giovedì 22 settembre 2016

Echo of Globalization in Music and Vision 31 August

Echo of Globalization

France at the Festival of Nations,

Città di Castello is a relatively small medieval town in Umbria with 40,000 residents. It is surrounded by walls and features many important churches and palaces as well as two significant museums. It is a quiet place, and for this reason it has been and is the residence of artists. For the last forty years, it has organized a rather peculiar festival at the end of August and the beginning of September. It is named the Festival of Nations (Festival delle nazioni) because each year it celebrates a nation and a specific national musical period. This year (23 August-3 September 2016) it deals with France in the phase around World War I. The concerts are not only held in Città di Castello (in churches and palaces) but also in nearby towns such as Umbertide and Sansepolcro, with the purpose of sharing costs of an operation that isn't easy: 'theme festivals' are always hard to organize, especially at the end of the Summer when many artists are committed to major activities.

The Festival della nazioni in Città di Castello. Photo © 2016 Monica Ramaccioni. Click on the image for higher resolution
France is part of series exploring music in the years around World War I, ie in 2014 the Nation selected was Armenia, in 2015 Austria and in 2017 Germany. It is mostly a chamber music festival, but the first and the last concerts are symphonic. On 23 August, the festival was opened by a performance of the Dijon Bourgogne Orchestra conducted by its principal conductor, the Hungarian Gergely Madaras, a young maestro (born in 1984) with gesture and touch quite similar to those of Daniel Harding. In the first part, the program included two late nineteenth century compositionsRavel's Le Tombeau de Couperin and Bizet's stage music for the drama Arlesienne by Daudet; this a happy and brisk piece followed by a pathetic and dramatic piece. After the intermission, a series of very happy overtures and suites from Offenbach's operettas. The audience was quite enthusiastic. The orchestra replied with an encore of Offenbach's Can Can and a traditional Burgundy way of applauding (ban bourguignon) when the audience joined in.

Introducing the Dijon Bourgogne Orchestra at the Festival della nazioni in Città di Castello. Photo © 2016 Monica Ramaccioni. Click on the image for higher resolution
On 24 August, the concert was given by two world famous pianists, the sisters Katia and Marielle Labèque, who perform together either with four hands at one piano or on two pianos. In the first part of the concert, they offered piano reductions of Ravel's Ma Mère l'Oye and Rapsodie espagnole, two works expressing the bourgeoisie in the years around World War I. In the second part, they dealt with the piano reduction of Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps that in 1913 brought a revolution in French and Western European music. Katia and Marielle Labèque received real ovations and responded with a series of encores, including Philip Glass' exciting Fourth Movement composed expressly for them.

Katia and Marielle Labèque at the Festival della nazioni in Città di Castello. Photo © 2016 Monica Ramaccioni. Click on the image for higher resolution
Even though the Festival of Nations has a small budget, it commissions compositions. This year, of special interest is L'Argent o La Banca Universale (in the Italian text) on a libretto by Sandro Cappelletto (also in the role of the narrator), music by Pierre Thilloy (born in 1970) and played by the Suono Giallo Quintet. The half hour composition is based on Zola's novel L'Argent and deals with financial speculation in a globalized word, a topic as hot now as in the years preceding World War I. Pierre Thilloy lives and works not only in Paris but also in the Middle East. In his music, the echo of globalization can be sensed.
Copyright © 31 August 2016 Giuseppe Pennisi,
Rome, Italy
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