Vincenzo Antonio Petrali (1830-1889)
Vincenzo Antonio Petrali, who was born in Crema on January 22, 1830 and died in Bergamo on November 24, 1889, was the central figure in the nineteenth century Italian organ world. He was the link between symphonic-theatrical creativity, supported by the organ orchestra, and the revival of organs and organ playing of which he was the strongest and most convinced advocate. The importance of the former is linked to the treatise Norme generali sul modo di trattare l’organo moderno (General guidelines as to how to treat the modern organ) (Milan, F. Lucca, 1862), which the director of the workshop of organ builders Fratelli Serassi of Bergamo, Giambattista Castelli, particularly wanted be published, to make sure that an accurate and clearly written guide to using the organ was available to organists. To fully understand what was going on around Petriali in that period, a look should be taken at the historical situation of the organ in nineteenth century Italy. Vincenzo Antonio Petrali lived at a delicate moment in history, but, in virtue of his extraordinary intelligence, admirable knowledge, and exceptional musical talent, he systematically carried out his own reform, in his own way. He had every respect for the Italian organ building tradition, but realised that they were not ready to make revolutionary changes to their craft as was happening in other countries, and, although he was a supporter of the theatrical style at the beginning of his career, he never transcribed operas. Later in life he embraced the more austere style of music with conviction, often nearly overreaching the limits of the organ. Almost as if to justify this choice, he wrote three books of seventy-five studies for the modern organ, which are an admirable tribute to the nobility of the instrument at that time, that no longer had to provide “equestrian effects”, but could soar to the heights of expression. This CD, which highlights two phases of his career, was recorded on the organ in the church of Santa Maria Assunta and San Nicolao in Montanaro (TO): the original instrument was built by Giovanni and Giacinto Bruna from Miagliano (BI), in 1811, and it was reconstructed by Giacomo Vegezzi Bossi from Turin in 1872. The instrument has an extremely rich range of timbres, which provide the versatility that is particularly suitable for the music performed on this disc.