Monday, December 17, 2007

Debussy, The Snow Is Dancing

Achille-Claude Debussy (pronounced [aʃil klod dəbysi]) (August 22, 1862 – March 25, 1918) was a French composer. Along with Maurice Ravel he is considered the most prominent figure working within the style commonly referred to as Impressionist music, though he himself intensely disliked the term when applied to his compositions. Debussy was not only among the most important of all French composers but also a central figure in all European music at the turn of the twentieth century.

Debussy's music virtually defines the transition from late-Romantic music to twentieth century modernist music. In French literary circles, the style of this period was known as Symbolism, a movement that directly inspired Debussy both as a composer and as an active cultural participant.

Debussy Préludes Book1 - Des pas sur la neige

"Des pas sur la neige" (Footprints in the Snow)is the 6th piece of Claude Debussy's first set of preludes. It evokes a stark, glacial landscape of resigned sadness and solitude. The melancholy of the fragmented melody is superimposed by plodding ostinato figures.

Maurice Hinson considered this piece the saddest and most moving of any of Claude Debussy's preludes.

With his Préludes Debussy continues the development of a form that has flourished since the Baroque, first serving as an introductory movement and then acquiring life of its own, particularly in a sense of conveying a single concentrated thought, emotion or impression. The fact that the titles appear only at the end of each prelude confirms that music is in the foreground and the titles are there not to give programme but to indicate the suggestion of an impression and make a contribution to the overall listening pleasure.

"Des pas sur la neige" (Footprints in the Snow)is the 6th piece of Claude Debussy's first set of preludes. It evokes a stark, glacial landscape of resigned sadness and solitude. The melancholy of the fragmented melody is superimposed by plodding ostinato figures.

Maurice Hinson considered this piece the saddest and most moving of any of Claude Debussy's preludes.

The complexity of the suggested imagery necessitated advances in the tonal language: these preludes bridge the transition from complex tonal through non-functional triadic to post-tonal.

The first set of twelve Préludes appeared in 1910. Danseuses de Delphes uses parallel chords in counterpoint with pentatonic melody to portray figures from Greek vases depicting dancers from Delphi , a city at the foot of Mount Parnassus , which had a temple of Apollo (god of oracles, poetry and arts).

Voiles (translated as either "Veils" or "Sails") presents an extreme case in Debussy's language: it is based on a whole-tone scale plus the pentatonic scale in B. Alfred Cortot saw in this music "the flight of a white wing over the crooning sea towards the horizon bright with the setting sun".

La vent dans la plaine is written in toccata style but is always of a light (indication "as light as possible" at the beginning) and non-intense nature. Its middle section is based on a whole-tone scale.
The title of Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir (Sounds and perfumes swirl in the evening air) is a quote from Harmonie du soir , Baudelaire's poem in Les fleurs du mal , set by Debussy for voice in 1888.
Les collines d'Anacapri combines a Neapolitan song with tarantella fragments. Anacapri is a town on the island of Capri (Capri=goats), in the Bay of Naples, 500 meters above sea level, known already as a Greek colony in 400BCE.
Debussy indicated that the prelude Des pas sur la neige "should sound like a melancholy, snowbound landscape". Its repeated rhythmical pattern suggests the image of footsteps fighting with deep snow, while its fragmented melody and stark harmonies give an impression of a study in black and white.

In Ce qu'a vu le vent d'Ouest , virtuosic technique of Lisztian proportions is applied to Debussy's harmonic language, based here on the pentatonic and whole-tone scales. It is an illustration of nature's powers unleashed and a portrait of the wind of destruction on the French west coast.

La fille aux cheveux de lin is a title from Leconte de Lisle's Chansons écossaises , set by D. in 1880. Its recurring lines elucidate well the poem's ambiance: "L'amour, au clair soleil d'été/Avec l'alouette a chanté".

La sérénade interrompue commences with an imitation of guitar strumming as the background. The superimposed melody makes only one truly emotional break (at librement there is an instance of the Andalusian canto hondo . The interruptions suggest some kind of intervention (water thrown, window shut, fear?) and the piece ends in a defeated retreat.

The indications in La cathédrale engloutie , such as "in a gentle, harmonious haze", "gentle and fluid" and "emerging from the haze gradually", demonstrate well the sfumato technique implemented by the composer to evoke mysticism and supernatural, in what is really a study in exploration of chordal sound. The legend that served as inspiration is one of Cathedral of Ys, sunk off Brittany 1500 years ago as a punishment for impiousness, which occasionally rises at sunrise as an example. The use of the story proves Debussy's continuing fascination with the sea. His recording of the piece is characterised by the use of long pedal that preserves the bass pedal notes.

The hero of La danse de Puck is the mischief-maker of Danish and Swedish legends. He was immortalised by Shakespeare as the page to Oberon in Midsummer Night's Dream . This is an ethereal and fleeting dance of a fairy creature with interjections of a horn motive.

Minstrels conclude Debussy's exploration of music-hall song begun in Golliwogg's cake-walk and The little nigar . Banjo chords, drum beating, a sentimental song - all of these find their place in this sketch of an exotic (for Europeans) performance, brought to Europe after 1910 by travelling troupes.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Felix Draeseke

Felix August Bernhard Draeseke (October 7, 1835February 26, 1913) was a composer of the "New German School" admiring Liszt and Richard Wagner. He wrote compositions in most forms including eight operas and stage works, four symphonies, and much vocal and chamber music.


