In Memory of Victor de Sabata
Fifty years have passed since Victor de Sabata died in Santa Margherita Ligure, on December 11, 1967.
Considered one of the greatest conductors of all time, his name will be forever associated with La Scala, where de Sabata spent 20 years as musical director.
He was instrumental in bringing La Scala back to life in the aftermath of WWII, and brought in top stars, including Maria Callas, to perform at the storied venue. He also began the tradition of opening each year’s concert season on December 7, the feast day of Milano’s patron saint Ambrogio.
La Scala pays tribute to the great conductor with an exhibition entitled Una vita per la Scala / A Life for La Scala, which runs through January 2018, curated by Franco Pulcini and Valentina Dellavia. The Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Orchestra also pays tribute to de Sabata with a performance of his contemplative poem Gethsemani on December 14 in Florence.
Victor de Sabata was born in Trieste in 1892. In 1900 he and his family moved to Milano, where de Sabata would go on to study at the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory, majoring in counterpoint and fugue. He graduated in 1910, with Suite for orchestra as his dissertation piece. It was performed at La Scala, and marked the start of a promising career. His opera Il macigno, with book by Alberto Colantuoni, was performed at La Scala in 1917, and his symphonic poem Juventus has been interpreted by many conductors, including Strauss and Toscanini.
De Sabata’s most interesting compositions, all published by Ricordi, include three symphonic poems, Juventus (1919), La notte di Plàton (1923) and Gethsemani (1925); and the ballet Mille e una notte, with book by Giuseppe Adami, which premiered at La Scala in 1931.
De Sabata’s last work was a score for Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, which was performed in 1934 in the piazzas of Venice, with sets designed by Max Reinhardt.
De Sabata’s symphonic poems were very much appreciated during his lifetime for the quality and originality of the compositions, and became standards for a number of large orchestras.
The essential de Sabata discography includes:
de Sabata – Orchestral Music
London Philharmonic Orchestra, Aldo Ceccato
Sounds of the 30s, Suite from Le mille e una notte
Gewandhaus Orchester Leipzig, Riccardo Chailly
Decca 0289 476 4832 1
Il mercante di Venezia (Affreschi musicali)
Coro de Malaga, Orquesta Filarmonica de Malaga, Aldo Ceccato
La Bottega Discantica BDI 228
Find out more about Victor de Sabata
Image: fragment from 'Le mille e una notte' score (Ricordi Milan)