Patrick FAVRE-TISSOT-BONVOISIN : « Rencontres avec un compositeur inspiré »

Article de présentation de mon CD « Images d’autres univers » par Patrick FAVRE-TISSOT-BONVOISIN.

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Salvatore Di Stefano : Rencontres avec un compositeur inspiré

Ses pérégrinations de conférencier en Histoire de la musique conduisant l’auteur de ces lignes à travers la France et l’Europe francophone, il n’est pas rare qu’il rencontre des personnalités marquantes évoluant dans l’univers artistique. Toutefois, il demeure exceptionnel que les échanges se prolongent à travers le temps et s’avèrent aussi enrichissants que féconds sur le long terme. C’est pourtant bien ce qui s’est produit avec Salvatore Di Stefano.

En Savoie, sous l’égide de Verdi et Mozart : une découverte inattendue

Il m’en souvient, c’était en Savoie, très exactement à Modane au mois de janvier 2005. La dynamique Società Dante Alighieri locale, alors animée par la regrettée Madame Platino, m’avait sollicité pour présenter des ouvrages lyriques que l’association allait entendre au Teatro Regio de Turin. Je devais donc analyser le matin Il Trovatore de Verdi et, l’après-midi, le Don Giovanni de Mozart en deux parties. Pendant les entractes, je rencontrais Monsieur Salvatore Di Stefano. Les quelques propos échangés me révélèrent immédiatement un homme d’une immense culture musicale. De surcroît, les compliments qu’il m’adressa au terme de cette journée studieuse retinrent mon attention car ils ne ressemblaient en rien aux banalités comme aux faux dithyrambes si souvent de mise en de telles circonstances. Celui qui m’honora le plus fut de me déclarer que j’étais « à la conférence ce que Carlos Kleiber était à la direction d’orchestre ! ». Tout lecteur de bon entendement relèvera l’ampleur de l’éloge, probablement immérité.

En poursuivant nos conversations, il m’apprit – avec une modestie qui l’honore – la nature de ses activités musicales, notamment de compositeur. M’enquérant de l’étendue de ses travaux, il me proposa de m’envoyer un enregistrement de ses œuvres. La franchise me conduit à l’avouer : en recevant son envoi, je ne pouvais m’empêcher d’éprouver, malgré tout, quelques réticences et appréhensions.

Premières surprises

Mais, là, une surprise de taille m’attendait : je pose le CD sur ma platine et c’est l’étonnement, bientôt suivi de l’émerveillement. La première pièce – Arabian little girl – semblait s’inscrire dans le prolongement direct du Liszt crépusculaire ou du Grieg de la dernière manière, non pas dans le sens d’un plagiat mais comme la marche prolongée vers les horizons nouveaux de l’avenir, dont ces grands maîtres du passé avaient laissé entrevoir l’immensité. Buenos aires Medina – la 2ème pièce – menait l’auditeur dans une toute autre direction, télescopant audacieusement les rythmes, tonalités et courbes mélodiques dans un mariage a priori improbable. D’autres pages me parurent d’autant plus réussies et convaincantes qu’elles s’aventuraient dans des thématiques déjà explorées par d’illustres devanciers (Iberia, Tasso… ). Je serais injuste si je n’ajoutais pas que le piano de Marcello Parolini participait, par un engagement jamais pris en défaut, à ce captivant florilège.

L’ébahissement crût davantage lorsque j’entendis des partitions pour quatuor à cordes (dont un intense et poignant Sarajevo) puis d’autres destinées à l’orchestre symphonique. C’est dans ce secteur que m’attendait la plus forte émotion, avec Halloween. L’audition me troubla, tant cette page réussie me parut suggérer un programme. Lorsque je demandais à Salvatore Di Stefano s’il y avait dans cette fascinante composition quelque intention narrative ou descriptive, il me répondit que l’inspiration lui en était venue lors d’une fin de journée brumeuse de début novembre, sur l’Île des pêcheurs du Lac Majeur et qu’il avait fidèlement retranscrit le faisceaux d’impressions ressenties. Pour ma part, je considère toujours Halloween comme un chef-d’œuvre, ouvrant sur des perspectives inédites.

Saisi par ces sensations génératrices d’émoi physique, j’écoutais le disque non pas une fois mais deux puis trois, si bien qu’au bout de quelques jours, je connaissais l’album tout entier. Dès lors mon admiration était acquise au talentueux auteur.

Per aspera ad astra

Nonobstant bien des obstacles et revers, l’espace de quelques années d’efforts continus et d’un travail gigantesque, Salvatore Di Stefano s’est frayé – au gré des épreuves – un chemin de l’ombre à la lumière : Per aspera ad astra, selon l’adage latin.