Felix Draeseke was born in the Franconian ducal town of Coburg, Germany. He was attracted to music early in life and wrote his first composition at age 8. He encountered no opposition from his family when, in his mid-teens, he declared his intention of becoming a professional musician. A few years at the Leipzig conservatory did not seem to benefit his development, but after one of the early performances of Wagner's Lohengrin he was won to the camp of the New German School centered around Franz Liszt at Weimar, where he stayed from 1856 (arriving just after Joachim Raff's departure) to 1861. In 1862 Draeseke left Germany and made his way to Switzerland, teaching in the Suisse Romande in the area around Lausanne. Upon his return to Germany in 1876, Draeseke chose Dresden as his place of residence. Though he continued having success in composition, it was only in 1884 that he received an official appointment to the Dresden conservatory and, with it, some financial security. In 1894, two years after his promotion to a professorship at the Royal Saxon Conservatory, at the age of 58, he married his former pupil Frida Neuhaus. In 1912 he completed his final orchestral work, the Fourth Symphony. On February 26, 1913, Draeseke suffered a stroke and died; he is buried in the Tolkewitz cemetery in Dresden.

Music and Styles

During his career Draeseke divided his efforts almost equally among compositional realms and composed in most genres, including symphonies, concertos, opera, chamber music, and works for solo piano. With his early Piano Sonata in c-sharp Sonata quasi Fantasia of 1862–1867 he aroused major interest, winning Liszt's unreserved admiration of it as one of the most important piano sonatas after Beethoven. His operas Herrat (1879, originally Dietrich von Bern) and Gudrun (1884, after the medieval epic of the same name) met with some success, but their subsequent neglect has kept posterity from understanding Draeseke as one of the few true successors to Wagner and one of the very few who could conceive dramatically convincing and musically compelling examples of "Gesamtkunstwerk".

Draeseke keenly followed new developments in all facets of music. His chamber music compositions make use of newly developed instruments, among them the violotta, an instrument developed by Alfred Stelzner as an intermediary between viola and cello, which Draeseke used in his A major String Quintet, and also the viola alta, an instrument developed during the 1870s by Hermann Ritter and the prototype of viola expressly endorsed by Richard Wagner for his Bayreuth Orchestra.

A master contrapuntist, Draeseke reveled in writing choral music, achieving major success with his B minor Requiem of 1877–1880, but nowhere proving more convincingly his powers in this direction than in the staggering Mysterium Christus which is comprised of a prolog and three separate oratorios and requires three days for a complete performance, a work which occupied him between the years 1894–1899 but whose conception reaches back to the 1860s. Of all the symphonies from the second half of the 19th century which are unjustly neglected, Draeseke's Symphonia Tragica (Symphony No. 3 in C major, op. 40) is one of the very few which deserves repertory status alongside the symphonies of Brahms and Bruckner, a masterful fusion of intellect and emotion, of form and content. Orchestral works like the Serenade in F major (1888) or its companion of the same year, the symphonic prelude after Kleist's Penthesilea have in them all that is declared necessary for audience success: rich melodic invention, rhythmic vivacity, and extraordinary harmonic conception. Draeseke's chamber music is equally rich.


During his life, and the period shortly following his death, the music of Draeseke was held in high regard, even among his musical opponents. His compositions were performed frequently in Germany by the leading artists of the day, including Hans von Bülow, Arthur Nikisch, Fritz Reiner, and Karl Böhm. However, as von Bülow once remarked to him, he was a "harte Nuß" ("a hard nut to crack") and despite the quality of his works, he would "never be popular among the ordinary". Draeseke could be sharply critical and this sometimes led to strained relations, the most notorious instance being with Richard Strauss, when Draeseke attacked Strauss’s Salome in his 1905 pamphlet Die Konfusion in der Musik — rather odd as Draeseke was a clear influence on the young Strauss.

Draeseke's music was promoted during the Third Reich and Draeseke joined the ranks of Anton Bruckner, Max Reger and Louis Spohr to enjoy Nazi patronage. After the Second World War, changes in fashion and political climates allowed his name and music to slip into obscurity. But as the 20th century ended, new recordings spurred a renewed interest in his music. An ever widening audience seems to be developing for Draeseke at last and the phenomenon is based on perception of individuality, inventiveness and stylistic integrity, music which truly rewards attention.

Obertura “Gudrun” (10’46”). Orq. Sinf. de Wuppertal. Dir.: G. Hanson. Landschaftsbilder, Op. 20 (Selec.) (11’05”). I. Danz (con.), R. Trekel (bar.), C. Garben (p.). Serenata en Re mayor, Op. 49 (27’35”). Orq. Fca. de la Radio de Hannover. Dir.: J. P. Weigle. Mitternacht, Op. 24 (4’02”). I. Danz (con.), C. Garben (p.).

Dubbed a "giant" by Franz Liszt, Felix Draeseke was one of the leading composers of the new-German school. From the late 19th- to early in the 20th-Century, the music of Felix Draeseke was performed and held in high regard by leading artists including conductors Arthur Nikisch, Hans von Bülow, Fritz Reiner, and Karl Böhm. Changes in fashion and political climates allowed his name and music to slip into relative obscurity, but as the 20th Century ended, new recordings spurred a renewed interest in his music.

