From Venice into the World
Malipiero was truly fundamental to Italian music in the first fifty years of the century, (Maderna himself owes him a great deal), in that he drew from the tradition of Venetian polyphony and endowed it with an elegiac tone perfectly suited to the atmosphere of a lagoon city. With Venice and the Veneto as central themes in their work, Interensemble have found a connection between history and geography, which has led them to the creation of an interesting “sound topology”.

The very titles of Malipiero’s compositions hint at the desire “to sing” and at the nostalgic atmosphere created by the music. Canto nell’infinito of 1930, the most recent of the trilogy, derives from a piece composed two years before, Vocalise-étude pour voix moyennes, and is characterised by an alienated lunar melody in line with Malipiero’s “poetics of alienation”. Canto crepuscolare is the oldest and, together with Canto notturno, dates back to 1908, although both pieces were not published until later, in 1914. The atmosphere foreshadowed by the titles is nostalgic and decadent, and the music rejects any thematic development. Malipiero has a Latin way of writing for instruments and he is perfectly aware, both culturally and technically, (he has had a prestigious musicological career) of this original aspect which has been a characteristic of our music from Domenico Scarlatti to Boccherini. Malipiero writes, “I have rejected the easy game of developments, because I’d had too much of it and was bored /.../ the discourse on truly Italian music never ceases, it follows the natural laws of sound combinations and contrasts, not a geometrical construction, but a touchable and solid architecture, anti-symmetrical and proportioned.”

Between Malipiero’s generation and Maderna’s there were the Mittleuropean music experiences between the wars. It was immediately after World War II that Maderna became the unquestioned point of reference for young musicians of the time, both as composer, conductor and organiser. These were the years of Maderna’s contact with serial and random music, which he approached without, however, forgetting his roots in the Venetian musical tradition and in particular his debt to Malipiero. Pièce pour Ivry dates back to 1971 and, as the title makes clear, is dedicated to the violinist Ivry Gitlis. As indicated on the score, the piece has to be performed after choosing ad libitum sections which are not structured in sequence, and so it becomes unpredictable both in form and in length. The performer who arranges the sequence of structures is free to organise the piece as he wants, and is also allowed to repeat parts. The short pieces, Tre piccoli pezzi per bambini, belong to the same period and shortly before it — Per Caterina (1963), Serenade für Claudia (1968) and Stadchen für Tini (1972). These pieces show, in their simplicity, two important aspects: Maderna’s musicality which stands outside complex structures, and the tenderness and humanity which are also to be found in his more structured music.

Franco Donatoni was also linked to Maderna. Because of his recent death the pieces included here are amongst the first affectionate tributes of admiration In memoriam. After an initial period under the influence of Bartok, Donatoni was then in contact with post-Webernism, later abandoned in favour of a frantic research into the “music of matter”. Due to his intense involvement in this work, he went through a “negative” period (from Per orchestra to To Earle two, 1962-1972) which came to an end thanks to a composition dedicated to Maderna, Duo pour Bruno (1975), and a number of subsequent solo compositions, such as the two included here, Argot and Nidi (both 1979). After his “negative” decade, Donatoni no longer abandoned himself to “music of matter”, and the automatism previously intended as a declaration of impotence, now became a ludic exercise where the sound matter is used in a more flexible and improvised way, and is organised in static sections but highly changeable internally. Argot and Nidi are very similar in a general conception: they are made up of two movements, different in character, and the music, despite the difficulties of performing it, is not virtuoso music, but it is based on research into the potential of each instrument. This implies the study of performing models where stasis and movement, variance and invariance, continuity and discontinuity can be analysed as they appear.

Salvatore Macchia is an Italian-American, born in 1947, who belongs to the most important generation after the generation of the Twenties and Thirties (Donatoni’s, in other words). Because of his intimate relationship with the Veneto and Interensemble, he composed a piece on Venice, which catches the magic and ‘pearly’ atmosphere of the lagoon city. Venezia velata written in March 2000 for flute and tape, and now presented in a new version for flute and piano, is based on a series of variations on the initial sequence of chords. The scheme is A-B-A in the sense that the calm and lulling movement and soft atmosphere of the beginning, evocative of the slow motion of the sea, is followed by moments of uneasiness brought about by rage. In the second part the piano is rhythmically more incisive, the music characterised by irregular accents, clear sounds, passionate impulses, and the final part recaptures the slow motion and impalpable harmony of the beginning. From the pianissimo a melody springs, like a half visible shape standing out at a distance, while the sounds of bells seem to mingle with those of steamers, reminding us of bell towers and canals, giving life to a non-descriptive work, just springing from a subtle evocative vibration.

Bernardino Beggio is not just the leading figure of Interensemble, he is also central to the Italian music panorama. If it is true that there is a link between Beggio and what we can call Venetian sound topology, it is also true that he promotes an international sound, which is sometimes close to some American post-minimalism, while at other times he can be linked to European high culture tradition. It is a sound often made up of diverse elements, like an amusing puzzle, and often based on an ironic superimposition of styles and moods. It is as if Beggio has his own personal archive of world music from which his heart takes what it loves and the mind places and organises everything in a light structure, as happens in Five (1999), a calm, intense, playful piece, where some of the unifying technical elements (clusters of nine and six notes, bichords, held chords etc.) link the melody to the tangle of instruments.

In the fascinating piece by Michele Biasutti, high-pitched sounds emerge from an apparent sound uniformity made up of indefinite minute elements — small clusters of notes with a fast intermitting motion, alternations (within D-F# and E-G# intervals), held sounds etc. All this produces a kind of buzzing sound which puts the ear to the test because it has to single out the various sound elements in the whole sound matter, in an attempt to perceive a sound which stretches itself as far as the extreme boundaries of music space, hence the title: En proximidad del infinito. The piece was composed in 1996 and it represents a systematisation of sounds in a uniform frame, a kind of essential music or, as the composer calls it, ecological, in the sense that it stimulates the primary factors of human perception (Biasutti has long studied this field, both from the point of view of physics and of musicology, and has applied its principles to his compositions).

This valuable Cd underlines the relationship between the culture of the Veneto region, Venice as an open city on one hand and, on the other, the world seen as universality in terms of contemporary experiences and techniques. It is an affectionate tribute to the composers whose music was written in the Veneto at the end of the last millennium and the beginning of this.  

Renzo Cresti - sito ufficiale