Salvatore Sciarrino dedicates to Barbara Hannigan his new work for voice and orchestra, Love & Fury, inspired to nine arias by Alessandro Stradella (1643-1682). The world premiere takes place in Paris, for the Festival d'Automne, at Radio France Maison de la Musique, on December 1st, with Barbara Hannigan and Pablo Heras Casado.
For years now, I’ve had a fairly keen interest in Italian Baroque composer Alessandro Stradella (1643-1682). I even wrote an opera, entitled Ti vedo, ti sento, mi perdo (2016), inspired by Stradella and the adventuresome life he led until he was stabbed to death by a killer whose identity has remained a mystery to this day. Although I am no expert on the man or his works, for me he has been a source of discoveries and thoughts on what composing today shares in common with the ancient tradition. Which is to say, the tradition canonized by musicologists, as well as the lesser-known realms that tend to frighten off scholars due to an excess of eccentricity – the realms inhabited by a composer like Stradella.
However, neither biographical nor musicological assessments sparked my interest in Stradella. My focus has centered around considerations involving matters of profound creativity. Stradella is one of the powerful voices that echoes forth from our roots. I feel as though I’ve been called upon to underscore the great variety in his music, and after making diverse sallies into his world, I would like to spread the word, much as I did with Carlo Gesualdo.
From a historical perspective, Stradella was a highly influential precursor. I would say that, in order to appreciate him, we must first of all abandon consolidated formats and take into account a rather important consideration. When we consider the masterpieces of classic symphonic music, they tend to stand out in our minds thanks to their concise melodical orientation, which led to the culmination of tonal music. Yet, a century earlier, Stradella, for whom tonality still remained an ambiguous concept (compared to what would later become codified by the academies), had already invented that melodical orientation. And lithely he goes, in just two lines – voice and bass – Stradella presages passages by masters like Händel, Mozart, Chopin.
The proportions of Stradella’s pieces are often circumscribed, which oddly enough makes them analogous to the songs of more recent centuries – once again, I’m thinking Chopin, to name one of many “modern” composers. We may also note the degree to which Stradella’s musical language oscillates within the arias toward the recitative, and within the recitatives toward the arioso, creating a fluidity of expressive forms and situations that are driven by an extraordinary sensibility for the dramaturgical power of the word and the manifold suggestions that arise.
The title of this collection is pretty much a snapshot of its contents. The main sources are two: the opera Il moro per amore (1681), which Stradella never had the pleasure of hearing, since he died shortly after writing it; and the oratory San Giovanni Battista (1675), which today is the Baroque composer’s best-known work. Two singular canzonettas have also wound their way in among these two compositions. They bring to mind the recurring figure of Salome in 17th-century painting – especially in the works of the Milanese artist Francesco Cairo, where childlike capriciousness never completely masks frighteningly sadistic eroticism.
Dedicated to Barbara Hannigan and her polyhedric personality.
Recording available on Radio France
Photo: Barbara Hannigan (c) Marco Borggreve