1815: Seeds of Romanticism in Italy
1815 was a crucial year not only for the Old Continent, but also for the Italian history. In June 1815, after the battle of Waterloo (Belgium), the last troops led by Napoleon Bonaparte were annihilated by the British and Prussian army, headed by Wellington and Blücher. In the same year in November France had to gave Savoy in to the Kingdom of Sardinia, that enlarged their boundaries by including the former Ligurian Republic as well. The European political setup changed, the Congress of Vienna “restored” the balance between the five main power holders – “Pentarchy”- Russia, Austria, Prussia (Eastern conservator block) and France with Great Britain (Western liberal block) that – for the sake of simplification – established a mutual cooperation, under the name of “Holy Alliance” (a union France and Great Britain soon would sidestep from).
Revolutionaries and reactionaries, progressive and conservators – before and after the (napoleonic) Empire – permeated the Italian territory, that earlier on in 1820 saw the rise of the first Secret Societies, like the Carbonari.
It is undeniable that in this composite historical period – ranging from Napoleon to the first Risorgimento (“resurgence”) germs – the Belpaese was pervaded by the French-Prussian culture.
Though led by the desire of independence and reappropriation of the “native soil”, the “Italian” musicians that lived in those years could “absorb” the great works of the Viennese Classicism (especially Haydn and Mozart, but also Beethoven) made available by the music publishers, maturing a personal musical style – not necessarily by the means of opera – where the “spirito Galante” encounters the Classicism and spreads the seeds for a first Italian Romanticism.
1815 is also the building year of the organ – opus 351 by the Bergamo organ builders Fratelli Serassi, designed for the parish church in Calcinate, Bergamo – chosen, surely not by accident, by Eugenio Maria Fagiani to exemplify his musical excursus. A rarely frequented repertoire, that walks through the main organ building and music schools in Italy: the Lombard-Venetian, the Tuscan and the Marchigiana.
Padre Davide da Bergamo – aka Felice Moretti (1791-1863) – is probably the most renowned author and the one that is naturally complementary to the Serassi organs typology. Instruments gifted by several concerto stops, an unique glass-like Ripieno (mixtures) sound and a set of special effective stops as the Campanelli (little bells in the treble part of the keyboard) as well percussions as cymbals, bass drum, snare drums, timpani.
The Calcinate instrument was inaugurated by Johann Simon Mayr (1763-1845) – naturalized Bergamo citizen, who was the teacher of P. Davide and Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1863), one of the prominent musicians of the first half of the XIX century – and as well a prolific opera composer, descendant and spreader of the Viennese symphonic tradition.
Thanks to his highly renowned music mastership in Bergamo – and not only – the great sacred compositions by Haydn spread. The music imprinting received by Mayr was also transferred to his wide number of students.
The Concertino in do maggiore by Padre Davide – somehow approachable to the Flotenkonzert by J. C. H. Rinck (1770-1846) – shows a clearly classic formal structure: a first tempo di Concerto for solo instrument and orchestra, with Cadenza! The Flutta (the “transverse flute” stop, which takes its name from the Italianization of the French name Flute), accompanied by the Viola; the orchestral refrains are rendered with the organ Tutti.
Another concertante piece – as if it were the slow, and really cantabile, movement of a sonata – is the Elevazione con tromba obbligata.
An exquisite and simple Pastorale [A 531] from 1813 is presented by Donizetti, passed down as a manuscript and preserved at the Bergamo Museo Donizettiano’s Archive.
The Venetian School is represented by one Sonata by the Paduan composer Gaetano Valeri (1760-1822).
The galante and sophisticated breath together with the pathetism of the Voce Umana stop with her Sicilian tempo recreate, in a very clever way, the fortunate bipartite mono thematic Sonata form, which was so important to Domenico Scarlatti.
The Calcinate Serassi – a monumental instrument. Endowed with two keyboards, a real 32 feet stop in the bass section, as well a facade that shows the 16 feet pipes – was enlarged several times by the same organ builders, who added a thunderous Banda militare stop, a very particular instruments ensemble that includes Gran Cassa (Bass drum), Sistro (a set of little bells), Piatto (Cimbal) and Rullo (snare drum) playing all together.
