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DISCOVERING the RE-DISCOVERING of
ANTONIO VIVALDI
Article and Photographs by Miles Dayton Fish
([email protected]
www.MilesFish.com )
Manuscripts from the Monastery arrived in Turin in the fall of 1926.
So did Benito Mussolini’s Fascist government.
I. Turin 1926—Arrival
Early in 1926, as the collapse of the Italian government under King Victor Emmanuel
III continued, Dr. Alberto Gentili, music history professor at the University of Turin, was
contacted by Luigi Torri, director of Turin’s National Library, concerning old volumes of
music manuscripts that had been newly discovered at the San Carlo Salesian Monastery
in Monferrato near Turin. The monastery was interested in selling the manuscripts to
antique dealers and the rector, Monsignore Emmanuel, solicited the Turin Library to
assist in establishing an estimate of their worth. Crates of the Monastery manuscripts
were shipped to Professor Gentili for his evaluation.
In the fall of 1926 the crates arrived and upon opening, Professor Gentili discovered
volumes of manuscripts by Antonio Vivaldi, whose compositions up until that time
appeared to have mostly disappeared after his death in 1741.
The monks at the Salesian Monastery had sent Gentili hundreds of Vivaldi manuscripts,
fourteen volumes filled with concertos, operas, sonatas, secular and sacred vocal
works. Many of them were autographs. In addition to the Vivaldi cache, there were
works by Tuscan composer Alessandro Stradella plus assorted manuscripts, printed
music, and autographs from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.
In the fall of 1926, Professor Alberto Gentili discovered that the Monks at the
Monastery had discovered one of the great musicological finds of all times.
II. Berlin 1824—Mendelssohn’s Grandmother
In 1824 Bella “Babette” Itzig Salomon gave her grandson Felix Mendelssohn a gift
that would be a contributing factor in changing the course of music history: she gave him
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a copyist’s manuscript score of J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion. Felix Mendelssohn
was 14 years old when he received his grandmother’s gift. Several years later in 1829
when Felix was 20, he organized, rehearsed and conducted Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion
at Berlin’s Singakademie. The historic performance was the catalyst that helped reestablish the genius of the nearly forgotten J.S. Bach and helped usher in the Bach
Revival and the Early Music (Old Music) Revival.
After Mendelssohn’s 1829 Bach performance, more and more Bach compositions
came to see the light of day and so did the name “Antonio Vivaldi.” Bach, early in his
career, transcribed several Vivaldi concertos for solo organ, solo harpsichord, and one for
four harpsichords and strings. The interest that fueled the search for more Bach
compositions no doubt widened to include interest in finding the Antonio Vivaldi
compositions that Bach had transcribed as well as discovering other Vivaldi
compositions.
Around 1860 a large number of Vivaldi manuscripts were discovered in a forgotten
cabinet at the Hofkirche Cathedral in Dresden, Germany. Also, a handful of private
collectors and musicologists possessed copies of some Vivaldi works, including the Four
Seasons, that had been published during Vivaldi’s lifetime by Giuseppe Sala of Venice,
Estienne Roger of Amsterdam, and London music publisher John Walsh. In addition, by
1922 Wilhelm Altmann had published a catalogue of works printed during Vivaldi’s
life. Nevertheless, despite the known existence of some Vivaldi works and the
newsworthy Dresden Vivaldi discovery and despite an ever increasing interest in early
music, Antonio Vivaldi remained obscure and unknown to the concert going public for
more than a century after the Bach Revival began in 1829. It was possible that during the
revelations of the old music revivals, Vivaldi might be the “composer left behind.”
III. Turin 1926—Some Things Are Missing
After the 1926 monastery discovery, it would appear that Vivaldi’s centuries of
obscurity would soon end. Not so. In 1926 the journey toward re-discovery was just
beginning.
Library Director Torri and University Professor Gentili wanted the manuscripts to
remain in Turin, but library finances would not support such a purchase and alternate
options to secure the manuscripts were limited. Gentili was skeptical to involve the
Italian government that a year ago had dissolved parliament and made Benito Mussolini
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dictator; the government could impound Vivaldi’s manuscripts and relocate them to
another Italian city.
Gentili and Torri were also concerned about the antique dealers who might have
initially been interested in purchasing the manuscripts from the Salesian Monks; a dealer
could divide the collection into parcels and sell them to the highest private collector
bidders and the manuscripts could disappear as quickly as they had appeared. It was
decided that evaluations of the monastery manuscripts would be kept secret until the
Turin Library could explore a way to secure funds to purchase the manuscripts.
