A concert in memory of the Italian conductor,
reviewed by GIUSEPPE PENNISI
reviewed by GIUSEPPE PENNISI
Fifteen years after the sudden and premature death of Giuseppe Sinopoli (1946-2001), the National Academy of Santa Cecilia celebrated him with an in memoriam concert given by the symphony orchestra with two world-known artists: conductor Yuri Temirkanov and baritone Markus Werba. The concert was repeated three time on 23, 24 and 25 April. I attended the 23 April 2016 performance. This was the long Spring week-end which coincided with a national holiday for the end of World War II; thus, the balconies were full in the huge three thousand seat auditorium, but in the most expensive orchestra seats, some rows were empty. They are subscribers' prime locations, and quite a few of them had most likely gone to open their beach or country secondary residences. They should regret it because they missed one of the most fascinating concerts of the National Academy's 2015-16 symphonic season.
It is not known whether the concert had been conceived originally as in memory of Sinopoli, or whether it was designated in memoriam when the coincidence between the concert and the date of Sinopoli's death was noticed. It is quite immaterial because it was an engrossing evening with a concert that Sinopoli himself would have liked. The program was not a standard requiem, often the staple of such concerts, but a careful selection of three musical pieces dealing with death in a tender, delicate manner.
Giuseppe Sinopoli had a major heart failure in Berlin on 20 April 2001, when he had reached the podium and was about to start conducting a performance of Aida at the Deutsche Oper in Bismarckstrasse. He had had a successful career, mostly in the UK, the USA, Germany and Austria, and thus far away from the Italian music scene's intrigues. He was not only a conductor with a special flair for Wagnerian, late romantic and contemporary music, but also a prolific composer of contemporary music and a writer of essays and books. Few people know that he had a degree in medicine and had specialized as a surgeon. Also, just before dying, he had completed his dissertation to graduate as an archeologist at the University of Rome. He had been musical director of the National Academy of Santa Cecilia from 1983 to 1987 and principal conductor thereafter. He intended to settle in Italy so that his children could follow the Italian education system and he himself the School of Archeology at the University of Rome. Thus, in the late nineteen nineties, he accepted the assignment of musical director of the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma. There he had a number of terrible years. Like Gustav Mahler in Vienna, some hundred years earlier, he attempted to introduce badly needed reforms, but the political world and the trade unions built a thick wall of opposition. This caused him disappointment and bitterness — maybe even his sudden death in a young age — and forced him to resign. Most of the reforms he advocated are being implemented, twenty years later, by Teatro dell'Opera di Roma's current management.
Giuseppe Sinopoli in 1983
The first part of the concert included Ravel's Pavane pour une infante défunte and Mahler's Kindertotenlieder, two quite different musical pieces dealing with the same subject: the death of young innocent children. In Ravel's piece, Temirkanov underlined the tenderness as well as the references to Basque and Spanish popular music. In Mahler's lieder, Temirkanov, Werba and the orchestra gave a deeply moving reading of the five songs composed using poems written by Friedrich Rückert when two of his six children died of scarlet fever.
The second part was dedicated to Johannes Brahms' Symphony No 4 in E minor, Op 98, one of the last works of the Romantic repertory, and thus particularly suited to Temirkanov's temperament. Its focus is on man's loneliness, even in the third movement, an allegro giocoso which sounds like a tragic epitaph — a reminder of Sinopoli's loneliness in the years when he tried to turn Rome's Teatro dell'Opera around.
The audience loved the concert.
Copyright © 25 April 2016 Giuseppe Pennisi,