Showing posts with label Cecilia Bartoli. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cecilia Bartoli. 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


18 August 2017

Antonio Salieri - composer

Maestro of Vienna haunted by Mozart rumours

Antonio Salieri was director of Italian opera in the Habsburg court of Joseph II
Antonio Salieri was director of Italian opera
in the Habsburg court of Joseph II
Antonio Salieri, the Italian composer who in his later years was dogged by rumours that he had murdered Mozart, was born on this day in 1750 in Legnago, in the Veneto.

Salieri was director of Italian opera for the Habsburg court in Vienna from 1774 to 1792 and German-born Mozart believed for many years that “cabals of Italians” were deliberately putting obstacles in the way of his progress, preventing him from staging his operas and blocking his path to prestigious appointments.

In letters to his father, Mozart said that “the only one who counts in (the emperor’s eyes) is Salieri” and voiced his suspicions that Salieri and Lorenzo Da Ponte, the poet and librettist, were in league against him.

Some years after Mozart died in 1791 at the age of just 35, with the cause of death never definitively established, it emerged that the young composer - responsible for some of music’s greatest symphonies, concertos and operas - had told friends in the final weeks of his life that he feared he had been poisoned and suspected again that his Italian rivals were behind it. Salieri was immediately the prime suspect.

Despite being put forward as truth in works of literature such as Pushkin’s Little Tragedy and hardly discouraged by the portrayal of Salieri in the film Amadeus, it is largely accepted now that the story is a myth and that the two composers enjoyed a relatively cordial and mutually respectful relationship.

Mozart felt the Italians in Vienna wanted to block the progress of his career
Mozart felt the Italians in Vienna wanted
to block the progress of his career
Yet Salieri had to live with the rumours during his lifetime. Rossini apparently teased him about it and Mozart’s father-in-law pointedly shunned him. When he became old and mentally frail, Salieri began to believe he must be guilty and while in a deranged state he supposedly confessed to the murder.

Salieri began his musical studies at home in Legnago, taught by his older brother Francesco, and by the organist of the Legnago Cathedral, Giuseppe Simoni. When he was about 13, both his parents died. He was looked after by another brother, a monk in Padua, before for unknown reasons becoming the ward of a Venetian nobleman, Giovanni Mocenigo.

While living in Venice, Salieri’s continuing musical studies brought him to the attention of the composer Florian Leopold Gassmann, who was so impressed with his protégé's talents that he took him to Vienna, where he personally directed and paid for the remainder of Salieri's musical education.

There, influenced by Gassman and Christoph Gluck, he was introduced to the emperor, Joseph II, who invited him to join in chamber music sessions. His appointment in 1774 as court composer and conductor of the Italian opera made him one of the most influential musicians in Europe.

He became a pivotal figure in the development of late 18th-century opera, helping to establish many of the features of the genre. He dominated Italian-language opera in Vienna and his works were performed across Europe. In all he wrote 37 operas, enjoying great success with many from Armida in 1771 to Cesare in Farmacusa in 1800.

Although he wrote no new operas after 1804, he remained a much sought-after teacher. Franz Liszt, Franz Schubert and Ludwig van Beethoven, and Mozart’s son, Franz Xaver Mozart, were among his pupils.

By the time of his death in 1825, his music was already disappearing from the repertoire but has enjoyed a revival in the last decade or so.

In 2004, the renovated La Scala in Milan reopened its doors with L'Europa riconosciutaEurope revealed - the work Salieri had written for its first performance in 1778.

The soprano Cecilia Bartoli recorded an album devoted to his arias, while recordings have been made of Salieri overtures and some complete operas.

The Teatro Salieri in Legnago
The Teatro Salieri in Legnago
Travel tip:

Legnago is a town in the Veneto about halfway between Verona and Ferrara, straddling the Adige river. It was formerly a centre for textile production although most of the factories have now closed. Legnago has had an important military role since the early Middle Ages. In the 19th century it was one of the Quadrilatero fortresses, the main strongpoint of the Austrian Lombardy-Venetia puppet state during the Italian Wars of Independence.  Legnago's theatre, constructed in the early 20th century, is called Teatro Salieri.