The Professor immediately began searching for a benefactor and he found Roberto
Foà, a Turinese banker who agreed to purchase the manuscripts from the monastery. In
1927 Foà purchased and donated the manuscripts to the Turin Library in memory of his
deceased infant son and the collection was named “Mauro Foà Collection” in the boy’s
memory. However, examination of the Foà Collection brought an alarming discovery:
there were a substantial number of missing pages throughout the collection. Many of the
manuscripts were bound and numbered in pairs and Gentili found that often a pair lacked
an even-numbered or an odd-numbered volume. Occasionally, the last portion of a
manuscript or a complete act of an opera was missing.
It was evident that at one time the collection had been haphazardly divided. It was also
evident that the library’s Foà Collection was possibly part of a much larger
collection. Gentili began the nearly impossible task of securing the missing
portions. Once again, he worked in secrecy, this time for fear that the government and/or
wealthy private collectors might compete against him in the search for the missing
manuscripts.
IV. Venice 1730s—The last days of Vivaldi
Venice by the mid-1400s was one of the world’s richest and most powerful
cities. Later that same century, however, Venice began a long, slow decline. As
Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks, Venice lost territory along the Adriatic
Coast. The discovery of America launched escalating westward expansion and the
discovery of new routes to the Far East via South Africa were some of the contributing
factors in Venice’s economic decline. By the 1600s as “The Grand Tour” evolved,
Venice became increasingly dependent on her role as one of the world’s first destination
cities. Wealthy, well-educated travelers from the world over began to flood into Venice;
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some European countries set up embassies to accommodate their citizens who were
visiting Venice. For a while, this influx would work to Vivaldi’s advantage.
Antonio Vivaldi at the height of his career was the archetype of the successful
Venetian music entrepreneur. Born in a low social station, he had become a priest and in
so doing advanced his and his family’s standing in Venice. He remained a priest all of his
life, although a non-practicing one. He also carried all of his life his priestly “red hair”
nickname “Il Prete Rosso.” It is believed that his musician father was also a redhead
nicknamed “Rosso”; since Vivaldi and his father remained close, the shared nickname
seems endearing. He was an astute musician, composer, teacher, opera impresario and,
for a while at least, he appeared to have also been an astute businessman.
In the 1730s economic conditions in Venice continued to deteriorate and Venetian
musical tastes continued to change. As 1730s Venice changed, so did Vivaldi’s life. His
operas were no longer performed in Venice, his music was no longer in style and
therefore no longer in demand so concerto sales to rich visitors were no longer the prime
source of income it had once been. He was no longer affiliated with Teatro Sant’Angelo,
the opera house on the Grand Canal, and in 1740 his contract with Venice’s prestigious
Ospedale della Pietà where he had taught and composed on and off for almost 40 years
was not renewed.
Although the decade was filled with circumstances of financial and professional
disappointments and setbacks these circumstances did not compare to the circumstances
of personal devastation that occurred mid 1700s: the death of his father.
Vivaldi, once one of the highest paid musician/composer/teacher/impresarios in
Europe, was now out of fashion, out of money, and out of a job. Although he was one of
history’s first composers to achieve international financial success, by 1740 he was out of
work in his own hometown. To make matters worse, Vivaldi’s father who was his first
music teacher, his sometime copyist, his often time opera co-impresario and traveling
companion, his lifelong mentor, supporter and sharer the “Rosso” nickname, was no
longer alive.
Vivaldi’s prospects were bleak in Venice so he moved to Vienna in 1740 possibly to
regain Emperor Charles VI’s patronage; the Austrian Emperor had supported Vivaldi
in the past. However, it is more likely he moved to Vienna to establish his career in opera
there. It has been suggested that an added motive for leaving Venice was flight from
local creditors. There are also indications that old, unsavory rumors and gossip
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concerning Vivaldi and Anna Giro and her sister Paolina continued to circulate and
perhaps even escalated during this time. Anna had been Vivaldi’s caregiver, his longtime
companion, opera protégée, his prima donna, and probably often his muse since 1724.
Anna and probably Paolina plus one of Vivaldi’s unmarried sisters accompanied him
to Vienna. Vivaldi rented an apartment close to the Kärntnertor Theater no doubt to be
near the venue where his operas might be performed. His Argippo was reportedly
performed at the Kärntnertor years earlier.
