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Music and Fascism in Italy


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Toby Esterhase
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« on: July 07, 2022, 02:28:47 am »

A broad consensus of the Masters
On music, if we objectively observe the Fascist period, it is undeniable that it represented a period in which political institutions had a high interest in it, both in terms of support for cultural events, both as support for avant-garde music, and in in the field of pedagogy and professional music training. For this reason it represented an incredible opportunity for growth and affirmation for many. It is useless to deny that, albeit in a different way and for various reasons, the dictatorship was accepted by our artists, through the ideological preparation of a common ground, which allowed accessions and collaborations on the part of the contemporary conservative wing (with Pizzetti and Respighi) as well as from the modernist one (with Malipiero and Casella) to which are naturally added the role of the opera performers (Mascagni, Giordano, Cilea) and the more controversial one of the futurists.

The Young School and Verismo
The Italian musical context of that period was decidedly articulated: there were the composers of the so-called "Young School", linked to the realist opera, the futurist avant-gardes and what was called "The Eighties Generation".
As far as the realist work is concerned, several characteristics favor its great communication: the pressing dramaturgical slant, the impersonal narration, the adherence to reality borrowed from "Naturalism" to Zola, the simplification of the musical components. The centrality of the vocal element and the alternation between passionate tension and sentimental languor connects it to the nineteenth-century past and to the great popularity that this form of art had in Italy and abroad. The work represented a magnificent means of communication for the masses.

The protagonists
The protagonists of this season of Italian opera are Giacomo Puccini, who will disappear just two years after Mussolini's rise to power and will therefore be marginally touched by the advent of fascism; Pietro Mascagni, who at the age of 27 emerged on the international scene with the masterpiece "Cavalleria Rusticana" based on the novel of the same name by Verga; Umberto Giordano, also made famous by an early work, "Andrea Chenier" of 1896; Francesco Cilea and Don Lorenzo Perosi. Finally, Riccardo Zandonai can be considered an epigone of the genre, who, younger than a generation, will be Mascagni's pupil favored by the publisher Tito Ricordi.

A general malaise and the charm of Mussolini
In Puccini's letters, written between 1920 and 1922, the common malaise is evident: «Here in Italy you live like dogs. Better a hundred times the victory in Vienna than the victorious in Milan ?! »; "Italy! Italy! Taxes, high prices, filth, disorder, bad taste. In short, an Eldorado of ugliness… ». There is also a kind of envy towards Germany: "my country disgusts me [...] but even France is not a place for us. Better beyond the Rhine! ». Puccini, then, appreciates the charismatic figure of the Duce: «And Mussolini? Be what he wants! Welcome if he gets old and gives our country a bit of calm! "
This fascination that Mussolini also exercised on the author of Bohème, is reported by his friend and biographer Adami: I am for the strong state. I have always liked men like De Pretis, Crispi, Giolitti, because they commanded and did not allow themselves to be commanded. Now there is Mussolini who saved Italy from collapse [...]. Germany was the best governed state, which should have served as a model for others. I don't believe in democracy because I don't believe in the possibility of educating the masses. It's the same as digging water with a basket! If there is no strong government, headed by a man with an iron fist like Bismarck once in Germany, like Mussolini now in Italy, there is always the danger that the people, who do not know how to understand freedom except under license form, break discipline and overwhelm everything. This is why I am a fascist: because I hope that fascism will achieve in Italy, for the good of the country, the Germanic state model of the pre-war period. control - reside in the hands of one man. Pietro Mascagni, the convinced fascist
Who was instead shaped by fascism until its epilogue is Pietro Mascagni, the great friend of Puccini with whom he had shared the attic at the time of his studies in Milan. Around the 1920s he had approached Bolshevism, but then he decidedly turned towards fascism, to the point of becoming a trusted referent of cultural policy in the field of music and prototype of the state musician. His adulation for Mussolini was downright cloying: in the report of March 21, 1927, for example, in which Mascagni reports from Vienna the outcome of the Beethoven celebrations for the centenary of his death, here is what he writes: In every conversation and in every reference to the Italy [is] the ruler of a Name that spreads the renewed light of the Star of Italy abroad, a name that makes our Italy respected and envied: the universal name of Benito Mussolini.
The nomination as Academician of Italy and the patronage of the Nero opera will benefit him.

