Release date: 27 October 2023
It is common knowledge, among musicologists, that the situation of the organ as an instrument, and of organ music as a consequence, in nineteenth-century Italy was far from idyllic. And this is an understatement. In 1879, Camille Saint-Saëns was touring Italy, and was booked to perform on the organ of the Conservatory of Milan. (This, of course, was no minor venue: rather, one of the most prestigious music institutions in Italy). He had planned to perform some of the major Romantic works for the organ, including his own pieces, but at the end he was forced to play a Prelude and Fugue from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier instead, since, on the organ he found there, performance of the great Romantic repertoire was impossible. In other words, the organ of a true temple of Italian music had to be used as a piano.
Where instruments are few or in bad shape, musicians are not drawn to them, and there will be a lack of interest resulting in a scarce output in terms of quantity and quality of repertoire. If this were not enough, the other problem was one of musical taste – and, of course, the two were intertwined.
Music in nineteenth-century Italy could almost be said to coincide with opera. This is clearly an oversimplification; Italian instrumental music of the Romantic era is being rediscovered, studied, performed and recorded, revealing a hitherto unsuspected wealth. Still, what is remarkable in absolute terms pales when compared with what was happening in other countries. And this is particularly true if one excludes from the census of Italian Romantic music all those works which are for instruments, but have some connection with, or derivation from, the world of opera. This includes, for example, operatic fantasies or potpourris, paraphrases and arrangements: a plethora of works, mainly written by instrumental virtuosi, and based, in their musical essence, on opera arias or motifs.
If the presence of operatic reminiscences in a virtuoso piece played in a salon is rather unsurprising and certainly acceptable, what strikes today’s readers most is the pervasive introduction of opera excerpts (arias, overtures, but even ballets!) in church, and during Mass. On the one hand, this is partly understandable: the organ is the instrument which most closely resembles an orchestra, and the opportunities it offered in terms of timbral characterization, for imitating what happened at theatre, were mouth-watering for composers, performers and listeners alike. It was just a pity that organs were almost nowhere to be found except in church: this was a given, and the only way to come to terms with it was to play these utterly unsuitable works at Church, and during Mass.
Within this framework, which is given here in a sketchy and brief form, it is immediately clear that there was room for improvement as concerns the role and repertoire of the organ in Italy.
And this was the context in which Giovanni Morandi was called to express his musicianship. While it is by no means limited to organ music, it does constitute an important section of his output; it is possibly the most constant and recurring element in his creative activity, and the one in which his work reached immortality.
He was different from other organists and composers of the time. Even though he was by no means a foreigner in operatic theatres, he was careful to distinguish opera and its world from the organ and its world – and this was acknowledged by Ricordi. Indeed, Morandi was highly familiar with opera. In 1803, at age 26, the very first documented performance he gave was in the context of a theatrical production, where he was “maestro al cembalo”. The following year, he got married with Rosa Morolli, a former student of his, who went on to become a star singer. Through her, Morandi became immersed in the world of opera, with its contradictions, complications and with its fascinating aspects. Morandi used to accompany his wife in her numerous tours. This, on the one hand, was required by contemporaneous society, since it was frowned upon for a married lady to travel alone. On the other hand, Morandi was not just his wife’s bodyguard, in a manner of speaking: he was very active himself, composing, working as a Korrepetitor, and establishing fruitful relationships which could be profitable both for his wife and for himself.
Morandi’s years as a touring… husband came to an abrupt end in 1824, when his wife died, almost suddenly and unexpectedly. After twenty years spent on the roads of Italy and France, Morandi changed entirely his life and retired in the city of Senigallia, in the Italian region of the Marche, by the sea. This retirement, however, was far from representing an enclosure of sorts. On the contrary, Morandi was extremely active in his city, both from the musical viewpoint and from that of civic and social life.