After Vivaldi moved to Vienna, Charles VI died an untimely death possibly from
eating poisonous mushrooms and Vivaldi’s chances for royal patronage died with
him. More devastating than Charles’ death was the observance of mourning for
Charles: opera was banned for a year of mourning. Vivaldi’s hopes for a jumpstart to his
opera career in Vienna also died.
Vivaldi had gambled on a new beginning in Vienna and he had lost.
After Charles died, Antonio Vivaldi at the age of 63 died in 1741. He received a
modest funeral at St. Stephens Cathedral, probably paid for by Anna, and he was buried
in the hospital burial ground in Vienna near where, exactly fifty years later, Mozart
would be buried.
V. Genoa 1930—Missing Manuscripts
For Professor Gentili the search to secure the missing manuscripts began soon after
the Foà Collection evaluation began. Early on in the new search, Marchese Dr. Faustino
Curlo, expert archivist and genealogist whose family was well connected with Genoa’s
aristocracy, was brought on board to assist in investigating a lead involving Count
Giacomo Durazzo of Genoa. Giacomo Durazzo had been an ambassador to Vienna from
1749-64 and later the Viennese ambassador to Venice 1764-84.
After Vivaldi’s 1741 death in Vienna, it is probable that a Vivaldi family member (or
members: possibly a brother and his two unmarried sisters) sold Vivaldi’s personal cache
of manuscripts to Venetian senator and collector Jacopo Soranzo, who had them in his
possession by 1745. Spronzo died without an heir and his surviving family divided his
collections. Retired Jesuit and Venetian collector Matteo Luigi Canonici acquired the
collection from the Spronzo family, reassembled it and later sold it to Count Giacomo
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Durazzo of Genoa, the Viennese ambassador living in Venice. After the Count’s death,
the manuscripts were moved from Venice to the Durazzo villa in Genoa and remained
there for the next hundred years. (Here’s a quick change-of-hands recap on the
manuscripts 1741-1893, Venice to Genoa: Vivaldi to Spronzo to Canonici to Durazzo.)
By 1893 the volumes of manuscripts had been divided between two remaining
Durazzo brothers. One brother, Marcello (sometimes called Marcellino), died in 1922
and left his part of the collection to the San Carlo Salesian Monastery in Monferrato near
Turin; this was the collection the National Library in Turin purchased and named the Foà
Collection. Through his connections with the Genoa aristocracy, his knowledge of the
area’s ecclesiastical hierarchy, and friends in the local police, archivist Faustino Curlo
tracked down the last living Durazzo heir—an heir that possibly possessed the missing
portion of the Turin manuscripts.
That heir was Giuseppe Maria Durazzo of Genoa, the now elderly nephew of Marcello
Durazzo who donated his collection of manuscripts to the monastery in 1922 (the Foà
Collection). Giuseppe reportedly had a private music manuscript collection that he
guarded with such pathologically obsessive zeal that not even his domestic servants were
allowed near it.
Finding Giuseppe Maria Durazzo turned out to be far less difficult than dealing
with him.
Communications and negotiations revealed that the last Durazzo was arrogant,
irrational and extraordinarily erratic. Also, Durazzo was aware of the Foà Collection
purchase and he was furious that portions of his family’s manuscripts were now in the
possession of the Turin National Library. According to Durazzo the monks at the
monastery had no legal right to sell his family’s property.
After three years of tedious negotiations, Giuseppe Maria Durazzo gave his written
permission to sell the manuscripts and, not surprisingly, included several eccentric
stipulations. Most notable was a stipulation that prohibited publication or performance of
the manuscripts. Due to the haphazard way the manuscripts had been divided, this
stipulation affected both collections. In addition, Durazzo demanded an excessively high
price of 100,000 lire for his manuscripts.
Gentili once again was compelled to locate a benefactor for Vivaldi manuscripts. The
family of Filippo Giordano, an Italian textile manufacturer, had experienced a personal
tragedy similar to the Roberto Foà family; their young son had died. Filippo Giordano
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provided funds to purchased the manuscripts from Durazzo and they were presented to
the National Library in Turin in honor and memory of his infant son Renzo Giordano.
The Foà Collection and the Giordano Collection, both given in honor and memory of
deceased young sons, are known as the Turin Manuscripts and still remain at the National
Library. Professor Gentili and the library staff against near impossible odds
persevered. The Vivaldi Manuscripts became once again complete on October 30, 1930.
But for Professor Gentili obstacles for the Vivaldi Turin Manuscripts remained.
