Music in the Making

Music In The Making: La Dolce Vita

Pack your bags as we embark on a three-part exploration of Italy through music!

Map of Italy
Map of Italy

A compilation of Music in the Making’s Italian adventure. 

In this first episode, we’ll hear foreign composer’s impressions of the country (Hector Berlioz), as well as music by native Italians, like late-Renaissance master Claudio Monteverdi. 

Monteverdi (arr. Claudia Anderson/Jill Felber): Duo Serephim from the Vespers of 1610
Leone Buyse (flute), Sergio Pallottelli (flute)
Duncan Recital Hall

Claudio Monteverdi is perhaps most famed for his nine books of madrigals, which display most of the compositional developments of the era, including the advent of his “seconda practica” style, a freer style of polyphony. Many of his works display his progressive nature; his Vespers of 1610 is remarkable for its scope and scale, with a run time of around 90 minutes, and requiring an abundance of singers and rich orchestral writing for strings, winds, and continuo. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Monteverdi built his composition on the traditional Gregorian chants associated with these texts. In the motet, “Duo Seraphim,” from the Vespers of 1610, two angels call to one another, heard here in the exchange between flutes. 

Hector Berlioz: Harold in Italy, Symphony with Viola Solo, op. 16
Texas Music Festival Orchestra, Roberto Diaz (viola)
Moores Opera House

Hector Berlioz won the Prix de Rome in 1830, a prestigious scholarship that allowed him to live and study in Italy for 15 months. Though he was unimpressed by Italian music, he was moved by the scenery, and waxed rhapsodic on Florence, writing, “Everything about it delights me its name, its climate, its river, its palaces, its air, the style and elegance of its inhabitants, its surroundings, everything, I love it, love it.” Based loosely on Lord Byron’s poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, each movement depicts a scene inspired by his Italian sojourn. A combination of viola concerto and symphony, the work was originally intended for the virtuoso Paganini, who wanted a piece to display his newly obtained Stradivarius viola. As Berlioz describes it, the solo viola is “involved, to a greater or lesser extent, like an actual person, retaining the same character throughout.”

This episode originally aired Sunday, June 25th, 2017.

We continue our musical exploration of Italy, with impressions of Italy offered by Mendelssohn, as well as works by Vivaldi and Verdi, two of the country’s own.

Giuseppe Verdi: Overture to La Forza del Destino
Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra; Larry Rachleff, conductor
Stude Concert Hall

It’s hard to overstate the impact Giuseppe Verdi’s impact on the Italian national consciousness: at his funeral, hundreds of thousands of mourners turned out for his funeral procession. Clearly, the man captured the imagination and love of his countrymen over the course of his career, during which he produced nearly 30 operas. La Forza del Destino, composed in 1862, is a melodramatic tale of forbidden love, revenge, and as the title suggests, destiny.

Antonio Vivaldi: Sonata in B flat Major
Benjamin Kamins (bassoon), Paul Ellison (double bass), and Thomas Jaber (harpsichord)
Duncan Recital Hall

Born in Venice in 1678, Antonio Vivaldi was the eldest child of nine and the only one to pursue music professionally, despite the fact that their father was a professional violinist. He is known for his inventive approach to the concerto form, including the creation of ritornello form, which would establish the foundation of the genre for the later Baroque era. His sonatas, however, are more conservative in both form and style. The Sonata in B flat major is written in traditional sonata da chiesa style, a suite of alternating slow and fast movements with melody accompanied by continuo, a group of instruments that provide the bass line in a musical work.

Felix Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4 in A Major, op. 90 “Italian”
Texas Music Festival Chamber Orchestra,
Moores Opera House

Felix Mendelssohn departed for his grand tour of Italy, France, and England in 1830, and arrived in Italy in October of that year. He would spend ten months in the country, working his way from Venice to Naples, with stops in Rome, Florence, and other major locales. He recorded his experiences in a series of watercolors, detailed them in letters sent home, and produced his fourth symphony, subtitled, “Italian.” Of the work, he wrote to his sister, Fanny, “I have once more begun to compose with fresh vigor, and the Italian symphony makes rapid progress; it will be the most sportive piece I have yet composed, especially the last movement.” This last movement is in titled “Saltarello,” after a traditional Italian dance.

This episode originally aired Sunday, July 2nd, 2017.

Finally,  we’ll round out our Italian sojourn this week with works inspired by Italian composers and scenery. We’ll hear a piece by Schubert, as well as music by native composers including Boccherini, Monteverdi, and Respighi. 

Franz Schubert: Overture in D Major, D590, “In the Italian style”
Texas Music Festival Chamber Orchestra
Moores Opera House

In November of 1816, the Italian Opera Company made its debut in Vienna, performing two of Rossini’s operas. The music of Rossini, an Italian composer who’s 39 operas skyrocketed to popularity in Italy, delighted the nineteen-year old Franz Schubert, who, of Rossini, wrote, “You cannot deny that he has extraordinary genius. The orchestration is highly original at times, and occasionally so is the vocal writing…” In fact, Schubert was so taken with this novel music that he composed two Overtures “In the Italian Style.”

Monteverdi, ed. R Mase: Four Monteverdi Madrigals
Moores Opera House

Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, the madrigal was perhaps the most popular genre of secular polyphony. During this time, it evolved almost continuously, and thus displays many of the compositional developments. One of these was the split between the so-called “prima” and “seconda pratica” styles, as described by Claudio Monteverdi. Prima Pratica referred to an older style in which the music dominated the text, whereas in the more modern Seconda Pratica, a the text subjugated the music. In this style, Monteverdi threw away all of the rules which had previously guided composition. Instead, he expressed the meaning of the text through any means possible, such as the shocking usage of unprepared dissonances.

Luigi Boccherini (arr. Alfred Piatti):  Sonata no. 6 in A Major
Desmond Hoebig (cello), Jeewon Lee (piano)
Duncan Recital Hall

Born in Italy in 1743, Luigi Boccherini’s music is representative of the Classical period, with its characteristic tuneful melodicism and clarity of form. As a cellist, it’s perhaps not surprising that he composed around 30 cello sonatas. His Sonata No. 6 in A major exists in numerous guises, due to the several extant manuscripts left by Boccherini. This is the version with two movements, a lyrical Adagio and a virtuosic Allegro

Ottorino Respighi: Pines of Rome
Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra
Stude Concert Hall

Rome, the capital of Italy, was not only home for Respighi, but also the source of inspiration for one of his most famous works, the Pines of Rome. The second in a series of tone poems about the city, Pines of Rome depicts four scenes: one near the opulent Villa Borghese, one by the catacombs of a church, one on the Janiculum, a hill in the western part of the city, and finally, one along the Appian Way, one of the earliest of the Roman roads. In his notes about the piece, Respighi wrote that “he uses nature as a point of departure, to recall memories and visions. The century-old trees which dominate so characteristically the Roman landscape become testimony for the principal events in Roman life.”

This episode originally aired Sunday, July 9th, 2017. Catch Music in the Making every Sunday at 7:06 PM on Classical.