Bruno Maderna

An Anthology of Chamber Music

These pages of chamber music of Bruno Maderna form an anthology exemplifying the linguistic evolution of the venetian musician during a wide time span. Divertimento of 1953 is the most remote composition of the group: from the pen of a musician who at the time was 33 years old. From the fifties we have the Quartetto per archi, dated 1955. Passing to the sixties we come to the most noteworthy group of chamber compositions: Honeyrêves of 1961, Aulodia per Lothar of 1965, Widmung of 1967 and Serenata per un satellite of 1969. From the seventies, the last decade of life of Maderna, are the almost contemporary Viola and Dialodia, both dated 1971. As Massimo Mila has said, the Madernian works are “a most intricate forest” so we would prefer to bypass an attempt to avail the reader of an Ariadne’s thread offering a connecting pathway for the eight compositions. Perhaps we might indicate the persistence of intriguing elements of chance presiding over the genesis of these short works. The recurrent element is given by the connection of the greater part of the pieces with a single instrumentalist, a friend of Maderna, to whom the page is dedicated (if not actually entitled).
The venetian musician loved wind instruments: in particular the oboe and the flute. This preference was personified in his collaboration with two famous interpreters: the german oboist Lothar Faber and the italian flautist Severino Gazzelloni. Faber, class of 1922, Rhinelander from Cologne, and born to the profession (his father was oboist in the Guerzenich Orchestra), afterwards studies at the Conservatoires of his home town and Paris, he entered into a career as orchestra musician. From 1946 oboe soloist in the Orchestra of Radio Cologne (WDK), Faber continued to show interest in avantgarde music participating in the most important Festivals of Neue Musik (Biennial Venice, Festival of Royan, Warsaw etc.). Within a few years the Rhenish oboist became a celebrity, holding “masterclasses” in many places: he taught at the Academia Chigiana of Siena (1972-77) and, in his homeland, in Darmstadt. It was as in this city that he entered into contact with Maderna, establishing a partnership destined to become extremely fruitful. There were numerous Madernian premières for Faber In Germany: In Darmstadt in 1962 the Concerto n.1 for oboe and chamber orchestra, in Cologne in 1967 the Concerto n.2 for oboe and orchestra.
Darmstadt, where Maderna lived, was also to nurture the friendship with the flautist Severino Gazzelloni. The Roman gave a “masterclass” in Darmstadt during the course of the summer of 1952 and entered into contact with all the musical intellectuals in the city, from Adorno to Hartmann, from Stroebel to Maderna. From that moment he worked the avant-garde, emersing himself with his first commissions from Gazzelloni (soloist in the Belgrade Orchestra, soloist in the RAI Orchestra of Rome etc.); it became a true mission. There are hundreds of works dedicated to Gazzelloni from composers such as Petrassi and Boulez, Berio and Donatoni, Gorecki and Nono. Amongst the works that Maderna dedicated to Gazzelloni, apart from Honeyrêves, we might quote Hyperion. Counted amongst the interpreters whose names are inextricably linked to Maderna we find also string players: for example the italian viola player Aldo Bennici, dedicatee of Viola, or the dutch violinist Theo Olof. The latter, for many years the right-hand man of Hermann Krebbers in the orchestra of the Residence of the Aja and in a chamber duo, has filled the role of “Konzertmeister” of the Orchestra of the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam since 1974. Amongst the first pieces of Maderna that Olof was to see of this creative group we would mention Serenata per un satellite.
Coming to the program recorded here, and wishing to proceed in chronological order, the first is the Divertimento in due tempi for flute and piano. A work composed in Verona in 1953, the Divertimento exhibits its own bipartite structure (the “due tempi” of which the title speaks) not by means of a canonic pause, though, more cryptically, in the bar numbering which begins again corresponding to first movement Allegro. This is the subdivision of the Divertimento indicated in the score: Andante scorrevole (bars 1-16), Più mosso (17-38), Calmo ma sempre scorrevole (39-54), Poco più mosso (55-87), Poco meno (88-93), Cadenza (94-108), Allegro (l-50), Allegretto grazioso (51-65), Allegro (66-96).
Maderna for the first time approaches in composition a classical form as in the quartetto per archi during the war years, halfway between 20 and 30 years of age, with a score of only 152 bars remaining of the manuscript stage. The Quartetto per archi in due tempi (Streichquartett) here executed is instead an official composition commissioned by the city of Darmstadt for the tenth edition of the Ferienkurse. It was performed by the Drolc Quartet (1st June 1955) in the course of the cycle known as Musik der jungen Generation. Dedicated to friend Luciano Berio, the Quartetto was published in 1956. It concerns a fairly brief composition (389 bars), divided into two distinct sections, without agogic indications and inspired by the play of mirrors. The first part is made up of 190 bars; the second, a retrograde re-exposition (not literal) of the first, is of 199 bars.
