Can the present abjure the past? The world after World War II tried to do so, at least up to the great crisis of 1968. After that, it became clear that history had to be recovered, otherwise, as Eco put it, we were risking silence. Since the Seventies, the relationship with the past recovered its centrality, at first as a mere citation, later in a more organic fashion. Icarus Ensemble has always been sensitive to the quest for that thin red thread binding the music of the past (frequently identified with the great polyphonic tradition of the Renaissance) and the music of the present. Icarus Junior at first, and Icarus vs Muzak, the ensembles that are the heirs of Icarus Ensemble, have further explored this theme, proposing, through the years, works expressly dedicated to them, and which will constitute the object of three discographic recordings in a series. (Marco Pedrazzini).
Gabrio Taglietti: Quaderno di traduzioni I*
Every interpretation which does not aim at destroying the work must face the challenge of engaging it in a hand-to-hand combat, in order to purify it from the debris of time and routine, and to offer it back in its full native energy. This is even more valid in the case of a transcription. Just as happens with a non-scholarly translation, this challenges us to render the deep meaning of the original text. In this case, I decided to face one of the masterpieces of medieval music, the Llibre vermell de Montserrat. It is a collection of fourteenth-century polyphonic works, fortunately preserved from the fire set by the Napoleonic army to the great Benedictine monastery near Barcelona. I excerpted five pieces from it, among which there are monodic and polyphonic pieces. There are sweet sacred song and reckless dances macabres; I tried and left their extraordinary inventive freedom untouched. In so doing, I verified how this music is able to speak to us, after more than six centuries.I therefore tried to create some short circuits evoking unforeseeable assonances with musical situations closer to our time. In particular, I imagined fantastic instrumental conglomerates, exploring unheard-of timbres, unforeseen reverberations, prismatic resonances and labyrinth-like polyphonies. (G. T.)
Corrado Rojac: nel riflesso del verso**
This piece develops on the evocation of a musical fragment by Antonio de Cabezón (1510-1566). I am referring here to bars 22 and 23 of his Diferencias sobre el canto llano del caballero, one of the first keyboard masterpieces in music history. They contain a musical intuition of precious beauty. In my piece, the fragment is constantly present in the resonance entrusted to the piano. The Spanish maestro’s musical intuition is celebrated, in the evolution of the musical discourse, by the reverberation of some of its sounds. This recreates the “shadow” of the cited fragment, but also emphasizes some of its overtones. The result is a vague harmonic spectrum. It is later taken over again, and reinterpreted, by the wind instruments, to whom multiphonics are also entrusted. (The wind instruments therefore create episodes which are in contrast with the tempered dimension – principally the piano’s – which frames the piece). Among the emphasized harmonics, some create autonomously resonating lines, like musical fragments. The deriving musical image could be defined as a ritual music, with a processional pace, recreating an atmosphere of spiritual recollection, “religious”. (C. R.)
Paolo Rotili: Un’altra eco***
Traces from the past frequently survive in a lost object, somehow contained within another. The image is that of the bodies of Pompeii, reconstructed thanks to destiny’s involuntary molds; a body made present thanks to a void, filled by something else…
This is neither a citation, nor a simple variation after elements taken from another piece. Rather it is a composition reconstructing the original text, recalled, extended, and transfigured on the basis of the trace of writing.
Thus, around the music of the very first lines of Monteverdi’s composition (Lasciatemi morire e chi volete voi che mi conforte in così dura sorte in così gran martire, Lasciatemi morire), both in its solo voice version and in the choral one, the traces of the body – the interval of second, the gestural motions, the harmonic and formal structure – are the mold for an avoidably Other body, which, still, is the same. (P. R.)
Luigi Abbate: Passus*
Written for Icarus Ensemble, Passus is inspired by the concluding section of an earlier work, Erma (2016), of which it recovers as a model or pre-text the so-called Passus duriusculus. This consists of a movement of chromatically descending pitches within the ambitus of a fourth. This formula was appropriated by musical rhetoric, following the so-called “theory of the affections”, in order to translate the image of suffering into musical sounds.
The piece develops on the basis of a dialectics between two different musical materials. The “rough” one, properly consisting of matter, is over an underlying one, recognizable precisely by its descending chromatic movement. The idea from which it starts is that of the “décollage”. This technique consists of disposing pictorial-visual materials, transferred from broadsides and advertising playbills onto a support in order to later undergo an action of tearing or manipulation. (L. A.)
Claudio Rastelli: Travestimento No. 3*
We call them Goldberg Variations. Actually, Bach did not call them Variationen, but Veränderungen, i.e. rather transformations and metamorphoses than mere variations. And in fact the spirit of the Goldberg Variations fully corresponds to the German term.