Les auditeurs du présent album vont percevoir les fruits d’une quête puissante et qui laisse espérer de splendides lendemains. Soutenu par des artistes de grande valeur, ce projet équilibré se concrétise enfin par le disque que vous avez entre les mains. Puisse-t-il constituer un puissant vecteur pour la diffusion de son art et participer à la croissance d’une renommée des plus justifiées.

Promenades sonores

Si nous laissons légitimement au compositeur le soin d’analyser ses ouvrages, quelques considérations d’ordre plus général serviront de préambule à votre exploration approfondie en sa compagnie.

En écoutant Richiami arcani lontani (Appels d’alchimies lointaines) les plus « branchés » des mélomanes s’assureront que Salvatore Di Stefano n’est pas en rupture avec notre temps. Les procédés d’écriture les plus audacieux cohabitent et nous comprenons aisément que, le cas échéant, l’atonalisme et, plus généralement les techniques de composition du XXème Siècle (comme de ce XXIème naissant) font partie de sa palette de langages. C’est d’ailleurs cela qui séduit chez lui. Notre homme ne se laisse enfermer dans aucun système et, du moment que l’inspiration lui parle, il serait en mesure d’écrire tonal, polytonal, atonal, modal, monodique, polyphonique voire dans l’esprit minimaliste, sériel … mais toujours en conservant sa touche personnelle. C’est peut-être ce qui lui a rendu la tâche difficile, tant il est vrai qu’aujourd’hui, les diktats imposant telle ou telle esthétique comme la seule valable sont la plaie de la création. Son esprit indépendant demeure néanmoins la clef de sa réussite.

L’on prête à Jean Cocteau l’affirmation suivante : « Ce que l’on te reproche, cultive-le : c’est toi ! ». Emboîtant le pas au poète, nous encourageons Salvatore Di Stefano à entretenir sa spécificité : son inspiration est à ce prix.

Le recueil des Cinq pièces pour piano de 2010 est largement autobiographique. L’expérience de la vie passe par le truchement des sons pour être pleinement traduite. A ce titre, Pourquoi ? Mystère ouvre magistralement le cycle, installant une atmosphère d’inquiétude. Puis, l’originalité des options choisies va jusqu’à transcender la réalité prosaïque (Prélude à une annonce de départ). Occupant la position centrale, Histoire de jeunesse – Souvenir apporte une détente bienvenue malgré son épisode central plus nerveux. Errant dans la nuit demeure accessible en dépit d’une incroyable complexité d’écriture (c’est une des pièces que nous eûmes le plus de mal à déchiffrer en lisant la partition), tandis qu’avec Conte de rêve nous prenons congé de cet univers sur la pointe des pieds avec l’indication si berliozienne de Perdendosi, à laquelle s’ajoute la mention Fino alla soglia di udibilità (jusqu’à la limite de l’audible)… clôturant ce beau voyage intérieur.

Giancarlo Menotti fut le premier à relever l’économie de moyens dont Jacques Offenbach usa dans la Barcarolle des Contes d’Hoffmann. Au-delà d’une réminiscence évanescente en paraphrase (et probablement inconsciente) de ce motif articulé sur trois notes que nous percevons dès les premières mesures, Terra Madre convie au voyage humaniste vers l’Infini, les portées musicales répondant tels des miroirs vénitiens au vers de l’ambitieux poème.

Comme une « mémoire du futur », le cycle complet d’Iberia – réalisé de 1994 à 1999 et révisé ponctuellement depuis – s’offre à notre écoute comme une vieille connaissance. Il constitue, en outre, la démonstration indiscutable qu’un talent aussi original et puissant n’est pas né hier. Le diamant brut est maintenant façonné. Il ne reste plus qu’à souhaiter admirer un rayonnement croissant produit par ses mille facettes.

 Patrick FAVRE-TISSOT-BONVOISIN *

  * Historien de la Musique, Musicologue et conférencier, critique musical sur Lyon-newsletter.com, le rédacteur de cet article est également l’auteur d’une biographie de Giuseppe Verdi, parue chez Bleu-Nuit éditeur à l’occasion du Bicentenaire de 2013.

 

Salvatore Di Stefano : incontro con un compositore ispirato

Le conferenze date sulla Storia della musica portano l’autore di queste righe a peregrinare lungo la Francia e l’Europa francofona: gli capita quindi frequentemente di incontrare personalità eminenti dell’universo artistico. Tuttavia è molto raro che questi scambi si prolunghino nel tempo e si rivelino sia fruttuosi sul piano personale che fecondi sul lungo termine. Eppure è proprio quello che è accaduto nell’incontro con Salvatore Di Stefano.