The Durazzo stipulation was the most immediate and most obvious obstacle. After
years of legal maneuvering and civil litigation the “no publication / no performance”
stipulation was laid aside. (Giuseppe Maria Durazzo, however, fought to have the “no
performance/no publication” clause upheld until the day he died.) An obstacle that was
not as immediate and obvious as Durazzo’s stipulations was Italy’s movement toward
alignment with Nazi Germany. Six years after the Vivaldi collection was complete, Italy
and Germany signed a treaty of friendship and announced the Rome-Berlin Axis. In
another two years the Fascist Party passed anti-Jewish legislation that prohibited
marriage between Jews and Aryans, prohibited Jews from serving in the army, allowed
for the confiscation of Jewish property, prohibited Jews from employing Aryan servants,
and prohibited Jews from working in the government, municipal service, or any other
public institution.
Professor Alberto Gentili was a Jew.
VI. Dresden 1700s—The Pisendel / Vivaldi connection
By the mid 1700s after years of building and expansion under Friedrich August I
(August the Strong), Dresden, Germany, become known as “Florence on the Elbe” and a
golden age of high art was ushered in. August I’s love of art, architecture, literature and
music guided the Dresden expansion and also guided the education of his son who would
one day become Friedrich August II.
As part of his education, the young Prince-elector took several European Grand Tours
including two trips to Venice plus, when he was twenty years old, an extended stay in
Venice from February 1716 until July 1717. Members of the Kammermusik, the prince’s
chamber ensemble, accompanied him on the extended trip to Venice. Included in this
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traveling ensemble was Dresden Court violinist and future Court Concertmaster Johann
Georg Pisendel.
It was on this extended Venice trip that Pisendel met Antonio Vivaldi and started a
musical alliance that would last more than a decade. Some have surmised that it was a
teacher/student relationship that began early on. While in Venice, Pisendel took violin
and composition lessons from Vivaldi. Some Pinsendel manuscript pages show markings
in Vivaldi’s hand.
When Pisendel returned to Dresden in 1717 he brought with him more than forty
Vivaldi instrumental works including several dedicated to Pisendel. In 1728 Pisendel
became concertmaster of the Dresden Court Orchestra, which was regarded as one of one
of Europe’s finest. He continued to champion Vivaldi’s instrumental works and Vivaldi,
between 1720 and 1730, continued to send orchestral works to Pisendel. Vivaldi’s music
remained part of the court repertory long after 1730.
Pisendel remained concertmaster until he died in 1755. Maria Josephy, daughter of
Joseph I, purchased Pisendel’s private music library that included Vivaldi instrumental
music, and transferred it to the holding of the court orchestra. Pisendel’s private library,
along with other private libraries, was stored in a large cabinet marked ”II” and placed
behind the organ at Dresden’s Catholic Hofkirche where it remained unnoticed for almost
a century.
In 1860 the “II” cabinet was unlocked for the first time in almost a hundred years to
reveal a vast collection of Vivaldi compositions. Many of the manuscripts were in
Vivaldi’s hand including the ones inscribed “fatto per Ma Pisendel Del Viualdi (to
Maestro Pisendel from Vivaldi”). The collections were later moved to the Royal Public
Library now the Saxon State and University Library Sächsische Landesbibliothek, better
know as SLUB Dresden.
VII. Siena 1932—Chigiana Founded
The Palazzo Saracini in Siena, Italy, originally built in the 12th century, was inherited
by the Chigi family in 1877. In 1932, after a decade of Chigi sponsored winter orchestral
concerts in Siena, Count Guido Chigi Saracini established at his Palazzo a conservatory
for advanced musical studies and named it Accademia Musicale Chigiana.
The Accademia Chigiana soon enjoyed international success thanks in part to
leadership and support of Alfredo Casella. Casella, the offspring of a respected music“Discovering…Vivaldi”
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oriented family was born in Turin in 1883 and studied composition at the Conservatoire
de Paris from 1896 to 1914. He was a student of Gabriel Fauré; Ravel, Debussy,
Stravinsky and De Falla were among his contemporaries during his Paris years. He
fostered an international reputation as composer, conductor, and pianist. He made his
U.S. debut in 1921 with the Philadelphia Orchestra and later served as conductor of the
Boston Pops from 1927-1929 just prior to Arthur Fiedler’s half-century tenure there. He
remained connected with Accedemia Chigiana in Siena throughout his remaining lifetime
and played an important role in the school’s continued international success.
