The musical project “Ô doux printemps d’autrefois” was born from an accurate research on the vocal repertoire that concerns the clarinet as a second voice. The central part of the work concerns the German lieder repertoire, which was followed and followed by other authors from Northern and Central Europe. Extremely interesting was the search for clarinet sounds in union with the various vocal registers involved, in particular the bass clarinet, which replaced the horn and the cello with transcriptions written by the clarinet player. The choice of the pieces with the bass clarinet wanted to emphasize the softness and ductility of the sound of an instrument just little known in the chamber vocal repertoire of the period (its origins date back to 1838).
The “journey” begins with two pieces by Gaetano Donizetti: an orchestral reduction of the Tibi soli peccavi from the Miserere in G minor (A. 703), where the clarinet is an “obbligato” instrument as in the original version: this definition means that one instrument emerges and takes on a concerting function together with the voice. In this passage, the clarinet seems to undertake (in the Allegro) a sort of “duet of agility” together with the soprano where both show off their technical virtuosity. The second Donizetti’s piece is Dirti addio, a purely chamber composition originally written for female voice and horn, here replaced by the bass clarinet. The timbre of the soprano deliberately becomes warmer and softer in order to get closer to the sound of the instrument.
The central body of the research consists of the works of the Lachner brothers, German composers contemporary of Beethoven and Schubert from which (Franz in particular) were strongly influenced. The cycle of the Two German Songs by Franz Lachner, whose poetic texts are written by Heine (Auf Flügeln des Gesanges) and Chamisso (Seit Ich Ihn Gesehen), is characterized by the obbligato clarinet and the voice of the soprano and describes the love between two young lovers and the explosion of sentiment that overwhelms them. The Franz Lachner’s second piece for the soprano Er, der Herrlichste von allen is included in the same poetic cycle by Chamisso (Frauenliebe und Leben), but presents itself as a piece apart perhaps due to the unusual long duration, the harmonic variety that expresse by the Piano in a duet alternately with the two soprano voices, and for the almost “opera final” that makes the composition more similar to an aria than a Lied.
The second cycle of two lieders was composed by Franz’s older brother, Theodor Lachner and instead concerns the baritone register accompanied by the bass clarinet that takes the place of the horn. The most meditative is certainly Waldeinsamkeit which describes solitude as a dense and obscure forest. The warm pastosity of the bass clarinet’s timbre is a valid support for the baritone, whose burnished color makes the sound amalgam perfectly balanced, pleasant and homogeneous to listening.
The tonal mix of the two voices is even more evident with the other two pieces performed with the baritone: the Serenata o Leggenda valacca of Gaetano Braga, late Romantic Italian cellist and composer, a pupil of Saverio Mercadante, whose production ranges from lyrical works to “Living room romances”. The particularity of this score is a dialogue between a mother and her daughter narrated in first person by the performer; in this case the bass clarinet takes on the part of the cello which, especially in the lower registers, has a range of extremely warm medium – low sounds and a genuinely “Italian” flavor.
Jules Massenet’s Elegy is perhaps the apex of the union/communion between the two solo instruments. Accompanied by an intense piano, with simple writing but full of dynamics and nuances on the Piano and Pianissimo, the bass clarinet (replacing the cello) opens the way to the baritone with a long and intense introduction where the long and full of breath phrases they reach an impressive proximity to the human voice. The French language lends itself perfectly to the elegance of the phrase and the emphasis of the harmonics typical of dark voices: in this living room romance the baritone sings a melancholy farewell to spring and “green seasons”.
Another famous composer, little known today but highly quoted during his time (so much so that he won a First Performance at Teatro alla Scala in Milan with the opera Odio e Amore in 1837) is the Catalan Mariano Obiols. He was a student of Mercadante during his studies in Italy and was lucky enough to be introduced by him to the circle of Rossini (whose influence he will feel a lot), Donizetti and Meyerbeer. His great versatility allowed him to have a very large production and the chamber music industry occupies a considerable part. I Lai was written when Obiols had already returned to Barcelona. Dedicated to Cirilla Branca, sister-in-law of the opera’s librettist Felice Romani, this cantata is the evidence of the affection and the bond that binds him to Italy and the harmonious grace of Rossini’s flavor that makes the clarinet (favorite instrument of the Pesaro’s master) the perfect counter-song for the voice of mezzo-soprano. This vocal choice is no accident: in fact this is the female vocal register that Rossini exalts in almost all his compositions and which in this case serves as a perfect alter ego of the clarinet. The lieder production for clarinet has its pleasant and appreciated example in Heinrich Proch, conductor and prolific author of Viennese origin also for the musical theater with various operas and operettas.
