; the same piece was later selected by Gary Graden for the international festival Europa Cantat, which took place in Turin in that same year.
Bruno Bettinelli has frequently been nicknamed “the masters’ master”, because he educated numerous generations of musicians. Since we wished to insert some of his works in this CD, our choice fell on three aphorism-like pieces; in spite of their brevity, they represent the typical musical tension which the Maestro was capable of creating. There is a progressive expressive arrow, a harmonic accumulation, a dynamic amplification; I would like to define it as a “Bettinellian crescendo”, which is found also in other of his sacred works (such as, for example, in the first part of his celebrated Aurora, from the “Dittico Ambrosiano”, to cite one of the best known among his late sacred works). Bettinelli’s prolific and varied output has also led us to go beyond our original concept of the singing forces in this CD: thus, we are offering a glimpse on two solo instrumental works, in the belief that his ability to master the expressive peculiarities, the idiomatic language of different instruments (be it a clarinet, an accordion or a choir), all of this can cohabit in the same composer’s art, and, in those who are most gifted, all of this is intertwined and reciprocally enriching. The near-atonality of some of Bettinelli’s vocal works is found, therefore, and mutatis mutandis, in these two instrumental works which are, respectively, for the solo clarinet and solo accordion. They are written on the twelve tones, with the serial technique, and they exemplify the numerous techniques which Bettinelli could master, going from the neoclassicism to dodecaphony, and up to a personal harmonic language with an enlarged concept of tonality. The Improvviso per fisarmonica da concerto is recorded here in its world premiere.
From the harmony which had disintegrated itself into the serialism of the Studio per clarinetto, the CD moves to the broken words of the Benedicite Dominum by Gianluca Verlingieri. They may be an icon of the disorientation one experiences when facing the mystery of the Divine, from which one can receive some consolation only within a personal relationship: this happens when the singing ceases to be shattered in individual syllables and becomes the tranquil and plain tune of the Soli. This newly-found force becomes, in the second part (“Sancte Michael Archangele”) a pleading request, an imploration for salvation, with deeply touching dynamic contrasts and emotional accelerations.
The Trittico italiano by Alessandro Kirschner is, at the same time, both articulated and clearly unified. The lyrics walk on the razor’s edge of the paradox and are hinged on the dualism between joy and pain, with sudden changes of mood; the music mirrors this development with a diatonic and tonal language, with chiseled imitative fragments, with gradual dynamic modulations and sudden sound lacerations. The triptych begins and ends with two pieces having a similar harmonic language; the central section is made of new and more luminous sonorities, and plunges into the low register only when the lyrics mention death; later, it soars once more in the higher register, sustained by love’s breezes.
Due to its performing forces, Benedetto sia ‘l giorno by Alessandro Kirschner (for choir, clarinet and accordion) is the natural seal of this CD. This piece has been written for this occasion, and is dedicated to the Ensemble del Giglio. In this passionate piece, each of Petrarca’s stanzas corresponds to a musical section; the stanzas are separated by an instrumental intervention; the writing is somewhat reminiscent of that of the ancient madrigals, and, in our performance, also the instruments join in this language and in its distinctive phrasings, with messa di voce and melodic arches through which music is put in the service of the sung words.
In this piece, along with the sacred works, only two pieces are set to lyrics of poets who no longer live: The Waning Moon by S. Sentinelli, on lyrics by Percy B. Shelley, and Benedetto sia ‘l giorno by A. Kirschner, on lyrics of the great Francesco Petrarca: this is also the CD’s last piece, as if it would conclude the itinerary by returning where it all began, with one of the fathers of the Italian language.
This CD has been realized in cooperation with the Dipartimento METS (Electronic Music and Sound Engineers) of the Conservatory of Cuneo, which took care of all recordings. Except for Pater Noster, which was recorded by Alberto Compagnone at the Sala Ghislieri of Mondovì (Cuneo) in May 2017, the recordings were all realized in the ancient church of Santa Caterina in Villanova Mondovì (Cuneo) between May and September 2019, with the cooperation of Alberto Compagnone.
Album Notes by Livio Cavallo
Ezio Ghibaudo (b. 1986) graduated with top marks and scholarship as the best graduate of Valle d’Aosta “Istituto Musicale Pareggiato”, under the guidance of G. Dellarole; he also studied at the Italian Accordion Academy in Urbino attending instrumental and “F. M. Alexander” technique courses with C. Jacomucci. He specialized at the Hochschule für Musik in Würzburg (Germany) under the guidance of S. Hussong. His artistic activity aims at spreading the concert accordion and its expressive technical potential, with a repertoire ranging from ancient music to the most important contemporary compositions. He performs concert activities throughout the world within various international festivals and institutions. He was chosen to represent Italy at the 65th Coupe Mondiale of Accordion IMC-UNESCO in Spoleto and at the 63rd World Accordion Trophy in Samara, Russia. He recorded for RAI and his works for accordion are published by Ricordi, Da Vinci and Physa. He has held masterclass in Italy, Russia and Japan.
