Maderna's Ausstrahlung: new critical edition

Maderna's Ausstrahlung: new critical edition

The Milano Musica Festival 2023 features the new critical edition of Bruno Maderna's Ausstrahlung, originally premiered at Persepolis, in Iran, in 1971. Here a brief presentation by the editors of the new edition, Angela Ida De Benedictis and Marco Mazzolini, introducing this inspired work and highlighting the added value of bringing this critical edition on stage today.

WP of the critical edition: May 18-19, 2023, Milan, Auditorium Cariplo, Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano, conductor Tito Ceccherini, mezzosoprano Monica Bacelli

Editors' notes

Last night was a great personal triumph. My new piece entitled Ausstrahlung was performed at Persepolis... A huge success... I have to admit, it’s a lovely score – for large orchestra and three soloists, along with magnetic tape recordings.
So wrote Bruno Maderna to his adoptive mother, Irma Manfredi, on September 6, 1971, with regard to the world premiere of one of his most complex and inspired pieces, staged the day before. Commissioned in honor of the 2,500th anniversary of the death of Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achaemenid Empire, the composition of this visionary work for one voice, soloists, orchestra and magnetic tape gave Maderna the chance to embark upon a conceptual, sound-driven journey into the spiritual and literary history of the Persian world. Indeed, he would make use of ancient sacred Persian and Indian texts, alongside more aptly poetic pieces, using original language versions and at times translations. The work includes multi-lingual passages from the Bhagavad Gita, the Rigveda, the Avesta and the Kavyadarsha by the Indian poet Dandin, and Persian poets Rudaghi, Umar Khayyam, ’Abdallah Sa’di and Nizami ’Aruzi. Texts are interpreted by a single live voice via translations, and also played on magnetic tape (original language versions, plus a long passage from Avesta recited in German by Maderna’s wife, Christine). Together, they provide a deep-diving pervasiveness in terms of spirituality, an ecstatic yet contemplative mosaic that reflects the composer’s overall humanistic ideal.

Based on these lyrics, Maderna creates a complex musical structure that may be considered a sum of different compositional experiences relative to the poetics of mobility, montage, indetermination and fragment. The score is made up of seven distinct sections (or parts), which correspond to seven sound modules with a range of different widths and formal characteristics known as Ausstrahlungen (i.e., “irradiation” or “radiant splendor”). Several of the seven Ausstrahlungen are complete with respect to all parameters; others are only partially complete, while the rest are a blend of determination and indetermination. As for the flute and oboe solos, Maderna either resorts to the use of earlier material (Solo, 1971) or creates pages that would later stand in and of themselves (Dialodia, 1971-72).

Maderna conceived the score of Ausstrahlung in a thoroughly unconventional fashion. For him it is a plural entity, a set of individual mobiles that when performed come together in a formally defined design. The study of written drafts, manuscripts and early recordings housed in Basel’s Paul Sacher Stiftung for the critical edition of the score makes it clear that Maderna had laid out a precise succession of texts, both those recorded on tape and the lyrics to be sung live, around which he aligned a predetermined sequence of Ausstrahlungen, based on, among other factors, the recording of the world premiere performance. Within this framework, what remains mobile are the hook-ups between one Ausstrahlung and the next, the quantity of content utilized, and the different approaches to the enunciation in passages or fragments of the score. These are all aspects that must be established by the conductor, even if he or she does so extemporaneously. In some cases, this is a job for the musicians of the orchestra.

Maderna’s many interests and commitments meant that he was forced to put off finalizing a definitive draft that would have included technical and interpretative information. By the time of his death in late 1973, two years after the first draft of Ausstrahlung, Maderna’s work on the score remained unfinished. Not long thereafter, his heirs handed over to Casa Ricordi the manuscript and those parts destined for the world premiere (the work of Maderna himself). Several years later they donated all the documentation regarding the piece (drafts and notes, texts, the original magnetic tape, demo tapes, etc.) to Paul Sacher Stiftung. A reconstruction of the Persepolis version by Arturo Tamayo in the late 1980s paved the way for a limited circulation of the work. However, over the span of half a century, only twenty or so performances were ever staged.

The critical edition, based on all the available sources and accompanied by exhaustive explanatory notes, provides musicians, conductors and scholars with a tool that revives the authentic, radiant voice of this masterpiece from Maderna’s latter period – a voice that calls out to us today, in all its beleaguered amazement before existence itself and its appeal to freedom. Universally urgent, addressed to each and every one of us.

Angela Ida De Benedictis, Marco Mazzolini


World premiere recording, conducted by Arturo Tamayo


Photo: Bruno Maderna, Ausstrahlung, handwritten score of the percussion part (“Ausstrahlung 7”),
Bruno Maderna Collection, Paul Sacher Foundation, Basel (© Casa Ricordi)