VIII. Rapallo 1930s—Ezra and Olga
In 1925 novelist Earnest Hemingway, friend and former Left-Bank roommate of
distinguished American poet Ezra Pound, encouraged Ezra and his wife Dorothy to
consider moving to Rapallo, an Italian coastal retreat southeast of Genoa that was favored
by artists and writers. The Pounds were unhappy living in Paris and currently touring
Sicily with W.B. Yeats and his wife Georgie. (Yeats and Dorothy Pound’s mother Olivia
had an intense love affair in the mid-1890s and she was the subject of his “The Lover
Mourns for the Loss of Love.”) After touring Sicily, the Yeats went on to Capri then
Rome while the Pounds took Hemingway’s advice and settled in Rapallo. There they
rented an apartment overlooking the sea.
Olga Rudge, concert violinist born in Youngstown, Ohio, raised in London and Paris,
was 26 when she met 36-year-old Ezra in Paris in 1922. Shortly after meeting they began
a love affair that would last fifty years. When Ezra and his wife Dorothy moved to
Rapallo, Olga, who was pregnant with Pound’s child, followed.
Olga eventually left Rapallo and relocated to Bressanone north of Venice near the
Austrian border for the delivery of the baby in 1925. She named her child Mary and left
Mary with a paid German speaking caregiver in Gais, a small village near
Bressanone. Her daughter Mary would remain in Gais with her caregiver for the next ten
years.
Olga then moved to Venice to live in the house given to her by her father, the house
Pound later named “Hidden Nest.” In 1930 Olga also rented an apartment about a half
hour hike from the Rapallo beach. During this time Ezra’s wife Dorothy, tired of his
infidelity, left him. Then she, Dorothy, became pregnant from an unknown lover while
traveling in Egypt. Dorothy, while pregnant, returned to Paris with Ezra who soon left
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Dorothy in Paris and joined Olga in Italy. It was Hemingway who carried Dorothy to the
hospital in Paris when it was her time to deliver. Pound remained in Rapallo and, with
Pound’s permission, Dorothy gave her son Ezra’s last name. Omar Shakespeare Pound
was raised in London by Dorothy’s mother, Olivia, until he was old enough for boarding
school. Ezra and Omar met for the first time after Olivia died in 1938; Omar was twelve
years old.
IX. Siena 1939—Vivaldi Week
It would appear that the Turin Manuscripts collection discovery that was
reunited in 1930 would be the event that would launch Antonio Vivaldi’s music back
into the concert halls. But again it was not to be. Not in 1930 anyway.
The discovery of Vivaldi’s manuscripts may have been one of music history’s most
spectacular finds but the years that immediately followed the discovery were anything but
spectacular. Little progress was made by the Turin Library to promote Vivaldi’s
music. There was a local Vivaldi recital after the Foà collection was purchased but during
the years following the addition of the Giodarno collection, only a trickle of
transcriptions made their way out of the Turin Library. By 1938, Italy’s anti-Jewish laws
forced Professor Alberto Gentili out of public life and he was no longer overseer of the
under-promoted Vivaldi Turin Manuscripts. Any agreements made with Foà or Giodarno,
who were also both Jews, was no longer valid.
Enter Olga Rudge with Ezra Pound and then, later, enter Olga Rudge with
Alfredo Casella and Siena’s Accademia Chigiana.
In 1933 Olga began working full time as Guido Chigi Saracini’s secretary at Siena’s
Accademia Musicale Chigiana. She was apparently a significant part of the Accademia’s
international success as she was admired for her talents as both a musician and a
musicologist. When Ezra was not with her in Siena she lived inside the Chigiana
Palace/Conservatory walls to be near her work.
In 1935 Olga traveled to Turin to examine the Vivaldi manuscripts. A year later, in
1936, she laid out a catalogue of the Vivaldi Turin works making a preliminary survey
possible. With the help of Sebastiano Arturo Luciani and Antonio Bruers, she founded
the Centro Studi Vivaldiani at Siena’s Accademia Chigiana in 1938 and she served as the
first director. In the meantime Pound, in 1937, had requested from Gerhart Münch in
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Dresden copies of microfilms of Vivaldi manuscripts in the Dresden SLUB
Library. Münch complied with Ezra’s request but soon afterwards Münch lost interest in
Vivaldi all together. Ezra transcribed some of the microfilmed Dresden Vivaldi works,
used some for his Rapallo discussion group and passed some of the microfilmed Vivaldi
manuscripts on to Count Guido Chigi Saracini at the Chigiana in 1938.
