The son of Vincenzo Falchi and Teresa Lazzari, Stanislao Falchi may well have developed his musical interests at the chemist’s shop that his family had managed in Terni at least since 1835. Very centrally situated right behind Palazzo Spada, the shop was an important meeting point in the town, especially for the musicians of the Società Filarmonica. Stanislao began his musical studies with Celestino Magi at the local music school (the Civiche Scuole di Musica), but at a very early age he moved to Rome and completed his training with Salvatore Meluzzi. And it was in the capital city that his entire career unfolded, stretching from his debut conducting at the Teatro Apollo as a replacement for Luigi Mancinelli (in 1875) right up to his time as director of the Liceo Musicale di Santa Cecilia, a position that was unanimously conferred on him (in 1902) and that he retained, along with his teaching of composition, until 1915. As an eminent teacher, his pupils included musicians of the calibre of Vittorio Gui, Licinio Refice, Adriano Lualdi and Vincenzo Tommasini, whereas as the director of what was to become the Santa Cecilia Conservatoire, he substantially advanced the development of the institution by providing it with a new set of rules and regulations and modernizing the curriculum. However, his commitment to teaching, which he always honoured with the utmost dedication, did not prevent him, at least until the early years of the 20th century, from making a name for himself also as an orchestral conductor and composer.
Falchi was a leading figure in that “Roman school” which attempted to revitalize the backward state of Italian musical production at the turn of the century. And he was a man greatly admired by Verdi, who described his conducting as “marvellous”; indeed he conducted many of the composer’s Roman premieres (Laudi alla Vergine, Stabat Mater, Te Deum, Requiem). His repertoire included, as well as his own works, pieces from the Classical and Romantic periods (Beethoven, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Weber), a few singular incursions into earlier literatures (Palestrina and Carissimi, incidentally also publishing a successful revision of the latter’s oratorio Jephte), and certain important Roman and Italian premieres. For example, he was the first to conduct Wagner’s works in Rome, and his was the first Italian performance of Saint-Saëns’s oratorio Le Déluge.
As an opera composer, Falchi had his debut in 1878 at the Teatro Argentina in Rome with Lorhèlia (on a libretto by Pietro Calvi, and conducted by Luigi Mancinelli): a Nordic legend of a decidedly Wagnerian flavour that was only moderately appreciated by the critics. He fared better in 1887 at the Teatro Apollo, again in Rome, with his Giuditta (libretto by Brigiuti and Mancini, conductor Edoardo Mascheroni), a work closer to the model of the Verdi “choral opera”. In spite of a fierce attack from D’Annunzio (in the pages of “La Tribuna”, 14-15 March 1887), the opera was repeated at the Teatro Morlacchi in Perugia and the Liceu in Barcelona. Complete success was achieved with his third and last opera, Il Trillo del diavolo (The Devil’s Trill), with a fine libretto by Ugo Fleres inspired by the fictionalized life of Giuseppe Tartini. It was given its first performance in 1899 at the Teatro Argentina, again with Mascheroni conducting, and was then immediately repeated not only in various Italian theatres (Brescia, Ferrara, Novara, Costanzi in Rome, La Fenice in Venice, Carlo Felice in Genoa, Pergola in Florence), but even at the Zizinia Theatre in Alexandria (Egypt) and at the theatres of Smyrna and Fiume. The opera was also, finally, triumphantly received in his home town of Terni, where it was performed in 1901 with Giuseppe Cerquetelli conducting.
In addition, Falchi was the composer of large-scale orchestral music and symphonic-choral works, such an Ouverture al Giulio Cesare di Shakespeare, La siesta de la Señorita, Ave Caesar and Coro per il IV centenario della nascita di Raffaello Sanzio, as well as a highly respected Messa da Requiem for voices only, performed at the Pantheon in 1883 for the funeral of King Victor Emmanuel II. And to conclude, he produced a significant corpus of twenty-seven chamber romances published by Ricordi and Lucca between the mid-1870s and the end of the century. Falchi’s romances, which are refined, elegant and admirably expressive, can be positioned midway between adherence to an ongoing tradition and the need for change which, beginning with the so-called “Generation of the Eighties”, aimed to free the genre from its subordination to opera and all sorts of “provincialisms”. So while the genesis of these short pieces is for the most part “occasional”, as Falchi couldn’t help pointing out with a series of dedications (to Queen Margherita, to the most illustrious noblewomen of his home town, to his “ami Francesco Paolo” [Tosti], and to the singers Mattia Battistini and Antonio Cotogni), his choice of literary texts often reflects a sophistication worthy of note. No longer the “insipid” and “fatuous” verses that Ildebrando Pizzetti identified as being those preferred by the “specialists” of the genre, but the lofty poetry of Victor Hugo, Byron and Heinrich Heine, even in the original language. He introduces a European dimension, therefore, anticipating by a few years a renewal of the genre that could no longer be postponed and that was to characterize the preferences of many composers of the next generation. In his choice of Italian poets, alongside his friends Raffaele Salustri and Francesco Mancini, we also find Arrigo Boito and Giosuè Carducci. On the other hand, Gabriele D’Annunzio (the virulent detractor of Falchi’s music), a figure who unquestionably played a central role at this stage of the history of the Italian romance, is here repaid with resounding indifference.
