In this issue, we examine some unusual Italian song offerings from the twentieth century, an important addition to volumes of vocal exercises by renowned pedagogue Elio Battaglia, and the welcome completion of a wonderful Scandinavian anthology series.
Rota, Nino (1911-1979). Tre Liriche Infantili, per canto e pianoforte. Texts by Lina Schwartz. Edition Schott, 2018. "Il pescatore" (The fisher); "E inutile" (It's useless); "Tornando a casa" (Returning to the house).
Nino Rota is a twentieth century composer known for his tremendous contribution to film music. "Speak Softly, Love" (the theme from The Godfather) and many scores for the films of Federico Fellini (Amarcord, Satyricon, and La Dolce Vita being but a handful) represent his sterling reputation as a film composer. Less well known is that Rota also wrote operas, ballets, symphonic works, and chamber music, following his studies at the Conservatory in Milan, the Santa Cecilia conservatory, and at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. Rota studied with some of the twentieth century's outstanding Italian composers, including Rosario Scalero, Alfredo Casella, and Ildebrando Pizzetti, and also studied conducting and orchestration with Fritz Reiner. A graduate degree in literature, as well as his long-held position as a teacher and director of the Bari Conservatory, serve to establish his impressive credentials as a musician.
These three songs, although not officially published until recently, were printed and distributed by the composer himself when first composed in 1935, and were apparently very well received. The poet, Lina Schwartz, was a Jewish Italian writer and enthusiastic champion of anthroposophy, a philosophic and educational discipline created by mystic and philosopher Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). Schwartz wrote many poems and books specifically for children. The poems chosen by Rota for these songs are artless observations of children in daily life: "Il pescatore," describes a child fishing, under a sky that reflects the sea; "E inutile," about a child's frustration with the way the hungry birds ignore the breadcrumbs she has thoughtfully spread on the windowsill; and "Tornando a casa," in which the child describes a visit to the home of her aunt, from which she has only just returned.
The songs are a perfect choice for a young soprano or tenor whose voice lies easily in the higher tessitura, remaining in the upper passaggio and middle voice for all three. The first song is a gentle barcarolle, the second is lively larghetto mosso, where the piano paints the hesitant movement of the birds who alight but do not eat the crumbs. The third song, marked allegretto animato, follows the ingenuous prattling of the young girl as she recounts her little domestic adventure to her mother. The tempo slows almost imperceptibly as the child relaxes after her exclamation of, "Oh mamma, che bel giorno di vacanza!" (Oh, momma, what a beautiful holiday), ending with her satisfaction at being home with her mother.
The entire set of songs takes little more than three minutes to perform, and is a charming and endearing choice of unusual Italian repertoire.
Casella, Alfredo (1883-1947). Quattro favole romanesche di Trilussa (Four Fables from Rome by Trilussa), per canto e pianoforte, op. 38. Ricordi, 2018. "Er coccodrillo" (The crocodile); "La carita" (Charity); "Er gato e er cane" (The cat and the dog); "L'elezione der presidente" (The election of the president).
The compositional style of Alfredo Casella, who, along with Resphigi and Pizzetti, is considered to be, among the first generation of twentieth century Italian composers, evolved into neoclassicism by the end of World War I. Quattro favole romanesche di Trilussa marks what many consider the highlight of his compositional development, eschewing the schools of serialism and impressionism, and embracing a new approach to text choice and setting. In the excellent resource, Italian Art Song, by Ruth C. Lakeway and Robert C. White, Jr., the authors mark this hallmark of early twentieth century vocal music, that is, "the new awareness of the importance of the text ... brought about a change in the choice of texts for all vocal works ... texts were chosen from the ancient Greeks, the Bible, the medieval Vulgate poets, great historical epochs, and oriental sources, as well as from the contemporary writers ... Poetry about love was no longer the only desired topic. The music had to follow the dictates of the poem" (p. 17). Casella's style and choice of text in these songs are a clear demonstration of a new direction in Italian vocal music.
