Zandonai, Riccardo

Rapsodia Trentina for orchestra

SKU: 1932 Category:


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

Rapsodia Trentina

First performed 10th January 1937, Teatro Massimo, Palermo, conducted by the composer.

Born in Borgo Sacco, Rovereto – then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now in the Trentino area of Italy – Zandonai studied in his home town and then under Mascagni at the Liceo Musicale in Pesaro (1898-1901). During this period he composed the Inno degli studenti trentini, in other words, the anthem of the organized irredentist youth of his native province. His essay for graduation was an opera called Il ritorno di Odisseo (‘The Return of Odysseus’), based on a poem by Giovanni Pascoli. At a soirée in Milan in 1907, Zandonai’s music was heard by Arrigo Boito, who introduced him to Giulio Ricordi, one of the dominating figures in Italian musical publishing at the time. After the success of Il Grillo del Focolare (‘The Cricket on the Hearth’), Ricordi envisioned him as the natural successor to Puccini. Zandonai married the singer Tarquinia Tarquini, and settled permanently in Pesaro.

He was very active as a conductor between the Wars, was honoured with membership of the Reale Accademia d’Italia in 1935, and directed the Conservatorio Rossini (formerly the Liceo Musicale) from 1940 to 1943. He is best known for his operas, in particular Francesca da Rimini (1914 – libretto by d’Annunzio), Giulietta e Romeo (1922), and I Cavalieri di Ekebù (1925), these last two with words by his regular collaborator, Rossato. If other composers born in the 1880s – such as Pizzetti and Malipiero – were keen to overhaul what they perceived as defects in the Mascagni/Puccini tradition of melodramma italiano, Zandonai was content to put his own stamp on that tradition rather than reject it. Francesca da Rimini is a highly opulent and decorative score, with hints of Richard Strauss and Impressionism that attains moments of great beauty, particularly in Acts 1 and 3. What it lacks, however, is the melodic felicity of Puccini; neither does it consistently possess the dramatic surefootedness of that Luccese maestro. If Zandonai’s operas are occasionally given in Italy and abroad, his orchestral works have suffered from an unjustifiable neglect. Several of these were inspired by his native region, including this Rapsodia Trentina. The composer was encouraged by his friend, the critic and academic Nicola D’Atri, to shorten his original conception from 14 minutes to 12 and to expunge several ‘unnecessary repetitions’, but to be sure to keep the reappearance of the ‘chorale’ towards the end.1 Scored for a large Romantic forces, complete with woodwind exotica, a large batteria, celeste and harp, this orchestral showpiece is based on ‘old popular melodies from our mountains’2 which are subjected to various transformations.

From an initial whole-tone haze emerges a call to order from the horns (Figure 1 – D’Atri’s ‘chorale’). This motif, with its triadic opening, will generate further ideas in the course of the work. Other important melodies include one with a characteristic dotted rhythm (Figure 2) and a quieter clarinet melody in the manner of a second subject (after Figure 5), whose triadic and rhythmic contours are thoroughly developed, leading to a triumphant full orchestral statement at Figure 7. A long, winding cor anglais melody emerges at Figure 11, played over a bass pedal note: with its mostly conjunct movement and shapely contour one can here appreciate the shared heritage of folk-song and plainchant. Once this material has been explored, Zandonai changes meter to triple time (Figure 15) and transforms the cor anglais melody into an extended bacchanalian dance, throwing in elements of earlier motifs as well. Just before the end, the horns’ ‘chorale’ resurfaces Lento e sostenuto. But by then high spirits are the order of the day, and not even this serious reminiscence can halt the ineluctable dash to the final double bar.

Alasdair Jamieson, 19th December 2016

1 Letter from D’Atri to Zandonai, dated ‘Roma 8.4.’36’, in the Biblioteca Civica Rovereto.
2 Letter from Zandonai to Giovanni Giovannini, dated ‘Pesaro 26 February 1936-XIV, in the Biblioteca Civica Rovereto.

Reprint of a copy from the library of Conservatoire de Musique de Genève, Geneva. For performance material please contact the publisher Ricordi, Milano


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Score No.



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210 x 297 mm






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