Last night’s performance concluded with a post-concert conversation between London Sinfonietta Chief Executive Andrew Burke, conductor Marco Angius and composers Daniela Terranova and Francesco Filidei – both of whom were students of Salvatore Sciarrino and received UK premieres of their works in the concert.
Here we have hand-picked some highlights from the conversation, which covered their compositions, the influence of Sciarrino on their music, the state of contemporary music in Italy and a special association that conductor Marco Angius holds for the London Sinfonietta since childhood…
ANDREW: Daniela, can you tell us what has influenced you in your composing career to date?
DANIELA: Well, this piece that you heard tonight (Notturno in Forma di Rosa) was written in 2009 but now my focus is a little bit different because I am more interested in exploring matter as a new source of meaning. I think in this piece there is something more related with the capability of frozen times and exploring different brightnesses and textures.
I really like listening to different composers, and I think that this is very important because through different composers you can define a different way of listening. This influences our capability of thinking about a new way to express our focus, our intention.
ANDREW: You studied with Salvatore Sciarrino and it’s always interesting for an audience to understand how influence is handed down; what can you say you’ve taken from him that still influences you as you evolve in your compositional career?
FRANCESCO: I think the idea of closed form more than anything, always this aspect is really clear – it’s a construction […] for me now I take all the elements I had but stay with this idea of form that definitely came from studying with Salvatore (Sciarrino).
ANDREW: Marco you are an interpreter of Salvatore’s music – we don’t hear this music very often, this is the first time in several years that we’ve played it – can you tell us as a conductor of his music what challenges there are in bringing it to life with an ensemble?
MARCO: The works of Sciarrino are not pieces of music in the strict sense of the word. When we listen to his music there is a silence, this is a very important aspect of the music – but the silence of Sciarrino music isn’t the same silence of Cage for example […] we listen not to music but to instruments that breathe. So this breath inside each instrument is the audience’s breath, it is the audience’s heart.
With the London Sinfonietta it was so easy and so natural to do his music as if they played it before for many years. For me, I am very glad to say, that this experience was very very important because when I was a child, the first recording I received was a disc of the London Sinfonietta with the works of Stravinsky. In the first rehearsal I said to the musicians that I remembered this, ‘my first recording was one of yours’, and one of them, John, the bassoonist said – ‘I was the player on that recording!’, so this is very very emotional for me’.
ANDREW: Can you tell us more about Italian contemporary music. What is the scene? Is there a huge variety ? Are you rejecting that past and making your own futures?
DANIELA: I want to say first that we have a general problem in contemporary music nowadays because we have endless common practice and therefore we now have no common practice at all. I think that this is a problem but also a chance because we are to find a way to be genuine in our work […] the problem for each of us is to find our personal voice, our personal way, to explore something that could be defined in unfamiliar territory.
FRANCESCO: Our generation lives outside of Italy, i think there are very few people that stay there – they go to Paris or to Germany.
MARCO interjects – but Sciarrino stayed in Italy!
FRANCESCO: Yes, but Sciarrino is another generation… but there was a period after the eighties when people left, maybe it is different now, but not for my generation. But something stays, and that is interesting to me, what music is able to do – to show the roots of a country. For me for example, if I have to choose a composer, Puccini – his music comes from Tuscany. I can’t imagine Puccini coming from Sicily. I can’t imagine Sciarrino not coming from Sicily – this is music from the south.
Many thanks to Andrew, Daniela, Francesco and Marco for their contribution to the evening and in helping us to ‘debrief’! We’d also like to thank and congratulate our soloist of the evening, Anna Radziejewska who captured the audience with her performances of Luciano Berio’s Folksong Suite and Salvatore Sciarrino’s most recent work, Immagina il Deserto.