Die Gefangene Nachtigall represents a small jewel among its more than 200 chamber vocal compositions: it is the lament of a small nightingale who pines from the bars of his cage dreaming of freedom of the forest. The small overture of the piano and the clarinet (a series of short syncopations on the same high notes) make the nightingale’s melancholy chirping extremely vivid and truthful and pave the way for the entry of the voice.
Liner Notes by Lucia Porri
Lucia Porri: She started the study of lyric chant in 2004 at Conservatorio “L. Cherubini” of Florence where she also graduated in Piano. She studied cameristic and opera's repertory and performed in several concerts in Italy and abroad. She collaborated as chorus soprano in several Italian theatrical productions in Tuscany and in Veneto with great orchestras as Orchestra of Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Orchestra of Padova and Veneto, Filarmonia Veneta and Orchestra and Chorus “Quodlibet” of Venice. She’s also a piano teacher and for years worked as accompanying pianist with singers and instrumentalist. In addition to the activity of musician she graduated in Musicology and obtained a Master’s Degree in Management of Music's and Theatre’s Enterprises at Florence University.
Maria Lucia Bazza: She began studying Opera at the Conservatory “F. Venezze” of Rovigo obtaining her first Bachelor' s in 2017. In 2019 she earned the Master's degree in theatrical sing with full marks and honors under the direction of M°Giovanni Botta. During 2018 – 2019 she attended the Hoschüle für Musik of Detmold (DE), specializing in sacred and liederistics repertoire. She has followed masterclasses on musical interpretation and german liederistics with great teachers such as the mezzosoprano M° Patrizia Scivoletto, the baritone Josef Loibl and M° Bernard Renzikowskij. She's specializing in vocal chamber music with M° Filippo Farinelli. She has done various concerts of sacred and opera music in Italy and abroad.
Paolo Lazzarini: He was born in 1980 and after graduating from the classical high school, he graduated in piano with honors from the “F. Venezze" Conservatory of Rovigo. Subsequently obtained his diploma in Music Didactics at the “A. Buzzolla" Conservatory of Adria.
He performs in prestigious italian and international theatres and concert halls also alongside prestigious national and international performers.
Parallel to his piano activity, he devote himself to composition. He signed the soundtrack of numerous documentaries and composed several albums for piano solo: “Reflections", “L’invenzione dei ricordi", “In volo”, “Notturni”, “Egli danza”, “Abbi cura dei sogni”, all available on major digital stores.
Pierluca Porri: Born in Florence and began his musical studies very young at the conservatory of his home city, attending the main violin course. He was called to participate in the activities of numerous orchestras both in Italy and abroad. Having successfully completed his studies in violin, he began his lyrical studies, which he concluded by obtaining the consequent title, a few years later. As solist he played a considerable number of roles (Germont, Osmin, Count Almaviva) at several theatres in Europe. For the Oratorio repertoire sings the Mass for two choirs by B.Zerafa; the Brevis Mass in B min by J.S.Bach; the Magnificat by A.Vivaldi,The Messiah by G.F. Haendel. In addition to the theatrical activity, it is produced in numerous chamber repertoire concerts.
Proscenio-Ensemble: Founded by Stefano Ongaro, the Proscenio-Ensemble born in 2016 with the Centro di Formazione Musicale “Proscenio” of which he is the director. The group mantains the voice as expressive medium alongside the clarinet, that is flanked by other instrumental timbres including piano, string and wind instruments. The ensemble also performs pieces from the minor repertoire and adapts itself to the reserch project.
Stefano Ongaro: Graduated in clarinet in 1995, he subsequently obtained, with full marks and honors, the Master’s degrees in clarinet and chamber music.
