Phos – La via della luce takes its name from the ancient Greek name for light, phos, and from a subtitle meaning “the way of light” in Italian. Light is a universal symbol, suggesting all kinds of positive associations to human beings of all cultures, of all religions, and of all times. In many languages, to be born is to “come to light”, and, by way of contrast, all kinds of dark and shadowy imagery are connected with death, evil, and despair. These symbols are deeply woven into the fabric of Phos – La via della luce, which is a powerful and intense itinerary into the mystery of death, of life, of love, of goodness, of self-sacrifice, of generosity, of despair, and of hope. The authors of this work do not eschew a dramatic confrontation with the deepest fears, with the most provoking questions, and with the unsolved mysteries of human existence.
The idea for this composition came into being in what in hindsight seems the most unlikely of all places: at a Tokyo restaurant, where friends were chatting, and after an idea by the composer’s wife. Gradually, the idea took shape, and, little by little, author Dario Ponissi began sending to composer Valter Borin the lyrics which would constitute the textual element of Phos. “Little by little” should be taken literally: the poems were not written on the spur of the moment, and they steadily kept coming for almost two years. This dictated the pace of the compositional process. On the one hand, the poems were sent in the same order as they now appear in the recorded version presented in this Da Vinci Classics album. This allowed the two authors to “follow”, in a manner of speaking, the protagonist’s interior itinerary and what happens around and inside her. On the other hand, the dilution of the artistic process was challenging in itself. As the composer puts it, “It has been a hard work. In the course of two years, people change. Maybe the change is small, but it still is there. I had to find a way to impart unity to the work within that change: it was a task within the task. Music performers frequently evolve from a more brilliant and virtuosic approach, one marked by elan and impetus, toward a more shaded and reflective stance. For a composer, it implies to keep seeking a balance, a spiritual companionship with the lyrics’ author, in the quest for a shared poetical unity”. In other words, whereas the composer of a texted musical work normally has “just” to seek an artistic unity between the music he or she writes and the text they receive, in this case both artists had to seek an understanding also with their former selves.
In turn, this process was not without its benefits, difficult and complex as it could be: “I later realized that I was approaching more easily other works I wrote later, for orchestra or for piano, and that I was referring to a more patent simplicity”, as Borin states.
The style of the lyrics also required a thoughtful approach. The composer admits that he had to adapt his way of composing to the kind of poetics and of words he was receiving: “It was a rather cryptic, unusual style, which I felt as being close to Expressionism – a kind of post-Expressionism”. The composer then sought atmospheres which could express the piece’s main point: an itinerary from darkness to light. The result is a composition that could be understood as a Lieder-cycle, but that the composer prefers labelling as a “lyrical poem”. It is interwoven with musical references, with elements returning at some distance in time, and which assume a different meaning depending on the time passing from their first to their next appearance. The listener’s perspective is thus influenced by what has happened in between. The result was a meditative kind of writing: “It was not a sudden inspiration, but rather a very deliberate and thoughtful composition. I needed time for thinking, and for seeking a balance amidst the various components”.
On the technical plane, the two media of sound production – i.e. the voice and the piano – have an equally important role: neither prevails, and both concur to the quest for a same way, a same manner, and toward a same result. Their common goal is a sound path leading to a hypothetical light and a salvation. “I sparsely employed particular aural effects; in no case, however, as a form of narcissism or deliberately imitating other composers’ styles. My music came about from the words and from the plot”. At the same time, the two wordless movements, the Preamble and the Interlude, are among the composer’s most cherished moments. “The Preamble substantially represents in music the protagonist’s run. She is about to accomplish an extreme deed, so we witness her rushing upwards. Then there is a moment when she possibly stops to recall her memories, and then she starts again. A very brusque stop should symbolize her getting to the border of the abyss, where the entire story begins”. Similarly, the interlude (the only other piece for solo piano) is marked by an especially intense lyricism: “It is as if the voice, at that moment, were unable to say what it should say, and then it entrusts that message to the piano”.