He would survive his wife by further thirty-two years, and die, at nearly 80, in 1856. The life and biography of Giovanni Morandi have been studied first by Giuseppe Radiciotti[ Giuseppe Radiciotti, Lettere inedite di celebri musicisti annotate e precedute dalle biografie di Pietro, Giovanni e Rosa Morandi a cui sono dirette, Milan, Ricordi, 1892.], and later by Gabriele Moroni[ Gabriele Moroni, Amor care, o Iesu: L’attività musicale in due Monasteri femminili attraverso gli autografi di Giovanni Morandi, in Florilegium Musicae. Studi in onore di Carolyn Gianturco, ed. by Patrizia Radicchi and Michael Burden, Pisa, ETS, 2004, pp. 144-162; Giovanni Morandi, Opere per organo a 4 mani. Edizione critica e Catalogo delle opere a stampa per Organo, ed. by Gabriele Moroni, Bologna, UtOrpheus Edizioni, 2005 (Collezione Musicale Marchigiana, 3), pp. VII-XII;; Gabriele Moroni, Gli autografi di Giovanni Morandi nell’Archivio musicale del Monastero di S. Cristina (I-SEsc), «Rivista internazionale di musica sacra», 26, 2005, pp. 165-230; Giovanni Morandi. Sonate per organo Prima Raccolta (1808) Edizione critica a cura di Gabriele Moroni. Seconda edizione riveduta, Rome, SEdM, 2015; Giovanni Morandi, Gran Raccolta di Sonate per organo (1823-24), Rome, SEdM, 2017.], who highlighted Morandi’s complex, multifaceted activity, and his manifold musical output, which comprises works in a variety of genres and styles. This activity also includes Morandi’s tireless engagement in the Società dei filomusicori, an Association he founded and directed in Senigallia, upon his bishop’s desire, and aiming at the dissemination of music, through concerts and musical education. His expertise as an organist and a chapel master (he had that role in the Cathedral Church of Senigallia from 1824 to 1836) was such that he was frequently involved in matters of organ building, and he was invited to interact with several religious institutions, including numerous female and male monasteries and convents, for which he provided musical works (preserved in a manuscript form) and teaching, as Moroni has successfully demonstrated.
The works recorded in this Da Vinci Classics album, instead, are all found in Morandi’s published oeuvre. The Raccolta di Sonate per gli Organi moderni was issued between 1849 and 1850. It was a constant habit of Morandi to publish his Sonatas by collections (“Raccolte”); on the other hand, Organ Sonatas make the most significant portion of his printed works, followed by the Pastorali. Morandi gave the name of “Sonatas” to groupings of three movements or pieces each, conceived for the three main moments of the Eucharist where solo organ music was performed more often. These three moments were Offertory, Elevation and Post-Communion. Faithful to the secular tradition of Sonata composition, Morandi mostly employed the traditional sequence of quick/slow/quick movement: this scheme is found in six out of seven of the “instalments” (“fascicoli”) constituting, together, the Raccolta di Sonate of 1849-50.
Somewhat confusingly, this collection was preceded by other, similarly titled works. The Terza Raccolta di Sonate was in fact issued some thirty years before the Raccolta of 1849-50 and, among other things, it bears witness to the terminological flexibility characterizing Morandi’s approach to music composition and publishing. Whilst for later musicians – and particularly for musicologists – terms such as Sonata and Symphony are by no means equivalent or interchangeable, for Morandi it was rather unproblematic to call a piece “Sonata” and “Sinfonia” at the same time. And this is what happens with the first piece in this CD, displaying Morandi’s orchestral concept of the organ. Here and in the other two pieces from the Terza Raccolta, Morandi’s skillful handling of organ texture, registration and style encourages the listener to perceive these three movements as a unified whole (with a first “movement”, an Adagio and a brilliant concluding Rondo), and also to let one’s imagination free to compare solo organ music with orchestral or otherwise instrumental music.
