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Bettinelli, Bruno

(4 giugno 1913- 8 novembre 2004)

Bruno Bettinelli was born in 1913, in Milano, where he graduated from the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory. He went on to teach composition there, and many of his students would go on to become world-class composers, performers, conductors and musicologists. Bettinelli was winner of competitions for composition in Italy and internationally. He also gained prominence as a critic, and wrote for various encyclopedias. He was a member of the Santa Cecilia National Academy in Rome and the Luigi Cherubini Academy in Florence. He edited and transcribed scores by Arcangelo Corelli, Francesco Antonio Bonporti, Pietro Nardini, Giovanni Battista Sammartini, as well as 13th-century Lauds.

Bruno Bettinelli’s works are focused on the search for “pure” instrumental space, shunning the melodramatic approach seen in the composers of so-called ’80s generation in Italy – Alfredo Casella, Gian Francesco Malipiero, Giorgio Ghedini, Goffredo Petrassi and Ottorino Respighi. In his early years, this led Bettinelli to develop constructive modules based mainly on counterpoint, with solid structures, which may have been influenced by Stravinsky and even more so by Hindemith. Bettinelli’s scores are rigorous and lean, and show a marked rhythmic yet airy flavor, where modal diatonics are buttressed by elements of chromatic tension.

Emblematic works by Bettinelli in this direction include Movimento sinfonico (1918), 2 Invenzioni (1919), Sinfonia da camera (1938), Concerto for orchestra (1940), Fantasia e fuga su temi gregoriani (1942), Messa da Requiem (1944). Later, as we see in 5 liriche di Montale (1948), Fantasia concertante (1950), Concerto da camera (1952) and Sinfonia breve (1954), Bettinelli’s soundscape becomes filled with restlessness, penetrating with increased fervor atonal and sometimes dodecaphonic scenarios that forgo any attempt at orthodoxy. Bettinelli may have taken a cue from Bartok (in his use of strings, for instance), as he delved into more refined tonalities and dramatic gestures that reveal efficacious eloquence. This approach led to works like his Terzo concerto for orchestra, Episodi for orchestra, Cantata for choir and orchestra, and Sono una creatura featuring lyrics by Giuseppe Ungaretti, as well as three one-act operas – Il pozzo e Il pendolo, La smorfia and Countdown.

Other major works in Bettinelli’s ample portfolio include Concerto per violino e orchestra, Alternanze for orchestra, Varianti for orchestra, Strutture for small orchestra, Contrasti and Quadruplum for orchestra, Concerto per due pianoforti e orchestra, Studio per orchestra, Musica per sette strumenti, Ottetto for wind instruments, Divertimento for harpsichord and orchestra, Concerto for guitar and strings, Concerto no. 2 for piano and orchestra, his Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Symphonies, Cantata no. 2, and Terza cantata for choir and orchestra with lyrics by Tommaso Campanella, which premiered in December 1985, conducted by Gianandrea Gavazzeni.
He died in November 2004.



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Photo: Life Video Foto Brescia