The Internationale Draeseke Gesellschaft (IDG) and International Draeseke Society/North America (IDS/NA) have established the Felix Draeseke Pages to provide an opportunity to discover and explore the works of this remarkable composer. Here you will find detailed biographical information, catalogues of Draeseke's works, essays on his music, as well as lists of publications and recordings; audio examples are available in both mp3 and RealAudio formats.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Silent Forest

Erkki Melartin (February 2, 1875–February 14, 1937) was a Finnish composer and pupil of Martin Wegelius from 1892-99 in Helsinki, and Robert Fuchs from 1899-1901 in Vienna. Interestingly enough, he shares identical birth and death years with more famous composer Maurice Ravel.

As well as composing, Melartin also taught and directed music at the Helsinki Music College, later the Helsinki Conservatory. As conductor of the Viborg Orchestra in 1908-11, and despite chronic health problems, Melartin toured extensively (as far as North Africa and India), conducting the first performance of Gustav Mahler's music in Scandinavia, a movement of the Resurrection symphony in 1909 (see the Finnish Music Information Centre link, [1].)

Although Melartin was chiefly a lyricist, the symphony was central to his musical output. He wrote six symphonies (1902–1924) and was the first Finnish composer to bear Mahler's influence. The fourth symphony uses a vocalise like that of Carl Nielsen's Sinfonia Espansiva. The fifth is a Sinfonia brevis ending in a fugue and chorale, while the sixth, harmonically more advanced than the other five, advances stepwise from a C minor first movement — with evocations of Mahler's seventh symphony — to an E-flat major finale. His musical output also includes an opera, Aino (based on the character from the Finnish national epic), a violin concerto, four string quartets, and many piano pieces. His works therefore are divided mainly into large-scale works for orchestra, and chamber pieces for much smaller groups and soloists. In spite of working in the same time period as Jean Sibelius, he was not influenced by the more famous composer's style, and subsequently his work has been largely overshadowed by Finland's most revered composer.

Erkki Melartin — A Man of Many Talents

The most versatile of Finland’s Late Romantic composers was Erkki Melartin (1875—1937). His oeuvre comprises several hundred works with an exceptionally wide stylistic range. Although a Romantic at heart, he would sometimes switch to an Impressionist or even Expressionist idiom.

His versatility was reflected in other walks of life as well. An eminently practical man, he was a conductor and, from 1911 to 1936, director of the Helsinki Music Institute (the Conservatoire from 1924 on). But he also had a meditative streak, published a collection of aphorisms, and had a penchant for theosophy and mysticism.

Melartin’s most important works are his six symphonies, which reflect the influence of e.g. Bruckner and Mahler and range from adaptations of folk music to complex counterpoint and the Modernist idiom of the Sixth Symphony.

Melartin’s piano oeuvre: a mixture of styles

Melartin’s extensive oeuvre for piano also incorporates a wide variety of elements. He composed some 250 piano pieces in all, most of them in the Romantic style fashionable in his day. Some of these are clearly associated with Finnish folk music, others point to the world of the European salon.

Sometimes Melartin’s Romanticism takes on an added flair from Impressionist or Expressionist touches. It is, however, difficult to give any general characterization of his piano music, as neither the dates nor the order of composition are fully known.

Melartin: Pieces in Romantic style

Melartin’s Romantic style is represented by the early ballad "Kaksi joutsenta" (Two Swans, Op. 5/1), several collections of pieces entitled "Lastuja" (Chips), and the serenely lyrical "Three Piano Pieces" Op. 8. The duet suite "Marionetteja" (Marionettes, Op. 1), which also exists as an orchestral arrangement, is another example of Melartin’s Romantic piano poetry.

Like Palmgren, Melartin composed a full set of "24 Preludes" (Op. 85), published in three albums, the first in 1916 and the two latter in 1920. Although rather uneven, they provide a good general idea of the range of the composer’s Romantic piano style. In accordance with convention, each prelude is confined to rather limited textural matter.

A more Classical aspect of Melartin’s music is heard in the "Piano Sonatina" in G major Op. 84 and the "Piano Sonatina" no. 2, also arranged by the composer as a Sonata for flute and harp.

Melartin: Surullinen puutarha Op. 52

One of Melartin’s best-known piano compositions is the five-movement suite "Surullinen puutarha" (The Melancholy Garden; Op. 52). The work is dedicated to Sibelius, and the first movement, "Me kaksi" (We Two) has a certain archaic Sibelius sound. A rather mixed effect is produced by the way in which the suite combines Romantic and drawing-room touches with Impressionist elements.

The dominant mood is poetic meditation, interrupted by the Impressionistically tinged fourth movement, "Sade" (Rain). One of the high points in Melartin’s piano oeuvre, this movement has a transparent texture reminiscent of Ravel, and yet is unmistakably Finnish in mood. The closing movement, "Yksinäisyys" (Solitude), is also impressive in its sombre intensity.

Melartin: Noli me tangere Op. 87

A more coherent, though pianistically less varied work is "Noli me tangere" Op. 87. Its five contemplative movements are more austere but delve deeper than the earlier work. The fourth movement, "Kuolinhetki" (Moment of Death) soars to a brief, anguished climax punctuated by dissonances.

It is followed by "Syystuuli" (Autumn Wind), built up of fleeting, virtually shapeless octave unisons; as the closing movement, Syystuuli inevitably invites comparison with the finale of Chopin’s Sonata in B flat minor.

Melartin: Op. 98

Impressionist elements predominate in two of the pieces in Op. 98, among Melartin’s finest. "Hiljainen metsä" (The Silent Forest, Op. 98/1) evokes a mysterious, contemplative mood. "Korkeuksissa" (In the Heights, Op. 98/3), notated without bar lines, is an intensely meditative piece, with a powerful, painfully dissonant climax in the middle. "Hämärän kuva" (Image of Twilight; Op. 110/4) also has Impressionist touches.