Also included among the group of published romances are four duets, the exceptional case of the Preludio to the album Polychordon (dedicated to Queen Margherita, 1886) for piano, accompanied by the recitation of verses by Raffaele Salustri, and two pieces with violin ad libitum, a further sign of unconventional creativity. The substitution of the violin with the flute in this piece, on the other hand, was the work of Filippo Franceschini (1841-1915), a distinguished flautist and teacher who taught at the Santa Cecilia institution during Falchi’s directorship.
Falchi was thus a central figure in the cultural life of Rome at the turn of the century, one who was surrounded by unanimous esteem and admiration. He was the recipient of many honours (Cavaliere e Grande Ufficiale decorato dal Re, Commendatore della Corona d’Italia, Cavaliere Ufficiale dei SS. Maurizio e Lazzaro, Knight of the French Légion d’Honneur) and was appointed member of the executive committee for the Universal Exposition of 1911. In 1901 he was made a “meritorious citizen” of Terni. And it was to his native city that he gave a final example of the generosity that had distinguished his life as a man and artist, when he designated the charitable organisation of the Congregazione di Carità as his universal heir, while asking in exchange to be buried in the city’s cemetery. His property – the chemist’s shop, his birthplace and his library (of 958 volumes) – are today part of the city of Terni’s heritage.
Silvia Paparelli © 2021
English translation by Hugh Ward-Perkins
Gian-Luca Petrucci was born in 1951 in Italy and studied the flute with his father. He has been First Flute of the Orchestra of Teatro Regio in Parma, of the Angelicum and Pomeriggi Musicali of Milan, and of the Radio-Television Symphony Orchestra in Rome. He toured Europe, the United States, South America, India, Asia and North Africa. He is the dedicatee of compositions written by Jean-Michel Damase and Jindrich Feld. He has recorded numerous CDs and edited revisions and transcriptions for important publishing houses. As an essayist, he has published historical studies translated also in English, French and German and monographs dedicated to Saverio Mercadante, Giulio Briccialdi, Severino Gazzelloni, Leonardo De Lorenzo, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He is Professor Emeritus of Flute at the Santa Cecilia Conservatory of Music in Rome.
Marco Francescangeli is an actor and theater director of the Orion Theater Company. He has interpreted and staged numerous theatrical texts, written by the main world dramatists, such as William Shakespeare, Heinrich Böll, Ugo Betti, Luigi Pirandello, Arthur Miller, Thornton Wilder, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Anton Checov, among others. He has also participated in various television productions, in advertising and as a show presenter.
Paola Pisa studied and graduated in piano at G. Frescobaldi Conservatory of Music in Ferrara. After completing studies in musicology at university level, she studied the harpsichord. She won the national competition for Repetiteur at Teatro Comunale in Bologna and played many concerts in Europe, Asia and in the United States of America, also giving seminars and workshops in various American universities. She edited and published essays, reviews, and piano arrangements for publishers like Zanibon-Ricordi, Curci, LIM, Lemoine, Zimmermann and Billaudot. She has been the official piano accompanist at San Marino courses in 1985 with the famous soprano Renata Tebaldi. She has also performed with many international soloists. She in Professor Emeritus of Piano accompaniment at the Santa Cecilia Conservatory of Music in Rome.
Rosa Ricciotti made her debut at the age of 22. She has performed leading roles in many operas of the great repertoire, but also in contemporary operas, singing in the major Italian theaters, like Opera in Roma, Massimo in Palermo, Verdi in Trieste, Carlo Felice in Genoa, Comunale in Cagliari, and many others. She has carried out an intense concert activity with various chamber ensembles and with orchestras, performing pieces of both the international and contemporary classical repertoire. She has also performed with international partners such as Leo Nucci and Andrea Bocelli. She has received numerous career awards for her social committment and as a Culture Ambassador. Since 2007 she has been teaching Lyrical Singing at the “U. Giordano ” Conservatory of Rodi Garganico.
Sin Mo Kang, tenor from South Korea, studied singing and got a degree at the University of Music in Seoul. He then moved to Italy to perfect his study of Italian vocal music, graduating with full marks. He has participated in numerous masterclasses of Lieder and Opera under the guidance the famous tenor Gianni Raimondi. He carries out an intense activity in important Opera Theaters in Italy, in France and in South Korea. Among his most recent successes, the participation in the Schubert Lieder Cycle at the Settembre Music Festival in Turin, and in the Francesco Paolo Tosti Festival in Ortona. He received prizes in numerous international singing competitions; he was the winner of the “Saverio Mercadante” International Singing Competition and he got the special prize at the “Maria Caniglia” International Competition.