German pianist/composer/arranger Gerhart Münch had earlier been involved with
Ezra and Olga in Rapallo concerts held at Teatro Reale, a movie house rented for the
occasions. Ezra’s transcriptions via Münch from the Dresden Vivaldi microfilm were
performed in Rapallo in February of 1938 with the help of Olga and Pound’s wife
Dorothy who was once again living in Rapallo. Ezra also requested that the library in
Turin microfilm the Vivaldi manuscripts as Dresden had done. When the library refused
to cooperate he phoned Giuseppe Bottai, Mussolini’s Minister of Education, who then
phoned the Turin library and reportedly commanded them to “…dig out Vivaldi..” for
Ezra Pound.
Pound’s role in the ongoing Vivaldi revival shifted, by necessity most likely, to the
less active role of supporting and encouraging Olga’s Vivaldi research and her
involvement with the Accademia Chigiana. However, he remained active in organizing
Rapallo concerts up until 1940.
Alfredo Casella, internationally known composer, conductor, pianist, teacher, and
scholar, was also an Italian cultural nationalist who was known for embracing and
promoting both new and old music. He promoted Monteverdi and he promoted
Schoenberg; he was instrumental in bringing Bartók and Hindemith to Italy. As a Fascist
sympathizer, although his wife was a French Jew, he remained in good standing with
Mussolini’s government.
He had been affiliated with Siena’s Accademia Chigiana since Count Guido Chigi
Saracini founded it 1932. Casella was instrumental in developing the idea of a weeklong
Chigiana music festival devoted to rediscovering Antonio Vivaldi. Both he and the Count
believed Vivaldi to be one of Italy’s greatest and least known composers. No doubt
Casella realized the international impact the event could have for Italy and for
himself. He became chief organizer and artistic director of the first Settimana Musical
Senese, and the date for the Vivaldi Festival Week was set for September 16-21, 1939.
Olga assisted, possibly even led Casella in planning and organizing the week and Ezra,
no doubt a little jealous of both Olga and Casella, took consolation in the fact that he had
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transcribed and presented Vivaldi’s music in Rapallo a year and a half before Settimana
Musical Senese.
The week long festival programs included Vivaldi instrumental selections and a Bach
transcription. More importantly, Casella chose to also feature Vivaldi’s unpunished vocal
music. In addition to instrumental manuscripts, the Turin Manuscripts contained a wealth
of secular and religious vocal works that had not been sung or heard since Vivaldi’s
day. Casella’s Vivaldi Festival Week program included the Credo (RV 591), Gloria (RV
589), Stabat Mater (RV 621), and the complete opera, L’Olimpiade, which was
performed on two separate occasions during the week.
During August and the first half of September there was an extraordinary amount
of pre-event press on both sides of the Atlantic for the Settimana Musical Senese
celebrating the newly re-discovered Antonio Vivaldi. It might appear that Settimana
Musical Senese would finally launch Antonio Vivaldi’s music back into the concert
halls. But once again it was not to be. Not in 1939 anyway. Just as the Turin Manuscripts
discovery of 1926-30 failed to ignite and sustain worldwide interest in Vivaldi, a similar
fate was met by Chigiana’s Vivaldi Festival Week of 1939. Hitler invaded Poland and on
September 27, 1939, one week after Settimana Musical Senese ended, Warsaw
surrendered to Germany.
World War Two had begun and Antonio Vivaldi was no longer news.
X. Italy 1939—The War Years
Mussolini, who had sided with Germany in 1936, declared allegiance to the Axis
Powers and entered World War II in 1940.
Because of its industrial importance with factories like Fiat which manufactured autos,
tanks and aircraft for the Axis, Turin was the first and the most often bombed cities in
Italy. The Allies (mostly RAF) first raided Turin in June of 1940 and continued until
April of 1945; the Turin Library was one of the first structures damaged and about
150,000 volumes, including rare ones, were lost. The Vivaldi Turin Collection was not
among the destroyed treasures. After the bombings began, the famous Shroud of Turin
was removed from the city for safekeeping and it is believed that many of the remaining
treasures from the Turin Library were also relocated at that time. As the war waged on,
the Italian people became increasingly disenchanted with Benito Mussolini and in 1943
Italy switched sides from the Axis to the Allied Powers although northern Italy remained
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occupied by Germany.
In 1943 in Milan the Ricordi music publishing company that had published some preSettimana Musicale Senese Vivaldi music was destroyed by Allied bombs. Casa Ricordi
was founded by Giovanni Ricordi in 1808 and was music publisher for the works of
Donizetti, Rossini, Verdi, Puccini, as well as some early Vivaldi. Although priceless
manuscripts, documents and Ricordi’s world famous opera posters had been moved prior
to bombing, the war brought complete devastation and restoration of the publishing
company would continue on through the mid 1950s.