Melartin: Six Piano Pieces Op. 118

The "Six Piano Pieces" Op. 118 (published 1923) are among the high points in Melartin’s piano oeuvre. The first of these, "Syyskuva" (Autumn Image) is still rather conventional, but the five others make highly individual use of Impressionist elements.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the album is its dramatic construction, consisting of quick gestures and abrupt transitions. The contemplative opening of "Salaperäinen metsä" (The Mysterious Forest) gives way to sudden dissonances. "Noita" (The Witch) glitters in shifting, transparent colours. The Kalevala-type melody of "Loitsu" (The Spell) is lost in a harsh eruption of sound. "Virvatulet" (Will-o’-the-wisp) is a swift-moving study of perpetual motion, and the sharp, hard-hitting "Peikkotanssi" (Trolls’ Dance) ends with a haunting flageolet effect.

Melartin: Fantasia apocaliptica Op. 111

Melartin made his most significant contribution to Finnish Modernism in the 1920s with the piano sonata "Fantasia apocaliptica" Op. 111 which, however, seems never to have been performed in the composer’s lifetime.

The work was long lost, and took on an aura of Modernist legend. In a single movement, the "Fantasia apocaliptica" has a fairly free, not entirely balanced construction, in which one may detect the influence of both Liszt and Scriabin.

The work introduces an Expressionist strain into Melartin’s music. It consists largely of heavy, rolling chord sequences and roaring octave unisons, only briefly relieved by more lyrical moments. The harmony ranges from monophonic recitative and freely combined triads to more complex harmonies. The final Maestoso, however, brings the work to a triumphant close in E major.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Luigi Nono - Caminantes

La lontananza nostalgica utopica futura or "Hay que caminar—soñando" Luigi Pestalozza

“Listening to silence, the silence of others, is very difficult.”— Luigi Nono

Born in Venice, he was a member of a wealthy artistic family, and his grandfather was a notable painter. Nono began music lessons with Gian Francesco Malipiero in 1941 at the Venice Conservatory[clarify] where he acquired knowledge of the Renaissance madrigal tradition, amongst other styles. After graduating with a degree in law from the University of Padua, he was given encouragement in composition by Bruno Maderna. Through Maderna, he became acquainted with Hermann Scherchen—then Maderna's conducting teacher—who gave Nono further tuition and was an early mentor and advocate of his music.

La tercera obra del tríptico es Hay que caminar... soñando, para dos violines; el canto de cisne de Nono, que moriría al año siguiente. Soñando no se refiere a la actividad onírica de un individuo, es la formulación de una utopía social. Esta obra es una suerte de palimpsesto de la pieza inmediatamente anterior, La lontananza nostalgica-utopica futura. Madrigale per più ‘caminantes’ con Gidon Kremer (1988/89), para violín solista, ocho cintas magnetofónicas y de ocho a diez atriles. En esta obra, el violinista se convierte también visualmente en un peregrino, pues debe caminar de un atril a otro para tocar su parte. Nono llamaba "caminos" a cada una de las ocho cintas, que son totalmente independientes.

It was Scherchen who presented Nono's first ackowledged work, the Variazione canoniche sulla serie dell'op. 41 di A. Schönberg in 1950, at the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik Darmstadt—a centre for the rediscovery of modern music after the devastation of dictatorship and war. The Variazioni canoniche, based on the twelve-tone series of Arnold Schoenberg's Op 41, marked Nono as a committed composer of anti-fascist political orientation (Annibaldi 1980). Nono had been a member of the Italian Resistance during the Second World War (Nono 1993[citation needed]). In fact Nono's striking political commitment, while allying him with some of his contemporaries at Darmstadt such as Henri Pousseur and in the earlier days Hans Werner Henze, distinguished him from others, including Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen. Nevertheless, it was with Boulez and Stockhausen that Nono became one of the leaders of the New Music during the 1950s.

A number of Nono's early works were first performed at Darmstadt, including Tre epitaffi per Federico García Lorca (1951–53), La Victoire de Guernica (1954)—modeled after Picasso's painting as an indictment of the war-time atrocity—and Incontri (1955). The Liebeslied (1954) was written for Nono's wife-to-be, Nuria Schoenberg (daughter of Arnold Schoenberg), whom he met at the 1953 world première of Moses und Aron in Hamburg. They married in 1956. Nono had enrolled as a member of the Italian Communist Party in 1952 (Flamm 1995).

The world première of Il canto sospeso (1955–56) for solo voices, chorus, and orchestra brought Nono international recognition and acknowledgment as the legitimate successor to Webern. "Reviewers noted with amazement that Nono's canto sospeso achieved a synthesis—to a degree hardly thought possible—between an uncompromisingly avant-garde style of composition and emotional, moral expression" (Flamm 1995):

If any evidence exists that Webern's work does not mark the esoteric "expiry" of Western music in a pianissimo of aphoristic shreds, then it is provided by Luigi Nono's Il Canto Sospeso… The 32-year-old composer has proved himself to be the most powerful of Webern's successors. (Kölner Stadt Anzeiger, 26 October 1956, quoted in Flamm 1995)