The poems are by Roman poet Carlo Alberto Salustri (1871-1950), who wrote these particular texts under the pen name of "Trilussa" (the anagram of the poet's last name). The language is a Roman dialect, not too dissimilar to standard Italian, and the wry and ironic stories reflect the political and social disorder that permeated Italy in this period. "Er coccodrillo" tells a story of a married couple, the husband unluckily devoured by a crocodile. The heart weeps for a day, although the unfortunate widow manages to move on. "La carita" pokes gentle fun at the social care network that existed in Italy at the time. "Er gato e er cane" is a droll dialogue between the superior cat and the subservient dog. "L'elezione der presidente" tells of an election among the animals, who bitterly regret their choice of a donkey for the highest office in the land. When they discover that they have chosen a jackass instead of a lion, the new president coolly informs them that they are stuck with their unfortunate choice.
The frequent meter changes, the Roman dialect, which slightly differs from standard Italian, and the syllabic text setting, make these songs appear more difficult than they are. A real awareness of the subtle wit and irony of the text requires a dramatic commitment on the part of both singer and pianist. These are songs for an advanced collaborative duo, and the higher tessitura requires a soprano or tenor with excellent diction and technique. Quattro favole romanesche di Trilussa are a wonderful and fresh choice for a singer seeking to program an unusual set of Italian songs, with perhaps a sly allusion to current political realities.
Battaglia, Elio, ed. L'arte vocalizzo, parte III. Corso di alta difficolta, a cura di Elio Battaglia. Antologia critico-technica per gli studenti di canto. The Art of the the Vocalise. Part III--Course of High Difficulty. A Critical-Technical Anthology for Vocal Study (mezzo soprano-baritone) Ricordi/Hal Leonard, 2018.
How many voice teachers regularly employ such vocalises in the studio? Many such collections are masterful, providing an organized approach to daily vocal exercise, and reflecting the pedagogic wisdom of the centuries. They also provide an opportunity to create regularity in practice, and fresh ways to approach issues in the developing voice. Marchesi, Vaccai, Liebling, Concone--the vocal exercises created by these well known pedagogues are all wonderful tools to share with our students seeking ways to incorporate important lesson concepts into their daily routine.
This third volume of esercizi for mezzo soprano and baritone follows Battaglia's book for soprano and tenor (reviewed in Journal of Singing by Judith Carman, in the November/December 2013 issue) and completes his series of graduated exercises for the classically trained voice. Elio Battaglia is a noted baritone, scholar, and pedagogue and has to his credit a number of outstanding edited collections of music by such noted Italian composers as Vaccai, Bellini, and Resphigi. This third part of the Battaglia series, for both tenor/soprano and mezzo soprano/baritone, follows earlier volumes; volume I designated "preparatory," volume II, "course of medium difficulty," while volume III is marked "course of high difficulty." For the didactic purposes of this anthology, the editor has chosen representative works by important composers in this specific field; Mozart, Porpora, Schubert, and Ravel are here, as well as lesser known composers, like G. Crescentini and Luigi Lablache. The volume is divided up into "Vocalises and Exercises of High Difficulty (Intro duction and Daily Warmups)" (Mozart, Porpora, Schubert, Crescentini), "Selected Arias of High Difficulty" (Caccini, Cavalli, Hasse, Galuppi, Cherubini, Cimarosa,Vinci), and "Selected Twentieth-Century Vocalises" (Ravel, Hahn, Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Zandonai).
Battaglia's history of the vocalise, presented in the forward to this volume, is fascinating and thorough. The preface, presented in Italian and English, is worth studying to gain a complete understanding of the genre and its important advocates, including many great singers. He begins with its supposed origin in "the earliest musical pursuits of the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Jews," and continues through Rossini, Bellini, Verdi, and into the twentieth century. Battaglia is meticulous and careful to define the vocalise, and to delineate the evolution of this concept and other "exercises" for the voice: "The terms solfeggio, esercizio, and vocalizzo all shared the same objective in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as a means of educating and developing vocal expressivity by exploring sounds shaped by one or more vowels." He has included a very helpful bibliography, which provides an opportunity for further research and discovery. Any vocal pedagogy survey of vocalises should include these curated anthologies, not only for their practical usage, but for their historical significance.