The geometric game of inversion so dear to Maderna is found again in the title of the piece for flute and piano dedicated to Severino Gazzelloni. Honeyrêves is in fact nothing other than the retrograde of “Severino”. Applying some syllabic retouching (h, y, circumflex accent) Maderna transforms the retrograde of Severino into a mysterious cryptogram (which now sounds phonetically like the French “On y rêve”, or “one dreams of it”, now as the fusion of the English “honey” and of the French “rêves”-dreams: “dreams of honey”).Honeyrêves, composed probably in 1961, was performed far the first time in the Teatro La Fenice in Venice the 23rd April 1962 (obviously by the dedicatee) on the occasion of the XXVth Festival of Contemporary Music in the Biennial. As noted by Francesca Magnani, there is much common musical material between this page for flute and piano and other contemporary works. The piece appears intact, even if with a different internal order, in the score of Don Perlimplin and, fragmentarily, in Serenata IV and in the Konzert für oboe und Kammerensemble.
Also Aulodia per Lothar for oboe d'amore and guitar ad libitum was first performed at the Biennial of Venice. The dedicatee Lothar Faber on oboe and Alvaro Company on guitar presented it on the 9th September 1965 for the XXVIIIth edition of the lacunar festival. Maderna wrote Aulodia per Lothar in the course of that some 1965. The first edition in print, dated 1977, utilises for the finalised part for the guitar not the 18 bars which appear in the autograph, but a rhythmic scheme, improvised by Company on the occasion of the “first” at the Biennial (a scheme which, significantly, leaves a margin for improvisation to the interpreter).
The german term Widmung (Dedication) underlined the celebratory circumstances in 1967 at the creation of the so named page for solo violin. The event was to represent the inauguration of a private museum, the abstract art collection of Ottomar and Greta Domnick in Nuertingen. The dedicatees (and probably also commissioners) of Widmung. were therefore the Domnicks; the “creator” was however Theo Olof, who interpreted the brief passage in Nuertingen on the 27th October 1967.
Also Serenata per un satellite was a specific “Widmung” for on equally specific event. The dedicatee of the work is in fact a celebrated academic of aerospace problems, the professor Umberto Montalenti, at the time director of the ESOC (European Space Operation Center), an agency with headquarters in Darmstadt, a city in which, as already stated, Maderna was in residence, Montalenti was responsible for the putting into orbit, on the night of the 1st October 1969, of the satellite ESRO I B “Boreas”. That same evening Maderna would direct the first performance of his Serenata in order to celebrate the event. The performers were A, Sweekhorst (flute, piccolo), the usual Lothar Faber (oboe, oboe d'amore, musette), D. Busse (harp), H. Rossmann (marimba) and the celebrated Sacha Gawriloff (violin). As Maurizio Romito wrote “the duration and the assembly of the composition are totally random”. Two of Maderna's notes in the score prescribe: “It may be played by: violin, flute (also piccolo), oboe (also oboe d'amore, or musette), clarinet (naturally transposing the part), marimba, harp, guitar and mandoline (playing whatever they can), all together or separate or in groups -improvising in fact but! with the notes as written”. The other indications declare: “Duration: from a minimum of 4’ to 12’”. This liberty of choice has ensured that the work (one of the most frequently executed) has been supplied in recent years in countless versions, also for one or two instruments”. Maurizio Romito remembers that for the first performance the printed text of the score (1970) as used today, was not used but one written previously, and entitled Serenata per un missile, and in part different, in the course of the first performance the improvisational character of the work was reinforced by the insertion of solos taken from other Madernian works. Gawriloff, Faber and Sweekhorst presented respectively a fragment of Widmung, of the Concerto for oboe n.2 and of Musica su due dimensioni (1958). The interpretation of the Ex Novo Ensemble on this record is based on a reconstruction of the Serenata per un satellite edited by Claudio Ambrosini. The two pieces which finish this Madernian dedicatee of Viola (known also as Viola d'amore), Aldo Bennici, performed it that very year, when the passage represented but a taste of a Concert for viola and orchestra in gestation. That Concerto never saw the light of day but Viola remains in the repertoire for recitalists specialised in contemporary music, soloists able to comply with the broadly “subjective” character of scores such as this. Viola writes Francesca Magnani, “is organized as a “preferential” pathway that the interpreter may vary with the usual interpolations and repetitions”.
Dialodia, written by the author “for two flutes, oboes or other instruments”, is of uncertain date but is dated deductively from 1971 by fact of having figured in the Ausstrahlung program. It was actually performed in Persepolis on this occasion as the first of this work, commissioned by Scià for the celebrations 2500 years after the birth of Ciro the Great, founder of the Persian Empire. An authentic musical cameo by its miniaturized dimensions, Dialodia in the printed version (1974) does not carry instrumental indications: an aleatory sign that subsequently characterises the extreme degree of abstraction pursued by the later Maderna.