Luca Cerelli (b. 1979) graduated with honors in 2000, winning Award for the best graduates at Frosinone Conservatory where in 2006 he received his Bachelor’s Degree in Clarinet with full marks and in 2009 the Biennium of Instrumental Clarinet Teaching. He continued his training improving with F. Meloni, C. Palermo and P. Messina. He has collaborated with symphonic and chamber orchestras and with wind orchestras. For years he has worked with the Sicut Lilium choir and the Ensemble del Giglio as a clarinetist and saxophonist. Active in the chamber music field, he has held concerts in various formations (duo with piano, trio with piano and viola) and collaborating with various chamber groups (Taag Quartet). He played in duo with the pianist Clara Dutto, ranging from the strictly “classical” repertoire to jazz and South American style music. He studies piano and composition, and at the same time he cultivates a passion for jazz and Latin-American music, collaborating with various groups.
Ensemble Del Giglio (Vocal Ensemble), Ensemble del Giglio is a vocal-instrumental group with variable organic, depending on the program and the artistic needs; it is part of the «Associazione Sicut Lilium» (Beinette-CN, Italy – www.sicutlilium.it). The ensemble’s repertoir has spanned the Renaissance, Baroque, 20th Century and Contemporary periods in addition to commissioning and premiering various motets by different composers, among which the oratory «Qoèlet» by Andrea Baudino; the group has performed in Italy and France. The singers have addressed, in different formations, very different repertoires, both as singers as soloists, both in Italy and abroad, in professional and amateur ensembles. In October 2016, Ensemble del Giglio won first prize in the ensemble category at the 7th Annual Lake Maggiore National Choral Competition.
Livio Cavallo (b. 1973) studied Piano at Cuneo Conservatory, Ranaissance Music and Singing at Saluzzo High School of Music with K. Boeke, Choral Direction at Sommariva Bosco courses held by C. Chiavazza and E. Camoletto. He studied singing with G. Maletto, M. Farinella, R. Colombatto, P. Peterson and B. Zanichelli. As a tenor he worked in Italy, France, Slovenia with many ensembles including “Cantica Symphonia”, “Il Falcone”, “NovAntiqua”, “Gli Afftti Musicali” and “R. Maghini Philarmonic Choir”, singing for “Academia Montis Regalis” and for “RAI National Symphonic Orchestra”. He conducted first performances by S. Sentinelli, B. Gallizio, M. Maero, A. Baudino and worked with baroque orchestras. He founded «Sicut Lilium» mixed choir and «Ensemble del Giglio» vocal group receiving important awards and prizes (XIII Regional Choir Competition of Cannobio, Verbania; VII and IX National Competition of Lake Maggiore; S. Colombano International Competition, Piacenza; Arezzo National Polyphonic Competition). He created, manages and directs the “Rassegna corale Madonna della Pieve” festival in 2001 and “Sentieri di Musica” festival in 2004. In 2010 he founded the “Little School of Music” in Beinette (CN).
Bruno Bettinelli (b Milan, 4 June 1913; b Milan, November 2004). Italian composer. He graduated in piano at the Milan Conservatory in 1931, and in choral singing, conducting and composition, studying with G.C. Paribeni and Bossi, in 1937. In 1941 he won the Accademia di S Cecilia prize in Rome and in 1955 the Busoni prize in Trieste. He began to teach theory in 1938 and harmony in 1941 at the Milan Conservatory, and he was professor of composition there from 1957 to 1979. His students included Corghi, Abbado, Chailly, Gentilucci, Muti and Pollini. He has been a member of the Accademia di S Cecilia, Rome. His earlier music (e.g. 2 invenzioni and the symphonies nos.2 and 3) owes much of the discipline of its rhythmically clear contrapuntal lines to the neo-classical approach of Hindemith. After the subsequent harmonic and timbral experimentation of the Sinfonia breve and the Second Concerto for Orchestra, he abandoned tonality for atonal chromaticism (e.g. in Musica), and a reconsideration of Webernian principles, as in Episodi, Varianti, Studio and the symphonies nos.5–7. His exploration of avant-garde elements led him to the use of electronics, for example in Count Down; but works such as Sono una creatura, Quadruplum and Contrasti demonstrate the emphasis he has continued to place on constructive rigour and on communication with the listener.