Technically, the result is very challenging: both the piano and the voice face arduous performing tasks. Here too, however, these do not result from self-complacency: “I needed these means to reach a particular sound effect for a specific sentence or dramaturgic moment. Or for highlighting them, or for countering or overturning them… In short, to give an interpretation of mine to the words. So it was necessary for me to employ some artifices which technically translate into as many hardships”. The compositional process, therefore, was slow and unhurried; and this in turn contrasts with Borin’s more usual approach, which is more direct and immediate. “For this work, instinct and technique were not enough. It was necessary to channel and to elaborate what instinct told me. I needed to reflect on it”.
The result is a profound, intense, fascinating itinerary: “What I would like most, with this work, is that a potential listener could receive emotions from this experience. There are many emotions here, a full palette of them: from darkness to light”.
Chiara Bertoglio © 2022
Italian soprano of Chech and Bulgarian origin, in 2011 won the FIRST PRIZE ABSOLUTE to the prestigious competition for Verdi’s Voices in Busseto (Parma - Italy), chaired by José Carreras. In her biography, this was the latest of the eight awards she won since the beginning of his period of study, conducted at the Conservatory Verdi in Milan, Italy, where she graduated with honors. In 2003 (at age 22) she won also the 54th edition of As.Li.Co.,and she debut role of Ilia in Mozart's Idomeneo, and Amore in Orfeo from Gluck. She began her career prudently with the roles of the light lyric repertoire, as Gilda in Verdi's Rigoletto, singing at the Festival of Cheliabinsk in Russia, and in Busseto with Toscanini’s Foundation, Nannetta in Falstaff, and even with some roles secondary but larger contexts such as Frasquita in Carmen at the Arena of Verona in the seasons 2008 and 2009 conducted by Mr. Oren. Also directed by Mr. Oren, she was Garsenda in Zandonai's Francesca da Rimini at the Teatro Verdi of Salerno and after she debut the most hard role in the French repertoire, Mirelle from Gounod in the Miscolc’s Hungarian Festival. She worked with great conductors and directors like Seji Osawa, Marcello Rota, Daniel Oren, Roberto Abbado, James Meena and also Zeffirelli, Carsen, Giacchieri, Proietti, Daniele Abbado, Krief. She was recently in Seoul - Korea and she debut Mimi’ in La Boheme at the SETEC Art Center, and she was guest at LIGURIA NEW FESTVAL in Don Giovanni, singing the role of Donna Elvira, and Micaela in Carmen and also in two production of La Traviata. She sang Tosca in Teatro Alfieri in Asti and in Smetana Hall Praha, conducted by Marcello Rota where she had a great personal success. Her last performance in Violetta in La Traviata is greeted with a standing ovation at the Teatro Opera and Ballet in Sofia, and in 2014 at the Finnish National Opera she was Mimì in a new production of Puccini’s La Bohème where she literally left the audience in tears from her emotional performance. In 2015 her debut in Lady Macbeth’s Verdi in Bologna with Maestro Roberto Abbado, the critics define her voice as "torrential" capable of dramatic nuances and bel canto, at the service of a character who knows how to creep in with poignant color and intemerate treble. This debut together with her debut in Odabella in Verdi's Attila and Luisa Miller in Bologna and at the Verdi's Theatre in Trieste (Italy) give her the chance to get more noticed on the international scene and she was invited as a Guest in the role of Tosca at the Mainz Opera House in Germany and as Mimì in Puccini's La Bohème at the North Carolina Opera House, and in both Theatres she received excellent success with audiences and critics.
Bulgarian – Swiss pianist Stella Timenova was born in Plovdiv in 1982 in a family of musicians. She started playing the piano at age of five in her native city with Stella Oslekova and attended “Dobrin Petkov” National Music School. Three years later she gave her first recital and won the first competition prize. She successfully completed her studies and was awarded the Special Dobrin Petkov Prize for extraordinary musical achievements.
