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profili - opere


Salvatore Sciarrino
Aspern Suite
per Soprano e Ensemble

Durata: 45:00
Editore: Ricordi
1 Esecuzione: Città di Castello - Festival delle Nazioni - 09/1979

Salvatore Sciarrino's first theatrical work, Amore e Psiche, was based on a sort of poetic and dramatic mimesis of his own idiom of composition: it can, indeed, be read as a transposition into myth of his magical relationship with sound, understood as the medium between the world of the human and the deeper, more primitive levels of being, even as far as the inanimate. The dark, disturbing nature of this voyage into the Realm of Mothers, whose sound brings us a dimension that is both captivating and awesome, persuaded us definitively that the arbitrariness of neo-impressionist performance tended not perhaps to liquidate but at least to reduce the importance of one of the most original and progressive figures in the panorama of composition today.
The precise vigour of his trait, the crispness of structure and the knowing timbric invention of Sciarrino' s work seem to point in the direction of a nocturnal component which finds its strength in sound, seen not as inert material but as animated matter from which the gesture of composition draws forth a rich source of life. Having witnessed Sciarrino's first essay in theatre, we wondered if and how from this anti-dialectic position (anti-dialectic too the formal structure of his music which recognises its proper dimension in contemplation or epiphany) he would be able to express the contradictory complexity of the world of history in a further dramatic creation.
An answer was provided in this Aspern (first staged in 1978 at the Teatro della Pergola as part of the 41st Maggio Musicale Festival- scenery and costumes by Pasquale Grossi and Giorgio FigurelIi, with the most sophisticated direction of Giorgio Marini), which in its apparent lack of uniformity of themes and structures proposes a coherent development of a core of concepts and stylistic, ideal distortions that summarises the never more unitary and coherent poetics of its composer.
Aspern seems to deliberately underline two elements in the Henry James tale The Aspern Papers which provides its basis: the motive of lifeless existence in which the characters move in a spirit of abdication and renunciation, and the themes of isolation, mystery and ambiguity which characterise the artist's relationship with society and his own work. The visionary, arcane atmosphere in which James' characters act is modulated into a dreamlike direction that is both hallucinatory and lucid: the sense of "non reality" or of "absence" in which dazzling flashes expose the occult and hidden sense of existence, relationships, places and moods, which are then wrapped up again in dark perspectives. The levels of time and awareness draw back endlessly in a cruel game of illuminations that mirror one another circularly - slipping, eliding into each other.
The dramatic structure of Aspern entrusts the music with the task of providing a link with the invisible, of revealing and grasping faces and internal reality, the ambiguous spectres that occupy the stage. The illustrious form of the Singspiel thus enables the music to rise above speech and give voice to silence, penetrating its meaning beyond the mystified conventionality of everyday routine. It is here that Sciarrino finds his natural dimension, using his music like a razor-sharp, pitiless lancet that he sinks into the intangible matter of the drama, bringing out its sense of mortal ambiguity.
It is precisely through the knowingly overstated emphasising of the
insoluble contradiction reflected by the dramatic action that Sciarrino eventually reveals its sense. The hallmark of Aspern is thus the ironic stylisation and hyperbolic pretence expounded at the deepest level of the musical structure; a structure which, as in Mozart, serves both as a mask and as an illumination, and that stands in this game of light and shadow as a metaphor for the sense of involvement that Aspern expects and demands of actors and audience: insisting strongly on the ultimate sense of this playful, funereal Singspiel, which the composer quite significantly defines as "a diagram or exemplification, and certainly: not a merely autobiographical one, of the very act of composing". Its sense is wholly implicit, enveloped in the folds of the musical structure, for Sciarrino shuns any openly or explicitly "expressive" gesture. This desiccated Mozart stakes all on the essentiality and the boneless exactness of sound.
An opera in closed numbers, the work offers a succession of splendid germs, further enhanced by self-satisfied symmetries which play the apology for the Perfection of Form. Yet this same reference to the starry purity of Mozart's writing sounds like a supreme estrangement: the extreme objectivising of structure bathes the material in light so that it emerges scored with dark, icy shadows, beset with mortal shivers. Reference to the eighteenth century, both the age of the sublime Mozart and the period of the jejune lagoon indolence of Venetian decadence, is filtered through a distanced view that seems to draw it out of the dark caverns of time, haunted by macabre night birds and shapeless monsters, tearing it apart amidst the moth-eaten brocade and tarnished gold of its drawing rooms.
The timbric magic that in virtuoso manner Sciarrino scores for a clearly reduced instrumental ensemble, poses it in the form of ectoplasm, of dried-out, perverted ghosts. Nods in the direction of some of the false myths of musical and other literature, exoticism, the night, mystery, all reinforce the corrosive spirit of sound that can produce airy lightness but also a nearly perverse aggressivity, in the rasping and grunting of the cellos or the rending lament of the metal sheet.
Between the music and the action, which seem to proceed along separate, though interacting lines, there finally emerges the closest, most precise of links. Even when they are removed from their theatrical setting these pages demand our attention and lodge firmly in our memory, as symbols of a situation of disquiet and crisis, of ambiguity and mystification which each one of us is condemned to experience.

Francesco Degrada
Translation by Timothy Alan Shaw
In: "Aspern Suite" CD published by ARTS MUSIC - 2000