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Le Nuove Musiche

When I was asked to prepare a program, or rather two, dedicated to Italian music, although I was very happy to perform the musical repertoire of my homeland, I immediately felt embarrassed, faced with a vastness of composers, works and styles, of having to make choices.

In fact, the Italian peninsula has only been a nation since 1870, when Italian troops occupied Rome and the city became part of the Kingdom of Italy, simultaneously decreeing the end of the Papal State.

Certainly the entire territory south of the Alps has cultural affinities, linked to the Roman Republic and Empire, classical Greek-Latin culture and Christian tradition. But each region presents notable differences, from cuisine to art, linked to the populations who have lived there and to those who have followed one another over the centuries. In the south, for example, Greek, Arab and Norman influences are found. The differences then emerge when you listen to the different regional and local dialects which, even today, make it impossible for a Milanese to understand a Neapolitan when he speaks in his dialect and vice versa. I therefore thought of dedicating the first concert to the Centre-South and the second to the North.

Even if the title "Le Nuove Musiche", taken from Caccini's famous collection of songs, refers to 17th century "Seconda Prattica", I realized the need not to stop at just the sixteenth-seventeenth century, but to go further to highlight a continuity of musical languages that culminated in nineteenth-century opera. The idea is to offer the listener a "taste" of the different repertoires to help identify both the particularities and the common elements.

In the first program, for example, the Neapolitan school is represented by composers such as Trabaci and Alessandro and Domenico Scarlatti. What their keyboard production has in common is the theatrical element: their music are representations of emotions, dialogues between characters as on the stage, sudden changes in colour, mood, and a general freedom above the normal rules compositional. The same elements appear in the Roman school, represented by Frescobaldi and Pasquini. But I also selected two pieces from these composers (the Capriccio and the Ricercare) that are more closely linked to the contrapuntal tradition to demonstrate that, despite the strong influence of theater and melodrama, a compositional trend in the so-called "ancient" or contrapuntal style remained in Italy until the eighteenth century.

For the program dedicated to the North, I also included two Renaissance pieces (Gabrieli's Toccata and Cima's Canzone) in which once again the "observed" or contrapuntal style prevails, as happens later also in Colonna's Sonata. The Venetian eighteenth century (Marcello, Vivaldi) could not be missing, especially due to the great influence that the "Concert" form had in Europe until the nineteenth century. The numerous transcriptions (Bach, Walther and anonymous) testify to the interest in this new musical genre and the influence it also had on keyboard music. In this program I then included a piece by Giovanni Battista Martini, the celebrated theoretician and composer from Bologna, in which the "observed" style combines with the tendencies of "bel canto" emphasizing the beauty of melodical lines and the strength of the rhythmical accompaniment.

The keyboard transcription of vocal-instrumental music, which has origins in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, continued until the nineteenth century, as evidenced by the organ version of the Overture from "La forza del Destino". I wanted to conclude the second program with Verdi, because the composer from Busseto is the perfect incarnation of Italian romanticism, which does not reject classicism but integrates it with new elements linked to the political events of the peninsula. His great interest in the Italian music of the past is well known, as is his sentence addressed to his contemporary musicians: "Let's go back to the old and it will be a progress". According to Verdi, music, like any art, must express the feelings and passions not only of an individual, but of an entire people, who can see themselves reflected in those works of art and find in them the strength to realize their own ideals of freedom, of peace and of happiness. I hope that my programs will convey this image to listeners.

- Edoardo Bellotti, organ & harpsichord

Tickets are on sale now for concerts running from Tuesday, February 27

to Saturday, March 2. Please also join us at the Festival's Choral Evensong service on Sunday, March 3 - a free-offering event.

Did you know? Girolamo Frescobadi’s Toccata IX from Secondo libro di toccata bears an inscription by the composer: "Non senza fatiga si giunge al fine", "Not without toil will you get to the end."


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