Salieri’s Revenge. The New Yorker, June 3, 2019.
I first had the idea for writing an article about Salieri back in 2012, when, while researching my lecture on “Black Wagnerism,” I fortuitously came across the libretto of Salieri’s final opera, Die Neger. When I discovered that that opera includes an interracial love story, one that ends happily with an onstage kiss, I began to think twice about Salieri’s place in music history. I am grateful to Timo Jouko Herrmann, John Rice, Christophe Rousset, and Andrea Harrandt of the Musiksammlung der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek for their assistance during the peculiarly long gestation time for the resulting piece. Rousset’s recording of Tarare, Salieri’s collaboration with Beaumarchais, is being issued next week by Aparte. Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques have previously recorded Salieri’s operas La grotta di Trofonio, Les Horaces, and Les Danaïdes. Some other notable recordings: Il mondo alla rovescia, from the Arena di Verona (Dynamic); Andreas Staier’s disc of the two piano concertos, with Concerto Köln (Teldec); Cecilia Bartoli’s album of Salieri arias (Decca); Diana Damrau’s disc of Salieri, Mozart, and Reghini arias (Virgin); Riccardo Muti’s video of Europa riconosciuta from La Scala (Erato); Falstaff with the Madrigalists of Milan (Chandos); L’Arte del Mondo’s La scuola de’ gelosi (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi); the Requiem in C Minor, with Lawrence Foster and the Gulbenkian Foundation (Pentatone); and the Mannheim Mozart Orchestra’s two bracing volumes of overtures (Hänssler).
A brief bibliography:
Timo Jouko Herrmann, Antonio Salieri: Eine Biografie (Morio Verlag, 2019)
Herrmann, Antonio Salieri und seine deutschsprachigen Werke für das Musiktheater (Friedrich Hofmeister Musikverlag, 2015)
Mozart, Salieri, Cornetti, Per la ricuperata salute di Ofelia, ed. Herrmann (Friedrich Hofmeister Musikverlag, 2016)
John A. Rice, Antonio Salieri and Viennese Opera (University of Chicago Press, 1998)
Volkmar Braunbehrens, Maligned Master: The Real Story of Antonio Salieri (Fromm, 1992)
Ian Woodfield, Cabals and Satires: Mozart’s Comic Operas in Vienna (Oxford UP, 2018)
David J. Buch, Magic Flutes and Enchanted Forests: The Supernatural in Eighteenth-Century Musical Theater (University of Chicago Press, 2008)
Mark Darlow, Staging the French Revolution: Cultural Politics and the Paris Opera, 1789-1794 (Oxford UP, 2012)
Jessica M. Abbazio, Antonio Salieri’s “La calamita de’ cuori” (1774): Sources, Form, Context (PhD. diss., University of Maryland, 2016)
Thomas Betzwieser and Arthur Groos, “Exoticism and Politics: Beaumarchais’ and Salieri’s ‘Le Couronnement de Tarare’ (1790),” Cambridge Opera Journal 6:2 (July 1994), pp. 91–112.
Christopher H. Gibbs, “Writing Under the Influence?: Salieri and Schubert’s Early Opinion of Beethoven,” Current Musicology 75 (2003), pp. 113–40.
John Spitzer, “Musical Attribution and Critical Judgment: The Rise and Fall of the Sinfonia Concertante for Winds, K. 297b,” The Journal of Musicology 5:3 (Summer 1987), pp. 319–56.
Salieri’s Revenge. The New Yorker, June 3, 2019.
Despite its serene, idyllic sound, the Third is conceived near the front line while VW is on active service in World War I.
‘Not really lambkins frisking at all’, wrote the composer many years later.
This fusion of four-movement symphon and memorial Requiem is uniquely daring in its quiet tone and manner. It features two remarkable solo passages: a solo trumpet (imitating a military bugle) in the second movement, and in the finale, a wordless soprano voice.
