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Sagra Musicale Umbra

Sagra Musicale Umbra

________74th edition________


7-22 September 2019


This year’s Sagra Musicale Umbra is distinguished by an innovative formula, with a strong thematic content which stretches from music to dance, from multimedia art-forms to ethnomusicology. The title for 2019 is: “… and you, Man?” Music from the depths. The theme of the entire Festival is that of the ancestral relationship, profoundly meaningful in its antiquity, between humanity and music. The fundamental anthropological urge to produce sounds, and make use of them for the purposes of social and functional communication, cannot be denied. Mankind has always employed song and musical instruments as a means of expressing love, of overcoming mourning, celebrating holidays and feast-days, pleading with deities, reaching towards the ineffable, accompanying rhythms of work, identifying a community, giving release to body movement and even going beyond the limits of consciousness.

Music as mankind’s companion even before the origins of civilisation, as witnessed by copious archaeological remains that confirm the act of music-making: bone flutes, ocarinas, rattles made from shells, whistles.

This ancestral relationship finds expression not only through the fascinating filter of pioneering ethnomusicologists (often under the allure of famous archaeologists) and their successors, but also thanks to the enthusiasm with which well-known musicians and composers re-established identifiable ties with popular expression by means of a creative – and re-creative – dialogue: first amongst them Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály, but also György Ligeti, Frank Martin and many others. And it is instructive to make a distinction between those who chose this field in abstract and “scientific” terms, and those who instead made use of folklore as a source of inspiration that was more wide-ranging, often appropriating what was considered “archaic” and “popular” to feed their creative imagination.

Historic chant appears in the Festival under many guises, from the harmonic “modes” of traditional Magyar song to the Oriental collage – ethno-symphonic – of Tan Dun’s multimedia Concerto “The Map”, from the fashionable reinventions of “popular” motifs under the hands of Haydn and Brahms to traditional Georgian polyphonic chant, genre which was the first to receive recognition from UNESCO in 2001 as an “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity”.

A particular attention is dedicated to the Rumanian and Hungarian Dances of Bartók, in the form of a dialogue between the Orchestra da Camera di Perugia e Muzsikás, today’s finest Hungarian ensemble, which will be an occasion to clear up misunderstandings between the terms “Magyar” and “Hungarian”, this last an inappropriate adjective for the copious phonic material that has come down to us from the banks of the Danube and which inspired a vast number of works by Haydn, Brahms and Liszt. To guide us along the path of this fascinating subject will be the ethnomusicologists Nicola Scaldaferri and Renato Morelli, both eminent experts on the question of the oral transmission of musical traditions.

Talented young interpreters are also a constant feature, in collaboration with Musica con le Ali, Le Dimore del Quartetto and Perugia’s “Francesco Morlacchi” Conservatoire, and a special vote of thanks is due to the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria, which will host four chamber concerts, underlining the rich dialogue between pictorial art and music.

The video-mapping project produced by Karmachina – “Trip through Italy. Ethnomusic Video Mapping” – is the Sagra’s first step in the direction of multimedia creativity. Video-mapping is an audio-visual installation projected on the surface of a building, using special mapping techniques that heighten architectural outlines. The remarkable qualities of Perugia’s monumental buildings lend themselves in a special way to this form of installation, which employs the principle of prospective not just as a means of support, but as an integral part of the installation’s conception. The site which has been chosen – the southern facade of the Cathedral, dominating Piazza IV Novembre and Corso  Vannucci – will live its own life, transformed into a continually changing surface: images and stories that interchange with architectural details, all of them a vivid element of Perugia’s history.

For its first performance, the video-mapping will be followed by the extraordinary  voices of the Basiani Ensemble from Tbilisi (Georgia), and will be projected at various times during the following week.

Video-mapping as a contemporary art-form: a remarkable means of communication, creating a dialogue between music, photography, cinema and digital elaboration, whilst at the same refusing to remain limited to any of these means. A powerful contemporary genre, which may have some traits in common with cinema montage, but which at the same time is more free, laden with subjective meaning and mental associations. Video-mapping as a symbol of this year’s Sagra Musicale Umbra, thanks to its capacity to evoke a dialogue with the city of Perugia.

70 years have passed, since the first performance – at Florence’s Maggio Musicale Fiorentino – of Paul Hindemith’s ballet Nobilissima Visione, written in 1938. One year earlier, the composer had been in Florence, where he was profoundly struck  by the frescoes of Giotto in the Cappella Bardi  in Santa Croce, which represent the years of San Francesco d’Assisi after his conversion. The meeting with the choreographer and dancer Léonide Massine led Hindemith to write not an opera but a ballet, which gives expression to his highly developed spiritual sensitivity and to a reworking of Giotto’s gestural mastery. The first performance of Nobilissima Visione, a “Dance legend” in six scenes, took place at the Drury Lane Theatre in London on 21st July 1938, conducted by the composer himself and with choreography by Massine at the head of his “Ballet Russe de Monte-Carlo”.

But before completing the score, Hindemith had already decided to extract an orchestral suite, drawing on a number of the eleven episodes from the ballet: here we find a first movement (Introduction and Rondo) that represents the Meditation of Francis and his Matrimony with Poverty (Domina Paupertas); a second movement (March and Pastorale) that contrasts the passage through the town of a violent band of Mercenaries with the ecstatic vision of three allegorical Ladies, Chastity, Poverty and Obedience. The suite concludes – as does the complete ballet – with a grandiose Passacaglia celebrating the Triumph of the Saint and the words of praise of his Canticle of the Creatures: “Incipiunt laudes creaturarum”.

The performance is a special production by the Sagra Musicale Umbra, with choreography commissioned to Nicola Galli and his Company, a prominent reality in today’s dance panorama, accompanied by the Orchestra da Camera di Perugia. The Festival’s intent to rediscover a score of great quality, almost totally absent from today’s repertoire, is linked to the privilege of restoring it to the parvis in front of the Upper Basilica of Assisi, where every stone breathes Franciscan spirituality.

Other highly respected performers include Philippe Herreweghe, the ‘cellist Giovanni Sollima, the Parisian Orchestre des Champs-Elysées, the Collegium Vocale Gent, the Orchestra della Toscana, jazz trumpeter Paolo Fresu together with Daniele di Bonaventura, dancer Nicola Galli, Basiani Ensemble, Muzsikás.

Evening and midday concerts feature chamber music and talented young interpreters, amongst them the Trio di Parma, violist Simonide Braconi, Quartetto Werther, Quartetto Berlin-Tokyo, Quartetto Noûs, violinist Giuseppe Gibboni and others, whilst afternoon choral concerts will take place with the Perugia University Choir, ArmoniosoIncanto, Santo Spirito-Volumnia, Accademia degli Unisoni, Ensemble Vocale Libercantus and Rome’s Hebrew Choir HA-KOL, whose programme will be introduced by Hebrew specialist Anna Foà.

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