1 Oct 2016
Our 2016/17 season focuses on music of the 21st century: works of beauty, complexity and drama that deserve to be listened to, not just heard.
Ahead of each concert we'll provide a step-by-step guide online, to help you do just that. Playlists, interviews, videos and audio-illustrated articles (plus a bit of homework if you're up for it) will reveal the music, its context and the composer's creative mind.
At the very first concert of our season - on Thursday 13 October 2016 - we perform music by enigmatic Italian composer Salvatore Sciarrino. His work has rarely been heard in the UK but is acclaimed overseas - so much so that he's being presented with Venice Biennial's Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement a couple of weeks beforehand. We're proud, and excited, to give UK audiences the chance to experience his music live.
For Step 1 of your online guide Salvatore has put together a playlist of works that capture his sound world, and will help you to set the scene.
In Step 2 of our online guide to London Sinfonietta's concert on Thursday 13 October 2016, we get to know composer Francesco Filidei with a quickfire Q&A. He's a student of Salvatore Sciarrino, and one of the four generations of Italian composers whose work we perform in the concert.
What do you regard as your greatest artistic achievement?
The work I will do next.
What do you fear?
Not to write music.
Which piece of music has had the biggest effect on you?
Puccini's Madama Butterfly.
What’s the most unusual performance you’ve been a part of?
What’s currently on your coffee table at home?
My laptop and wine.
What was the first recording you ever bought?
The Beatles' Let it be.
Describe yourself in three words.
This Is Impossible.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
Welcome to Step 3 of our online guide to the London Sinfonietta's concert on Thursday 13 October 2016: an audio-illustrated article about one of the works on the bill. Philip Cashian (composer and Head of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music) dissects ...da un Divertimento by Salvatore Sciarrino, guiding you through the piece with examples of what to listen out for.
Salvatore Sciarrino’s meticulously conceived music inhabits a world that is fleeting and transparent but at the same time charged with a disparate rhythmic energy and constantly shifting instrumental colours and textures, often taking instruments close to the limit of what is possible by employing extended techniques. This makes listening to his music live particularly engaging, as the virtuosity required of the musicians in creating such demanding and often unstable sounds adds an extra layer of drama to the performance.
Scored for wind quintet, string quartet and double bass, ... da un Divertimento is Sciarrino’s first piece for instrumental ensemble. Sciarrino was just 23 and living in Rome when he wrote it in 1970, but the music already shows many of the characteristics that make him such a distinctive and original musical voice from a stellar generation that includes Luciano Berio, Luigi Nono and Franco Donatoni.
A fundamental feature of his writing is that he removes the bass register from the music and explores the upper regions of instruments – the tantalizing area between pitched and unpitched sounds, as well as what is audible and inaudible.AUDIO-ILLUSTRATED GUIDE:
...da un Divertimento is in two movements. Here are some things to listen out for in each.
MOVEMENT 1: Romanza adagio
The moment to moment musical surface of this piece is very intricate and detailed but the structure of the movement is very simple. A middle section is framed by two outer sections of repeating descending and ascending string glissandi.
A descending string glissando can be heard from 03’-10” into the movement. Then at 10”-12” there is a loud, percussive gesture as numerous instruments play together followed at 12”-15” by ascending glissandi. Variations of this idea are then repeated until 02’43” where there are several seconds of silence to clear the air before the middle section starts.
02”48”- 03’57” is the middle section of the movement and made up of very quiet frenetic activity from the whole ensemble; a web of sounds punctuated by tiny moments of silence as the music catches it’s breath.
During 03’57”- 05’14” the piece returns to the glissando gestures.
Other things to listen out for include:
At 01’12” and 04’38” there is a kind of echoing glissando in the string instruments.
At 02’40” and 04’33” listen out for a tremolo woodwind sound.
At 04’09” and 05’01” you can hear a breathing sound from a wind player.
05’09” is a dramatic cut-off followed by a few seconds silence before a final phrase of music to close the movement at 05’14”.MOVEMENT 2, Veloce:
This movement, to my ears, is made up of five sections, each framed by silence:
The music in this movement is a lot faster and more contrapuntal than the previous movement, and is episodic in nature.
Here are some particular moments to listen out for:
At 40” the sound of wind players blowing through their instruments is picked up in the strings and transformed. Each section seems to start (very briefly) with this kind of breathy sound coming out of the moments of silence beforehand.
At 01’27” the string instruments play col legno.
In the 01’52”-03’18” section the woodwind instruments are very much in the foreground and play a lot of multiphonics.