Fulmer, Mimmi, coll. and ed. Midnight Sun: Collected Songs from Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, volumes 2 and 3. Subito Music Corporation, 2018.
Volume 2--"Anmutiger Vertrag" (German), Yrjo Kilpinen; "Du" (Swedish), "Armas Jarnefelt"; "Hilu, hilu" (Finnish), arranged by Ralf Gothoni; "Kukapa sen saunan lammittaapi?" (Finnish), arranged by Vaino Hannikainen; "Minun kultani kaunis on" (Finnish), arranged by Ralf Gothoni; "Pastorale" (Finnish), Tauno Pylkkanen; "Tule, tule kultani" (Finnish), arranged by Ralf Gothoni; "Tuomi on virran reunalla" (Finnish), arranged by Einari Marvia; "De Hundrede Violiner" (Norwegian), Eyvind Alnaes; "Jeg elsker Dig" (Norwegian), Edvard Grieg; "Med en vandlilje" (Norwegian), Edvard Grieg; "Sildig" (Norwegian), Agathe Backer Grondahl; "Varen" (Norwegian), Edvard Grieg; "Intet ar som vantanstider" (Swedish), Wilhelm Peterson-Berger; "Skogen sover" (Swedish), Hugo Alfven; "Sommarpsalm" (Swedish), Waldemar Ahlen; "Till havs" (Swedish), Gustaf Nordqvist.
Volume 3--"Sommersang" (Danish), Carl Nielsen; "Die stille Stadt," op. 50 (German), Jean Sibelius; "Oravan pesan" (Finnish), P. J. Hannikainen; "Soi vienosti murheeni soitto" (Finnish), Oskar Merikanto; "Ein Traum" (German), Edvard Grieg; "Klovereng" (Norwegian), Agathe Backer Grondahl; "Lykken mellem to mennesker" (Norwegian/Danish), Eyvind Alnaes; "Rav" (Norwegian/Danish), Christian Sinding; "Saetergjentens Sondag," solo and with violin obbligato, Ole Bull; "Zur Rosenzeit" (German), Edvard Grieg; "Ballad ur oper Kung Carls jakt" (Swedish), Fredrik Pacius; "Den enda stunden" (Swedish), Ture Rangstrom; "Det kom ett brev" (Swedish), Gunnar de Frumerie; "Fjarlin vingad" (Swedish), C. M. Bellman; "Min sjal, du maste" (Swedish), folk hymn arranged by David Dies; "Vem kan segla" (Swedish), traditional, arr. David Dies.
In volumes 2 and 3, Mimmi Fulmer continues and completes her collection of art song and traditional and sacred Scandinavian song. Volume 1 of Midnight Sun: Collected Songs from Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark was reviewed here in the November/December 2016 issue of the Journal of Singing, and it is a pleasure to see the work completed. The book Midnight Sun, Volume 3, includes texts, word for word translations, and IPA translations. Publisher Subito Music also offers the Midnight Sun CD-ROM separately, which adds pronunciation guides for Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, German, and Danish, and recordings of native language speakers speaking every text.
Professor Fulmer has succeeded in creating an extensive anthology of this genre of song, which serves as a wonderful introduction to some composer names that have become familiar to singers and voice teachers, and to others that deserve to be better known and explored. Her deeply felt connection with her family heritage (her grandparents were Finnish and Swedish immigrants) has led her to carefully curate a very good representation. This work is especially dear to my heart; in addition to my work on the Swedish language translations and IPA for the Swedish language songs included here, I also owe much of my earliest musical education to Professor George Buckbee, to whom these volumes are dedicated.
Good news for the championing of women's music in the twenty first century! Glendower Jones, of Classical Vocal Reprints, has acquired ClarNan Editions, a catalogue devoted to "publishing historic music by women composers." Glendower is already well known as the go-to man for sheet music and scores, including digital (www.classicalvocalrep.com), so it is with great pleasure that we share this new resource. Thank you, Glendower!
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|Publication:||Journal of Singing|
|Date:||May 1, 2019|
|Next Article:||THE LISTENER'S GALLERY.|