Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Nono the Venetian

Like the Gabrielis and Vivaldi before him, Luigi Nono is a Venetian composer. In fact, he comes from an old Venetian family. His grandfather, Luigi Nono, sr. (1850 - 1918), was an important verismo and landscape painter.
The family name derives from their feudal landownership in Santa Maria di Non, a small rural parish in the diocese of Padova. Luigi senior’s father, Francesco, was born in Bergamo, nearer Milan than Venice. He followed in the steps of his own father, a customs collector on the western border of the ex-Venetian republic, which had been an Austrian possession since the downfall of Napoleon. As Bergamo was incorporated into the new Cisalpina, the family moved back to Venice in 1849, 
Impett, Jonathan. Routledge Handbook to Luigi Nono and Musical Thought (Kindle Locations 722-725). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.
Here is one of Luigi's more famous paintings, Refugium peccatorum:

Click to enlarge
The family also included a renowned sculptor, Urbano Nono.
Mario, the composer’s father, was born to Luigi and Rina in 1890. In 1921 he married Maria Manetti – again from a historic noble family, this time Florentine. Trained as an engineer, Mario was to become chief surveyor for the Cassa di Risparmio di Venezia , the city’s major bank. 
Impett, Jonathan. Routledge Handbook to Luigi Nono and Musical Thought (Kindle Locations 807-809). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.
One of the characteristics of Venetian music, historically, revolves around the great Basilica of San Marco where composers from Adrian Willaert to the Gabrielis to Monteverdi to Vivaldi all wrote music utilizing the multiple choir stalls of the church for spacial effects. Impett comments:
Venice is a city where ‘soundwalking’ has sense, where one can navigate by sound alone; a polyphony of intersecting alleys, cross-cut acoustics, sudden state changes of piazza, canal or sea, punctuated by soundmarks of church, cafĂ© or ship. Echo, resonance and reverberation will become important structuring metaphors in Nono’s later technique. 
Impett, Jonathan. Routledge Handbook to Luigi Nono and Musical Thought (Kindle Locations 913-916). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.
Like so many composers in the first half of the 20th century (Stravinsky, for example), Nono's studies began as a law student, in his case at the University of Padova. While there, however, he read Rimsky-Korsakov's Treatise on Harmony (Rimsky-Korsakov was also Stravinsky's teacher). Nono's family was highly-cultured: he received piano lessons and his parents were both amateur musicians (his father on the piano and his mother a soprano) good enough to perform excerpts from Musorgsky's Boris Godunov at home. Nono's main music teacher was Gian Franceso Malipiero, Director of the Venice Conservatory.
Malipiero’s reputation was based equally on his work as a composer and his advocacy of earlier music, especially Monteverdi – the first modern edition of whose works he had completed in 1942 – and later Vivaldi. 
Impett, Jonathan. Routledge Handbook to Luigi Nono and Musical Thought (Kindle Locations 1196-1198). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.
Let's end today's post with a clip of Malipiero's Symphony No. 3 "delle campane" written in 1945 when Nono was studying with him.


4 comments:

Marc said...

Two dozen albums of Malipiero's music on Spotify; I'd never heard of him of course. There are eight string quartets, the lengthiest at 22 minutes. Listened to no 6-- pleasant, easy to attend to for that quarter of an hour, nothing particularly surprising, nothing not mellifluous, complementary certainly to the beautiful Dawn. Only listened to about five minutes of the Symphony no 3 last evening after work but may continue to explore.

Bryan Townsend said...

The only time I had previously run into Malipiero was when I used his edition of Monteverdi. He is one of that whole generation of composers who, as users of the conventional tonal structures, were left rather high and dry by the innovations of the avant-garde.

Marc said...

Have had Schoenberg and Nono and visions of series and shamans and Stockhausen clanging around in my poor head the last few days; 'that whole generation of composers left high and dry by the innovations of the avant-garde' are sounding better and better.

Bryan Townsend said...

Apologies, Marc! I will try to steer a less adventurous course on the blog. I am deep in the throes of composing my new string quartet for the Vancouver ensemble and that seems to influence what interests me. According to my psychological profile I am in the 96th percentile when it comes to "openness to experience" which is why I am a composer. On the other hand I am only in the 41st percentile when it comes to agreeableness.