Croatian Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra
Croatian Radio and Television Choir
Tomislav Fačini, Conductor
Darija Auguštan, soprano
Franko Klisović, countertenor
Roko Radovan, tenor
Leon Košavić, baritone
Ottorino Respighi: I pini di Roma
Leonard Bernstein: Psalm 23 from Chichester Psalms
Giacomo Puccini: „Gira la cote!... Perchè tarda la luna?“ from Turandot
Giuseppe Verdi: „Ninfe! Elfi! Silfi!... Sul fil d’un soffio etesio“ from Falstaff
Pietro Mascagni: „Il cavallo scalpita“ from Cavalleria rusticana
Pietro Mascagni: „Viva il vino spumeggiante“ from Cavalleria rusticana
Aleksandr Borodin: Polovtsian Dances
Igor Kuljerić: Canzoniere for voices and instruments
MORE ABOUT THE PROGRAMME:
Notes by Dina Puhovski
After studying violin and composition under Luigi Torchi in Bologna, Ottorino Respighi (Bologna, 1879 – Rome, 1936) had a few lessons with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in Russia, mostly in orchestration, which he described as ‘very important’. He also studied briefly with Max Bruch in Berlin. He played the violin and the viola and was a member of the Mugellini Quintet in Bologna, then a professor of composition and the director of the Liceo Musicale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, which he left to dedicate himself to composing, conducting and accompanying his wife, singer and composer Elsa Olivieri Sangiacomo. In 1910 he was briefly a member of the anti-establishment group Lega dei Cinque, alongside composers Pizzeti, Malipiero, Bastianelli and Bossi, dedicated to ‘resurrecting’ and renewal of Italian music. He was not involved in politics, but apparently Mussolini loved his orchestral works; his biographer Harvey Sachs wrote that ‘Respighi did not attempt to ingratiate himself with the regime because he was the one composer of his generation whom the regime backed without being asked.’
Respighi initially wrote vocal and chamber music and is best known for his orchestral works characterised by effervescent, sometimes garish orchestrations, such as Fountains of Rome, Pines of Rome and Roman Festivals. Eventually he became interested in early music, which he arranged and used in his works. Pines of Rome, a tone poem written in 1924, consists of four joined movements: the unrestrained and playful Pines of Villa Borghese, the solemn Pines Near a Catacomb, the light and moonlit Pines of the Janiculum (which Respighi requested to be played with a recording of a nightingale song) and the Pines of the Appian Way, in which an army enters the city, accompanied by the fanfare and timpani.
Leonard Bernstein (Lawrence, 1918 – New York, 1990) was an internationally acclaimed composer, pianist and conductor. He conducted the performances of orchestral classical works by numerous orchestras in the USA and Europe, as well as many first performances. Occasionally performing as a pianist, he composed orchestral works, concertos, chamber music, piano pieces and songs; he used various composition techniques, but remained faithful to tonal music, virtuosic percussion, elaborate piano parts and complex rhythms. His best-known work is the score for the musical West Side Story, from 1957, which – with Bernstein’s music, Sondheim’s lyrics and choreography by Jerome Robbins – made a strong impact on American theatre and introduced complex, and yet accessible musical style to theatre production of the period.
Leonard Bernstein wrote Chichester Psalms in 1965 at the commission of Chichester Cathedral in Sussex, England. He set to music the Hebrew text of Psalms 100, 23 and 131 together with a few verses from several other psalms. He partially took musical material from sketches of his other works and occasionally used tone painting. The second movement, on the programme this evening, is contemplative; most of the text is from Psalm 23, beginning with ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures’; later followed by the often quoted ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, For Thou art with me.’ By contrast, the verses from Psalm 2 (‘Why do the nations rage, And the people imagine a vain thing?’) sung by the choir abruptly interrupt the ethereal vocal solo. The solo part was originally written for a boy soloist, but is often performed by a countertenor.
Perhaps the last of the long line of Italian opera masters, Giacomo Antonio Puccini (Lucca, 1858 – Brussels, 1924) came from a family of church musicians, and started out as one himself. Although he wrote some of the world’s most appreciated operas, which remain at the core of the operatic repertoire, music historians and critics did not always take him seriously, considering him too commercial, prone to manipulating and shocking the audiences. His works are exceptionally dramatic and sentimental, with characters developed to detail, and characterised by skilful orchestrations and his gift for melody. Most of Puccini’s operas have a young female protagonist who sacrifices herself or is sacrificed for a cruel man (although this is not the case with the opera on this evening’s programme).
He wrote the opera Turandot to a libretto by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni and it was first performed in 1926. It is Puccini’s last opera, completed by Franco Alfano after his death. Calaf, Prince of Tartary, wants to marry Chinese Princess Turandot, but to do so, he must answer her riddles; if he fails, he will be executed, like all her suitors before him. In the scene ‘Perché tarda la luna’ (Why is the moon late?), the crowd invokes the rising of the moon, representing purity and light, but also death and coldness. They sing about the pale and bloodless moon, a head without a body, which will illuminate the death of the Prince of Persia.
Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi (Busseto, 1813 – Milan, 1901) wrote 28 Romantic operas, his name practically becoming synonymous with opera. The operas from his middle period were a big success – Rigoletto, Il trovatore and La traviata. His later works include Aida, Requiem, Otello, Falstaff etc. He was politically active as an advocate of unification of Italy and also initiated and financed building of a home for retired musicians. Verdi considered himself ‘the least learned of all composers’, but the melodiousness of his arias, expressiveness of his orchestral lines, instrumental highlighting of the atmosphere, as well as his close collaboration with librettists, created his unique and distinctive musical style, in which vocal expressiveness and dramatic characterisation are essential.