In 2000 Stella Timenova is admitted to the Sofia Conservatory in the piano class of Prof. Stella Dimitrova-Maistorova, who will accompany her years later in her master`s studies. Already during her studies, Stella Timenova performs as a solo pianist with major orchestras in Bulgaria and gives concerts at the leading festivals in her country.
In 2005 a scholarship from the Swiss Government takes her to the Academy of fine arts in Berne and into the piano class of Rada Petkova, which she completed with a Concert Diploma and highest distinction. She attended also master classes amongst others with Alexei Nasedkin, Sergey Markarov, Piotr Anderszewski, Christoph Berner, György Nádor, Sergio Azzolini and Carsten Eckert. Stella Timenova has performed in Bulgaria, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Italy, France, Hungary, Turkey, North Macedonia and Slovakia. As a soloist she made in 2009 her debut with the Basel Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Daniel Klajner. Stella Timenova was awarded at numerous national and international competitions: Phos – Opera Discovery Milano; Odd Fellows, Berne; Nikola Stefanov, Sofia; Pancho Vladigerov, Shumen; Sergey Rachmaninoff, Pleven; Seiler, Sofia; Albert Roussel, Sofia, etc. She has also been supported by various foundations: Richard Wagner Foundation, The Guth-Dreyfuss Foundation, the St. Albanstift Foundation, the Heidy und Heinrich Bebié-von Gunten-Foundation and others. Stella Timenova is a sought after chamber musician. Amongst others, she has performed with the Galatea Quartet, the Gémeaux Quartet, the violinist Corina Belcea, oboist Céline Moinet, flutists Stéphane Réty, Aldo Baerten, Wally Hase. Her repertoire includes classical music from the Baroque to the present. She has released recordings and live broadcastings for the National Bulgarian Radio and Television and Classic FM Radio. Stella Timenova is co-founder and member of the jury of the annual Competition for Young Pianists “Stella Oslekova” held in her hometown of Plovdiv and dedicated to the memory of her beloved first piano teacher.
A versatile musician who studied at the Conservatory of Milan, graduating brilliantly in Piano and Composition. At the same time, he also studied opera singing and conducting. He pursued a career as a first tenor at international level from 1998 to 2015. Since 2013 he has resumed full-time his career as a conductor, started in his youth, activity still conducted at international level.
He studied composition with Lorenzo Ferrero, Bruno Cerchio, Nicolò castiglioni, Irlando Danieli, Angelo Bellisario. In his production as a composer Valter Borin includes pieces for the most varied instrumental ensembles: from the solo instrument to symphonic and choral pieces. His very personal musical style, deliberately does not follow any trend, but conforms to an ever-present personal lyricism. Valter Borin is not a researcher or an innovator but rather an author who tends to reuse the musical material that has historically come down to us, trying to bend it to his own expressive purposes. For this reason, his catalog embraces many different styles, often mixed together. Lately, he has been developing research in music-therapy, which he is applying to some of his new works, in the conviction that certain music can also be helpful for many psychological problems.
In the lyrical poem "PHOS" Valter Borin has tried to find an equal balance between the piano and the voice: both are pushed to the highest levels of technical difficulty, but without either of them being overpowering. The virtuosity is not an end in itself but it is the result of a language that could perhaps be defined as "post-expressionist", and which has the task of underlining the poetic text of the story imagined by Dario Ponissi. The musical path undertaken with PHOS is a constant search to evoke action in music, through which he has tried to render actions, atmospheres, feelings, darkness and light in the notes themselves, imagining a sort of "soundtrack" of the story. The result of the collaboration with Dario Ponissi is also a delightful collection of lullabies written in five different languages.
Among the various pieces in the catalog of Valter Borin stand out the fantasy for orchestra "Dolphins of Malaga", and the sacred piece "Veni Creator Spiritus" for soprano solo, choir and orchestra.