Showing posts with label Luciano Berio. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Luciano Berio. Show all posts

5 January 2019

Severino Gazzelloni - flautist

Lead player with RAI orchestra considered a great of Italian music

Severino Gazzelloni was regarded as one of Italy's finest flautist
Severino Gazzelloni was regarded as one of
Italy's finest flautist
The flautist Severino Gazzelloni, who for 30 years was the principal player of his instrument in the prestigious RAI National Symphony Orchestra but who had a repertoire that extended well beyond orchestral classical music, was born on this day in 1919 in Roccasecca, a town perched on a hillside in southern Lazio, about 130km (81 miles) south of Rome.

He was known for his versatility. In addition to his proficiency in classical flute pieces, Gazzelloni also excelled in jazz and 20th century avant-garde music. As such, many musicians and aficionados regard him as one of the finest flute players of all time.

Gazzelloni also taught others to master the flute. His notable pupils included the American jazz saxophonist Eric Dolphy and the Dutch classical flautist Abbie de Quant.

The son of a tailor in Roccasecca, Gazzelloni grew up in modest circumstances yet had music around him from a young age as his father played in a local band.  He taught himself music and became fascinated with the flute as an instrument, acquiring the technique to play it simply by practising for endless hours on his own.

Severino Gazzelloni's golden flute was made for him by a craftsman in Germany
Severino Gazzelloni's golden flute was made for him
by a craftsman in Germany
By the age of seven, his father considered him good enough to sit alongside him in the band, whose conductor and musical director, Giambattista Creati, recognised him as a musician of natural talent and great potential.

With Creati’s encouragement, Gazzelloni developed as a performer over the next few years and in 1934, at the age of 15, obtained a place at Italy’s premier conservatory, the National Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome, where he graduated in 1942 under the guidance of the accomplished flautist Arrigo Tassinari.

During the war years he stayed in Rome, finding work in the orchestra at a variety theatre, where he met Alberto Semprini, who would go on to become director of the RAI National Symphony Orchestra.

When Gazzelloni played with that orchestra for the first time in 1944, it was called the Radio Roma Orchestra, led by Fernando Previtali. His debut appearance began an association that would last until the mid 1970s.

Gazzelloni was as comfortable playing jazz as he was with classical music
Gazzelloni was as comfortable playing jazz as he
was with classical music
He began to give solo recitals in 1945, launching his solo career with a tour of Belgium. His debut as a soloist in an Italian venue did not come until 1947, when Italy was beginning to get back on its feet after the devastation of the Second World War, and Gazzelloni gave a performance at the Teatro Eliseo in Rome.

His interest in avant-garde music developed after he had met the Venetian-born composer Bruno Maderna, through whom he was introduced to the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik - a summer school for ‘new music’ - that was held each year in Darmstadt, near Frankfurt.

Gazzelloni went to Darmstadt for the first time in 1952 and taught there continuously from 1956 to 1966.

In those years he developed friendships and professional relationships with some of the leading lights of the 20th century avant-garde movement, including Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luigi Nono, Franco Donatoni, Olivier Messiaen, John Cage, Luciano Berio and Sylvano Bussotti.

The composer Igor Stravinsky composed music for Gazzelloni
The composer Igor Stravinsky composed
music for Gazzelloni
Berio, the experimental composer who was a pioneer of electronic music, Boulez, Maderna and Igor Stravinsky - the Russian-born pianist considered one of the most important composers of the 20th century - all wrote pieces specifically for Gazzelloni, who was nicknamed “the Golden Flute” - in part in recognition of his virtuosity but also because he did actually own a gold-plated flute, made for him by a German craftsman in 1956.

Gazzelloni is said to have enjoyed the informality of the jazz scene and one of his most successful tours came in 1976, when he was accompanied by the eminent classical pianist Bruno Canino and a jazz combo that comprised some of Italy’s top names, including the jazz piano player Enrico Intra, the saxophonist Giancarlo Barigozzi, bass guitarist Pino Presti, drummer Tullio De Piscopo and lead guitarist Sergio Farina.

At his peak as a soloist, Gazzelloni played as many as 250 concerts a year, as well as teaching at the Academy of Santa Cecilia and at the Chigiana Academy in Siena.

He died in Cassino, not far from Roccasecca, in 1992 in a clinic where he had been undergoing treatment for a brain tumour.

Two years after his death, the municipality of Roccasecca launched a musical festival in his honour and the event, the International Festival Severino Gazzelloni, is today an annual month-long event staged in August and September, supported by the Licinio Refice Conservatory of Frosinone and the University of Cassino and Southern Lazio, with sponsorship from businesses in the area.

The remains of the castle at Roccasecca
The remains of the castle at Roccasecca
Travel tip:

The town of Roccasecca occupies a strategic position at the entrance to two narrow gorges that provide access to the Valle di Comino below the slopes of Monte Asprano. It has a castle built in the 10th century at the behest of the Abbot of Montecassino. The abbot later put the castle in the control of the D’Aquino family and it was there that Tommaso D’Aquino, the Dominican friar who was canonized as Saint Thomas Aquinas fifty years after his death, was supposedly born in 1225. The castle fell into disrepair in the 17th century.

The entrance to the Conservatory of the Academy of Santa Cecilia
The entrance to the Conservatory
of the Academy of Santa Cecilia
Travel tip:

The National Academy of Santa Cecilia 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, but the historic conservatory in Via dei Greci remains, offering preparatory courses, and also houses the Italian Institute for Music History.

