Music International Modern Music in Venice
THE success of any artistic event that takes place in Venice is always due in part to the fascination of Venice herself. Even the now famous Biennial Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture (the eighteenth of these exhibitions has been open since last spring) could not have flourished so successfully in any other Italian city. Only Venice can surround all beautiful and interesting things with the attraction of her own elusive and irresistible charm. We have now had the second " Biennial Exhibition of Music," an experiment which in spirit and organization is intended to form part of the general exhibition of the other arts. The originators of the Musical Exhibition," foremost among whom is Adrian() Lualdi, the composer, have designed a series of concerts to take the place of the different national pavilions of art, and in these concerts, each devoted to the music of a separate country, it is hoped to present a synthesis of the essentials of contemporary musical art.
Like every other anthology this second international musical festival is open to criticism, and the first remark we make is to deplore the unpardonable absence of any English music, for surely English composers are as important as those of South America. The compositions too which were chosen to repre- sent North America seemed to all entirely insufficient and inadequate in quality to give any idea of the present musical movement in the United States.
We will pass over in silence those works which might with advantage have been left out of the programmes, but among
the others we must recall as especially noteworthy the "Your Episodes " for chamber orchestra by Ernest Bloch* a. new Concerto " for two pianos and small orchestra by Francis Poulenc, which has a beautiful first movement and enchanting tone effects on every page, a pleasant and fluent string quartet by Mario Labroca, a "-Concerto " for piano and orchestra by George Gershwin, four characteristic Brazilian songs by H. Villa Lobos, one of the few musicians for whom folk lore is not a convenient-short cut to telling effects, but the life-blood of creative imagination, and finally an ample and well-built quintet for piano and string quartet by Mario Castelnuovo- Tedesco. Besides these it were useless to enumerate all those other works, excellent in structure, and agreeable to listen to, of which it would take too long to write in detail.. We heard them without great interest, sometimes being slightly bored, and the performances often showed the haste of insufficient rehearsal, but the audience received some of them cordially, and all with tolerant civility.
One of the chief attractions of the festival was the perform- ance of several dramatic works written in the form of " Chamber Opera." These works are built on a fundamental principle and technical programme which appears to us rather flimsy, the result not so much of any artistic conviction as of the present economic crisis which. urges retrenchment and whittling down in every field. Of those which we were offered some were indeed of exceptional interest, sufficient to justify the success they obtained. Besides the " Retablo de Maese Pedro " of de Folio, familiar by now throughout Europe, special mention must be made of the melodrama " Pantea by G. F. Malipiero and " La Favola di Orfeo " by Alfred Casella. In some ways Malipiero's work resembles a sym- phonic poem, and it is enacted on the stage by a single dancer in five different scenes. It is incisive, clearly defined music, yet withal extremely suggestive of those states of mind which nearly always border on hallucination and terror, and are not exempt from a certain monotony, although taken as a whole they produce an impression to which it is almost impossible not to succumb.
Casella's opera, the libretto of which is taken from the famous " Orfeo " by Agnolo Poliziano, on the contrary is a colder, more balanced work, especially admirable for the remarkable harmony of the parts and the architectural quality of the whole composition. In this, as in another work of Casella's, " La Donna Serpente," the vocal writing is somewhat weak and impersonal, but still the pseudo- classical atmosphere of the opera has not prevented the composer from achieving a pathos that in certain moments reaches an unexpected note of expressive emotion.
Fluent and easy in structure is La Granceola," of Adrian() Lualdi, a work which derives its comic accent from the popular belief that certain kinds of frogs are extremely susceptible to music and can be tamed and caught by the power of song. Considerable success was obtained by the mystery play, Maria Egiziaca, by fiespighi, acted in front of a triptych of remote primitive feeling, but from the muical point of view the play would be quite as much at home, perhaps more so, in a larger frame and with richer mnise en scene. After these works only a tepid success greeted the ballet of Franco Casavola, L'Alba di Don Giovanni. After these performances, all more or less modem in spirit, the festival also included an evening devoted to music of the past, which had passed, and not always to its advantage, through the hands of modern musicians who had transcribed and elaborated it. Among these works the most noteworthy was a " Passion " which Fernando Liuzzi has found in a codex of lauds in Cortorra dating from the latter half of the thirteenth century. This parch- ment codex contains the earliest known examples of Italian melodies and it is a discovery of the utmost interest and value which Liuzzi will describe in detail in a forthcoming publica- tion. In this " Passion " he has " interpreted," the word is his, the melodies with a certain liberty, harmonizing them and adapting them for a small orchestra consisting of two flutes, one hautboy, two trumpets, two harps, organ-, viola, 'cello and double basa. How much therefore of the composition is genuine thirteenth century, or how much is due to the modem
interpreter " it is hard to say, but in any ease the stage setting provided for the " Passion " added little or nothing to the expressive possibilities of the music. In conclusion, there was a concert of music written especially for broadcasting by eight young Italian composers in responSe to a competition for radio compositions organized for the occasion. l'he result served chiefly to show the difficulty of producing works of art while seeking above all to solve purely technical problems, and for the moment it will certainly be well for the wireless to remain the handmaid of music, " real " music, rather than that music should be distorted and enslaved by an alien mistress. Gumo M. Glern.