Contemporary music

Contemporary Music

“I think it’s wonderful if you stage Berio and Nino Nono … Evviva Italia” 

Wolfgang Steinecke to Bruno Maderna

The archive also reflects the development of contemporary classical music in Italy and beyond. It documents an important part of the history of European music after 1945. Starting in the 1960s, and seen from an international perspective, Italy is the source of decisive impetus for musical theater. Bruno Maderna, Luciano Berio, Luigi Nono, Franco Donatoni, Giacomo Manzoni, Luca Lombardi, Sylvano Bussotti, Salvatore Sciarrino, Giorgio Battistelli and many others represent very different aesthetic positions, from the politically motivated musical theater of Nono and Manzoni, to Luciano Berio and Salvatore Sciarrino’s playing and experimenting with forms of memory and opera tradition, and the integration of electronics by Bruno Maderna, to new forms of ballet performance and installations by Sylvano Bussotti and Giorgio Battistelli, and literary opera by Luca Lombardi. The increasing internationalization and expansion of the spectrum, and also the fact that the predominance of musical theater is being called into question in Italy as elsewhere, leads to instrumental music being published by Ricordi more and more on an equal footing. The archive inventory, with its large number of scores (especially autographs) of contemporary vocal and instrumental music, offers a panorama of Italian music from 1960 to 1990. Add to that libretti, correspondence, collections of reviews, and photos. The aforementioned composers are comprehensively represented in the archive with their works — an invaluable collection of illustrative material for individual and comparative studies in researching the musical history of the 20th century.

The scores of Sylvano Bussotti (born 1931) are not only an example of an innovative form of musical theater that works with elements of ballet and input from the aesthetics of performance, but also of new forms of notation and presentation: his compositions, often conceived as installations, such as La passion selon Sade (Mystère de chambre avec Tableaux vivants — roughly: Mystery with living tableaus) of 1965, BUSSOTTIOPERABALLET of 1973 and Bergkristall (Poema coreografico — choreographic poem) of 1987 are documented in the unusual autographs housed in the archive. Bussotti is a student of Dallapiccola, the great instigator and individualist, and at the invitation of Pierre Boulez and Heinz-Klaus Metzger, from the end of the 1950s begins staging his works at the Darmstadt Summer Courses. So the work of Bussotti documents both the international reach of Ricordi, and manifests the genre of opera as a “Gesamtkunstwerk” all over again, because his talents also lie in the field of painting, installation and choreography. Autographs, correspondence, photographs and reviews provide a comprehensive picture of this.

Many examples could be mentioned at this point, and special attention would be paid to each composer’s selection of lyrics, for example Luca Lombardi’s collaboration with Edoardo Sanguineti on Nel tuo porto quiete. Un requiem italiano (1985) and the opera Faust (1990), called “un travestimento”, whose libretto was translated by Claus-Hobe Henneberg, the playwright and librettist, for the German performance. Collaborations like this between composer and librettist continue the tradition of the brilliant artistic connections, which spawned immortal masterpieces by Mozart—Da Ponte, Verdi—Boito and Strauss—Hofmannsthal, in a modern setting that is no less intellectually important than the historical contexts. In Milan there is a special collaboration between the composer Luciano Chailly and Dino Buzzati. Chailly, the father of the eminent conductor Riccardo Chailly is a student of Hindemith and one of the outstanding figures of modern music theater in Italy. Thanks to his aesthetic proximity to fantastical literature Buzzati, whose novel Il deserto dei tartari became world-famous, develops a kind of surrealist libretto, an appealing variation on opera literature. He wrote several libretti for Chailly: Ferrovia sopraelevata (Bergamo 1955), Procedura penale (Como 1959), Il Mantello (Florence, 1960), and Era proibito (Milan 1963). Il Mantello, an anti-war piece, impressively portrays the pain of a family who have lost a son in the war. He appears as a kind of “zombie” to the waiting family with a bleeding wound under his coat. Buzzati does not give him any lines; he can only stammer incoherent vowels and consonants. This part is accordingly interpreted by Chailly as a speaking role: in the score he says the part is “tutta nugolata, vocalizzata, gutturalizzata, intozzata o belata” (whimpering, vocalizing, guttural, introverted, bleating). Chailly also uses double notes to indicate a vocal technique “come in un rantolo” (like a rattle). A review of the premiere (12 May 1960, Il Messaggero) says Chailly creates a connection to the afterlife by using the “Ondes Martenot”, a monophonic electronic instrument used from the 1930s by Milhaud, Messiaen and Varèse. In his review of the work, Massimo Mila highlights the “parlar cantando” that makes Chailly a master of dramatic recitation (May 29, 1960, L’Espresso). The opera Era proibito has a theme that is critical of capitalism: in an office where employees are encouraged to work to a strict rhythm (“era proibito parlare, cantare, amare” — “it was forbidden to talk, sing, love”), the return of the moon (which was “forbidden” for 90 years) is surrealistically staged as an imaginary liberation. Among other things, Buzzati introduces a chorus of employees who imitate work onomatopoetically. The archive owns a draft of the libretto with amendments by Buzzati, proofs, as well as Chailly’s autograph score.

The lively exchange between composers made possible by the Darmstadt International Summer School and other new music festivals, together with other factors, probably also leads to Ricordi’s increased internationalization. And so today the archive has numerous works by non-Italian composers, including Youngi Pagh-Paan, Gérard Grisey and Hans Werner Henze.