Italian Pastorals of 19th Century
Collecting and ordering this anthology of pastorales has been like embarking on a journey–by carriage, of course–through the provinces of nineteenth-century Italy. In the background, churches and theatres blend to create an unmistakable landscape of sound, a summary of images evoking this period of Italian organ music. It is a voyage undertaken for the purpose of gathering together the emotions of a new ferment which was sweeping through the peninsula. This new fashion, uniting the musical traditions of Christmas with a new romantic sentiment, led musicians to mix classical and folk elements, high brow and low, in order to give the music a language of universal comprehensibility. A sky on a starry night, pierced by the traditional comet, painted on a backdrop hung behind the wings, assures that the nocturnal magic of Christmas lives on despite the contradiction (exemplary for the period) between nature and representation. Equally irresolvable is the contradiction between the sound of the organ and that of the typical instruments of the Christmas tradition (unequivocal model of the pastorale genre), but this contradiction is resolved by the need to reiterate the Good Tidings each year in the right setting in order to restore its message of wonder and simplicity. And so I think the best way to listen to these pieces is to imagine a series of stories or tableaus or miniatures which bear witness and discreetly provide us with a view of Italy from that time, slowly scratched with a quill on thick and yellow paper. Our guide will be the rediscovered sounds of a Serassi organ, built by a family of artisans who captured the sonorous ideal of the nineteenth-century Italian organ, with its extroverted but classical ripieno, its noble and rustic reeds, its exquisitely sweet basses. On our journey we will stop at various musical “provinces”, from Bergamo to Piacenza, from Pesaro to Cividale, from Tuscany to Lazio–where we will find lots of “good things in bad taste” (in the words of the poet Gozzani), but also flashes of genius and, above all, genuine moments which revive in rhymed couplets the flavors of “those more modest novels” from an Italy still to come. 1 and 12. Padre Davide da Bergamo (Felice Moretti) (Zanica, 1791 - Piacenza, 1863) “Pastorale” (for 4 hands); “Pastorale à 6” (for three organists). A member of the order of Minorite monks, this composer was renowned in the musical world of his time and was respected by such illustrious musicians as Donizetti and Mercadante as well as by masses of admirers. Padre Davide incarnates and exemplifies a period in which the so-called “theatrical” style prevailed in 19th-century Italian organ music. He also exercised his influence in contemporary organ building, designing and testing a great number of instruments. His legacy is the great Serassi organ at Santa Maria di Campagna in Piacenza. His music is striking for the immediacy of its melodic inventiveness, the brilliant instrumental writing (often markedly pianistic), and a strong sense of color, in line with the tastes of the time and closely tied to his most favorite instruments. Padre Davide also wrote innumerable pastorales for organ; those for two and three organists (like the ones included here) are rarer and are thus more interesting: for their unusual and more orchestral sonority, for the chamber-like and dialogical style employed, for the originality of the organ writing.