Starting from Veränderungen and from my study of Bach’s masterpiece, my Travestimenti were born. They are meticulous and affectionate works, where the original, transformation after transformation, changes of shape, form, and colour, becoming, each time, “something else”.
The Travestimento no. 3, in three movements, “gathers” all of the Goldberg Variations, modifying the unfolding of Time, as well as the harmony, order, and disposition of the original elements.
The first movement abstracts 23 images, one for each variation. The Time is that of memory, at times fragmented, at times obfuscated.
The second, Continuum, focuses on the three variations in the minor key. The melodies of Variations 15 and 21 are in double counterpoint, alternating between flute and harpsichord; the melody of Variation 25 appears in the last section. Time is suspended, beatless; the two instruments enter the same flow and, together, lead it.
The third is a challenging divertissement which plays on the possibility of variating and developing the main elements of the last four variations. (C. R.)
Stefano Taglietti: Madregal*
The Madrigalian style, starting with the great works by Palestrina, Gesualdo, Lasso, Marenzio, up to Ligeti and others, has always enthused me. I think that in some of my chamber music and orchestral works, but even more clearly in the operas, a madrigalian intention is heard. The exposition of the melodic cells, like textual signifiers, which emerge, disappear, superimpose, sustain and merge with each other, within the orchestral textures, gives back to the listener a clear structural centrality of timbre, rhythm and melody. In this instrumental work, by the title of Madregal, inspired by the musical and formal nature of a madrigal, I seek an ideal bridge with the Renaissance. I put into relation and transform the techniques of vocal counterpoint through my own compositional vision. The instrumental ensemble is considered here as a “vocal” ensemble. Madregal is a sort of translation from an ancient language of a madrigal whose “lyrics” follow the tune and rhythm of an ideal and imaginary syllabic decomposition. It is a kind of expressive itinerary, whose “words-sounds” are firmly bound to my deep memory. (S. T.)
Icarus vs Muzak is the continuation of Icarus Junior, a successful experience of the youth training project founded and guided by Icarus Ensemble in 2007.
Since then many young musicians have succeeded each other and have worked together with the adult ensemble, as it was once, in artist’s workshop. In the following years musicians have travelled the world; they have grown up to meet composers, musicians and teachers. The productions of the ensemble were brought to the USA, to the Zagreb Biennale, to Spain, France, and Egypt as well as to the most important Italian cities. Lots of collaborations have been realized: from the Accademia di Brera to the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, to the Biennale Arte in Venice. In 2020, finally, during the difficult period of the pandemic, Icarus vs Muzak takes autonomous form, founded by a group of young, mindful, talented, motivated musicians. In 2020 the ensemble won the project selected by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs "Vivere all'Italiana in Musica" with the purpose of spreading Italian music around the world.
Mimma Campanale, born in 1990, began to succeed at the age of 11 with her first record with music by Stravinsky after distinguishing herself in national and international piano competitions. She continued her studies at Bari and Foggia conservatories in piano, singing, composition and obtaining the bachelor and master in conducting under the guidance of Marco Angius of whom she is also assistant. She collaborated on the inauguration Milanomusica Festival 2017, in new productions with the Teatro Lirico Sperimentale di Spoleto, the Iteatri di Reggio Emilia/Festival Aperto and for Lezioni di suono, over 20 episodes broadcasted on Rai 5 dedicated to modern and contemporary music of major Italian composers like S. Sciarrino, I. Fedele, G. Battistelli, L. Berio. In 2019 she became permanent conductor for the Società Aquilana "Bonaventura Barattelli" and in the 75th Concert Season she conducted the world premiere of the melologue "Lui, Beethoven". She debuted in the 33rd edition of the Civita Festival with Icarus vs Muzak.
Franco Fusi, student of Soranzo Pastori and Milan Turkovic, he played as principal Bassoon of “Orchestra A. Toscanini di Parma”, at “Orchestra del Teatro dell’Opera di Genova”, “Teatro Regio di Torino” and “Fenice di Venezia” as well as “I virtuosi italiani” and “I solisti veneti”, collaborating with conductors such as Claudio Abbado, Gary Bertini, Zubin Metha, Peter Maag, Riccardo Muti, Emmanuel Krivine, Lorin Maazel, Valery Gergiev, Daniel Oren. Winner of the national competition for the chair of bassoon, he taught at the Conservatory of Reggio Emilia. He has often conducted Icarus Ensemble in festivals such as the Venice Biennale, Manca di Nizza, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Traiettorie di Parma, Musica/Realtà a Milano. He conducted Icarus vs Muzak in 2018 and 2019.