on music and beauty

Tag: transcription

Review of La Cetra Appesa by Corghi

Azio Corghi – La Cetra Appesa
Santa Cecilia Auditorium, Rome, 24 November 1996

La Cetra Appesa by Corghi. Truly mixed feelings…I didn’t know what to say afterwards. Well, at least not to the author. The part-writing for the choir wasn’t at all exciting: very rhythmical (dull rhythms, to be honest) and harmonically too poor. Parallel motions and the whole stuff… I really didn’t like it at all. The orchestral writing was much better: the right colours, a full and vibrating sound, but an overall impression of very self-contained, isolated sections, without the sense of continuity that a piece of 45 minutes should definitely have, in order to be absorbed in its entirety.

Anyway, I’ll deal first with the bad things, and see then if anything good can be said.
1) lots of fragments from Corghi’s previous compositions: I could hear Divara, Blimunda, Amor sacro-amor profano, the ever-present harmonics of low D flat, etc. Of course it’s not a wrong approach to employ materials from one’s previous compositions, but if those materials are not re-interpreted and, in a sense, totally re-composed, the result can be and often is a bit stale. And please, no more Divara’s crescendos ending on a ff unison, tah-ta! This kind of music does age so quickly…
2) the Va pensiero idea. It’s a loser. This piece of music is so stuffed with reminiscences: it is a kind of zero degree of Italian self-identification with opera and nation, an almost unbreakable conjunction of patriotism and ‘canto’ in its rawest form. You can’t really use it as a quotation, as Corghi does, unless you transform it completely. And Corghi does transform it in various moments of the Cantata, but then collapses under the sheer weight of this historical objet trouvé, when he decides to have a banda and the choir sing the original music in the original way, with no thought added, and no pun intended. Of course the audience shifts completely on the other side and Verdi wins triumphantly. When, after a couple of phrases, we are grimly reshuffled to the otia pretiosa of contemporary musical endeavours, I found myself asking for more (Verdi, that is…). The transition is a difficult moment, and not only musically speaking: I felt embarrassed for the composer, and didn’t know where to look at. Really the trick wasn’t worth it, because the aura surrounding Verdi’s choir is as thick as the winter fog in Milan, and it swallows effortlessly whatever clever ideas Corghi might have developed around it.

Lots of famous people at the concert: white-bearded Scalfari, incredibly old Petrassi, Morricone and family, shy Baratta from Parma, etc.

© 1996 Lamberto Coccioli

Three Variations

(Variation no. 1 only)

These three Variations represent a short essay in harmonic projection and time compression. The orchestral space becomes the playground where a melodic line is expanded and explored from a harmonic perspective, while the pace of change of different musical objects generated by the fragments of the melody increases dramatically.

The original model for the harmonic structure of the work is no. 2 from Per Iona, an earlier piece for solo piano.

1. Mosso
2. Calmo
3. Più mosso

Per Iona

Two short piano pieces dedicated to Iona Schloessingk. The first inhabits a vast space, held together by a simple melodic thread. The second explores the harmonic depth of a more articulated melodic line, and provides the model for a later, much larger work for orchestra, Three Variations.

…the sun is out, the sun is out

The title of this work for large orchestra is the last line of Boys And Girls Between The Wars, a poem by Sebastian Schloessingk I have also set to music. The original work for voice and four instruments is the starting point for …the sun is out, the sun is out . The original instrumental gestures are projected and expanded in a vast orchestral space, and acquire a completely new dimension. This process of transcription, of reading again and translating the same material in different forms, obviously inspired by the lesson of Berio, has always fascinated me.

Composed in 1994

Boys And Girls Between The Wars

In Boys And Girls Between The Wars I wanted to use Sebastian Schloessingk’s poem – both its phonetics and content – as the source of all the musical ideas. The text generates a form for the composition, and the music occupies a vast territory between onomatopeia and metaphor, bringing to life contrasting musical objects held together by subtle harmonic relations. This piece serves also as the model for a later orchestral piece, …the sun is out, the sun is out.

Finally, Boys And Girls Between The Wars is also a profoundly felt homage to the wonderful Chansons madécasses by Maurice Ravel, one of the highlights of vocal music of all times, written for the same instrumental ensemble.

Written in 1994 and revised in 2001, Boys And Girls Between The Wars was premiered by Sarah Busfield, voice, and the Thallein Ensemble conducted by Liz Johnson on 27 June 2001, Birmingham Conservatoire, Recital Hall.

* * *

Clouds move in parallel rows
granting the sun stern terms,
So when the clouds pull off in all
directions, like torture horses,
a camera’s shutter,
birds from shot, salt water
from a rock, this is childish.
A big child in a garden of bouncy
foliage. Look.
Original sky, fat bombers slog
across it, the child is a boy. Great flowers
dash up to the bombers’ lumber and pry
decorating round their legs, the child is
a girl, the sun is out, the sun is out.

© Sebastian Schloessingk

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