Verdi wrote Falstaff to a libretto by Arrigo Boit based on Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor. Together with Mistress Quickly and Meg Page, Nannetta and her mother, Alice Ford, decide to punish the pompous Falstaff. When they realise that he plans to seduce wives of rich men to get his hands on their money, they decide to disguise as supernatural beings and ambush him at midnight. In the aria from ‘Sul fil..’ from Act 3, Nanetta, masked as the Fairy Queen, instructs her helpers and invites fairies to dance.
Pietro Mascagni (Livorno, 1863 – Rome, 1945) studied music, against his parents’ wishes, at the Milan Conservatory under Amilcare Ponchielli. Since the strict rules of the Conservatory did not suit him, he decided to join a travelling opera company. He wrote fifteen operas – including L'amico Fritz and Le maschere, as well as Nerone, an opera honouring Mussolini – but Cavalleria rusticana is by far the most popular and it made him famous practically overnight. Too soon, he believed, saying, ‘I was crowned before I became king.’ He had a successful career as a conductor and succeeded Arturo Toscanini as musical director of La Scala, Milan, who left his post in 1929 for political reasons.
Mascagni commissioned a libretto for Cavalleria rusticana, based on Giovanni Verga’s verismo melodrama of the same title, from Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti and Guido Menasci. He was planning to submit one act of his opera Guglielmo Ratcliff to the 1888 Sonzogno Competition for one-act operas, but his wife had already sent the Cavalleria on his behalf and it won the first prize among of the total of 73 operas in the competition. It was staged in Rome in 1890 as the first verismo opera. The plot takes place on Easter: Young peasant Turiddu seduced and left Santuzza and now he is with Lola, Alfio’s wife. When Turiddu refuses to return to Santuzza, she tells Alfio about his wife’s affair.
At the beginning of the opera, in the aria ‘Il cavallo scalpita..’ (‘The horse paws the ground…’), Alfio sings that there are so many troubles in the world, but he does not care because he is doing fine, he has come home for Christmas, where his beloved wife is waiting for him. In the aria ‘Viva il vino…’ (‘Here’s to the frothing wine’), Turiddu sings a drinking song, celebrating wine, ‘that makes every thought a happy one’.
Aleksandr Porfiryevich Borodin (Sankt Petersburg, 1833–1887) was one of the leading Russian scientists of his time, a chemist educated in Russia and Europe who taught at the Saint Petersburg Medical-Surgical Academy and founded the first Russian medical school for women. He was an illegitimate son of a Georgian prince, registered as the son of the prince’s serf. Thanks to his mother, Borodin received good education which included flute and piano lessons. He began writing symphonic works under the guidance of Mily Balakirev, becoming a member of his Mighty Five, alongside César Cui, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky.
Borodin worked on Prince Igor, which was supposed to be a ‘true national opera’, based on the opposition of the Russian and ‘oriental’ sound, for eighteen years and did not manage to complete it before his death (it was completed by Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Glazunov). He selected the theme based on the advice from Vladimir Stasov and the twelfth-century epic about Prince Igor and his campaign against the Polovtsians (or Cumans).
Composer and conductor Igor Kuljerić (Šibenik, 1938 – Zagreb, 2006) graduated in composition from the Academy of Music in Zagreb under Stjepan Šulek (1965). He studied conducting with Igor Markevitch in Monte Carlo and composition at the RAI Studio of Musical Phonology in Milan. He was an accompanist and assistant conductor at the Opera of the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb, then a harpsichordist and assistant to Antonio Janigro at the Zagreb Soloists, and a conductor of the Croatian Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra and Choir from 1968 to 2005. He served as the director of the Music Biennale Zagreb (1980–83), artistic director of the Vatroslav Lisinski Concert Hall and music director of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival (1984/85). He was a conductor and the director of the Opera of the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb (1992–94). He served as the President of the Croatian Composers Society and the Lovro and Lilly Matačić Foundation in 1980/81. He was a full member of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts from 2004. He received numerous awards for his work as a composer, consisting of a vast number of works for various ensembles. He received the Order of Danica Hrvatska with an image of Marko Marulić for his contributions in culture.
‘There are very few oeuvres in Croatian music of the second half of the twentieth century characterised by such a variety of forms, genres, purposes, techniques and styles like in the case of Igor Kuljerić. Kuljerić says that every activity as a musician, including composing, presents a special challenge for him, which can also be applied to each of his compositions. The result of these challenges is the music that avoids any possibility of reduction to a common denominator. Of course, Kuljerić’s broad and varied musical experience certainly plays a key role here, primarily his approach to music typical of a performer (in a positive sense). (…) Even when he surrendered to “being a slave to aesthetics and the terror of aesthetics”, Kuljerić never abandoned the subjective role of a challenge, that is, not a single one of his works was written without a need, without a reason – just for the love of “the aesthetics of objectivity”.’ (Nikša Gligo)
Igor Kuljerić wrote the Canzoniere as a setting of the poems of the Croatian Renaissance and Baroque poets Hanibal Lucić and Ivan Bunić Lučić, as well as the authors from the Ranjina Collection of Dubrovnik poetry. The first version of the piece, entitled Leute moj, was first performed at the Dubrovnik Summer Festival 45 years ago. He wrote the second version in 1983, with a new title, a reference to ‘the intertwining of music, reciting and singing’.
In Canzoniere, Kuljerić combines simple homophonic patterns with complex polyphony; the fairy-tale and metaphorical characters were originally interpreted by actors, while the choir guides us through the plot and comments on it like the Greek chorus. The orchestra includes early (lute, harp) and modern instruments (synthesizer). The Croatian Radio and Television Choir and Symphony Orchestra’s regular concert series was named after Kuljerić’s Canzoniere (Kanconijer).
Please note that the concert is broadcasted live by the Croatian Radio and Television.