Finalist in numerous orchestral auditions, he collaborated with most important italian orchestras: Gran Teatro La Fenice of Venice (clarinet), Teatro G. Verdi of Trieste (bass clarinet), Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto (clarinet and bass clarinet), Teatro Lirico of Cagliari (bass clarinet), directed by famous directors: Nikša Bareza, Andrea Battistoni, Jordi Bernàcer, Myung-whun Chung, David Levi, Julian Kovatchev; abroad in the "Philharmonie der Nationen" Orchestra (bass clarinet) conducted by Justus Frantz.
He performs concerts in chamber ensembles on behalf of musical associations and concert companies.
Franz Paul Lachner (b Rain am Lech, 2 April 1803; d Munich, 20 Jan 1890). Composer and conductor, brother of (1) Theodor Lachner. He was the most celebrated member of the family. He received his first lessons in the piano and organ from his father, Anton Lachner, the city’s organist. On his father’s death in 1822, he went to Munich, where he scraped a living as an organist, music teacher and instrumentalist in the Isartor theatre orchestra. In 1823 he competed successfully for the post of organist at the Lutheran church in Vienna, where he was able to complete his musical education with Simon Sechter and the Abbé Stadler. He moved in the circle that included Schubert and Moritz von Schwind, and also came to know Beethoven. In 1827 he became assistant conductor at the Kärntnertortheater, and in 1829 was appointed its chief conductor. After an unsuccessful attempt to establish himself in Berlin, Lachner returned to Munich in 1836, where he quickly won a position of prominence in musical life. He was appointed conductor of the Munich Hofoper, directed the concerts of the Musikalische Akademie and also conducted the Königliche Vokalkapelle. He directed the music festivals of Munich in 1855 and 1863, and shared in directing the Salzburg Festival in 1855 and the Aachen festivals in 1861 and 1870. In 1852 he was appointed Generalmusikdirektor and in 1862 was awarded an honorary PhD at the University of Munich. His manifold activities came to an abrupt end in 1864 with Wagner’s arrival in the city. His retirement, for which he applied in 1865, was accepted at first in the form of a holiday and became effective only in 1868, when Wagner’s immediate influence in Munich had long since declined; the grateful city made Lachner an honorary citizen in 1883.
Lachner was prominent in the intellectual life of his time, being a friend of David L. Strauss, Eduard Mörike and Felix Dahn. Among his most important pupils were Joseph Rheinberger and Franz Wüllner. A prolific composer, he took Beethoven and Schubert as his models but was also influenced by Spohr, Mendelssohn and Meyerbeer. He wrote many craftsmanlike works, of which the opera Catarina Cornaro (1841), the seventh orchestral suite op.190 and the Requiem op.146 (revised 1872) in particular had great and lasting success. His other contributions to the musical life in Munich were as conductor of the Munich Opera orchestra, which he successfully prepared for the technical demands of Wagner’s operas, and in raising the standards of the public’s musical taste. His performances of opera and of works by Beethoven were considered exemplary. It was impossible for Lachner to warm to Wagner’s music, and personal confrontations with Wagner and his circle did not improve the relationship between the two men. Despite this antagonism, which finally deprived him of the fruits of his work in Munich, Lachner showed his magnanimity in 1873 by repeating a suggestion he had made nine years earlier, that Wagner be awarded the Royal Maximilian Order – this time successfully.
Gaetano Braga (b Giulianova, nr Teramo, 9 June 1829; d Milan, 21 Nov 1907). Italian cellist and composer. He entered the Naples Conservatory in 1841 to study the cello with Ciandelli and composition with Mercadante, indicating talent in both disciplines. He left in 1852 with the title ‘Maestrino di violoncello’ and made many concert tours of Europe and the USA. In Vienna he was briefly a member of the Mayseder Quartet.