The Royal Academy of Italy and Roman times
The Royal Academy of Italy was founded in 1929 as an instrument of dialogue - and soon of consensus - between fascism and the "intelligentsia" of the Kingdom of Italy, through the involvement of as many intellectuals as possible.
In the intentions of the Duce, on the French model of Richelieu, the Academy would have demonstrated the cultural unity of a country redeemed by us for the glory of effective social unity. To this end, other initiatives were also encouraged, such as the Italian Encyclopedia. Soon, however, the objectives of "promoting and coordinating the Italian intellectual movement in the field of sciences, letters and arts, of preserving the pure national character according to the genius and traditions of the lineage, of favoring its expression and influence beyond the borders of the State "(art. 2 of the Statute), would in fact have transformed the institution into a mausoleum for artists and intellectuals, used to involve them in the political arena.
As for Nero, the theme centered on Romanism will become more evident in the works of other composers, Malipiero and Cilea with their "Julius Caesar", in which the identification of the Roman leader with the Duce is obvious.

Futurist music
The Futurists received disillusionments and disavowals from Fascism since its inception in power. In fact, the manifesto of 1 March 1923 was not supported, despite the evident consonances with the fascist ideals: exaltation of violence, love of danger, glorification of war, cult of modernity, religion of speed. The controversy and ultra-nationalistic proposals of this small group are viewed with fear by the power which, as in the famous case of the scene from Malipiero's Tale of the Changed Son, censored because it is set in a brothel, sees in the destabilization of order and traditional values more of a risk than a reward.
The futurists and jazz
Another problem linked to the Futurist movement is its defense of jazz, a genre contested by the regime for its "soft and indeterminate" character. As Franco Casavola writes in his Manifesto of futurist music of 1924 and later in his more extensive article Defense of the jazz-band which appeared in L 'impero in August 1926: The jazz band represents, today, the practical implementation, albeit incomplete , of our principles: the individuality of the singing of his instruments, which bring together for the first time sound elements of different character; the persistence of its rhythms, decisive and necessary, form the basis of Futurist music. We give each voice in the song, a free, improvising individuality: unpredictable from the whole, in sudden relationships. It's still:
The Jazz Band is the typical product of our heroic, violent, arrogant, brutal, optimistic, anti-romantic, anti-sentimental and anti-graceful generation. It comes from war and revolutions. To deny it is to deny us! It is therefore useless to look for his birth certificate in the Negro villages or in the American pampas.
The article proceeds with the identification of the Jazz Band as the only way out of both the "elephantiasis" and the "rarefactions" of contemporary composers (cited Wagner, Strauss, Debussy, Strawinsky, Schoenberg), who in diametrically opposite ways show, according to the author, the inability to get out «[from] Beethoven's orbit.

The group of Five
Parallel to the realist currents in melodrama and those related to literary Futurism, a third group of composers can be grouped under the lucky definition, due to Massimo Mila, of "generation of the Eighties". The protagonists give their movement the name of "Rinnovamento", "Risorgimento" or "Group of Five", in analogy to the group of composers who founded the Russian national school. This is how Bastianelli expressed himself from the columns of "The literary chronicles" of 2 July 1911: Today we, Renzo Bossi, Ildebrando Pizzetti, G. Francesco Malipiero, Ottorino Respighi and I, want to bring about the resurgence of Italian music, of the true one, of our great music, which from the end of the eighteenth century to today has been, with very few exceptions, drawn into the sadness and anguish of business and philistinism! […]. Our work must conform to that of the few heroes of Russian music, among whom the Russian Homer flourished, Modesto Mussorgsky, heroes who, rejecting the business flattery of the servile imitators of foreign music, wanted to create national music for their country.
Their poetics is summarized around some fundamental points: intolerance for nineteenth-century melodrama, which seemed to be the only exquisitely Italian genre performed; claiming the primacy of Italian music, especially in genres hitherto subjected to discrimination or poor consideration, such as instrumental music and chamber vocal music; construction of one's own national identity on the study of the old masters; recovery of sources and ancient musical material that accompanies the first musicological studies. This group can include Ildebrando Pizzetti, Gian Francesco Malipiero, Alfredo Casella and Ottorino Respighi; later some younger composers will take the stage such as Goffredo Petrassi, Luigi Dallapiccola, Nino Rota and the exiles Renzo Massarani and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco.
In these composers, music still has an elitist conception. For this reason, Mussolini, although personally fascinated by the mainly instrumental production of some young composers such as Respighi, in the official offices will always respect the traditional hierarchies, which saw the opera players on a higher step than the symphonists.