This work, widely regarded as one of the central masterpieces of the 1950s (Stenzl 1986, 3), is a commemoration of the victims of Fascism, incorporating farewell letters written by political prisoners before execution. Musically, Nono breaks new ground, not only by the "exemplary balance between voices and instruments" (Annibaldi 1980) but in the motivic, point-like vocal writing in which words are fractured into syllables exchanged between voices to form floating, diversified sonorities—which may be likened to an imaginative extension of Schoenberg's "Klangfarbenmelodie technique" (Flamm 1995, IX). Nono himself emphasized his lyrical intentions in an interview with Hansjörg Pauli (Pauli 1971, quoted in Flamm 1995, IX), and a connection to Schoenberg's Survivor from Warsaw is postulated by Guerrero 2006. However, Stockhausen, in his 15 July 1957 Darmstadt lecture, "Sprache und Musik" (published the next year in the Darmstädter Beiträge zur Neuen Musik and, subsequently, in Die Reihe), stated:

In certain pieces in the "Canto", Nono composed the text as if to withdraw it from the public eye where it has no place… In sections II, VI, IX and in parts of III, he turns speech into sounds, noises. The texts are not delivered, but rather concealed in such a regardlessly strict and dense musical form that they are hardly comprehensible when performed.
Why, then, texts at all, and why these texts?
Here is an explanation. When setting certain parts of the letters about which one should be particularly ashamed that they had to be written, the musician assumes the attitude only of the composer who had previously selected the letters: he does not interpret, he does not comment. He rather reduces speech to its sounds and makes music with them. Permutations of vowel-sounds, a, ä, e, i, o, u; serial structure.
Should he not have chosen texts so rich in meaning in the first place, but rather sounds? At least for the sections where only the phonetic properties of speech are dealt with. (Stockhausen 1964, 48–49)

Nono took strong exception, and informed Stockhausen that it was "incorrect and misleading, and that he had had neither a phonetic treatment of the text nor more or less differentiated degrees of comprehensibility of the words in mind when setting the text" (footnote in Stockhausen 1964, 49). Despite Stockhausen's contrite acknowledgment, three years later, in a Darmstadt lecture of 8 July 1960 titled "Text—Musik—Gesang" (Nono 1975, 41–60), Nono angrily wrote:

The legacy of these letters became the expression of my composition. And from this relationship between the words as a phonetic-semantic entirety and the music as the composed expression of the words, all of my later choral compositions are to be understood. And it is complete nonsense to conclude, from the analytic treatment of the sound shape of the text, that the semantic content is cast out. The question of why I chose just these texts and no others for a composition is no more intelligent than the question of why, in order to express the word "stupid", one uses the letters arranged in the order s-t-u-p-i-d. (Nono 1975, 60)

Il canto sospeso has been described as an "everlasting warning" (Annibaldi 1980); indeed, it is a powerful refutation to the apparent claim made in an often-cited, but out-of-context phrase (cf. Hofmann 2005) from philosopher Theodor W. Adorno that "to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric." (Adorno 1955[citation needed]; translation from Adorno 1981, 34)

Nono was to return to such anti-fascist subject matter again, as in Diario polacco; Composizione no. 2 (1958–59), whose background included a journey through the Nazi concentration camps, and the "azione scenica" Intolleranza 1960, which caused a riot at its première in Venice, on 13 April 1961 (Steinitz 1995, Schoenberg-Nono 2005).

It was Nono who, in his 1958 lecture "Die Entwicklung der Reihentechnik" (Nono 1975, 21–33), created the expression "Darmstadt School" to describe the music composed during the 1950s by himself and Pierre Boulez, Bruno Maderna, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and other composers not specifically named by him (Nono 1975, 30). He likened their significance to the Bauhaus in the visual arts and architecture (Nono 1975, 30).[citation needed]

On 1 September 1959, Nono delivered at Darmstadt a polemically charged lecture written in conjunction with his pupil Helmut Lachenmann, "Geschichte und Gegenwart in der Musik von Heute" ("History and Presence in the Music of Today"), in which he criticised and distanced himself from the composers of chance and aleatoric music, then in vogue, under the influence of American models such as John Cage (Nono 1975, 34–40). Although in a seminar a few days earlier Stockhausen had described himself as "perhaps the extreme antipode to Cage", when he spoke of "statistical structures" at the concert devoted to his works on the evening of the same day, the Marxist Nono saw this in terms of "fascist mass structures" and a violent argument erupted between the two friends (Kurtz 1992, 98). In combination with Nono's strongly negative reaction to Stockhausen's interpretation of text-setting in Il canto sospeso, this effectively ended their friendship until the 1980s, and thus disbanded the "avant-garde trinity" of Boulez, Nono, and Stockhausen (Schoenberg-Nono 2005).

Nono had been introduced to the Venice-based philosopher, Massimo Cacciari (now Mayor of Venice), who began to have an increasing influence on the composer's thought during the 1980s (Carvalho 1999). Through Cacciari, Nono became immersed in the work of many German philosophers, including the writings of Walter Benjamin whose ideas on history (strikingly similar to the composer's own) formed the background to the monumental Prometeo—tragedia dell' ascolto (1984) (Stenzl, 1995). Nono's late music is haunted by Benjamin's philosophy, especially the concept of history (Über den Begriff der Geschichte) which is given a central role in Prometeo.

Musically, Nono began to experiment with the new sound possibilities and production at the Heinrich Strobel ExperimentalStudio des SWR in Freiburg. There, he devised a whole new approach to composition and technique, frequently involving the contributions of specialist musicians and technicians to realise his aims (Fabbriciani 1999).The first fruits of these collaborations were Das atmende Klarsein (1981-82), Diario polacco II (1982)—an indictment against Soviet Cold War tyranny—and Guai ai gelidi mostri (1983). The new technologies allowed the sound to circulate in space, giving this dimension a role no less important than its emission. Such innovations became central to a new conception of time and space (Pestalozza 1992). These highly impressive masterworks were partly preparation for what many regard as his greatest achievement.