The Palazzi Mocenigo complex on the Grand Canal
The Palazzi Mocenigo complex on the Grand Canal
Travel tip:

The history of the Mocenigo family in Venice, who held influence from the 14th to the 19th centuries, is preserved in a complex of palaces on the Grand Canal roughly opposite the San Tomà vaporetto (water bus) stop, named the Palazzi Mocenigo.   The English poet Lord Byron stayed there in the early 19th century. Seven of the Mocenigo family were doges. Another Palazzo Mocenigo, in the San Stae area of Santa Croce, is a museum of textiles, costumes and perfume.

4 June 2016

Cecilia Bartoli – opera singer

Soprano put the spotlight back on ‘forgotten’ composers and singers 

Photo of Cecilia Bartoli
Cecilia Bartoli, who was born in
Rome on this day in 1966

Mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli celebrates her 50th birthday today, having been born on this day in 1966 in Rome.

Bartoli is renowned for her interpretations of the music of Mozart and Rossini and for her performances of music by some of the lesser-known Baroque and 19th century composers.

Her parents were both professional singers and gave her music lessons themselves and her first public performance was at the age of eight when she appeared as the shepherd boy in Tosca.

Bartoli studied at the Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia in Rome and made her professional opera debut in 1987 at the Arena di Verona.

The following year she earned rave reviews for her portrayal of Rosina in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville in Germany and Switzerland.

Bartoli made her debut at La Scala in 1996, followed by the Metropolitan Opera in 1997 and the Royal Opera House in 2001.

She has performed and recorded Baroque music by composers such as Gluck, Vivaldi, Haydn and Salieri.

Photo of Cecilia Bartoli after a performance in Paris
Cecilia Bartoli takes the applause after a performance
of Rossini's La Cenerentola in Paris
She has sold more than ten million copies of her albums, received numerous gold and platinum certificates and been given many awards and honours.

In 2012 Bartoli became artistic director of the Salzburg Whitsun Festival and her personal programme choices immediately resulted in record ticket sales. She has since sung Cleopatra in Handel’s Giulio Cesare and the title roles in Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma and Rossini’s La Cenerentola there.

The singer has a particular interest in early 19th century music, the age of Romanticism and bel canto, and has developed a fascination with the singer Maria Malibran. She marked the bicentenary of Maria Malibran’s birth in March this year with the release of Maria, a new album devoted to the singer. 

Bartoli lives with her husband, the Swiss baritone Oliver Widmer, on the shores of Lake Zurich in Switzerland and also in Rome.

Photo of entrance door to Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia
The entrance to the Conservatorio di Santa
Cecilia in Via dei Greci in Rome

Travel tip:

The Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia, where Cecilia Bartoli was educated, dates back to 1875. It was set up under the auspices of one of the oldest musical institutions in the world, now known as the National Academy of Santa Cecilia, which was established in 1565. The Conservatorio can be found in Via dei Greci, not far from the Spanish Steps in central Rome. The Academy is located at the Parco della Musica in the northern part of Rome in Viale Pietro de Coubertin in the Flaminio district, close to the location of the 1960 Summer Olympic Games.

Travel tip:

Cecilia Bartoli’s debut at La Scala in Milan as Isolier in Le Comte Ory in 1991 helped establish her as one of the world’s leading Rossini singers. The opera house has a fascinating museum displaying costumes and memorabilia from the history of opera that is well worth visiting. The entrance is in Largo Ghiringhelli, just off Piazza della Scala. It is open every day except the Italian Bank Holidays and a few days in December. Opening hours are from 9.00 to 12.30 and 1.30 to 5.30 pm.

More reading:

The amazing talent of opera composer Rossini

The success and sadness of Antonio Vivaldi

(Photo of Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia by Lalupa CC BY-SA 3.0)