More reading:

How avant-garde composer Luigi Nono saw music as a form of political expression

Why Pino Presti is an important figure in Italian contemporary music

The brilliance of classical flute player Leonardo De Lorenzo

Also on this day:

1905: The birth of Michele Navarra - practising doctor and Mafia boss

1932: The birth of academic and novelist Umberto Eco

1948: The birth of anti-Mafia activist Giuseppe Impastato


24 October 2017

Luciano Berio – composer

War casualty who became significant figure in Italian music

Luciano Berio was an experimental composer with a prolific output
Luciano Berio was an experimental
composer with a prolific output
The avant-garde composer Luciano Berio, whose substantial catalogue of diverse work made him one of the most significant figures in music in Italy in the modern era, was born on this day in 1925 in Oneglia, on the Ligurian coast.

Noted for his innovative combining of voices and instruments and his pioneering of electronic music, Berio composed more than 170 pieces between 1937 and his death in 2003.

His most famous works are Sinfonia, a composition for orchestra and eight voices in five movements commissioned by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in 1968, and dedicated to the conductor Leonard Bernstein, and his Sequenza series of 18 virtuoso solo works that each featured a different instrument, or in one case a female voice alone.

Berio's musical fascinations included Italian opera, particularly Monteverdi and Verdi, the 20th-century modernism of Stravinsky, the Romantic symphonies of Schubert, Brahms and Mahler, folk songs, jazz and the music of the Beatles.

All these forms influenced him in one way or another and even his most experimental work paid homage to the past. In writing operas, concerti, string quartets or pieces for solo instruments, Berio could be said to have contributed to tradition, even if composing pieces that followed traditional forms was far from his thinking.

The apparent chaos of Sinfonia, for example, may seem as far away from a traditional symphony as is possible and yet conforms to the principle of what constitutes a symphony, a combination of different moods, keys and emotions. 

Berio at a formal appearance in The Hague in 1972, pictured with Princess Beatrix and Prince Claus of The Netherlands
Berio at a formal appearance in The Hague in 1972, pictured
with Princess Beatrix and Prince Claus of The Netherlands
The eight voices often speak or shout rather than sing, yet in superimposing texts by authors ranging from James Joyce to Samuel Beckett and snatches from many classical and romantic works of music on to a framework of the scherzo of Mahler's Second Symphony, Berio creates, by definition, a symphony.

Berio came from a musical background. Both his grandfather Adolfo and father Ernesto were organists and he might have become a concert pianist but for the misfortune that befell him in the Second World War.

It was late in the conflict – 1944 – when he was called up. He considered joining the resistance movement, but feared what the consequences might be for his family and so accepted conscription.  Given a loaded gun on his first day, he was trying to learn how it worked when it went off, badly injuring his right hand.

He spent three months in a military hospital before fleeing to Como, joining the partisans after all. When, after the war, he entered the Milan Conservatory, it was clear his hand injury would prevent him achieving proficiency as a pianist, at which point he decided to concentrate on composition.

A suite for piano he had written in 1947 was his first work to be publicly performed. He earned his keep by accompanying singing classes and accepting conducting engagements in small opera houses.

The Studio Fonologia in Milan that Berio helped establish
The Studio Fonologia in Milan that Berio helped establish
One of the singers he accompanied was Cathy Berberian, an American soprano with whom he fell in love and married within a few months. He visited the United States for the first time on honeymoon and thereafter became a frequent visitor, where he won a scholarship to study at Tanglewood in Massachusetts, the summer home of the Boston Philharmonic.

At the same time, Berio was beginning to experiment with electronic music.  He and Bruno Maderna, another Italian he had met at an annual summer school on Germany where avant-garde composers would congregate, became co-directors of an electronic studio within the Milan studios of the state broadcaster, RAI.

He and Berberian divorced in 1964 but Berio continued to spend much of his time in New York with his second wife, Susan Oyama, a Japanese psychology student. He had founded the Juilliard Ensemble while teaching at the Juilliard School of Music. He resigned from the Juilliard in 1971, divorcing Oyama in the same year.

He returned to Italy and bought a house to renovate in the hill town of Radicondoli, near Siena, where he planted vineyards and fruit trees. He moved into the house in 1975 and was soon married for a third time, to the Israeli musicologist, Talia Pecker.  

Berio, whose other acclaimed works include Opera and Coro, both composed in the 1970s, La Vera Storia (1981) and Outis (1996), remained an active composer until his death.  He was Distinguished Composer in Residence at Harvard University until 2000, when he became president of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, where he was living at the time of his death.

The waterfront at Imperia, looking towards Porto Maurizio
The waterfront at Imperia, looking towards Porto Maurizio
Travel tip:

Oneglia, where Luciano Berio was born, ceased to exist as a town in its own right in 1923, when it and its neighbour, Porto Maurizio, were subsumed into a new city of Imperia, created by Benito Mussolini as part of his drive to create ideal Fascist cities. Today, Imperia is part industrial port and part tourist resort.  What used to be Oneglia is at the eastern end of Imperia, around Piazza Dante, which is at the centre of a long shopping street, Via Aurelia.

The church of Santi Simone e Guida in the ancient town of Radicondoli
The church of Santi Simone e Guida
in the ancient town of Radicondoli
Travel tip:

Radicondoli, situated about 50km (31 miles) west of Siena, is a beautiful walled medieval town of Etruscan origins, perched on a hilltop and offering outstanding views of the surrounding countryside, looking out over typical rolling Tuscan hills.  The town itself, with quaint cobbled streets, is home to little more than 1,000 inhabitants, with an economy and lifestyle based on farming, and a diet rich in local produce.