At the beginning of the twentieth century, San Giovanni Rotondo was a tiny village, virtually in the middle of nowhere, in Southern Italy. Then, a humble friar, by the name of Padre Pio, came to the local Franciscan convent. He was destined to change the destiny of that village, but also of countless people all around the world. He was one of the most striking mystics of all times; whilst never attention-seeking, he did attract the gaze of the world for his piety and for the extraordinary phenomena happening to him and around him. A man who physically lived the Passion of Christ, he was also very attentive to the health and wellbeing of the local inhabitants. Thus, among other initiatives, he created one of the greatest and most advanced hospitals in southern Italy, where high-quality medical care was provided together with kindness and attention to the patient’s needs.
Composer Antonio Cocomazzi grew up in San Giovanni Rotondo, by then transformed into one of the most important spiritual and health centres of Southern Italy. His family was acquainted with Padre Pio, and has many intimate memories of the friar’s influence on their lives. In 1998, Cocomazzi was barely twenty-five: still very young, but already with considerable compositional experience. He was asked to compose a major work: a Requiem Mass for Padre Pio, on the thirtieth anniversary of his death (September 23rd). Liturgically, a Requiem is a Eucharist celebrated as an intercession for a dead person’s soul. In 1998, though the fame of Padre Pio’s holiness was already widespread, he had not yet been canonized. The first formal step toward his canonization took place the following year, when he was proclaimed a “venerable”. It was on that occasion that the premiere of Cocomazzi’s Requiem eventually took place; the work has been worthily revived in 2022, to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the friar’s canonization.
Nearly twenty-five years passed from the premiere until present day. In the meanwhile, the composer’s career flourished, and he fully realized the promises of his youthful years. Of course, he also acquired experiences and knowledge which he could not have at twenty-five; still, he did not wish to alter a single note of the work he had written as a young man. For one thing, even after writing a huge number of works and issuing nine albums as a pianist/composer, he still considers this Requiem as the highpoint of his output, the peak of his creativity. “When I wrote it”, he states, “it was as if I was being enlightened, perhaps even led by spiritual inspiration”. For another thing, of course he could have changed some minor details, but (rightly) wanted to preserve the work in its original form. This concerns, of course, the overall concept and even the particulars; at the same time, one major intervention was needed, which, still, was not taken as a pretext for further changes.
The original 1998/9 version was in fact scored for symphonic orchestra, choir, and four vocal soloists. The 2021 version maintains the vocal parts as they were originally written, but replaces the orchestra with an organ. For this transformation, Cocomazzi took inspiration from Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem Mass, which underwent similar transformations. Cocomazzi first heard Duruflé’s Requiem in a version for solo organ with obbligato solo cello, and fell in love with it; later he discovered the other original versions, with different scorings, created for thinner ensembles in comparison with the original.
Occasionally, the lack of some particular timbres and instruments which had been originally intended in the orchestral version is felt. For instance, in the Rex tremendae the effect provided by the timpani is rather different from that offered by the organ pedals, even though the majestic, impressive, and powerful feeling is absolutely not lost… in transcription.
In fact, this rather depends on the composer’s particular musical intentions. Indeed, he did aim at evoking God’s majesty and the fearful awe and amazement caused by the irruption of transcendence on human beings. Still, Cocomazzi’s view is always tempered by a feeling of comfort and consolation. “I was inspired by Mozart’s Requiem”, he tells us. “His Requiem always impressed me, more than other masterpieces such as those by Verdi or Fauré. In my own Requiem, there are movements when, as a composer, I had to express God’s wrath and the menace of hell. On those occasions, a Stravinsky-like inspiration in my style surfaced, particularly as concerns rhythm”.
This is embodied in a particularly clear fashion in movements such as the Rex tremendae and the Kyrie, where the artist adopts a compositional technique called “multimetrics”. It implies that virtually each bar of music has a different time signature. This makes for a very complex and demanding performance, but not for difficult listening.
