Support to the Associazione Musicale Vittorio Gnecchi Ruscone

Project location: ITALY, Milano
Project start date: November 2010 - Project end date: December 2012
Project number: 2010-50
Beneficiary: Associazione Musicale Vittorio Gnecchi Ruscone

 

 

The Nando Peretti Foundation has awarded a grant to promote and increase general knowledge of Vittorio Gnecchi Ruscone and his operas, so that his works may be performed in theatres of the world.

Vittorio Gnecchi was born in Milan, in the house of via Filodrammatici, on the 17th of July 1876.

The family atmosphere was very favourable in allowing him to cultivate his musical talent; he studied with the best private music teachers of the time: Michele Saladino (teacher of Mascagni and De Sabata) and Gaetano Coronaro, becoming afterwards fellow student of Tullio Serafin, to whom he was tied by a life long sincere friendship relation.
What later on tuned out to be the first "title" of demerit of the future composer, who shall be accused by his denigrators of  being a "dilettante" , started to slowly take shape: a dilettante too well-off to "lower himself" and follow the "official" course of musical studies . And yet, this very wealth allowed him to have a wide and always updated musical library, addressed particularly to central European art, and to keep up to date better than others on the late nineteenth-century developments.
In autumn 1896 the first opera of Vittorio Gnecchi, the pastorale "Virtù d'Amore", was staged in the big wine cellar of Verderio villa used as a theatre .
An event that aroused a great deal of interest, mostly for the staging sumptuousness: sketches and fashion plates drawn by the painter Adolfo Hohenstein, person in charge of the set of the Theatre alla Scala and artistic director of the Ricordi Graphic Workshop; while Antonio Rovescalli, one of the most important set decorators of the period, realized for the event the scenes at complete panorama, that is to say without wings (solution that he will adopt the following year for the first scene of Tristano at the Theatre alla Scala).
Illustrious names stood out also in the orchestra: the eighteen year old Searfin was at the piano, Luigi Russolo (later on one of the leading exponents of the Futurist music) at the harmonium, Galeazzi at the cello (later on he will become the first cello of La Scala), the tenor Cannonieri in the Choir and, among the leading actors, the sixteen years old count Giuseppe Visconti di Modrone (later on father of the famous director Luchino).

After the degree in law, Vittorio Gnecchi conceived the opera that was going to leave a mark, for better or for worse, on his future: Cassandra, thought up as a musical drama, according to Wagner's method.
Gnecchi wrote the story, starting from Eschilo's Agamemnon, and entrusted the writing up of the libretto to Luigi Illica,  with whom he started a relation that, even if it was sometimes marked by conflicts, was for Gnecchi a real life's training ground from a compositional and musical point of view.
Thanks to his experience and culture, Illica lead the young and often ingenuous Gnecchi by the hand in the production/staging of an impressive opera, which will show all the musical talent of his young composer.
The rich correspondence between the two, precious testimony remained unpublished, depicts not only the slow and suffered planning of the libretto and of the score(that will be accomplished in 1904), but also Illica's commitment in trying to promote Cassandra in different Italian theatres, certain of the immense musical value of the opera.
Upon advice of his friend Tullio Serafin, and supported by the tireless Illica, Gnecchi presented the opera to Arturo Toscanini, who, it seems, was enthusiastic about it, so much so that on the 5th December 1905 he conducted the first night at the "Teatro Comunale di Bologna" (Bologna Municipal Theatre), calling exceptional protagonists: the baritone F. Federici (the Prologue), the tenor G. Borgatti (Agamemnon) , the soprano S. Krusceniski (Clytemnestra), the mezzo-soprano E. Bruno (Cassandra) and the baritone T. Quercia (Egisto).
The performance was excellent.
Unfortunately, during the rehearsals, Gnecchi's little experience on theatrical matters, caused many problems to Toscanini; disagreements which added themselves to gossips, which affected the maestro from the beginning, so much so that after the Bologna experience he did not want to hear anymore of Cassandra, which he had so much appreciated, and of Gnecchi.
Three years later, precisely on the 25th January 1909, the first night of Elektra, Richard Strauss new Opera, was staged at Dresden Opera.
Those who knew Cassandra immediately noticed the surprising analogies that linked the two operas. The musicologist Giovanni Tebaldini, even though not exposing himself with accusations of plagiarism, spoke about a common inspiration, a kind of "musical telepathy" (actual title of the essay published in the "Rivista Musicale Italiana"), which had moved the two composers. Unfortunately others will talk of plagiarism and the denials of both shall be of no avail.
The "case" had irreparably broken out, but the damages were to be borne only by Gnecchi. It is sufficient to remember the attitude of the artistic director of the Teatro alla Scala at the time, Vittorio Mingardi, who, in reply to the request of the duke Visconti di Modrone (chairman of the Committee authorized to plan the Scala theatrical season) to include Cassandra in the theatre program, stopped the initiative so as not to displease Strauss, «pour ne pas depalire a Strauss» - as he wrote to Visconti. And so it shall always be.
It is still strange today to see how the ostracism suffered by Gnecchi proved to be a typical Italian phenomenon, since abroad his name lived often and with pride on the theatrical programmes. In Italy, his music was entrusted mainly with foreign hands which supported it with force and enthusiasm - just to mention one worth for all: Willelm Mengelberg, who conducted in 1910 Cassandra Prologue at Milan Conservatory, achieving a great personal success for the author.
Also, the new integral performance of Cassandra, staged at the Dal Verme Theatre in Milan in 1913, conducted by Ettore Panizza, achieved a very good success, both of public and critics, and its echo even reached the United States of America, where on the 26th of February 1914, Cassandra was performed at the Philadelphia Opera Theatre, conducted by Cleofonte Campanini.
But here the accusation of plagiarism of Strauss opera by American journalists who ignored the facts of Cassandra regarding Elektra, calmed down the enthusiasm, sealing an already poisoned destiny.