An even more organic plane is found in the Gran Raccolta di Sonate per organo, whose systematic concept is revealed from the outset, from the very title. There is in fact an underlying pedagogical purpose, leading to the ordering of the Sonatas from the easiest to the most difficult. The entire Gran Raccolta is made of six instalments, each comprising three movements which can be conceived as “Sonatas”. Each volume was issued individually between 1823 and 1824, as announced by Cipriani, a Florentine publisher, who promised monthly publications, each containing an Offertory, Elevation and Post-Communion. The reasons why the sixth instalment appeared only in 1824 are unclear, and in this last volume the promised order is not respected.
Musically, Morandi displays noteworthy inventiveness and originality. He respects, in the main, the Sonata-form approach in the Offertories, but with an uncommon profusion of themes, as is displayed in the very first Offertory recorded here. On the other hand, another atypical trait of this Offertory is the omission of the first two themes from the Reprise. A similar idiosyncrasy is found in the third Offertory and of the Post-Communion movement of the second instalment, which is in the Sonata form in turn. The second Offertory has some intriguing features too, as its transition is unusually long and thematically elaborated. A variety of formal designs, including Sonata forms, and rondos characterizes both the quick and the slow movements, bearing witness to Morandi’s creative approach. In all three works from the Gran Raccolta recorded here, there is a constant use of the Solo-Tutti alternation (namely, in the first two movements of vols. 1 and 3, and in the outer movements of vol. 2).
Morandi thus displays, in the works recorded here, the generous inspiration of his genius, and his capability to renew and refresh old formulas. By combining commonly employed strategy in innovative ways, he was able to innovate the stale clichés of Italian organ music, and to pave the way for modernity.
Giuseppe Radiciotti, Lettere inedite di celebri musicisti annotate e precedute dalle biografie di Pietro, Giovanni e Rosa Morandi a cui sono dirette, Milan, Ricordi, 1892.
Gabriele Moroni, Amor care, o Iesu: L’attività musicale in due Monasteri femminili attraverso gli autografi di Giovanni Morandi, in Florilegium Musicae. Studi in onore di Carolyn Gianturco, ed. by Patrizia Radicchi and Michael Burden, Pisa, ETS, 2004, pp. 144-162; Giovanni Morandi, Opere per organo a 4 mani. Edizione critica e Catalogo delle opere a stampa per Organo, ed. by Gabriele Moroni, Bologna, UtOrpheus Edizioni, 2005 (Collezione Musicale Marchigiana, 3), pp. VII-XII;; Gabriele Moroni, Gli autografi di Giovanni Morandi nell’Archivio musicale del Monastero di S. Cristina (I-SEsc), «Rivista internazionale di musica sacra», 26, 2005, pp. 165-230; Giovanni Morandi. Sonate per organo Prima Raccolta (1808) Edizione critica a cura di Gabriele Moroni. Seconda edizione riveduta, Rome, SEdM, 2015; Giovanni Morandi, Gran Raccolta di Sonate per organo (1823-24), Rome, SEdM, 2017.
Born in 1988, Sartore is an organist from the Veneto region of Italy. He began from a very young age his mission as an organist for the Catholic liturgy. At 16, he was appointed the titular organist of the ancient organ built by G. Callido in 1800 for the Cathedral Church of Cittadella, near Padua. Later he became the organist for the Teutonic Order in Alto Adige, and still later he was appointed organist of the Serassi organ (1840) in the Cathedral of S. Michele Arcangelo in Albenga (SV).
He is a passionate performer of the Baroque and style galante repertoire, and in particular of that created by the Venetian school. He performed recitals in Italy, Austria, Germany, France, Czech Republic, Russia, Siberia and Brazil. He performed at prestigious venues such as, among others, the Manaus Theatre in Amazonia (which is the most important theatre in South America), the Church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris, the Archabbey of Sankt-Peter in Salzburg.
For Da Vinci Classics he recorded a monographic album on Padre Davide da Bergamo, by whom he edited a collection of unpublished works for the Armelin publishing company of Padua.
He is currently recording the complete works for the organ by Giovanni Morandi. He is the titular organist on the prestigious organ by F. Dacci (1784) in the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in Santa Maria in Punta (Rovigo), by the delta of the Po.
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.