Showing posts with label 1883. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1883. Show all posts

25 July 2018

Alfredo Casella – composer

Musician credited with reviving popularity of Vivaldi

Alfredo Casella was born into a musical family in Turin in 1883
Alfredo Casella was born into a musical
family in Turin in 1883
Pianist and conductor Alfredo Casella, a prolific composer of early 20th century neoclassical music, was born on this day in 1883 in Turin.

Casella is credited as being the person responsible for the resurrection of Antonio Vivaldi’s work, following a 'Vivaldi Week' that he organised in 1939.

Casella was born into a musical family. His grandfather had been first cello in the San Carlo Theatre in Lisbon and he later became a soloist at the Royal Chapel in Turin.

His father, Carlo, and his brothers, Cesare and Gioacchino, were professional cellists. His mother, Maria, was a pianist and she gave the young Alfredo his first piano lessons. Their home was in Via Cavour, where it is marked with a plaque.

Casella entered the Conservatoire de Paris in 1896 to study piano under Louis Diemer and to study composition under Gabriel Fauré.

Ravel was one of his fellow students and Casella also got to know Debussy, Stravinsky, Mahler and Strauss while he was in Paris.

Casella at his piano. He spent some years in the United States
Casella at his piano. He spent some
years in the United States 
He admired Debussy, but he was also influenced by Strauss and Mahler when he wrote his first symphony in 1905. The composer made his debut as a conductor when he led the orchestra at the symphony’s premiere in Monte Carlo in 1908.

During World War I, Casella taught piano at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome.

He married Yvonne Muller in Paris in 1921. Their granddaughter is the actress Daria Nicolodi and their great granddaughter is the actress Asia Argento.

From 1927 to 1929, Casella was principal conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra in Boston, Massachusetts.

Playing the piano, with Arturo Bonucci, cello, and Alberto Poltronieri, violin, Casella formed the Trio Italiano in 1930, which played to great acclaim in Europe and America. He wrote some of his best compositions for the Trio to play on tour.

Perhaps his biggest success was his music for the ballet, La Giara, written in 1924, but he also wrote some beautiful music for the cello, piano and harp.

Casella made live-recording piano music rolls for the Aeolian Duo-Art system, which can still be heard today.

A wall plaque marks the house in Turin where Casella was born
In 1923, with Gabriele D’Annunzio and Gian Francesco Malpiero from Venice, he founded an association to promote the spread of modern Italian music, the Corporation of the New Music.

Antonio Vivaldi’s music became popular again in the 20th century, thanks to the efforts of Casella, who organised Vivaldi Week in 1939.

In 1947, a Venetian businessman founded  the Istituto Italiano Antonio Vivaldi to promote the baroque composer’s music.

Casella’s work on behalf of the Italian baroque composers was to profoundly influence his own music. The composer died in Rome in 1947.

The Palazzo Madama in Piazza Castello
The Palazzo Madama in Piazza Castello
Travel tip:

Turin, where Casella was born, is the capital city of the region of Piedmont. The city has some fine architecture, which illustrates its rich history as the home of the Savoy Kings of Italy. Piazza Castello, with the royal palace, royal library and Palazzo Madama, which used to house the Italian senate, is at the heart of ‘royal’ Turin.
Inside the modern Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Inside the modern Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia

Travel tip

The St Cecilia Academy - Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia - where Casella taught the piano, is one of the oldest musical academies in the world. It was founded in Rome by Pope Sixtus V in 1585 at the Church of Santa Maria ad Martires, better known as the Pantheon. Over the centuries, many famous composers and musicians have been members of the Academy, which lists opera singers Beniamino Gigli and Cecilia Bartoli among its alumni. Since 2005 the Academy’s headquarters have been at the Parco della Musica in Rome, which was designed by the architect Renzo Piano.

More reading:

Success and sadness in the life of Antonio Vivaldi

How Cecilia Bartoli put the spotlight on forgotten composers

The opera composer who gave Vivaldi a job

Also on this day:

1467: The world's first artillery battle

1654: The birth of Baroque composer Agostino Steffani


29 July 2016

The birth of Benito Mussolini

Future dictator inspired by his father's politics

Mussolini saw the First World War as an opportunity for Italy
Mussolini saw the First World War
as an opportunity for Italy
Benito Mussolini, who would become Italy's notorious Fascist dictator during the 1920s, was born on this day in 1883 in a small town in Emilia-Romagna known then as Dovia di Predappio, about 17km south of the city of Forlì.

His father, Alessandro, worked as a blacksmith while his mother, Rosa was a devout Catholic schoolteacher.  Benito was the eldest of his parents' three children. He would later have a brother, Arnaldo, and a sister, Edvige.

It could be said that Alessandro's political leanings influenced his son from birth.  Benito was named after the Mexican reformist President, Benito Juárez, while his middle names - Andrea and Amilcare - were those of the Italian socialists Andrea Costa and Amilcare Cipriani.

Working in his father's smithy as a boy growing up, Mussolini would listen to Alessandro's admiration for the protagonists of the Italian unification movement, such as the nationalist Giuseppe Mazzini, and the military leader Giuseppe Garibaldi. But he also heard him speak with approval about the socialist thinker Carlo Pisacane and anarchist revolutionaries such as Carlo Cafiero and Mikhail Bakunin.

Alessandro's view would leave a lasting impression and, one way or another, shape the direction his son would eventually follow, although initially Benito saw himself as a traditional socialist.

