The musical magazine “Amadeus” has published this interview in the February Issue of 2003. A CD produced by the orchestra Cosarara conducted by Giuseppe Camerlingo with the participation of soprano Cinzia Forte and mezzo-soprano Anna Bonitatibus came with the magazine. The orchestra performs Francesco Geminiani ‘s La foresta Incantata and airs from Tommaso Traetta ‘s Armida.
An “ancient” passion
Interview with the musical director of our cd of the month.
From the experience with Claudio Abbado to the present philological enterprise with the Cosarara ensemble.
By Nicoletta Sguben
It is inevitable that our conversation with the Neapolitan director Giuseppe Camerlingo should start with that important meeting: in 1994, after graduation at Fiesole and Stuttgart, after taking lessons from Sergiu Celibidache and Franco Ferrara, and a few years of conducting, Camerlingo takes part in the productions of Le Nozze di Figaro and Il Barbiere di Siviglia held by Ferrara Musica. Which accounts to say one name: Claudio Abbado.
“It was his daughter Alessandra Abbado who proposed to collaborate with Ferrara Musica”, Camerlingo remembers. “Afterwards I asked Abbado to follow him at Saltsburg, Vienna, and Berlin. The experience lasted for three years. These were crucial years for my training. Abbado’s strong will, prodigious memory, and above all his intellectual honesty – indispensable for any improvement – were always a great example”. After Ferrara Musica, Camerlingo’s biography enriches with performances such as Le Nozze di Figaro at the Vienna Opera, Boris Godunov and Elektra at the Saltsburg Festival. These experiences highly marked the 45 years old director’s personality which is characterized by a variety of interests and artistic choices. But then an old lurking passion emerged…”I must say in the first place that I was trained as a “classicist”, that, in other words, the study of the classics has been a deep and constant part of my education; and yet, at the beginning of my career, I had set aside the problem of the interpretation of the music preceding Mozart, thinking of facing it in the future. Indeed, I thought I still had to learn a lot of the nineteenth and twentieth –centuries music. On the other hand, I continued to listen to Bach in Mozart’s, to Banchieri in Rossini’s, to Mozart in Brahms’s, to Ockeghem in Nono’s music and so on. Only after a number of experiences in the great opera and symphonic repertoire, I felt it was the time for me to start a project that concretely faced – no longer in meditations but in actions- the eternal and often discussed problem of the ancient-modern relationship.
This is how some friends of mine and I came to the creation of the “Cosarara” ensemble. The cellist Enrico Contini, the violinist Sebastiano Airoldi and the flutist Marcello Gatti passionately did research on ancient instruments with a creative and open attitude, and together we published our first cd with the transcription of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater made by Paisiello 75 years later. This was a paradigmatic program for our goal, since it allowed a very stimulating play of cross historical perspectives: us-Pergolesi, us-Paisiello, Paisiello-Pergolesi”.
“Cosarara has started a remarkably interesting program of interdisciplinary research on the influence of Tasso’s poetry on seventeenth and eighteenth-centuries musicians. How did the idea come about?
It was a gradual and progressive process; but I can say that the starting point was the reading of a classic of the twentieth century historiography: Fernand Braudel’s Civilization and empire in the Mediterranean in the Age of Philip II. Although the great French historian only marginally dealt with music, his monumental work offers an invaluable method to approach the history of music in a vast cultural context. In the first place, Braudel’s concept of civilizations’ longue durée makes us understand why and how some mythical topics (Christian and Biblical included) are constantly present in the entire production of Western music. Second, the genial idea of a Mediterranean area as an economical and geographical vast territory where ideas and goods alike coming from all over the world converge, are metabolized, and sent back to the world, accounts for the stubborn endurance and dominance (at least until the late eighteenth century) of the musical culture of such a politically divided country as Italy was. Starting from Braudel’s views we have focused our attention on some characters and themes recurring in the seventeenth and eighteenth-century melodrama. While reading catalogues and librettos we noticed the palpable presence of a millenary mythological scenario. Among these catalogues and librettos, Torquato Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered (1581) stood out as a turning point. Indeed, Tasso’s masterpiece inherited the entire western literary legacy starting with Homer, and at the same time it comes to constitute the inspiring model of future generations of musicians, painters, and, of course, poets. In sum, working with Tasso allows us to communicate with a vast universe in time and space. I believe this won’t be an ephemeral project.
Geminiani’s “travel mate” in “Cosarara”’s proposal is Traetta. Tell us something about this partnership.
“We have not pursued any stylistic unity. Indeed, from this point of view, Geminiani and Traetta belong to substantially different worlds, although the two proposed compositions are almost contemporary. Both of them are daring and learned experimental composers. Geminiani works on instrumental music in the tradition of the concerto grosso launched by Corelli and Handel. Traetta, on the other hand, is essentially an opera composer. Both were international artists. Like most Italian musicians of the time, they both traveled and exchanged ideas, but in different places and musical cultures. Geminiani’s fundamental places are Lucca, London, Paris, Dublin; Traetta’s are Bitonto, Naples, Parma, Venice, Vienna, and St. Peterborough. This diversity gives us the measure of the vitality and the vastness of Tasso’s influence on the European culture. It is extremely interesting that late Renaissance naturalism that embeds Tasso’s Jerusalem persists in both composers thus making their respective expressive outcomes similar in some way.
Why did you choose La foresta Incantata in the great production of music, paintings, and theatre inspired by the Tassian heroic poem as the first step of the project Tasso e la musica?
“Because the case of the Foresta Incantata is rather unique. Originally it was a theatrical work, but Geminiani elaborated it as a wholly autonomous instrumental composition that from a formal point of view may be considered as an extension of a concerto grosso. Enrico Careri, the scholar who mostly worked on Geminiani, guided us in the understanding of this composition. His comparative study on the music, the libretto of Servandoni’s pantomime and on the Jerusalem Delivered allows us to put side by side not only two seemingly non-homogeneous materials, but also the narrative and the strictly musical functions that are present in both Tasso’s poetry and in Geminiani’s music.
In the original pantomime, performed in Paris in 1754, music was only a small part of an essentially visual spectacle. To re-propose it today in a cd is a good bet: what suggestions would you give our audience to fully enjoy this work.
To read canti XIII and XVIII of the Jerusalem Delivered in the first place, and perhaps to (re)read it all. I would also suggest, however, not considering La Foresta Incantata as a programmed music. Music’s evoking power can and must be left free to act in our own imagination.