In fact, the hidden propelling power in Cocomazzi’s music is always a particular attention for the listener’s needs. His music possesses a kind of expressive immediacy, which is frequently lost or forgotten in many contemporary musical works. This efficacy was noted and appreciated by some of the greatest Italian musicians of the late twentieth century, such as Ennio Morricone (who defined one of his albums as an “excellent work, original as concerns both form and musical substance”), Giovanni Sollima and jazz musician Giorgio Gaslini, who specialises in crossover between classical music and jazz. Writing about one of Cocomazzi’s recordings, Gaslini spoke of “his harmonic sequence is always interesting, never trivial or obvious, his rhythm lively and original, his melos graceful and elegant”. These words, written at the beginning of Cocomazzi’s career, not only were the synthesis of his style at the time, but also constituted a guiding light for his further compositions. “I strive for originality and try not to be like any other musician, even though this is very difficult”. At the same time, Cocomazzi stands firmly within a line of tradition which crosses the whole of the European music history. And, of course, he looks to the great masters of the past with reverence and humble attention.
“I wrote my own Requiem thinking closely of Mozart’s. Here too it was as if Mozart was inspiring, or rather guiding, me. I was obsessed by the idea that Mozart died while he was composing his Requiem. This led me to ponder on the mystery of the afterlife. And to find an answer which is never desperate or anguished. Death frightens me, of course, as happens with all human beings: none of us knows how and what will happen. Still, in pieces such as the opening movement, or at the end of the powerful Confutatis, or in the Kyrie, I always tried and closed the piece with something suspended or non conclusive. For instance, the first piece closes with an open fifth, whose mode remains undecided”. This is a space left open for hope, for consolation, for the infinite desire of eternal life which inhabits the soul of human beings.
Such ideas are the direct result of the composer’s close, passionate and intense study of the liturgical words. A musicologist poignantly commented on the final result, stating that the music “suffers” the text. This, far from being a form of criticism, is in fact its highest praise. “I tried and gave a kind of musical translation to each and all the text’s phrases. My music is a commentary in sounds to the text. I entered those words even though I was very young. Every movement was and had a story of its own; I analysed the text, and sought its deepest meaning. My music is a pure expression of feelings and affections. When the lyrics speak of a thing of concept, I aim at leading the listener to understand what I felt, what I wanted to tell at that moment. Every sentence is carved in my soul; I focused closely on each word. The majestic King who causes fear is also the Saviour who redeems humankind. I saw what Mozart had done with these sentences, and in my own humble way I sought to repropose these same textual excerpts with my own language”.
And this is what Cocomazzi really did. The result, as listeners of this Da Vinci Classics CD will easily grasp, is a magnificent palette of varied emotions, of feelings, of contrasting effects. None is ever chosen for effect’s sake; all are in the service of the written words. And since these written words are those of an ancient liturgy for the dead, here applied to the towering figure of Padre Pio, the result will not fail to move the listeners’ deepest feelings and to arouse their great questions on the mystery of life, of death, of the afterlife, and of faith.
Chiara Bertoglio © 2022
Born in July 2014 with an organic formed with elements of the Liceo Musicale "Regina Margherita" and the Conservatory "A. Scarlatti" of Palermo. Its repertoire embraces numerous cultural realities focusing on a musical context that goes from the XX century until today. The choir debuts with its first performances at the Festival dei Nebrodi in Canto 2014. In 2016 the choir was involved in an international project that included a tour in the Middle East, which led it to perform in a Christmas Concert for the Arabic television network MTV Lebanon, performing songs in English, Latin, Arabic and Aramaic and in 2019 has recorded for Rai 5. The choir has won many international competitions and received the important prize the "Pigna d’Argento" plaque from the Accademia di Sicilia.
Sopranos: Erica Contorno, Giuliana Contorno, Chiara Geraci, Alessia Torregrossa, Maria Elisabetta Trupiano, Martina Saviano, Federica Croce. Contraltos: Maria Aurora Baiamonte, Aurora Bruno, Emanuela Prestigiovanni, Sonia Sala, Dalila Tomasino. Tenors: Mario Artale, Manfredi Bruno, Andrea Fazioli, Davide Vitale, Gioele Zerbo. Bass: Gabriele Mario Camiolo, Fabio D’Alberti, Fabrizio Sebastien Jacquin, Giorgio Di Rosa, Riccardo Scurria.