Prometeo has been described as "one of the best works of the 20th century" (Beyst 2003). After the theatrical excesses of Al gran sole, which Nono later remarked was a "monster of resources" (Stenzl, 1995), the composer began to think along the lines of an opera or rather a 'musica per dramatica' without any visual, stage dimension. In short, a drama in music—"the tragedy of listening"—the subtitle a poignant comment on consumerism today. Nono blamed this tragedy on commercialism, especially television—whose "breathless succession of sounds and images destroys our understanding of content" (CD notes—Variazioni Cannoniche[citation needed]). Hence, in the vocal parts the most simple intervalic procedures (mainly 4ths and 5ths) profoundly resonate amidst a tapestry of harsh, dissonant, microtonal writing for the ensembles.

Prometeo is perhaps the ultimate realisation of Nono's "theatre of consciousness"—here, an invisible theatre in which the production of sound and its projection in space become fundamental to the overall dramaturgy. The architect Renzo Piano designed an enormous 'wooden boat' for the première in Venice, whose acoustics must to some extent be reconstructed for each performance. (For the Japanese première at the Akiyoshidai Festival (Shuho), the new concert hall was named 'Prometeo Hall' in Nono's honour, and designed by leading architect Arata Isozaki) (Casa Ricordi Online, Historical Background)> The libretto incorporates disparate texts by Hesiod, Hölderlin, and Benjamin (logistically inaudible during performance due to Nono's characteristic deconstruction), which explore the origin and evolution of humanity, as compiled and expanded by Cacciari. In Nono's timeless and visionary context, music and sound predominate over the image and the written word to form new dimensions of meaning and "new possibilities" for listening.

Nono's last works, such as Caminantes… Ayacucho (1986–87), inspired by a region in southern Peru that experiences extreme poverty, La lontananza nostalgica utopica futura (1988-89), and "Hay que caminar" soñando (1989), offer poignant comment on the composer's life-long quest for political renewal and social justice. Toward the end of his life, Nono came across an inscription on a monastery in Toledo attributed to Antonio Machado, which became a kind of motto:

“ Traveller, there is no pathway, there is only traveling itself.”

Soñando caminos.
Acerca de la trilogía "Caminantes" del compositor Luigi Nono

y sus fuentes de inspiración en España y América Latina.

El compositor Luigi Nono nació en Venecia en 1924. Durante los legendarios festivales de música contemporánea en Darmstadt conoció a quienes –con él– constituyeron el triunvirato de aquella vanguardia de posguerra: Karlheinz Stockhausen y Pierre Boulez. Mientras que esta Escuela de Darmstadt, filosóficamente vinculada con Theodor Adorno, desarrollaba un lenguaje vanguardista muy determinado (el serialismo), Nono utilizó esta técnica musical con un lirismo al que pocos de sus coetáneos aspiraron.

Fue también en Darmstadt que Nono conoció a Nuria, hija de Arnold Schönberg, el gran revolucionario de la música de la primera mitad del siglo XX. Nuria y Luigi se casaron y estuvieron unidos hasta la muerte del compositor en 1990.

Una de las notas particulares de Luigi Nono constituyó su interés en asuntos políticos y sociales. Especialmente sensible era a los asuntos de los pueblos oprimidos y sus luchas sociales. Uno de los temas de sus composiciones (claramente en La fabbrica illuminata, de 1964) es la opresión de la clase trabajadora.

Luigi Nono estuvo siempre muy al tanto de lo que ocurría política y artísticamente en el mundo. Es defendible afirmar, sin embargo, que su interés en temas políticos estaba teñido por una cierta inocencia. Nono estaba afiliado al partido comunista italiano. Es oportuno subrayar que el comunismo en Italia tuvo, particularmente en la década del sesenta (el punto álgido de la Guerra Fría), una significación muy diferente a la del resto del mundo. La élite intelectual en la Italia de esa época era comunista: desde Umberto Eco hasta Oriana Fallaci. Nono comprendía su actividad política y su música como complementarias. En sus obras resulta habitual la presencia iconográfica de figuras de la revolución política (como el Che Guevara). También Hiroshima, Auschwitz, Guernica, Angola o Vietnam desfilan en sus partituras.

Uno de los grandes temas en Nono es la muerte en la lucha contra la opresión. Pero esta muerte no es un canto de nihilismo. Al final aparece siempre la esperanza: estas muertes abren la posibilidad de un desarrollo para toda la humanidad. Este tema aparece paradigmáticamente en Il canto sospeso (1955/56), que utiliza cartas de prisioneros de la Resistencia condenados a muerte por el nazismo: "(...) me voy con la fe en una vida mejor para vosotros (...) "

Sin embargo, tal como Nono manifestó en 1974 en una entrevista con Ramón Chao, "la música no es portadora de la revolución sino más bien un medio para conocer nuestra época".

El denominador común a sus actividades políticas y su técnica musical es la tendencia a romper sistemas establecidos. Cuestionar permanentemente las reglas de juego. Destruir las maneras tradicionales y trilladas de hacer música y –por consiguiente– de oir y pensar. Las personas meramente "correctas", que preferían cumplir el reglamento antes que detenerse a pensar si mejor no sería cambiar este reglamento, lo enervaban.