In 1945, during the very last months of the War, the Allies firebombed Dresden,
Germany. The city that up until that time was still known as “Florence of the Elbe,” was
leveled in three days. The SLUB Dresden library had placed important documents in the
library vault but the incendiary bombings were so intense that some documents were
damaged including some Vivaldi manuscripts.
Both Alfredo Casella and Ezra Pound officially supported the Fascist government of
the Axis Powers and remained in Italy for the war’s duration. From 1941 until 1943 the
profoundly anti-Semitic Pound wrote and often delivered Pro-Fascist anti-Semitic, antiAmerican military speeches via radio broadcasts, about 125 of them. He was paid by
Mussolini a modest average sum of about $18 per broadcast and delivered the speeches
up until the day Mussolini was imprisoned. At the war’s beginning, Ezra had invested
wife Dorothy’s inheritance, their only substantial source of income, in Mussolini’s
government and soon that was all lost. During thee war years the broadcast payments
were his only source of income as book royalties transfers from the U.S. were forbidden.
From 1944 to 1945 Ezra and Dorothy lived with Olga in her Rapallo apartment without
modern conveniences such as electricity. After Settimana Musicale Senese and after the
war, Olga became less active in promoting Vivaldi.
Casella was diagnosed with cancer in 1942 but continued to compose and conduct
through the war years. He remained associated with the Accedemia Chigiana in Siena
where Settimana Musicale Senese future events would promote little known (at the time)
Italian composers such as Scarlatti, Pergolesi and Salieri as well as promote lesser known
works by Rossiini, Donizetti, Cherubini. Casella also continued to promote the new
music of composers such as Arnold Schoenberg, a Jew who had fled Berlin in 1933 for
Paris then the U.S., even though Hitler banned Schoenberg’s music in German
territories.
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Benito Mussolini was arrested and removed from office in July of 1943 and later
executed along side his mistress. American troops landed on the Italian mainland in
September of that year. The Allies took Rome in June of 1944. German forces in Italy
surrendered May 2, 1945. Cities in Tuscany and northern Italy sustained most of
Germany’s combat damage.
X. Italy / U.S. 1947—Vivaldi after the War
After the ravages of World War II, Europe began a long journey of recovery
and reconstruction. The re-discovering of Antonio Vivaldi became part of that
journey.
Two years after the war’s end Antonio Fanna, born in Venice in 1926, founded the
Istituto Italiano Antonio Vivaldi in Venice to publish and promote Vivaldi’s music
and under the editorship and collaboration of Venetian composer Gian Francesco
Malipiero, undertook publishing a comprehensive edition of Vivaldi’s music. By the end
of the War Vivaldi’s future was passed from Siena’s Accademia Chigiana to Venice’s
Istitute Italiano Antonio Vivaldi.
On the other side of the Post WWII Atlantic, American violist Louis Kaufman, like
Cassella and the Count in Siena, champion of under-performed and undiscovered music;
Kaufman was among the first to perform works by Robert Russell Bennett, William
Grant Still, plus he was friends with and premiered works by Barber, Copland, Milhaud,
and Poulenc. He was also one of the first to perform works by Antonio Vivaldi in the
Twentieth Century.
Kaufman was a concertizing classical violinist who was also a Hollywood movie
soundtrack musician veteran. He was also the artist who “debuted” on December 31,
1947, a portion of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in a recorded-live performance at Carnegie
Hall with members of the New York Philharmonic strings just hours before a musicians’
strike would silence recorded music performance in NYC for a year. (The performance
was scheduled for later in the year but upon learning of the strike for midnight January 1,
they rescheduled Carnegie Hall for December 31, just hours before the strike.) Only a
portion of Seasons was performed because the whereabouts of a complete Vivaldi Four
Seasons score was unknown at that post WWII time.
After the 1947 Seasons recording at Carnegie hall, Kaufman and his wife traveled to
Europe and met at the Italian home of Gian Francesco Malipiero of Istituto Italiano
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Antonio Vivaldi, in search of clues about a complete Vivaldi Seasons score. Upon
Malipiero’s advice, Kaufman journeyed north to Brussels to the Royal Music
Conservatory library where he did indeed locate a complete copy of Seasons. He departed
Brussels with a microfilm of the work and in 1950 in Zurich, Switzerland, Kaufman
completed the first recording of the entire Vivaldi Four Seasons. That same year,
Kauffman’s Concert Hall Society Label recording of the Vivaldi Seasons won the Grand
Prix du Disque, the award for outstanding recording established in France in 1938.
