L’Ora di Barga (world première) – Teatro dei Differenti

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As you can quite clearly see and hear in the video below, it was a special evening at the Teatro dei Differenti with music of an exceptionally high quality in a concert to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the death of Giovanni Pascoli.

It has to be said that it was not what could be described as an “easy concert” as the music of Michael Stimpson took his audience in directions and areas that they probably were not used to travelling or inhabiting but at the end of the evening all present must have left the teatro with a whole new gamut of emotions running through their heads and hearts.

The poetry of Pascoli was never going to be the same again.

With Massimo Salotti’s secure hands on the keyboard of the Steinway, Sally Li the soprano performed the world première of a new work by Michael dedicated to ‘il Comune di Barga’, a setting for soprano and piano of Pascoli’s renowned poem, L’Ora di Barga

There followed  a performance of Dall’Alba al Tramonto for baritone and piano, this time with the tenor Enrico Nenci.

Interspersed between these two performances were readings from six of Pascoli’s poetry by Massimo Grigo’ and accompanying guitar pieces by Giacomo Brunini playing selections from  Five Miniatures, once again composed by Michael Stimpson.

Music from Giacomo Puccini complete this unique concert.

Performers : Enrico Nenci (tenor) | Sally Li (soprano) | Massimo Grigo (reader) | Giacomo Brunini (guitar) | Massimo Salotti (piano) | Massimo Grigo’ – actor

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L’Ora di Barga (world première)

Giovanni Pascoli is so closely linked with Barga that in this 100th anniversary year of his death, it seems most appropriate to set the words of this important poem. And so I have chosen soprano and piano to be the vehicle, acting as a compliment to the baritone and piano setting of Dall’Alba al Tramonto that I made some years ago.

What attracted me to the latter was that it encapsulated so many aspects of Pascoli’s life, loves, and experiences. But L’Ora di Barga is so interesting because while containing these elements they are much more subtle and hidden. Added to this are my own reflections of Barga, and the result is a piece that is a blend of the two.

Naturally in such a setting it is impossible to ignore the importance and influence of the bells of the Duomo of Barga, and as with Dall’Alba al Tramonto they appear throughout the piece – sometimes from afar (as they would be heard from Pascoli’s house), and sometimes closer and more dramatic; their variation of character is considerable both in this piece and in reality.

Equally as prominent as the bells is the line ‘È l’ora; È tardi’. This has given a clue to the musical shape of this work. I have given the phrase different interpretations, not least as a phrase of great drama, something reflecting the closure of life as much as simply hearing the bells. But gradually this piece transforms, from the more nervous and dissonant at the beginning of the piece to the warmth that both Pascoli and Barga has in abundance. – Michael Stimpson

Click below to hear Michael Stimpson talking earlier on this week about the world première of his compostion L’ora di Barga


Dall’Alba al Tramonto

I Alba Festiva (Dawn Festival)
II Speranze e Memorie (Hopes and Memories)
III Scalpitio (Hooves)
IV Il Morticino (The Dead Child)
V Il Rosicchiolo (The Crust of Bread)
VI Patria (Homeland)
VII La Cucitrice (The Seamstress)
VIII Sera Festiva (Evening Festival)

Giovanni Pascoli (1855-1912) studied at the University of Bologna, a period when he flirted with socialism, graduating in Greek literature in 1882. He went on to teach in several high schools before succeeding his tutor, Giosuè Carducci, as professor in literature in Bologna. By this time his leanings were of a nationalist, patriotic character, and his subsequent poetry had a marked influence on later Italian poets. He settled in Barga (Garfagnana) with his sister Mariù.

His early life was marked by tragedy, the murder of his father and early deaths of his mother, sisters and brothers. This, his patriotism, and love of nature are highly influential on his poetry and I have chosen to set Dall’Alba Al Tramonto (Myracae, 1891) as it encapsulate these most important features. But alongside these aspects, within this musical setting are the bells of Barga which were both a stimulus and source of comfort to Pascoli. The three notes (bells), which open the work, are heard in a variety of forms, rhythms and indeed emotions – and often, when writing myself within earshot of the bells, I included what I heard at any one moment. Although this introduced an element of chance, I was intrigued by how often their extraordinary harmonies, overtones and indeed characters, matched the poetry and the effect that I wanted.

Michael Stimpson began his writing with music for the guitar, notably Café Music, (Ricordi) and Five Miniatures (OUP). His first major chamber work was Sonatina for Piano Trio premièred at the Purcell Room by the Dussek Piano Trio, and this was followed in 1999 by his Concerto for Oboe (QEH, John Anderson oboe, London Festival Orchestra).

Since then his works have continued to be commissioned and performed by some of the UK’s leading players; these include the Allegri String Quartet, English Chamber Orchestra, English Concert Singers and Orchestra, Sioned Williams, Paul Agnew, Roderick Williams and David Campbell.

Michael was subsequently invited to join the jury of the Franz Liszt International Competition for Composers held in Italy and his works have now appeared in the USA, Europe and Iran. Performance of a new commission for the Bristol Bach Choir began 2008, Michael’s 60th year. Two works for the Allegri String Quartet were released shortly before his birthday concert at London’s Purcell Room. 2009 saw premières of a four-stage work, Age of Wonders, which commemorated the life and work of Charles Darwin. Concerts included the Wigmore Hall, Peninsula Arts Festival, and Darwin, Australia with Philippe Graffin, Elizabeth Burley, the Maggini Quartet, London Sinfonietta, and the Darwin Symphony Orchestra. Michael is currently working on his first opera, based on the life of Jesse Owens, and has a number of projects lined up for 2012 and beyond.



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