She has appeared on the main Italian and International stages, such as the Teatro Regio di Parma in Un Ballo in Maschera, the Teatro La Fenice in Venice in Maria di Rohan, the Teatro Comunale in Florence, the Opernhaus in Zürich in Il Matrimonio Segreto, the Teatro Massimo di Palermo in Don Pasquale, the Teatro Carlo Felice Genova in Rigoletto, the Teatro Verdi in Trieste, the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, the National Opera House in Shanghai, the Tokio Hall in Japan, the Kammeroper in Wien, the Teatro Nacional Santoro in Brasilia, l’Opéra de Nice etc. Gabriella has worked with conductors like Sir J. Tate, Soustrot, Yurovsky, Soudant, Pidò, Bareza, De Marchi, Gelmetti, Ferro, Dantone, Montanari, Welser-Möst, Weise, Plasson, Hager, Guschlbauer, Reck, Lü Ja, etc. Her last NAXOS CD/DVD recordings include L. Vinci’s opera Didone Abbandonata, performed in Florence, and in 2021 Boccherini’s Stabat Mater which received great acclaim from the critics.
Born in San Giovanni Rotondo. Graduated with honors from the Conservatory U. Giordano in Foggia. He has already debuted in the roles of Don Bartolo, Beaupertuis, Alidoro, Papageno, Don Profondo, Leporello, Escamillo, Selim, Schaunard, Dulcamara, Sacristan. He has sung in the main Italian theaters including the Teatro Regio in Turin, San Carlo in Naples, Carlo Felice in Genoa, Municipale in Piacenza, Giglio in Lucca, Alighieri in Ravenna, R.O.F. of Pesaro, Verdi Festival Parma, and abroad at the Seoul Arts Center, Varna Opera, Wexford Festival, Seoul Sejong Center, at the Coliseo in Buenos Aires and at the Wildbad Festival. He performed in concert the IX Symphony of L. W. Beethoven, La Petite Messe Solennelle by Rossini, the Requiem of G. Fauré. He has recorded for Bongiovanni Missa Grande by Saverio Mercadante, for Naxos Ser Marcantonio by Pavesi and for Sky Classica HD Giove a Pompei by Umberto Giordano in absolute premiere in modern times.
Born in Palermo in 1973, Mauro Visconti completed his musical studies at the Conservatory ”Vincenzo Bellini" in Palermo with Salvatore Bellassai, Marco Betta, Marco Ghiglione, Giovanni La Mattina and Carmelo Caruso, graduating brilliantly in piano, choral music and choir conducting, organ and organ composition, composition and orchestra conducting. He holds the position of Chapel Master at the Cathedral of Palermo. He is also engaged in the teaching field as a full professor of Theory, rhythm, and musical perception at the Conservatory " V. Bellini " of Palermo and a member of the Academic Council. He has also been in charge of the artistic-disciplinary sector, Choir conducting and choral composition since 2012/13. He has been a professor of Musical grammar at the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy of the University of Palermo since 2013.
Critics have described her as "a soprano with a powerful voice, rich in harmonics, able to delight the public with her highly dramatic connotations”.
After graduating in both singing and piano, she immediately began a career that led her to sing the main lyric soprano roles in some of the most prestigious theaters around the world. Suffice it to recall here the following most recent engagements: "Aida" at the Arena of Verona, Julian Kovatchev conducting, and at the Teatro Verdi in Salerno, with Daniel Oren, as well as at the Daegu Opera Festival in Korea and at the Seoul Arts Center in a production by Teatro alla Scala; "Tosca" at the Cairo Opera House and at the Politeama Theater of Lecce; "Madama Butterfly" at the Seoul Arts Center (in a production of Teatro Petruzzelli, directed by Daniele Abbado), and in Kyoto (a production of Teatro Comunale di Bologna); "Un ballo in maschera" at the Cervantes Theater in Malaga in co-production with Opéra de Massy, and at the Politeama of Lecce; opera gala at the Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall.