The brilliant works by the Marche composer Giovanni Morandi (1777-1856) – Offertorio in fa minore, Rondo’ con imitazione dei campanelli, Sonata (1808) – show fully the colorful timbres palette, often enriched by the Banda instruments, of a really unique organ.
The school of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany completes and magnifies the musical focus, centered on so a special year – 1815 – that was able to conjugate peculiar aesthetical perspectives, to be found in a single instrument: the synthesis of two centuries (18th and 19th) that, confronting each other, eagerly melt together.
The almost unknown names of Pietro Ceracchini (18th), Gasparo Sborgi (1737-1819) e Antonio Botti (1766-1799) were preserved, so far, in the manuscripts of the so called “Collezione Ricasoli”: about 400 music compositions – collected between 1720 and 1850 by the noble Florentine family Ricasoli – recovered back from the Louisville (Kentucky) University music library in 1980. This collection includes a wide spectrum of music (operatic works, oratorios, masses, organ music, sacred and profane chants, ballet music, symphonies, concertos, sonatas for keyboard, chamber music etc.) by several musicians who worked, or was familiar, for the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo D’Asburgo Lorena and performed not only at the Duchy court, but also in churches and on stages in Florence. The two manuscript works here presented, except for the Overtura by Botti, belong to movements chosen from two different Masses for solo organ: Offertorio, Elevazione, Post Communio and Toccata from the Messa in Do maggiore by Ceracchini; Offertorio, Elevazione e Post Communio from the Messa in Re maggiore by Sborgi.
Michele Bosio © 2022
Eugenio Maria Fagiani: Renowned internationally for his impressive, enthralling and vibrant musical language, the Italian organist Eugenio Maria Fagiani performs regularly on the most important instruments in Europe, Russia, Middle East and Northern America such as Notre Dame de Paris (F), Berlin’s Dom (D), St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York (US), Tchaikovsky's Great Hall in Moscow (RU), the Royal Albert Hall in London (UK), Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore in Firenze (I). the Hofkirche St. Leodegar in Luzern (CH), the St. James Anglican Cathedral in Toronto (CDN), the Skt. Florian Stiftsbasilika (A), the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth (IL). Besides his activity as a soloist, he holds a long term collaboration with the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano La Verdi (since 2010) and the Filarmonica Arturo Toscanini (since 2020), and has been directed by eminent conductors as Jeffrey Tate, Riccardo Chailly, Xian Zhang, Claus-Peter Flor, Jens Georg Bachmann, John Axelrod, Missak Baghboudarian, Yusuke Kumehara, Giuseppe Grazioli, Daniel Kawka and Alpesh Chauhan. Celebrated as “the wizard of improvisation”, he’s also a fine composer. His works are now part of the repertoire of some of the most prestigious artists of our time as David Briggs and Stephen Tharp. Since 2008 he is the Organist of the Franciscan Shrine of La Verna, Arezzo (IT). Eugenio is the Artistic Director of the Festival Internazionale di Musica d’Organo de La Verna and the Festival Organistico “S.Donato” in the Arezzo’s Dome, and also since 2016 the Artistic Advisor of the Terra Sancta Organ Festival, across seven countries in the Middle-East region, organized by the Custody of the Holy Land. He is invited to hold masterclasses (both in Interpretation and Improvisation) and lectures for several top-class music institutions around Europe and North America such as the Cambridge University Organ Scolar’s Forum (UK), the RCCO, Toronto (CDN). He is also invited to serve as juror in international competitions. He records with: VDE-Gallo, Spektral Records, Fugatto, Da Vinci and Decca.
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.
Giovanni Morandi: Morandi was born in Pergola (1777), and died in Senigallia (1856), Italy. He was the most-important Italian composer of organ music in the first half of the 19th century, and was an early mentor of Gioachino Rossini.