Pizzicato at 05’13” and 05’16” in the lower strings signals the beginning of a brief and very delicate, quiet section from 05’19” to the end, which closes the piece.
© Philip Cashian
For the fourth step of our online guide to this Thursday's Salvatore Sciarrino concert, we paid a visit to composer Daniela Terranova – a student of Sciarrino whose work we'll perform alongside his. She told us about the gradual process of becoming a composer, as well as the importance of study, a close relationship to the musicians with whom she works and the constant need to question oneself when creating new work.
Last night, in the beautiful setting of St John's Smith Square, we performed wonderful music by four generations of Italian composers - Sciarrino, Berio, Terranova and Filidei. We were delighted that Daniela Terranova and Francesco Filidei could join us on the night for the respective UK premieres of their works. It was also the inaugural night of Step 5 of our online guide about How to Listen to the 21st Century.
Last night's performance concluded with a post-concert conversation between London Sinfonietta Chief Executive Andrew Burke, conductor Marco Angius and composers Daniela Terranova and Francesco Filidei - both of whom were students of Salvatore Sciarrino and received UK premieres of their works in the concert.
Here we have hand-picked some highlights from the conversation, which covered their compositions, the influence of Sciarrino on their music, the state of contemporary music in Italy and a special association that conductor Marco Angius holds for the London Sinfonietta since childhood...
ANDREW: Daniela, can you tell us what has influenced you in your composing career to date?
DANIELA: Well, this piece that you heard tonight (Notturno in Forma di Rosa) was written in 2009 but now my focus is a little bit different because I am more interested in exploring matter as a new source of meaning. I think in this piece there is something more related with the capability of frozen times and exploring different brightnesses and textures.
I really like listening to different composers, and I think that this is very important because through different composers you can define a different way of listening. This influences our capability of thinking about a new way to express our focus, our intention.
ANDREW: You studied with Salvatore Sciarrino and it’s always interesting for an audience to understand how influence is handed down; what can you say you’ve taken from him that still influences you as you evolve in your compositional career?
FRANCESCO: I think the idea of closed form more than anything, always this aspect is really clear - it’s a construction […] for me now I take all the elements I had but stay with this idea of form that definitely came from studying with Salvatore (Sciarrino).
ANDREW: Marco you are an interpreter of Salvatore’s music - we don't hear this music very often, this is the first time in several years that we’ve played it - can you tell us as a conductor of his music what challenges there are in bringing it to life with an ensemble?
MARCO: The works of Sciarrino are not pieces of music in the strict sense of the word. When we listen to his music there is a silence, this is a very important aspect of the music - but the silence of Sciarrino music isn’t the same silence of Cage for example [...] we listen not to music but to instruments that breathe. So this breath inside each instrument is the audience's breath, it is the audience's heart.
With the London Sinfonietta it was so easy and so natural to do his music as if they played it before for many years. For me, I am very glad to say, that this experience was very very important because when I was a child, the first recording I received was a disc of the London Sinfonietta with the works of Stravinsky. In the first rehearsal I said to the musicians that I remembered this, ‘my first recording was one of yours’, and one of them, John, the bassoonist said – ‘I was the player on that recording!', so this is very very emotional for me’.
ANDREW: Can you tell us more about Italian contemporary music. What is the scene? Is there a huge variety ? Are you rejecting that past and making your own futures?
DANIELA: I want to say first that we have a general problem in contemporary music nowadays because we have endless common practice and therefore we now have no common practice at all. I think that this is a problem but also a chance because we are to find a way to be genuine in our work [...] the problem for each of us is to find our personal voice, our personal way, to explore something that could be defined in unfamiliar territory.
FRANCESCO: Our generation lives outside of Italy, i think there are very few people that stay there – they go to Paris or to Germany.
MARCO interjects - but Sciarrino stayed in Italy!
FRANCESCO: Yes, but Sciarrino is another generation... but there was a period after the eighties when people left, maybe it is different now, but not for my generation. But something stays, and that is interesting to me, what music is able to do - to show the roots of a country. For me for example, if I have to choose a composer, Puccini - his music comes from Tuscany. I can’t imagine Puccini coming from Sicily. I can’t imagine Sciarrino not coming from Sicily - this is music from the south.
Many thanks to Andrew, Daniela, Francesco and Marco for their contribution to the evening and in helping us to 'debrief'! We'd also like to thank and congratulate our soloist of the evening, Anna Radziejewska who captured the audience with her performances of Luciano Berio's Folksong Suite and Salvatore Sciarrino's most recent work, Immagina il Deserto.