It’s hard to believe it all happened in the space of just over 25 hours. A 20 January concert on Viale Trinità dei Monti at the French Academy, co-sponsored by the AAR, in homage to composer Luigi Nono (1924-1990). The next evening, on the Gianicolo at the American Academy, a lecture and the opening of an exhibition on Nono’s opera Intolleranza 1960. And a concert at the AAR’s Villa Aurelia in homage to 101 year old Elliott Carter (FAAR’53, RAAR’63, ’69, ‘80), including the European premieres of his Tintinnabulation and Figment V for percussion ensemble.
The programs highlighted two giants of contemporary music, and underlined certain trans-Atlantic symmetries in their careers. As is well recognized, Italian composer “Luigi Nono created some of the most exploratory, disturbing, and influential music of the 20th century”, explains AAR Heiskell Arts Director Martin Brody (RAAR’02). Plus “Nono’s life as an avant-garde activist artist brought him into contact with an astonishing variety of collaborations and influences.”
Brody singled out “musicians such as Heinrich Scherchen and Bruno Maderna, who were equally at home in the world of Viennese modern music and left politics; the avant-garde mis-en-scene of Piscator and Svoboda, as well as the radical praxis of the living theater; the poetry of Lorca and Eluard as well as the revolutionary voices of Che Guevera and Malcolm X.” However, says Brody, “his connection with American post-war avant-garde and experimental music is less familiar; the documentary exhibition that we inaugurated in Rome at the AAR focuses in good part on this aspect of Nono’s work.”
As for Elliott Carter, Brody continues: “his musical and artistic friends in Rome were and are legion. As many know, Carter has been closely associated with the American Academy in Rome since 1953, when he began his fellowship year. He was three times a Resident of the Academy, and he wrote several monumental works here—his Concerto for Orchestra, Piano Concerto, and Night Fantasies. We were most recently in touch with him just a couple of days ago, and so [at the Villa Aurelia concert] we were pleased to convey Elliott’s warmest wishes to the evening’s performers and audience.”
In discussing the Carter pieces that received their European premieres at the Academy on 21 January, Brody pointed to his Tintinnabulation for its “subtlety and range of sonorities: strongly etched guestures, delicacy and precision…as lyrical and melodious as assertively it is polymetric.” In addition to Figment V, the concert included also earlier works by Carter for solo instruments (Piano Sonata, 90+, and GRA) and a piece by Lou Harrison (1917-2003), Song of Quetzalcoatl for four percussionists (1941). The concert was performed by PMCE—Parco della Musica Contemporanea Ensemble—and presented in collaboration with the Fondazione Musica per Roma as part of the Progetto Calliope.
The previous evening’s concert at the French Academy included Luigi Nono’s La fabbrica illuminata (1964), for voice and tape, performed by Frederic A. Juilliard/Walter Damrosch Rome Prize winner Lisa Bielawa. The composer’s widow, Nuria Schoenberg Nono, introduced the event, which featured also his Ricorda cosa ti hanno fatto in Auschwitz (1966), and Post-prae-ludium per Donau (1987). The concert was presented by the AAR in collaboration with the Fondazione Musica per Roma and the Académie de France à Rome, Villa Medici, as part of the series Controtempo: Festival di musica contemporanea.
It all was a spectacular prelude to the 21 January opening of the exhibition Intolleranza 1960: Luigi Nono e gli Stati Uniti. Un percorso attraverso i documenti dell’Archivio Luigi Nono. Produced in collaboration with the Fondazione Archivio Luigi Nono (Venice), the show documents the performance and reception history of Nono’s opera Intolleranza 1960. “We owe a great debt of gratitude to the Luigi Nono Archive”, said Martin Brody, “for the extensive research that has led to this exhibition. The material [in this exhibit] is truly a treasure trove for music and more generally cultural history.”
Intolleranza 1960 caused scandal both in its world premiere in Venice in 1961 and its American premiere in Boston in 1965. Nono was denied entrance to the US because of his Communist views—until a group of American composers and political figures rose to his defense.
Claudia Vincis (Director of the Fondazione Archivio Luigi Nono) and Veniero Rizzardi (University of Venice) discussed the exhibition in a joint presentation at the Academy’s Lecture Room. The exhibition includes unpublished letters, reviews, FBI and State Department files, and other audio and visual documentation, to provide a window onto the cultural milieu of Cold War international exchange.
The Nono exhibition is on view until 27 January 2010 by appointment, tel. 06/5846459.