Antonio Vivaldi was still an obscure Italian composer at that time. But finally
that was about to change.
While in Paris, Kaufman and his wife told a friend, who was a newspaper
correspondent, their story of the search for the “complete” Four Seasons. Their
friend/correspondent ran the story in the Continental Daily Mail, an English language
newspaper in Paris, and then other newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic picked up the
story, as did America’s Time Magazine. After the Vivaldi press notoriety from Paris and
the Grand Prix du Disque award for the Seasons recording, Kaufman became one of the
first, if not the first, performers to launch a series of all-Vivaldi concerts that included
performances in New York, London and Paris.
Kaufman played on more than 400 Hollywood movie soundtracks including “The Best
Years of our Lives,” “Laura,” “Casablanca,” “Diary of Anne Frank,” “The Grapes of
Wrath,” “Spartacus”; he was concertmaster for more than 100 movies including “Gone
with the Wind,” “Showboat,” “Wuthering Heights,” “Intermezzo,” “The Treasure of
Sierra Madre.” Kaufman was responsible for the final launch that would bring Antonio
Vivaldi back into the concert halls and then introduce Vivaldi to the recording
studios. Antonio Vivaldi was thrust to the forefront of classical music and then, via
recordings, was thrust to the forefront of popular culture worldwide.
Kaufman, defender and promoter of under performed classical music, championed an
unknown Antonio Vivaldi who then, in the mid Twentieth Century, took on a life of his
own and became in fifty short years one of the most performed composers in
history. During that same time Vivaldi also became one of the most recorded classical
composers in history; there are over 200 (and counting) recordings that are available
today.
It’s ironic that movie soundtrack veteran musician Kaufman launched a Vivaldi mid“Discovering…Vivaldi”
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century career that would involve, in addition to concerts and recordings, inclusion in no
fewer than 174 (and counting) movie/TV soundtracks.
XI. Gloria 1957—The ‘real’ Gloria arrives
As mentioned at the beginning, the Vivaldi Gloria (RV 589) that was composed
around 1713 and probably first performed at the Venice Pietà in 1715, was lost for over
200 years. Alfredo Casella gave the Gloria its re-discovery debut in 1939 Siena at the
Vivaldi Festival Week Settimana Musical Senese. It would be decades before RV 589
would be available in an original edition. Casella edited, arranged, and elaborated the
Gloria for the 1939 Siena performance. An “authentic” Gloria was first performed in the
U.S. at the First Festival of Baroque Choral Music at New York’s Brooklyn College in
1957. Vivaldi’s Gloria made up for a couple of centuries of silence by swiftly becoming
one of the foundations of the worldwide choral repertory.
XII. Rapallo 1945—Ezra Arrested
On the 24th of May, 1945, at the war’s end, U.S. poet Ezra Pound living in Rapallo,
was arrested. He was incarcerated at the U.S. Army Disciplinary Center north of Pisa, on
suspicion of committing criminal offenses against the Allies. He was the only nonmilitary prisoner incarcerated at the Center. He was detained in one of the camp’s “death
cells” a six foot square cage open to the elements on all four sides. In three weeks, after
experiencing what was believed to be a nervous breakdown, he was moved to a tent with
other prisoners. In mid-November he was flown to Washington to stand trial for treason
but was found to be of unsound mind and was transferred to a hospital for the insane
where he remained for more than a decade. His eventual release was due in part to the
hard work of Robert Frost, T.S. Eliot and, once again, his old friend and former Left
Bank roommate Ernest Hemingway.
At a hearing before his impending trial it was reported that Ezra Pound stated,
“I saved Vivaldi…. I saved Vivaldi.”
Although Olga would probably top him on the list for “saving Vivaldi” it turns out
that Ezra did, singlehandedly, save a portion of Vivaldi. In the 1930s he requested
microfilms of selected Vivaldi works from the Dresden SLUB library and he passed
some of these on to the Accademia Chigiana in late 1930s. The Dresden library vault was
damaged during the WWII bombings and some manuscripts, including Vivaldi’s, were
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also damaged. So, it turns out that the best copies we have of some of Vivaldi’s Dresden
works are not in Dresden. They are in Siena’s Accademia Chigiana Library thanks to
Ezra Pound.
—30—
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Miles Fish, 3002 Loring Street, Bentonville, AR 72712
Photos above: my LP of Kaufman’s 1950 Seasons (PHOTO:MilesFish.com)
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“Discovering…Vivaldi”
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