En los últimos diez años de su vida, el pensamiento político de Nono entró en crisis. Tanto que –para los observadores superficiales– aparentó renunciar a su ideario de utopía social. Nada más erróneo. Es precisamente aquí cuando su ideario pierde inocencia y gana en universalidad, sin perder un ápice de utopismo (comprendiendo éste como el ir más allá de lo ya conocido). Crisis, incluso descreimiento, puede ser. Capitulación, no creo. Lo que acaso haya ocurrido en Nono es una metamorfosis de "ideología" (en tanto dirección única para solucionar las cosas) a "cosmovisión" (un marco delimitado y fértil, dentro del cual germinan posibilidades de solución). Es con este telón de fondo que surge una trilogía de obras, agrupadas bajo el lema "Caminantes: no hay caminos, hay que caminar".

Durante un viaje a España con su hija, en 1986, Nono encontró dicha inscripción en el muro de un monasterio del siglo XIII en Toledo. La anotó inmediatamente en su diario de viaje. Existe sobre el asunto un error muy difundido: tal inscripción no estaba grabada sobre la piedra, sino que se trataba de un graffito. Una mano anónima la había escrito allí como podría haberlo hecho en cualquier otro lado. Fue la propia Nuria quien me confirmó este detalle.

Como el lector reconocerá de inmediato, se trata de una paráfrasis de un conocido poema de Antonio Machado (1875–1939), incluido en Proverbios y Cantares con el número 29 (1917). En los países hispanohablantes los escolares a menudo deben aprender esta poesía de memoria. El poema es especialmente popular desde que lo musicalizó Joan Manuel Serrat hacia 1970. Sobre la noción de "caminar en el agua" Machado escribió también otros dos breves poemas, que en Proverbios y Cantares llevan los números 2 y 44.

Es notable, sin embargo, que Nono no reconociera este poema de Machado, porque ya había musicalizado textos suyos (en Ha venido: canciones para Silvia, de 1960; y en Canciones a Guiomar, de 1962–63). En uno de sus dos ejemplares de poesías de Machado (edición bilingüe de 1947), Nono recuadró a mano uno de los Epigramas sobre el caminar ("Todo pasa y todo queda; / pero lo nuestro es pasar, / pasar haciendo caminos, / caminos sobre la mar"). Este dato, esencial para el análisis de la obra tardía de Nono, se publica aquí por primera vez.

En cualquier caso, la metafísica implícita en esta frase repercutió en el alma de Nono, quien reconoció en ella la síntesis de su búsqueda permanente. El compositor –todo artista– es un peregrino, en camino hacia mundos que nadie ha osado o imaginado penetrar. Pero aquí se trata de un modelo más profundo de pensamiento: la imagen del caminante (del homo viator) y el concepto de la pluralidad de caminos significa que no existe un único camino, una única manera de arreglar las cosas –es decir, una única ideología válida para todos los casos– sino una multiplicidad de soluciones. "No sabíamos en qué dirección nos llevaría la conversación. Sólo la noción de cuestionamiento permanente era la inequívoca constante"; así recuerda el violinista ruso Gidon Kremer su primer encuentro con Nono.

Nono describe así la gestación de su tríptico Caminantes: "Caminantes es la primera y luego sigue el nombre de una localidad. No hay caminos será la segunda y Hay que caminar la tercera. En Caminantes ... Ayacucho el texto es un soneto latino de Giordano Bruno, Ai principi de l’Univers’, de De la causa, principio et uno (1584)."Se trata de un tema común a tres composiciones, pero no de un ciclo en sentido estricto: no hay material musical presente en las tres ni continuidad dramática entre una y otra. Las tres obras son independientes. En el fondo, "caminar" es el tema común a todas las obras del último Nono a partir del cuarteto de cuerdas (1980).

Además, el principio del caminar como generador de caminos (o de estelas) refleja la manera de componer del último Nono: tras haber adquirido una técnica solidísima, disponía unos pocos materiales a su lado y casi improvisaba con ellos: había educado tanto a su intuición que confiaba en ella plenamente. Aquí cobra mucha más importancia la lógica (¿onírica?) de la continuidad –cómo se pasa de un sonido al siguiente– que un sistema formal a priori.

Caminantes ... Ayacucho (1986/87) tiene tres ideas centrales: primero, la imagen del peregrino. Luego, Ayacucho, "una región al sur de Perú que se encuentra en perpetua rebelión." Ayacucho es la localidad en la que las tropas de Simón Bolívar vencieron al último ejército español en Iberoamérica, por lo tanto es una metáfora de la liberación de la opresión y el colonialismo. El tercer centro es Giordano Bruno, "gran Minnesänger de la infinitud cósmica" (Ernst Bloch), ese hereje a quien el Vaticano hizo quemar vivo en el Campo dei Fiori (Roma) en 1600, tras siete años de presidio. Las imágenes que el monje y filósofo Giordano Bruno describe de la multiplicidad de galaxias corresponden a los múltiples espacios sonoros de Nono: distribución de los instrumentos en la sala de conciertos y movimiento del sonido mediante la electrónica.

