Goffredo Giarda (1886-1973)
Complete Organ Works
Goffredo Giarda was born on 19 October 1886 into a musical family. His grandfather Serafino was the town organist. His father Francesco, a friend of Giuseppe Verdi), was a great pianist (his concerts included performances of piano duets for 4 hands with Jan Paderewski), as well as being an organist and pedagogue (he taught piano at the “B. Marcello Liceo Musicale” in Venice and his private pupils included Queen Margherita di Savoia). And Goffredo’s uncle, Luigi Stefano Giarda, was a prolific composer, first cellist in the orchestra of La Scala in Milan, professor at the Naples Conservatory, and later vice-director of the conservatory in Santiago (Chile). At the Venetian highschool, Goffredo earned numerous diplomas: in piano under the tutelage of his father at the young age of 17; in organ in 1907, after studying with Marco Enrico Bossi and Oreste Ravanello; and in composition with Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari. He went on to teach complementary piano at the same institution from 1919. Between 1924 and 1954, his concert activities took him to such prestigious venues as St. Stephen’s cathedral in Vienna in June 1929 (one of the first Italians to perform there), where he was enthusiastically reviewed. Giarda played in Basle (where he was praised for his “precise and elegant technique and mastery of registration and timbres”), in Zurich (where he was called “the magnificent pupil of Bossi”), Geneva (where his manner of playing was described as “exceedingly brilliant, very pianistic, and of rare virtuosity”), Lugano, Budapest (where he was attributed with “a sensitivity and imagination for timbres, and a vivacious and ready conception of the use of registers”), and in Munich. In Italy he held concerts in numerous important musical institutions such as the Liceo Musicale of Bologna in 1924, where, in the opinion of the journal “L’Avvenire d’Italia”, his organ technique “was due principally to his pianist’s hands, which possess touch, speed, softness, cleanness and texture, while at the same time he manages to operate all the changes of register, thereby obtaining such a dazzling variety of colors”. And at the Augusteum in Rome in 1930, appearing together with the great violinist Nathan Milstein, he played the magnificent organ built by Carlo Vegezzi-Bossi in 1914. On this occasion, “Il Messaggero” praised him as “a concert artist of great worth for his sure and perfect technique and his lovely interpretative intelligence”. Giarda possessed a brilliant technique on the pedal. After a performance of the Studio sinfonico op. 78 by Bossi, it was written that “Giarda’s feet have achieved the maximum velocity of the feet of a thief!” His repertoire included works by Frescobaldi, Zipoli, Martini, Bossi, Ravanello, Respighi, Buxtehude, Bach, Reger, Widor, Guilmant, Franck, Boëlmann and Dubois, while among his own compositions, those most often performed were the Ave Maria op. 51 n. 2, the Canto Serafico op. 70 and the Allegretto di concerto op. 64. He also made organ transcriptions of pieces by Ravel, Debussy (Cathédrale engloutie and passages from Le Martyre de Saint-Sébastien, a Mistero in 5 acts on a libretto by Gabriele d’Annunzio), as well as many others (unfortunately no longer extant). In 1917, a close and intense friendship developed between Giarda and Gabriele d’Annunzio. The magnetic personality of the poet became so focused on organ music that he at one point asked Giarda to perform Frescobaldi’s Toccata per l’Elevazione twenty-four (!) times at the Liceo Musicale in Venice during a violent bombing by the Austrians. Goffredo Giarda died in Venice on 24 January 1973. The composer’s sharp wit is evident in his organ pieces which, though at times evocative of French models or even of the music of Bossi, possess an unmistakable personal touch. They fit, in a poetic sense, into the panorama of “Cecilian” creativity which in Italy had quite interesting results, for the most part yet to be discovered.