The rediscovery of our musical past
The intention to address the taste of the public not only influenced contemporary production, but also stimulated the rediscovery of the ancient repertoire, such as the Vivaldi one: The Four Seasons were performed for the first flies in modern times in 1939. also operations called “recreations”, on the compositions of the masters of the past, adapted to the modern instrumental taste.
jealousies and jealousies
As always, there was no lack of jealousies between the various protagonists and the figure of Gian Francesco Malipiero is an example, who sees in his personal relationship with the Duce the tool to solve all evils, especially those inflicted by his opponents. In a letter addressed to the Duce of April 19, 1926 we read: I am a sincere admirer of what fascism has done for Italy, but I am concerned about the fate that, in the midst of the extraordinary Italian spiritual renewal, fell to that poor Cinderella who it's called music. Everything was emphasized except the music. Music criticism […] has remained in the hands of the defeatists, that is, those who want Italian musicality made with the mold and behind the mask of a false patriotism they exalt only amateurs and commercial music. Mediocrity is rampant in the royal conservatories (except in Milan where Ildebrando Pizzetti is) and it has been possible to build a useless organism that will soon end up becoming harmful. Music has a great importance in national education and is an excellent means of propaganda abroad, which is why I hope that these few words can at least raise the alarm; because, if you don't suppose me to be a maniac, I am available to you and I will submit certain very specific ideas that have received the approval of Gabriele d 'Annunzio [...]. I am not looking for places in the Conservatories (I was Professor of Composition in the Royal Conservatory of Parma and almost Director of the Royal Conservatory of Florence, but I had to resign to please Freemasonry), that freedom is too beautiful, nor do I accept honors, however in order to obtain his personal support, I avail myself of only one title: the importance that outside Italy is attributed to my work despite the "conspiracy of silence" organized by all the Italian press.

Mussolini, the impartial judge
Mussolini is therefore seen as the judge and regulator of all internal disputes.
The front of the young musicians was divided on some fundamental points: first of all the judgment on the music of the previous century, which saw more conservative exponents (Pizzetti, Respighi, Alfano) opposing more innovative composers (Casella and Malipiero). As early as 23, criticisms of "internationalism" have raged against the latter and Casella is openly accused of being "a foreigner in Italy and Italian abroad".
However, it is remarkable how in this political phase of fascism it is still possible to affirm and defend internationalist positions, completely unsustainable after '39 due to the establishment of the MinCulPop and its censorship.

The clash with Casella and Malipiero
In any case, on 17 December 1932 a real stance was reached against Casella and Malipiero, with the so-called "dei Dieci" anti-internationalist and anti-modernist Manifesto, because it was signed by ten of the most eminent figures in the musical context Italian, among which the names of Respighi, Pizzetti, Zandonai and Pick-Mangiagalli excelled: With the following statements, the musicians who subscribe to them neither presume nor pretend to assume gladiatorial poses and attitudes of sedition [...] it is not their custom to create churches and congregations for this or that aesthetic purpose or to build artistic cooperatives of mutual censorship then move in small so-called avant-garde platoons or real trenches to be conquered. However, there must be a point of contact and there really is between men of good will and good faith who are not indifferent to the artistic fate of our country. […] All the aesthetic beliefs, which had to subvert the traditional canons, have been exposed and practiced. Our world has been hit, it can be said, with all the volleys of the most reckless futuristic concepts. […] Everything was good as long as it was unthinkable and unthinkable. What did we get out of it? Of the atonal and pluritonal trumpets, of the objectivism and expressionism that has been made of them, what is left? In the musical field, more than anywhere else, there is truly the biblical Babelic confusion [...] The public, bewildered by the clamor of so many amazing apologies, intimidated by so many, very profound and very wise programs of aesthetic reform, no longer knows which voice to listen to or which to follow […]. A sense of comfortable rebellion against the secular and fundamental canons of art has infiltrated the spirit of young people [...]. The future of Italian music does not seem certain, if not at the tail of all foreign music. Young people must be freed from the error in which they live [...] nothing of our past we feel we have to deny [...] nothing is unworthy of the artistic spirit of our race [...] The Gabriellis and the Monteverde (sic!), The Palestrina and the Frescobaldi , the Corellis, the Scarlatti, the Paisiello, the Cimarosa, the Rossini. The Greens and the Puccinis are various and different branches of the same tree.
Signed Ottorino Respighi, Giuseppe Mulé,
Again Mussolini settles the problem
The story ended once again in front of Mussolini himself, with a substantial settlement of the case. Malipiero, in fact, received by the Duce on December 28, prefers not to unleash storms before the meeting and tries to temper the controversy with an open letter to his friend and colleague Respighi (December 25, 1932); Casella, for his part, held back by Malipiero, will limit himself to responding with an article (dated October '32 but released in March '33) in which he attacks the detractors of the avant-garde, claiming the profoundly fascist character of his music: this music is profoundly fascist [...] It is fascist because it is permeated with the same spirit that animates the whole nation today in a gigantic totality, a spirit that Fascism embodies to the highest degree and which consists of a harmonious fusion of modernity and tradition.