Premiere: 26th January 1922, Queen's Hall, London. Orchestra of the Royal Philharmonic Society/ Adrian Boult
During the war, in which he served as an ambulance orderly and in the Royal Garrison Artillery, Vaughan Williams (VW) kept his musical activity going when he could – organising and conducting an army choir (for instance, on Christmas Eve, 1916, in northern Greece, with the snow-covered Mount Olympus in the distance), or accompanying sing-songs at the piano.
While serious composing proved impossible, his creative imagination could still function – even just behind the front line in northern France, where his medical unit was posted in the summer of 1916. A Pastoral Symphony now began to take shape in his mind. Many years later he wrote to Ursula Wood (who eventually became his second wife): ‘It’s really war-time music – a great deal of it incubated when I used to go up night after night with the ambulance waggon at Ecoives, and we went up a steep hill and there was a wonderful Corot-like landscape in the sunset…’
Returning home in 1919, VW began to refocus on his composing. He had completed in 1914 an early version of the serene and beautiful The Lark Ascending, for violin and orchestra. He now revised this, along with A London Symphony (from which some fine material was cut) and some of his other works, before finishing A Pastoral Symphony in 1921.
Much has been said about the ‘terrible effect’ the war had on Vaughan Williams. No doubt it did. But since he never wrote or spoke publicly about these things, we can’t presume to know how it did – except that afterwards his music was indeed changed.
The work itself
Three of A Pastoral Symphony’s four movements are essentially slow and quiet. Even the Scherzo – apart from its scurrying coda – is broadly paced. The music’s harmonic world, too, is different from before – persistently and exquisitely dissonant – yet handled in a way that makes it sound like a new, other-worldly kind of consonance. There is a sense that the composer was quietly astonished to find that he was still alive – and that the events he had witnessed now brought from him a need to affirm a deeper level of artistic peace and beauty.
The new language and tone pervade two other exceptional works completed a year later: the unaccompanied choral Mass in G minor (on this month’s cover disc), and The Shepherds of the Delectable Mountains, a ‘pastoral episode’ taken from John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress and set as a one-act chamber opera. This is music so beautiful that, like Bunyan’s three shepherds, it seems quietly to know something that the rest of us don’t.
Then came a sequence of works extending A Pastoral Symphony’ s idiom in a more radical direction. Flos Campi, for viola, chamber orchestra and wordless female chorus, was completed in 1925. So was the magnificent Sancta Civitas, based on the Revelation of St John and VW’s own favourite among his choral works. Much of the next few years was taken up with work on a Shakespeare- and Falstaff-inspired opera, Sir John in Love. Then the 1930s approached, and with the new decade, a new and more turbulent set of musical adventures.
Heather Harper (soprano)
London Symphony Orchestra/André Previn
RCA Red Seal 74321 88680-2 (2 discs)
Jamie Barton was born in Georgia, US in 1981. Following studies at Shorter College in her home town of Rome and then at Indiana University, she began her career at Houston Grand Opera.
In 2013, Barton won both the Song Prize and the Main Prize at BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, leading to major engagements worldwide. 'She's a great artist, no question,' wrote The Guardian's critic.
Appearances in opera houses around the world ensued, including at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and the Royal Opera House in London.
And outside the world of music? Barton's enthusiasms include Doctor Who, musicals, bluegrass and Monty Python.
Jamie Barton speaks to Clemency Burton-Hill in the August 2019 issue of BBC Music Magazine
Alice Mary is a self-described “classically trained, techno-loving Jimi Hendrix fan who has somehow become a pop musician” and honestly, we couldn’t have put it better! Her music is a duality; on one hand, her productions are delicate and dreamy electronic exercises, with expertly twisted sampling while her voice swims in pools akin to indie singer/songwriters like Conor Oberst and Fiest. “Failing In Love” off of Alice’s debut EP I Am Here encapsulates this duplexity perfectly, so check it out below: