from LUCIANO FONTANA
Passion and rigor in the service of music. Wednesday 28 July with the newspaper the autobiography of the great conductor. Here the preface by Luciano Fontana
I am now an octogenarian. He often repeats it Riccardo Muti in the conversations of recent times. As if to mark a state of reflective wisdom, of a man with a more complete and detached gaze, of a person who can calmly rethink his life and his extraordinary artistic career. But these are words that must not deceive. The phrase is a parenthesis in ideas, musical projects, reflections on how to make the passion for music grow among young people and train the talents of the future. He also jokes about remembering that scientists have predicted that man could reach 120 years of life: Sorry, I came too late. This autobiography that the Corriere della Sera republishes for his 80th birthday it falls after a terrible emergency for Italy and the whole world. We are preparing to leave with the hope of having finally taken the right steps, of being able to regain our lives, our activities, the relationship with others. It was a tremendous lesson for all of us, it made us discover how fragile we are and how important are commitment, competence, research, attention to the defense of the environment in which we live.
The podium as an island of solitude, said the Master, where I am exposed to the winds and storms of the orchestra that looks in front of me, like those of the audience that I feel shivering behind me. The winds of the audience are the deepest absence that Muti has suffered in these long eighteen months that pass from the concert at La Scala in January 2020 to the days of his birthday. The missed trips to America for his work as musical director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, spent the past year and a half moving little or nothing from his home in Ravenna, giving up what he considers the most important mission: We make music not for ourselves, but for others, and when we do it we send a message of culture that I believe will be very important in this restart. Days of attention to what was dramatic was happening in the world, of intense study, of conflicting feelings and of recovery of a strong relationship with Italy that American commitments had necessarily weakened. The first appointment in Ravenna, to give everyone an important signal of recovery, the direction of the Cherubini orchestra, that of its beloved young concert performers, the collaborations with the Regio of Turin, the Petruzzelli of Bari, the Massimo of Palermo. A return to our country enveloped in that sense of bewilderment and extraordinariness felt in the New Year’s concert at the beginning of 2021 in Vienna: An empty hall and 50 million people connected on TV or in streaming remembers. Strauss’s music conceived for a thunderous and immediate response from the audience. Instead I experienced a real contradiction: conducting music of great expansion and brilliance that fell into the void, in a ghostly silence. We certainly had the opportunity to gather and be heard all over the world. But I hope it never happens again.
Riccardo Muti, his autobiography is a demonstration, able to tackle the most difficult themes of an author and a work by mixing everything with anecdotes, memories, sharp and funny jokes. the figure of his story, an alternation that he applies to these months of golden prison due to a pandemic. As he speaks, we imagine him in his Ravenna studio shipwrecked (his word) in Beethoven’s solemn Mass to be prepared for the August performance in Salzburg, a score that I have been taking and leaving since 1970. For fifty years I had not had the strength, the courage or the daring, now I feel ripe to face this Everest. Or while watching the parade of virologists on TV, often in contradiction with each other and indulging in considerations on the use and abuse of the words scientist and teacher. Once the word scientist was used only for some great ones like Einstein and that of teacher for musicians like Verdi, Puccini and Toscanini. Now it abounds without limits, a bit like those Neapolitan parking attendants who all call dr …
Muti in this book tells himself, his training, his successes, his immeasurable love for music, but he also tells the Italy he likes and regrets when he sees its features dispersed in our present. A bitterness that led him, in an interview with Aldo Cazzullo in the Corriere della Sera, to even say that he was tired of life. I believe in my country, but we have not done everything necessary to make young people understand the privilege of being Italian. I always get angry when I say I’m from Naples and I see an inevitable smile appearing abroad, he says without fear of appearing rhetorical. He believes in the desire to recover, a real restart that does not limit itself to plugging the holes in the things that are not right. On the other hand in a symphony after a diminuendo there is very often a large crescendo. This crescendo, in the Master’s idea, can unfold on a social and cultural level if the post-war spirit is recovered. Memories go back to the years of high school in Molfetta, with the contemporary professors of Gaetano Salvemini (he too had been a student in the same school) who met the students in the municipal villa to discuss art and philosophy. A simple and severe world, all aimed at overcoming the disasters of war. There was a sense of achievement, of positivity, of taking back a place in the world.
the world of Nino Rota that convinces his parents to make him become a musician, by the director of the Naples Conservatory, Jacopo Napoli, who asks him to enroll in the conducting course while the young Riccardo stands impaled on a tile that he will remember for a lifetime, of Antonino Votto in Milan, assistant by Toscanini, and his absolute reference point in the years of his Milanese studies. It seems to him that those traits of commitment, seriousness, absolute dedication to study and respect for those who have to guide you are essential even in our exit from the emergency. Those Apulian years, he says, are missing me in a dramatic way, now that I’m 80 I find myself thinking about them more and more often. And when I can I go back to Puglia where I bought a piece of land just below Castel del Monte, the place of one of my first trips as a boy with my parents. I am in love with this manor and with Frederick II of Swabia. In May the field is covered with wild orchids, I stop and lose myself in thoughts.
Memories of an extraordinary journey which led him to become music director at the Maggio Fiorentino, in London, in Philadelphia, at La Scala, in Chicago. To the honor and enormous fortune of conducting the Vienna Philharmonic and the Salzburg Festival for fifty years in a row, to found in 2004 the orchestra named after Cherubini, composed of young talents who gradually established themselves in Italy and in the world. Now the latter is the thing I care about most, he repeats, the one I want to dedicate myself to in future years. New energies are needed in an Italy in which musical culture is still extremely backward. Education is the key, teaching how to behave ethically in an orchestra. The art of sounds teaches to live together. the fundamental point, in an orchestra and in society. One melodic line must not hinder the others, but must compete with the others in the symphony. Different lines must help each other for the final good. There are so many talents that can blossom, Muti’s advice not to rush too much, study a lot (composition, piano and at least one bowed instrument) and not run into the temptation to see in the conducting a convenient refuge, jumping like Pulcinella and aiming for easy success. We do not exaggerate in being seen jumping on the podium, the less we move the more the music reaches the public.
A lesson in rigor that he has applied throughout his life fighting manipulations, easy effects, circus exhibitionism. Especially in the work on the most loved and, in his opinion, most mistreated author. Giuseppe Verdi has been subjected to treachery and becomes infuriated by virtue of an exhibitionism that has nothing to do with his greatness. We Italians have often interpreted it in a distorted way, we have abandoned the dignity of the author, which never happened for Mozart. I don’t want to clip my wings, but I want to do justice to his greatness and respect what Verdi wanted to tell us with his music. A long and exhausting action, in the intentions of the Maestro, against the sloppiness and the misrepresentation of his scores in the name of the effect of an acute and presumed popular sentiment. I did it in the directions at La Scala where Verdi, with his trilogy, Traviata–Trovatore–Rigoletto, missing for twenty years, will continue to do so always. And let’s hope that if one day I meet Verdi in the afterlife he won’t tell me I didn’t understand anything. It would be a second death for me. I’m sure it won’t. And that Verdi too will appreciate a quote from Mozart that Maestro Muti likes to remember often: The deepest music is the one that hides between the notes. Between one note and another, even if closely linked, there is infinity. The task of the musician and the conductor is precisely to be able to give a voice and interpret the music between one note and another. Pull out what is not written by strictly executing what is written.
The autobiography of Riccardo Muti, First the music, then the words, edited by Marco Grondona and with an introduction by Luciano Fontana, which we publish here, (Corriere and RM Music, pp. 204), will be on newsstands from Wednesday 28 July, and for a month, at a cost of € 12.90 the price of the newspaper
July 27, 2021 (change July 27, 2021 | 21:37)