Freedom above all else.
Are you missing great music? Who knows, perhaps some of us have realised the indispensability of an apparently pointless phenomenon such as live music. For this very reason the 2020 Sagra goes right back to basics. When Beethoven wrote his 32 Piano Sonatas, the concept of a “classical” repertoire was not yet in existence. Composers studied the music of antiquity, but their motive was principally in order to widen their knowledge and to learn a trade. Beginning in the 19th century, however, the idea took shape of an indispensable repertoire with which composers could measure themselves. It was the birth of “interpretation”, the idea of giving new life day after day to signs written on a score, signs that without a living interpreter would remain just a series of ink blots. That said, we can understand the declaration of the great conductor Hans von Bülow (1830-1894), who defined Beethoven’s piano cycle as the “New Testament of music”, whilst calling Bach’s Well-tempered Clavier the Ancient scripture.
What, in the end, are the “classics” for us? Not so much an evocation of the past as an eternal present, fragments of a past that still speak to the present, with the capability of even foreseeing the future.
The sonata of Beethoven has been described as an immense laboratory of musical forms. Why then do we refer in the subtitle to freedom? The idea of a musical form would seem to constitute a boundary to freedom, if examined superficially: form is the ability to tell a tale, the manner in which creativity can be shared by all. By its use of order, creative inspiration organises itself, avoiding the risk of falling into a self-satisfied caprice. It has also been said that the music of Beethoven is an expression of ethical values, but if we agree on this it is only because it constitutes a meeting-point between imagination and order, or in other words between freedom and form.
Or, on a lighter note, as little Schroeder, the introverted pianist of Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts, barks at Lucy: «Beethoven is IT! Do you understand?»
The audience is led on its journey through the Sonatas by two performers who have a long-established intimacy with the entire cycle: the Veronese Filippo Gamba and the Italo-Swedish Olaf John Laneri, both of them endowed with a solid classical training and a notable gift for the interpretation of the “Wiener Klassik” and “Romantik”.
Beethoven’s earliest compositions, dating from his youthful years in Bonn, are also featured in a narrated concert performed by pianist Marco Scolastra and by musicologist Sandro Cappelletto, himself the narrator of his own texts.
They are joined in a highly varied repertoire by the Orchestra da Camera di Perugia, Giovanni Gnocchi, Florian Willeitner, Fabio Ciofini, Enrico Bronzi and by two young and highly promising chamber ensembles, the Henao String Quartet and the Chagall Piano Trio. The atmosphere is lightened by more recent and unconventional works: Friedrich Gulda’s Concerto for ‘cello and wind orchestra (1980); a sensational postmodern re-reading (2012) of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” by German-born Max Richter (which shot high in the charts of over 20 countries); and an irreverent group of pieces by the German violinist Florian Willeitner which reinvent familiar works of Mozart in crossover mood.