The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has invited her as representative of bel canto throughout the world (Uzbekistan, Georgia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Senegal, Bolivia, Ireland, the UK, Slovakia, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, Hungary). In 2007, upon the thirtieth anniversary of Maria Callas's death, she was chosen for the stage show "Callas Album", a test that proved her ability to "give voice" to The Divine in some of the most challenging numbers of her famously wide-ranging repertoire. On that occasion she started collaborating with Alberto Nones.
Her recordings include "Madama Butterfly" (Ricordi), "Lo sposo burlato" (Bongiovanni), "Giuseppe riconosciuto" by Anfossi (Fonè) and the Complete Oratorios by Carissimi (Brilliant Classics).
Composer, arranger, pianist, orchestra conductor and choir conductor. He has collaborated with important cultural and musical institutions such as Teatro Massimo and Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana of Palermo, Torre del Lago Puccini Festival, the National Theatre in Malta, the Julliard School Orchestra of New York, the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto, the Philarmonic of Oradea in Romania and Roma Sinfonietta, Orchestra of the Comunale di Bologna and the National Philarmonic Orchestra of Syria, Stavanger Konserthus in Norway, Beirut Chants Festival. He has collaborated with artists and musicians known all over the world such as: A. Rosand, R. Koelman, R. Bobo, Uto Ughi, N. Mazzanti, E. Dara, R. Panerai, R. Bruson, M. Freni, N. Ghiaurov, D. Barcellona, L. Gallo, O. Romanko, S. Alaimo, K. Ricciarelli and famous conductors such as M .J. Stringer, M. Honeck. He teaches Piano in the department of Didactic of Music at the Conservatorio " Gesualdo da Venosa” in Potenza.
He studied as a lyric tenor at the A. Scontrino conservatoire in Trapani and after just two years performs in his first Opera “Gianni Schicchi” by Giacomo Puccini with Maestro Rolando Panerai. His commitment in studying and performing drives him since the early years of his career.
After completing his studies at the conservatoire he joins the school for singers Beniamino Gigli in Recanati to improve and refine his vocal skills under the supervision of maestro Robleto Merolla who will become his mentor.
Many years of solo career in the Macerata Opera Festival, in operas in Italy and abroad like Boheme, Traviata, Lucia di Lammermoor, Barbiere di Siviglia, Pagliacci (playing the role of Arlecchino) give him the necessary experience and maturity to pass an admission selection for Palermo’s Teatro Massimo in 2005 as a soloist and a member of the chorus.
He received a degree in Piano and Composition from Conservatories of Foggia and Pescara. He’s the winner of thirteen international and national competitions thanks to the performances of his compositions. As a composer/pianist he recorded ten CDs to his name. Illustrious artists signed the liner notes to his albums including Ennio Morricone (Antonio Cocomazzi Project, 2008) Giorgio Gaslini (Suite for friends, 1997), and Giovanni Sollima (Restart, 2018). He recorded the album “Restart” in Duo with saxophonist Mario Marzi and with various formations “Nonostante tutto” (2005), both original composition projects are dedicated to saxophone. “Pensieri” is an album for piano and string quartet (2008), it was published by RAI Com and it’s currently used as a soundtrack of RAI documentaries and docufilms. “Notturno” (2021) is the first album where he plays as a solo pianist and it is an anthology of 17 recorded own compositions and then reinterpreted with other formations at the piano. He is the author of almost 300 works ranging from chamber to orchestral music and from solo piano to compositions for choir and orchestra. “Requiem” (1999) for soli, choir and orchestra, the Opera “Ramleela” (2014), which was performed in New Delhi (India) in 2014 with an interesting piece including opera, music, dances, and Indian theater, and the Kinderoper “Piccoletto, ovvero la Storia del piccolo spazzacamino” (2008) for soli and orchestra have particular importance. His multifaceted sonorous world is fully expressed in live performances, as a soloist, and in various chamber ensembles, and it is characterized by a natural merger of classical, jazz, and ethnical sounds that evolve into a personal language. It is also open to improvisation and contamination. He is currently a professor of Harmony and Analysis at the Conservatory “S. Pietro a Majella” in Napoli, Italy.