Claims and favors
There is, of course, no lack of personal claims and requests for favors. Here, for example, is the extract from a letter from Malipiero to the Duce dated March 25, 1936: Your Excellency, I believe that once again my "enemies" have tried to put me in a bad light, denouncing me to Your Excellency. I don't know more. I believe that the Royal University of Padua has something to do with it, where I teach a course in the History of Music in an atmosphere of great sympathy. I would like your Excellency to know that the time has come to decide and I would be happy if it were Your Excellency who decides whether Italy should have one more musician or one less. I could be proud of the war they make on me if it were fair and if I didn't have to seriously think about my material life now. That artistic morality is definitely in place, but I would like not to rely only on posterity. My opponents try to prevent me from any activity within the fascist cultural institutions […]. I have as much evidence as is enough to convince me that the Italian public (even the people), if left alone, is very capable of understanding any music, even my music. They are the intermediaries who take advantage of my isolation to undermine me. Speaking to the Duce about my personal situation at the present time is perhaps a mistake, but as Your Excellency has read what my opponents wrote, I hope you will be able to read these lines […].
My place at the Conservatory of Venice is always that of an adventitian […] I would like to live in Rome: from my place in Venice, could I not move to Rome, to Santa Cecilia? It would be enough to want. I wouldn't feel bad next to my friend Ottorino Respighi […].

Conclusion
This trait makes us understand that regimes change, but Man always remains the same, with his aspirations, nobility and "misery". To these protagonists, who had a moment of glory before being relegated to the prison of oblivion, I hope that one day, beyond the ideologies and judgment of history on those years, it will be possible to evaluate them only and exclusively on the level musical, for what they created and what they brought to light.

Massimo Carpegna
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Toby Esterhase
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« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2022, 12:40:55 pm »

 Petrassi
https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/84743972.pdf
Malipiero

also if inspired by Shakespeare is clearly referring to Mussolini
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« Reply #2 on: July 09, 2022, 12:55:08 pm »

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« Reply #3 on: July 09, 2022, 02:00:19 pm »

Thank you Tobi (a.k.a. Bernard Hepton) for this interesting thread.

Even though it is not clear to me how “The Favola di Orfeo” is related to Fascism. 

Surely it would be more appropriate to mention “Il Deserto tentato” as an opera paying homage to the regime with its rhetoric of colonialism, yet I don’t think there exists any recording of "Il Deserto"...
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« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2022, 03:17:54 am »

Thank you Tobi (a.k.a. Bernard Hepton) for this interesting thread.

Even though it is not clear to me how “The Favola di Orfeo” is related to Fascism. 

