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Deità  Silvane. Liriche da camera

Ottorino Respighi

Year: 2009
Publisher: Stradivarius

Music by Ottorino Respighi
Gemma Bertagnolli, soprano
Aldo Orvieto, piano

Deità Silvane (1917)

Five songs to words by Antonio Rubino. Dedication: To the Contessa Anna Piccolomini Edizioni Ricordi, Milan

Stornellatrice (1906)

Text: Carlo Zangarini and Alberto Donini. Dedication: To the Signorina Maria Pedrazzi Edizioni Bongiovanni, Bologna

Quattro Rispetti toscani (1915)

Text: Arturo Birga. Dedication: To the Signora Argia Pini Edizioni Bongiovanni, Bologna

Tanto bella (1897)

Edizioni Bongiovanni, Bologna

“Evviva Rosabella” (Baldassarre Galuppi, 1706-1785)

With the figured bass by Ottorino Respighi (1912) Unpublished manuscript in the Ottorino Respighi Bequest, Giorgio Cini Foundation, Venice

Antiche cantate d’amore

With the figured bass by Ottorino Respighi (1912) Unpublished manuscript in the Ottorino Respighi Bequest, Giorgio Cini Foundation, Venice

L’ultima ebbrezza (1896)

Text: Ada Negri Edizioni Bongiovanni, Bologna

Cinque Canti all’antica (1906)

Texts: Giovanni Boccaccio (I. II. III.), Alberto Donini (IV. V.) Dedications: To Giuseppe Borgatti (I. II. III.), To Venturino Venturini (V.) Edizioni Bongiovanni, Bologna

Scherzo (1906)

Text: Carlo Zangarini. Dedication: To the Signorina Maria Pedrazzi Edizioni Bongiovanni, Bologna

They gave me the master recording of Respighi’s CD with Gemma Bertagnolli and Aldo Orvieto and asked me if I can write some comments to introduce it. No, I cannot! It is not because I do not know anything about the subject. I listened attentively to Respighi’s effusive, yet a little bit emphatic and symbolic operas. I listened to vinyl recordings and beautiful overflowing and amazing orchestrations of symphonic pieces. I listened to his most famous lyrics in Tebaldi’s brilliance and in precarious auditions as well. Once I even accepted to accompany them during a small concert, on condition that the singer would have included L’ultima ebbrezza in the programme, because in the finale the piano is left solo in a modulating chords crescendo, which after hearing in words the supreme quiver of love has an effect on the pianist that I cannot express. I have my conviction of Respighi and of the historic Twentieth Century. That we all have difficulty to readmit in our mentality, because it is always a little bit pompous and overexposed. It is enough to say, “Deità silvane”, we are afraid to meet Carducci at the source of the Clitumno river or to be in D’Annunzio’s place under the rain with Ermione. A beautiful poem the former. Marvellous the latter. But already at the bottom of the golden sack of our culture today. And those archaic cantatas, with a harmony that forces us to a rest between the distant past and in a yesterday that is not ours anymore and in a taste of too many flavours, when we have just learned to connect ourselves to the ancients ploughing the waves of philology! When I listen to something new, I must bring everything into play, and I have no more time and will to play on yesterday’s material. And thus I confess: with Respighi, I lost a bet with myself two years ago. I was listening to I pini di Roma performed with vigour and charm by a young Italian orchestra, the Fondazione Toscanini‘s one. While the final crescendo was beginning, I was saying to myself that it is necessary to be fed with Italian culture, national flavours, singing and sounds bringing enjoyment in order to really appreciate it. We were in New York, at the “Lincoln Center”, and after the last chord the public stood up from the excitement. So, for penitence, I had to reanalyse the score, asking myself why it had been so involving and victorious while I was wondering why we let ourselves be taken so lazily by prejudices. Do not ask me to think any longer. Especially in this case, in which I should solve the problem of why a singer mostly used to a baroque repertoire wanted to face such distant poetics and language. A lot of thick and written notes. Not much room. Daring between hendecasyllables and the other verses. Not declaimed with a harpsichord and an obsequious orchestra, but competing with a piano that wants to speak its mind in every single moment. No, I do not want to run any risk. Especially after that. Falling into temptation, I had a small taste of listening. I had, I won’t say “a shock” but at least a pungent surprise. I remembered the authoritative burden of influential voices that used to sing the music of that age, sumptuously devouring vowels and consonants and the puffed up throats of the young imitators who were commanded to show off their voice, creating confusion. But here, a clear fresh voice came to me, a voice that is tender, able to play with words not only to utter them, but also to pull out significance, passion, irony and the questions inside of them. Melody rises up on top of the staff but where sound is still natural; in the low-pitched notes the phrases seem like a confidence, a warning. With anticipation, I listened to another track: it was a Tuscan stornello that reminded me of Cecco Angiolieri and Malaparte and forced me to think about Bartali and Benigni as well as people that I did not plan to think about. And above all, like a playful challenge such that of femininity, a cheerfully spoken mischievous word. Thus, I swear, I interrupted the third listening shortly after commencing because I started wondering if we learned to bring with us preconceived notions when we listen. Sometimes we should not try to conquer and to enjoy, but we should reassert what we understand, plan on how to understand, to pick what cultural parameters to choose in order to give opinions, even at the cost of remaining stuck to ourselves, like those who go abroad, maybe for just one day, and look for an Italian restaurant. We should not catalogue all the time. In the concert programmes, in the cover notes Respighi is like that: he is not as disruptive as Schoenberg, as precious as Debussy, as bare as Ungaretti and Montale, as visionary as Gabriele Rossetti or Federico Fellini. Respighi interpreted by Gemma Bertagnolli and Aldo Orvieto reaches us sooner, like they are recounting a suffering of far away memories, a happiness of near words, a telepathic mutual understanding of music. For this reason now I end my letter and I send it to you. And I will not write you anything.