In 1853 his first opera, Alina, was produced at Naples. Over the next 20 years, during which he made Paris and London his principal homes, he composed another eight; though some were staged in Vienna, Paris and Lisbon as well as in Italy, they scarcely fulfilled his early promise, and none remained in the repertory. In 1868 La Scala turned down his Ruy Blas in favour of Marchetti’s version; it remained unperformed and unpublished, colouring his decision to remain abroad for some 30 years, continuing a successful solo playing career besides composing. As a voice teacher Braga was much sought after; he coached Erminia Frezzolini, towards the end of her career, and Adelaide Borghi-Mamo, for whom he also wrote salon works. Braga’s other compositions include orchestral, chamber and vocal music, fantasias on well-known operatic themes, two cello concertos and a method (1878), and salon pieces that enjoyed popularity during his lifetime. Still known is his Leggenda valacca, under the name ‘La Serenata’ or ‘The Angel’s Serenade’, originally a song with cello or violin obbligato; despite describing it themselves as a ‘cloying melody’, in 1914 HMV listed no fewer than four recordings of it made by such prominent artists as Gluck and Zimbalist, and McCormack and Kreisler.
Gaetano Donizetti: (b Bergamo, 6 Nov 1788; d Constantinople, 12 Feb 1856). Italian teacher and composer. He was the elder brother of Gaetano Donizetti, and studied the flute with an uncle. From 1806, after being turned away from the Lezioni Caritatevoli di Musica for being too old, he took lessons from Mayr. In 1809 he enrolled in the Italian army as a musician, and subsequently played in battalions on the island of Elba and in the Sardinian army. He was highly regarded as a bandmaster, and when Sultan Mahmud II asked for a musician to reorganize his imperial band, Donizetti’s name was put forward by the Italian ambassador in Constantinople. He arrived there in 1828, and was made General Instructor of Imperial Ottoman Music with a generous stipend of 8,000 francs a year.
Donizetti coached the players, acquired Italian instruments and taught Western notation. The band was immediately successful, and Donizetti took charge of the other army bands. Through his influence the first school of Western music in Turkey was opened in 1831. In addition to conducting band music on ceremonial occasions, and orchestral programmes at the court theatre (in the harem), he mounted productions of short Italian operas.
Donizetti’s importance lies above all in his work as a teacher and organizer. His compositions, mostly occasional pieces (marches and anthems) for Mahmud II and Abdul Medjid, rarely depart from a consciously conventional and celebratory style. Nevertheless, at least one of the imperial marches found some contemporary popularity: Liszt wrote a Grande paraphrase de la marche de Donizetti composée pour Sa majesté le sultan Abdoul-Medij-Khan (Berlin, 1848). He was made an honorary general in the Turkish army in recognition of his services, and in 1842 the French government made him a knight of the Légion d’Honneur.
Jules Massenet (b Montaud, St Etienne, 12 May 1842; d Paris, 13 Aug 1912). French composer. He was the most prolific and successful composer of opera in France at the end of the 19th century and into the beginning of the 20th.
Mariano Obiols (b Barcelona, 26 Nov 1809; d Barcelona, 10 Dec 1888). Spanish composer. He began his studies in Spain but went abroad in 1831, becoming a protégé of Mercadante, with whom he toured Europe. His first opera, Odio e amore (two acts, libretto by F. Romani), had a successful run at La Scala beginning on 5 September 1837. In the same year Obiols returned to Barcelona to teach at the recently formed Conservatory, becoming its director in 1847, and during the next two decades dedicated himself mostly to teaching, administration and conducting. Not until 1874 did he produce another opera, Editta di Belcourt (four acts, libretto by F. Fors de Casamayor), first performed at the Gran Teatro del Liceo on 28 January. Though its italianate features were in harmony with the conservative repertory of the major Spanish theatres, Editta represented a compositional path abandoned by many of Obiols’s younger contemporaries, such as Bretón and Pedrell. Pedrell’s El último Abencerraje, in which Moorish and Spanish musical elements are prominent, was produced at the Liceo just a few months after the première of Editta. Obiols also wrote works for choir, orchestra and chamber ensemble, as well as a Método de solfeo and Ejercicios para canto.
Theodor Lachner (b Rain am Lech, Upper Bavaria, 1788; d Munich, 23 May 1877). Composer and organist. He was court organist in Munich, a position he held until his death. He enjoyed a reputation as a composer of lieder and choral works, his quartets for men’s voices being especially popular.