Michele Selvini

Note: the preponderant part of the information contained in this note are found in the volume “Bruno Maderna documents”, Milan 1985, whose authors and publisher we would like to thank here.

“Open” work and interpretation

The problem of what “interpret” means is particularly fascinating far the music of the sixties and seventies, with those “open” works which permit a creative contribution on the part of the performer. The concept of interpretation is in itself open to “opening up”: it changes with time, and how much more the conditions change between the moment of conception and that of performance of a work. Today then, changes of perspective happen at the greatest speed: there are not the delays of several decades alter the creation of this music, indeed they have - from the executive point of view - perhaps almost the same weight of the centuries separate us from the music of the Middle Ages or of the Renaissance. New compositional ideas are continually born, new instrumental techniques are perfected. Therefore to really interpret a “recomposeable” work, as for example the Serenata per un satellite of Maderna, means (or in fact must mean) far us today something different from only ten or twenty years ago or indeed on the evening itself in 1969 when the public was able to listen to it for the first time. As for other scores of the period, concise and precious as miniatures, this Serenata consists of a single sheet, on which the staves are however also drawn diagonally, “magnetically” attracted or repelled as far as the borders of the page, sloped, curved, obliged to produce cross-overs, superposition, interference of lines and of notes which in their turn are transformed into minute, mysterious abstract drawings : here a kind of chess-board, there an ideogram, above almost an arabesque...
For the performers on the inaugural evening (on that occasion it opened the Darmstadt Space Center) and, in general for the performers of the epoch, it concerned not only the “playing”, but of putting into action a new mode of being, of reacting musically to the creative provocation unfettered from these runes. It concerned finding - often with the guide of the author-director - a performance pathway between the meanders of these sonic “labyrinths” and giving life to a new type of lucidly controlled improvisation. But this today is not enough. Time has past and has enclosed the confines of that period: for those performers it concerned “music with ink still wet”, of new music; for us, and for those who are yet to come, it is now “classical” New Music: the music of second post-war Europe. The word “interpret” is therefore loaded today with other coefficients. It can still mean only to render - however skillfully - the aura, the sound, the type of execution of those years. To do only this would render little of that thinking, and, above all, it would betray the sense of updateability, of continuous evolution. We therefore need to feel the weight - and also the vitality - of the intervening time, and from there the intention, with this version, is to doubly “historicize” the work (both the moment of composition and that of its performance) allowing a burgeoning, in the spaces themselves left open by Maderna, the new ideas and the new instrumental techniques come to light in the meantime. Ideas and techniques that we might easily imagine Maderna would have surely known (and most probably employed himself), if he were not to have been lost so soon. Amongst all music this, the “open” music, is that which has the greatest chance of overcoming death, of infinitely regenerating itself. As of Dylan Thomas: “and death shall have no dominion”.

Viola, of 1971, demands a less radical task of “recomposition”, since in this case the liberties allowed are minor. Maderna’s indications - which have always been scrupulously respected for all the work included on this record - permit an intervention only into the formal aspect of the work, deciding where to begin and end. In what order and what to play and the possible interpositions of phrases or fragments derived from its other sections. For the Serenata. how to “interpret” therefore means to choose, give form, in a certain sense to “close” the work. It is here, on the wave of personal memories of the interpreted Maderna, we have looked for a pathway that might emphasize the color, the physiognomy, the “personality” of the different fragments meant almost as a return to the person of Maderna himself, to his sensitivity. to his profound humanity, to the dazzling ability wedded with his taste for the musical “play” (as aptly said in French and English when speaking of the “making” of music).
The expert connoisseur of musical instruments that he was, Maderna knew how to include in each phrase, almost in each cell, a beauty and a pregnancy capable of radiating from the strictly instrumental plan to all others.
The Aulodla per Lothar, a composition of 1965 for oboe and guitar, poses still different problems of philological character. On the occasion of the first performance, which I had the fortune to hear as a youth, Maderna gave free rein to the guitarist A. Company to improvise in last two sections of the piece. This improvisation was then transcribed by Company and afterwards fitted into the commonly used printed edition.
But study of the original manuscript emphasizes that the penultimate section of the piece had instead been conceived by Maderna as a canon between oboe and guitar, which here we have the pleasure of performing in entirety, and presenting to the public for the first time. There are l8 bars in 3/ 8, in continuous acceleration and which, from the compositional point of view, constitute a functional bridge between the pungent density of the central part of the composition and the rarefaction of the concluding section.
There remains though the problem of the last page for the guitar; left empty. It seemed therefore fitting to limit the role of that instrument to a more discrete presence, which is able to develop the idea of imitation introduced in the immediately previous pages and then left suspended: a filigree, therefore, consisting only of echoes, as a natural resonance (almost a “natural canon”), like delicate shadows of the last notes of the oboe which, falling, glance against its strings.

Claudio Ambrosini
Translations Kevin O’Neill