Sent away to boarding school, Mussolini qualified as a schoolteacher but did not take up the profession, instead moving to Switzerland in order to avoid national service.  It was there that he first became politically active.

Mussolini in familiar pose as the military dictator
Mussolini in familiar pose as the
military dictator
He studied the ideas of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, the sociologist Vilfredo Pareto, and the syndicalist Georges Sorel, who advocated the violent overthrow of capitalism and liberal democracy. He also found much that he approved of in the writings of the Marxist Charles Péguy.

Mussolini was twice expelled from Switzerland, once after being arrested in Berne for trying to foment a general strike and violent uprising, the second time for falsifying his papers in order to return.  He did in time manage to secure a legal way back into the country and studied at the University of Lausanne before taking advantage of an amnesty granted to those who had evaded national service and returning to Italy.

A condition of the amnesty was that he joined the army but once his two-year stint was complete in 1906 he became a leading figure in the Italian Socialist Party (PSI).

In the years that followed he would edit the left-wing newspaper Avanti and spend five months in jail following a riot he had helped organise in protest at Italy's invasion of Libya, which he denounced as "imperialist".

However, his position on Italy's involvement in armed conflict changed and he was expelled by the PSI because of his opposition to the party's neutral stance on the First World War.  He saw intervention as an opportunity to further the revolutionary aims of the left, particularly by overthrowing the Habsburg monarchies in Germany and Austria-Hungary.

By then, continuing to be influenced by his father's belief in nationalism and by Nietzsche's views on the merits of elitism, he began to lose faith in orthodox socialism, believing that national identity had become more important than class struggle in forging the kind of society that was central to his vision.

He now envisaged a brand of socialism in which the removal of class divides was still key but which also depended on strong, decisive leadership and which recognised culture, tradition, language and race as elements of a nation's identity that should be protected.  It was the beginnings of what would become known as Fascism.

Travel tip:

Predappio's embarrassment at being turned into a place of pilgrimage for neo-Fascists has been addressed by the town's Mayor, who has finally forged an agreement that the former regional headquarters of Mussolini's party, a dilapidated three-storey building in the centre of the town, is renovated as a musuem, not to pay homage to the former dictator - whose remains are buried in the local cemetery - but as a place of education and reflection.  The museum is due to open in 2019.

The Abbey of San Mercuriale dominates Piazza Aurelio Saffi in Forlì
The Abbey of San Mercuriale dominates
Piazza Aurelio Saffi in Forlì
Travel tip:

The main square in Forlì, Piazza Aurelio Saffi, is named after the politician Aurelio Saffi, a radical republican who was a fervent supporter of the nationalist revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini, one of the driving forces behind the Risorgimento and the unification of Italy in the 19th century.  There is a statue of Saffi in the square, which is dominated by the 12th-century Abbey of San Mercuriale and its 75-metre bell tower, one of the tallest in Italy.

More reading:

The death of Mussolini at the hands of the partisans

How Mussolini's Fascists came into being

Giuseppe Mazzini - hero of the Risorgimento


14 January 2016

Nina Ricci – designer

Creative flair of Italian-born founder of famous fashion house

The prestigious fashion designer Nina Ricci was born Maria Nielli in Turin in 1883.

A Nina Ricci
silk organza dress
Photo: Mabalu
(CC BY-SA 4.0)
Her designs enabled her to build a reputation for graceful, feminine clothes. Ricci was a near-contemporary of Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel but in many ways they were polar opposites in that Ricci was neither a public personality nor a headline‐making designer.

She moved with her family to live in
Florence at the age of five and then went to live with them in France when she was 12.

Her interest in fashion began in childhood, when she began dressing her dolls. At the age of 13, having acquired the nickname Nina, she began working as a dressmaker’s apprentice.

She continued working in fashion, eventually joining the house of Raffin as a designer.

In 1904 she married an Italian jeweller named Luigi Ricci and they later had a son, Robert.

The house of Nina Ricci was founded in Paris in 1932. Nina became famous for her romantic, feminine, creations, which she created with the help of "live" models rather than mannequins. Her son, Robert, later joined her in the venture, helping her manage the business side. She was one of the first Paris designers to produce versions of her creations to sell through her boutique at prices that made them more accessible to ordinary women.

Robert created an in-house perfume division in 1941 and in 1948 the house of Nina Ricci launched  the fragrance ‘L’air du temps’, in a glass bottle decorated with doves, which was co-designed by Marc Lalique. This became a world-wide success.

In the 1950s Nina Ricci stepped back from designing and her son continued to run the company with new designers.

Maria (Nina) Ricci died in Paris in 1970 at the age of 87.

More on fashion -- Gianni Versace, born 2 December, 1946.

Turin's Palazzo Reale
Photo: Xadhoomx (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Travel tip:

Turin is the capital city of the region of Piedmont in the north of Italy. It has had a rich history linked with the Savoy Kings of Italy and there are many impressive Renaissance, baroque and rococo buildings in the centre of the city. Piazza Castello with the royal palace, royal library and Palazzo Madama, which used to house the Italian senate, is at the heart of royal Turin.

Travel tip:

Florence, capital of the Tuscany region and birthplace of the Renaissance, is a treasure trove of masterpieces of art and architecture. The beautiful Cathedral has a dome designed by Brunelleschi and a bell tower designed by Giotto. The Galleria dell’Accademia houses Michelangelo’s David and the Uffizi Gallery has works by Botticelli and da Vinci on display.