Zandonai, Ricardo

Colombina Concert overture

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Riccardo Zandonai – Colombina. Concert Overture

(b. Sacco, Rovereto, 30. May 1883 – d. Pesaro, 5. June 1944)

Preface (Ben Earle, 2018)
On 1 January 1935, Riccardo Zandonai arrived in Naples, where he had been engaged to conduct three performances of his most recent opera, La farsa amorosa, based – like Hugo Wolf’s opera Der Corregidor, and Manuel de Falla’s celebrated ballet – on Pedro Antonio de Alarcón’s comic novel, El sombrero de tres picos. La farsa amorosa had been a success at its Roman premiere in February 1933, but it made little impact on the public of the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, where Zandonai conducted just two performances (on 10 and 16 January) to small houses: the third never took place. All was not lost, though, as the composer, now back home in Pesaro, explained in a letter to his confidant, the journalist Nicola D’Atri (1866–1955). For »out of the unrealised third performance […] was born an overture«.refaceee, 2018s friend’s advice.

A few days earlier, Zandonai had referred to his »promised overture«.2 The promise was not to D’Atri but to the committee of the Terza Rassegna Nazionale di Musica Contemporanea, to be held in Rome in the spring of 1935. A characteristic feature of musical life in fascist Italy during the 1930s, the Rassegne (literally: displays), which in 1930 and 1933 had been called Mostre (the term employed for the regime’s art exhibitions), were festivals of new Italian music, biennial from 1933, that took place under the auspices of the Sindacato Nazionale Fascista di Musicisti, the National Fascist Union of Musicians. As Zandonai acknowledged the previous summer, he had already promised – and failed to produce – an overture for the 1933 event. This time he would not let the Union down.3 It took him a while to come up with an idea for the piece, but on Christmas Day 1934, he revealed that he was proposing to take the tune known in Italian as Il Carnevale di Venezia, and »transform its waltz rhythm into that of a galop, to create a comic impression, cacophonous, caricatural, grotesque and, if you will, even daring […] The theme would remain very clear and supple [plasticissimo] even though changed to duple time, and would acquire a new and unexpected character«.4

In 1932, Zandonai had signed the conservative Manifesto di musicisti italiani per la tradizione dell’arte romantica dell’ottocento (Manifesto of Italian Musicians on Behalf of the Nineteenth-Century Tradition of Romantic Art). But his plan for Colombina suggests that, in the context of the Rassegna, where his music would be played alongside that of fascist Italy’s younger generation (including Luigi Dallapiccola, Goffredo Petrassi and Giovanni Salviucci), he feared being taken for old-fashioned. While D’Atri was unenthusiastic about Zandonai’s choice of thematic material, he understood the aesthetic aim: to employ the daring techniques of the modernists, but in such a way as to create a form that would be »persuasive, convincing, also for the large public for whom one writes and composes«.5 Zandonai was not about to join the modernists, rather to demonstrate that he too could be up-to-date, in manner that would also be popular. …


Read full preface > HERE

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210 x 297 mm






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