Casella, Alfredo


Casella, Alfredo

Sinfonia per orchestra Op. 63 (Symphony No. 3)

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Casella, Alfredo – Sinfonia per orchestra Op. 63 (Symphony No. 3)

I Allegro mosso p. 3
II Andante molto moderato. Quasi adagio p.65
III Scherzo. Minore. Allegro alquanto pesante e sempre molto ritmico –
Maggiore. Allegro giocoso ed animato – Variazione (minore) p. 90
IV Rondo Finale. Allegro molto vivace ed animato – Animando –
Andante molto moderato – Tempo primo, animatissimo p. 141

Alfredo Casella wrote a foreword to his Symphony Opus 63 on March 28, 1941, with the title La mia nuova sinfonia, excerpts from which are quoted below:
“During the course of the last century and also at the beginning of this, the general view was that the form of the classical symphony was exhausted and inappropriate for modern times. […] In the last few years, however, with the decline of Romanticism and its offshoots, to which Debussy’s Impressionism belongs, new trends – not only in music – can be discerned today in all countries of cultural importance, aiming at architectural, linear, powerful and dynamic artistic expression based on sound structures and focused on significant form, avoiding any type of superfluous or decorative virtuosity. These days, it is hardly surprising, therefore, that forms considered by the Romantics as sterile and lifeless should revive and flourish once more. Within Europe in recent years there have been numerous examples of this revival in all types of artistic directions, as can be seen from the many concerti grossi, partitas, passacaglias, ricercars, dance suites and, last but not least, fugues that have reappeared. So it was quite natural that sooner or later the problem of the classical symphony should once again become a priority in the minds of composers and in the contemporary repertoire of various countries.

The history of my new symphony is rather curious. In my youth, actually during my childhood, I had already composed two symphonies. [These were the first two accepted orchestral works of Alfredo Casella: the Symphony No. 1 in B minor op. 5, 1905-06, and the Symphony No. 2 in C minor op. 12, 1908-09.] Thirty years have elapsed since then, during which time it has never occurred to me to compose a third. I always believed that this form would never attract me again. When, at our meeting in Venice in July 1939, Dr Stock paid me the honour of inviting me on behalf of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, to compose a work, together with other composers, in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of this famous orchestra, I eagerly accepted the commission, thinking in terms of a small symphony of about fifteen minutes’ duration. In October that year I started work but after a few days I noticed, not without surprise but certainly without much enthusiasm, that what I had imagined to be the beginning of a work of modest size had in fact the makings of a genuine, fully-fledged symphony. I was left with no alternative but to follow my creative impulses, which indicated to me what the basic structure should be. […] The symphony, if one has to deal with it in its purely classical form, is without doubt one of the most difficult, demanding and elevating tasks a composer can ever undertake. […]I started work in Rome on October 8, 1939, and completed the full score in Siena on August 24, 1940. I should also like to add I had to stop work between February and June because of other pressing musical engagements. The actual time spent on the symphony therefore was not more than seven months.
Since, as I have mentioned, the symphony is purely classical in form, it needs no verbal introduction, particularly as this is not music with some sort of programme. […] So there is not much more to be said about this piece except that it was written by a composer who has lived in harmony with his own creative art for many years. One would search in vain for any polemical message in this symphony; it is a serious work, written in a clear, understandable style.”

Alfredo Casella’s Sinfonia per orchestra op. 63, his third symphony, was first performed on March 27, 1941, in Chicago, as envisaged, during the jubilee celebrations of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under its legendary Principal Conductor, Frederick Stock (1872-1942). The work was an enormous success and the following morning the Chicago Daily Tribune commented on it as “an Alfred Casella Symphony which is certain to pass into the permanent repertoire.” The second performance, which was no less successful, took place in Rome on March 30, 1941, played by the Orchestra of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia conducted by the composer himself. The next day, L.F. Lunghi announced in the Giornale d’Italia that the Sinfonia “represents also a victory for the arts in Italy; A.Casella returns to our great tradition of clarity of expression and purity of form but remains loyal to his own natural idiom.” When Casella conducted the Dresdner Staatskapelle on November 28, 1941, a critic described Casella, the conductor: “the painstaking direction of the orchestra, his deceptive clarity, the economy of his movements, his superiority and self-confidence”. He conducted the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra on January 18, 1942, at the Musikverein, during the second half of a Furtwängler concert, in which his Sinfonia followed performances of Schubert’s Rosamunde Overture and the Unfinished. Although it met with success everywhere, the work never entered into the standard repertoire. It is hoped that this first-ever publication in study format following the Universal Edition publication in 1941 will revive interest in this major work in the Italian neo-classical style.

For performance materials please contact the original publisher, Universal Edition, Vienna (

Reprint with the kind permission of Universal Edition AG, Vienna, 2002.



Deutsches Vorwort > HERE

Score No.






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