The Association has retrieved the music of Vittorio Gnecchi that had been lost and forgotten. It has revised it re-editing the scores and made them available for new performances in Italy and abroad. The opera Cassandra was given on the opening night of the Festival of Montpellier and Radio France on July 13, 2000. In 2007 Cassandra together with Strauss' Electra was performed on the opening night of the 2007 season of the Deutsche Oper Berlin and it has since been rescheduled several times, in 2010 with a new director and cast.
The Missa Salisburgensis has been repeatedly performed in Italy in Verderio Superiore, Caravaggio and Rome.
The Association intends to revise the archives to which new documents and music have been added and to publish a revised and updated edition of the book "Il caso Cassandra" by Marco Iannelli.

The Association plans to convert all the music scores into digital format so as to make them easily available for new performances.
The Association will increase its activity in advertising and promoting the music.
The book can be published before Christmas 2010, the digitalization will begin in January 2011 and it will take three years.
The project will be carried out in the years 2010-2011-2012.

The musical work of Vittorio Gnecchi
Theatre Operas:
• Virtù d'Amore (1896), pastorale in two acts by M. Rossi Bozzotti
• Cassandra (1904), musical dramma in a prologue and two acts by L. Illica e V. Gnecchi
• La Rosiera (1909), tragic idillio in three acts by C. Zangarini e V. Gnecchi
• Judith (1914-1952), musical drama in three acts by L. Illica
Ballets:
• Atalanta (1929)
Compositions for great orchestra:
• Epinicio (1910), unpublished
• Heroic Poem, Notte nel campo di Oloferne (1932)
• Tempo of Symphony in D flat
Sacred Choral compositions:
• Missa Saliburgensis (1933), per soprano, choir and orchestra
• Cantata Biblica (1934), per soprano, baritone, choir and orchestra
• Salve, Regina!, per soprano, choir and orchestra
• Sacro Convivium, per soprano, choir and orchestra
• Ave Maria, per three solos, organ and orchestra
Small orchestra compositions:
• Invocazione Italica, march
• Pavane
• Piccola Madre, romanza
Chamber music:
• Adagio, per violin and piano
• Preghiera, per violin and piano
• Adagio, per cello e piano
• Adagio, per violin, cello and piano
• Dance and Greek Rites, per violin, cello and piano
• Andante Religioso, per violin, cello and piano
• March, per violin, cello and organ
• Ouverture, per two pianos
• Sei Romanze per voice (canto) e piano
• Pastorale, per voice (canto) e piano (with trascription for small orchestra)

 

The Association was founded in 1998 with the specific purpose of recovering and promoting the music of Vittorio Gnecchi Ruscone, one of the masters of early XX century music, whose work had been forgotten and had not been executed for years.
The Association has retrieved the music of Vittorio Gnecchi that had been lost and forgotten. It has revised it re-editing the scores and made them available for new performances in Italy and abroad. The opera Cassandra was given on the opening night of the Festival of Montpellier and Radio France on July 13, 2000. In 2007 Cassandra together with Strauss' Electra was performed on the opening night of the 2007 season of the Deutsche Oper Berlin and it has since been rescheduled several times, in 2010 with a new director and cast.
The Missa Salisburgensis has been repeatedly performed in Italy in Verderio Superiore, Caravaggio and Rome.


 


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