Esta primera obra del tríptico Caminantes está escrita para mezzosoprano, flauta, pequeña y gran orquesta, órgano, electrónica en vivo y tres "coros". Bajo esta denominación, Nono se refiere no a voces humanas sino a grupos de instrumentos. La causa es significativa y nos muestra un aspecto esencial de Nono que puede parecer paradójico: sus alusiones constantes a la tradición. En este caso particular, Nono tiene como referencia a la música de Andrea y Giovanni Gabrielli en la catedral San Marco de Venecia: la construcción del templo, en foma de cruz, permitía ubicar cuatro coros –cada uno en un ala– y mover "cuadrafónicamente" el sonido de un extremo al otro: componer la posición del sonido en el espacio físico. La palabra "coro" alude directamente a este recurso de espacialización del sonido, usado en Venecia ya hacia 1600.

La segunda obra del ciclo utiliza siete "coros" (grupos instrumentales). En esta composición, No hay caminos, hay que caminar ... Andrei Tarkovski, Nono reduce drásticamente el material de alturas: sólo una nota, el sol, aunque en todas las octavas y con variantes microinterválicas (ligeras desviaciones de afinación). Mediante esta reducción en las alturas, las demás variables del sonido (intensidades, ataques, timbres) pasan a primer plano. Haber elegido precisamente esta nota tiene carácter simbólico: si los "coros" instrumentales simbolizan galaxias, la nota sol representa al astro rey.

En el título está mencionado el cineasta moscovita Andrei Tarkovski, que acababa de morir. "Un alma que me ilumina", decía Nono. "Genial creador de tiempos –visiones– sentimientos dramáticos pasados y presentes en sus películas: una nueva escuela ruso-soviética para todos." Otra vez Nuria: "Nono era un gran admirador de Tarkovski; particularmente admiraba Rubliov y Sacrifice". Tarkovski puede verse como figura simbólica de la emigración interna.

La tercera obra del tríptico es Hay que caminar... soñando, para dos violines; el canto de cisne de Nono, que moriría al año siguiente. Soñando no se refiere a la actividad onírica de un individuo, es la formulación de una utopía social. Esta obra es una suerte de palimpsesto de la pieza inmediatamente anterior, La lontananza nostalgica-utopica futura. Madrigale per più ‘caminantes’ con Gidon Kremer (1988/89), para violín solista, ocho cintas magnetofónicas y de ocho a diez atriles. En esta obra, el violinista se convierte también visualmente en un peregrino, pues debe caminar de un atril a otro para tocar su parte. Nono llamaba "caminos" a cada una de las ocho cintas, que son totalmente independientes.

Nono tomó la parte del violín solista de La lontananza ..., la recortó en trozos de duraciones entre uno y nueve compases, y los recombinó, repartiendo los fragmentos entre ambos violines y eliminando la parte electrónica. En esta obra de 25 minutos los violinistas deben también deambular por la sala. André Richard (uno de los más estrechos colaboradores y admiradores de Nono) compara esta acción con cierto estilo de jarrones de la dinastía Ming, en la China de hace cuatro mil años. Construían un jarrón perfecto, lo destruían arrojándolo contra el piso, y lo reconstruían.

El interrogante final es si este dúo fue originariamente concebido como culminación de la trilogía Caminantes o si fue una solución de emergencia. Luigi Pestalozza, uno de los mayores especialistas mundiales en Nono (y su amigo personal), habla del "ciclo incompleto de Caminantes" precisamente al comentar este dúo. Es posible que, sabiendo cercana su muerte (su salud empeoró rápidamente a comienzos de 1989 y falleció en 1990), Nono haya decidido precipitar el último acto.

“Caminantes, no hay caminos, hay que caminar.” — Travelers, there are no roads, but we must go on.

In 1985 Luigi Nono spied this medieval inscription on a monastery wall in San Francesco di Toledo. It would serve as motto for a group of austere, timbre-driven pieces he did late in life. The last was a 1989 violin duo, “Hay que caminar” soñando — “But we must go on” dreaming. The reissue, a week apart, of the best-known accounts offers me an excuse for discussing a favorite opus.

It’s unclear where Nono might have ventured after this, but its conclusion is a memorable leave-taking — 12 seconds of silence as the bow remains in position (con arco fermo).

As in his string quartet, Nono takes the “enigmatic scale” Verdi utilized in the Ave Maria of Four Sacred Pieces (c, d-flat, e, f-sharp, g-sharp, a-sharp, b, c) for the launching point. It’s quoted on the title page and the rising, then falling curve is clearly audible at the start, its final note allowed to die in a void. This succession of fragments is a textbook lacunary body — its gaps are part of the organism. Development is denied, so color considerations are paramount. Nono summons every kind of legno, ponticello and high-harmonic effect; the sound resonating at the end is crini / legno, the horsehair and wood of the bow hitting as one.

“ … nonfigurative, sparsely detailed dry-point etchings … what emerges from the flow of whisper-thin lines sweeps the horizon from left to right with gestures scarcely bolder than those from which they spring.” — Mike Silverton

However threatened isolated strands may seem, the overall arc is secure and gripping. It’s a minority view, but I find caminar superior to La lontananza nostalgica utopica futura, its 1988 predecessor. The scope is refined. Gone are the pile of equipment (eight channels of prerecorded material, each feeding a loudspeaker, with a “master of levels” monitoring the mix) and open form. Nono’s “unplugged” palette does reflect his electronic oeuvre by extending, highlighting or modifying tones. La lontananza’s spatial concerns also remain in reduced terms. Each player’s score is distributed among three music stands in different spots (down from the earlier work’s “eight to ten”).

“This drive to penetrate ever more inward into the sound, this dissection of sound so as to experience one part of the essence of music, is Nono’s vision.” — Helmut Lachenmann