Surely it would be more appropriate to mention “Il Deserto tentato” as an opera paying homage to the regime with its rhetoric of colonialism, yet I don’t think there exists any recording of "Il Deserto"...
It was composed in 1932 on a wordbook by https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corrado_Pavolini that was a important figure of the fascism and IMHO shows the characteristics of the Italian opera of that period, as a classical / mythological subject use.
On Deserto Tentato
https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/cambridge-opera-journal/article/abs/alfredo-casella-and-the-rhetoric-of-colonialism/891F1312812A1FA02C50D496F5E446EB
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« Reply #5 on: July 11, 2022, 04:19:02 am »

He was a prominent figure



 

«With the statements that follow, the musicians who subscribe to them neither presume nor claim to
assuming gladiatorial poses and sedition attitudes […] it is not their custom to create small churches and
congregations for this or that aesthetic purpose or to build artistic cooperatives of mutual censorship
then move in small so-called avant-garde platoons or real trenches to be conquered. However a point of
there must be contact and there really is between men of good will and good faith to whom they are not
the artistic fate of our country is indifferent. [...] All aesthetic beliefs, which had to subvert the canons
traditional, have been exhibited and practiced. Our world has been hit, it can be said, with all the gusts
of the most reckless futuristic concepts. […] Everything was good as long as it was unthinkable and unthinkable. Thing
did we get it? Of atonal and pluritonal trumpets, of objectivism and expressionism
what has been done with it, what is left? In the musical field, more than anywhere else, there is truly biblical confusion
babelica [...] The public, bewildered by the clamor of so many amazing apologies, intimidated by so many,
very deep and very wise programs of aesthetic reform, he no longer knows which voice to listen to or which way
to follow […]. A sense of comfortable rebellion against the secular canons has infiltrated the spirit of young people
fundamentals of art [...]. The future of Italian music does not seem certain, if not at the tail of all
foreign music. Young people must be freed from the error in which they live [...] there is nothing of our past
we feel we have to deny […] nothing is unworthy of the artistic spirit of our race […] The Gabrielli
and the Monteverde (sic!), the Palestrina and the Frescobaldi, the Corelli, the Scarlatti, the Paisiello, the Cimarosa and the Rossini.
Verdi and the Puccini are various and different branches of the same tree. Signed Ottorino Respighi, Giuseppe Mulé,
Ildebrando Pizzetti, Riccardo Zandonai, Alberto Gasco, Alceo Toni, Riccardo Pick-Mangiagalli, Guido
Guerrini, Gennaro Napoli, Guido Zuffellato. "
5
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« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2022, 05:30:30 am »


Respighi never wanted to join the National Fascist Party, even if the same was generous with honors and honors towards him
The freedom of Ottorino Respighi who never wanted to join the party


Lee. G. Barrow, one of the most attentive musicologists to the Author of the Roman Trilogy, wrote: "Ottorino Respighi is undoubtedly the best known and most performed Italian composer from Puccini onwards, as well as the most eminent Italian composer not strictly operatic after Antonio Vivaldi ». Our man can therefore be considered the spiritual heir of these great musicians. However, in the land that gave him his birth, his music is not present in the concert halls as it should, suppressed by that iconoclastic fury that has erased everything attributable to the fascist period.


At the same time, he joins the orchestral staff of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna as a viola and with this instrument he leaves for Russia as the First viola of the Imperial Theater of St. Petersburg, which has set up an opera season dedicated to Italian opera. . The reason for this trip is compositional: Respighi wants to study with Nicolaj Rimskij-Korsakov, the master of orchestral color. He succeeds in his intent and for five months he deepens with him the art of the symphony and the symphonic poem.

Envious fellow musicians, and today some ideologized musicologists, justify this rapid rise of Respighi with the proximity of his music, grandiose and aimed at honoring Italy and its past, to fascist ideals. Thus writes Alberto Cantù in the volume dedicated to him: "Among the Italian composers of the historic twentieth century, Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) is certainly the one who had and has the least need for external pressures, promotional festivals, conferences and monographic occasions to find that diffusion, fortune and international fame that the author of the three Roman symphonic poems smiled almost immediately, on the basis of drumsticks such as Toscanini, De Sabata and Karajan, the day before or yesterday; Maazel, Muti or Sinopoli, today. "

Despite having lived in the period in which most of the Italians raised their right arm with conviction in the Roman salute, Respighi never wanted to join the National Fascist Party, even if the same was lavish with honors and honors towards him. This must make us reflect on the meaning of art, which is an expression of freedom, of intellectual independence which cannot be harnessed by an ideology even if this largely corresponds to our feelings.

Another consideration is that Italy, in the period from 1922 to the Second World War, was able to offer the world bright artists, who must not be canceled for political reasons and we, today, far from that time and steadfast in conquered democracy, have the duty to assign everyone their own place in the history of art, according to what they have been able to create with their works and not on ideological preconceptions.



Massimo Carpegna


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