In Savoia, sotto l’egida di Verdi e di Mozart : una scoperta inaspettata

Mi ricordo : ero in Savoia più esattamente a Modane, nel gennaio 2005. La dinamica società Dante Alighieri del posto, che ai tempi era animata dalla rimpianta signora Platino, mi aveva contattato per presentare opere liriche che l’associazione avrebbe ascoltato al Teatro Regio di Torino. Dovevo quindi analizzare Il Trovatore di Verdi il mattino e il Don Giovanni di Mozart (in due parti) il pomeriggio. Durante gli intervalli incontrai il signor Di Stefano. Fin dai primi scambi di opinione, mi resi conto della sua immensa cultura musicale. Per giunta, i complimenti che mi rivolse al termine di questa giornata di studi mi restarono impressi, perché non assomigliavano alle solite banalità, ai finti elogi ditirambici che si esprimono spesso in simili circostanze. Quello che mi fece più onore fu sentirmi dire che io ero “per la conferenza ciò che Carlos Kleiber era per la direzione d’orchestra!”. Ogni lettore avvertito capirà il valore dell’elogio, probabilmente immeritato.

Continuando la conversazione, mi spiegò – con una modestia che gli fa onore – la natura delle sua attività musicali, soprattutto in qualità di compositore. Dal momento che gli chiedevo informazioni sull’estensione dei suoi lavori, egli propose di inviarmi una registrazione delle sue opere. Voglio essere franco e confessare qui che, ricevendo il pacco, non potei impedirmi di provare, malgrado tutto, qualche reticenza ed apprensione.

Prime sorprese

Ma ecco una notevole sorpresa: appena inserito il CD nel lettore, venni colto da stupore, presto seguito da meraviglia. Il primo brano – Arabian little girl – sembrava iscriversi nel prolungamento diretto del Liszt crepuscolare e di un Grieg ultima maniera, ma non nel senso di un plagio, bensì come prolungamento del cammino verso i nuovi orizzonti dell’avvenire di cui i due grandi maestri avevano lasciato intravvedere l’immensità.

Buenos aires Medina – il 2° brano – portava l’ascoltatore in una direzione completamente diversa, fondendo ritmi, tonalità e curve melodiche in un connubio che potrebbe sembrare improbabile.

Altre pagine mi sembrarono tanto più riuscite e convincenti proprio per il fatto che si avventuravano in tematiche già esplorate da illustri precursori (Iberia, Tasso… ).

Sarei ingiusto se non aggiungessi che il piano di Marcello Parolini, grazie ad un indefettibile impegno, dava il suo valido contributo a quest’accattivante florilegio.

Lo sbalordimento crebbe ancora quando sentii delle partiture per quartetto d’archi (fra cui un intenso e patetico Sarajevo), oltre ad altre destinate all’orchestra sinfonica. È proprio in questa sezione che mi aspettava l’emozione più forte, con Halloween, il cui ascolto provocò in me un turbamento, perché questa pagina, particolarmente riuscita, mi sembrò suggerire un programma. Quando chiesi a Salvatore Di Stefano se in quell’affascinante composizione avesse una qualche intenzione narrativa o descrittiva, mi rispose che l’ispirazione gli era venuta alla fine di una giornata nebbiosa dei primi di novembre sull’Isola dei Pescatori sul Lago Maggiore e che aveva ritrascritto fedelmente l’insieme di impressioni provate. Per quanto mi riguarda, continuo a considerare Halloween come un capolavoro che apre su prospettive inedite.

Colpito da queste sensazioni, generatrici di un turbamento fisico, ascoltai il disco non una, ma due, tre volte, al punto che nel giro di pochi giorni conoscevo l’intero album. A partire da quel momento quell’autore talentuoso aveva conquistato la mia ammirazione.

Per aspera ad astra

Malgrado numerosi ostacoli e difficoltà, nel giro di alcuni anni segnati da sforzi continui e da un gigantesco lavoro, Salvatore Di Stefano è riuscito – passo dopo passo – ad aprirsi un sentiero per uscire alla luce: Per aspera ad astra, come recita il motto latino.

Chi ascolterà quest’album potrà cogliere i frutti di una ricerca potente e che lascia sperare uno splendido prosieguo. Sostenuto da artisti di grande valore, questo progetto equilibrato si concretizza finalmente nel disco che avete ora fra le mani: sia esso un potente vettore per la diffusione della sua arte, al fine di permettere la crescita di una fama più che giustificata.

Passeggiate sonore

Se lasciamo – com’è giusto – al compositore l’onore di analizzare le sue opere, alcune considerazioni di ordine più generale serviranno da preambolo all’esplorazione approfondita che egli ne darà.

Ascoltando Richiami arcani lontani i melomani più alla moda potranno assicurarsi che Salvatore Di Stefano non é in opposizione con il nostro tempo. I più audaci procedimenti di scrittura convivono e possiamo capire facilmente che, in questo caso, l’atonalità e più in generale le tecniche di composizione del XX secolo (e di questo nascente XXI) fanno parte della gamma dei suoi linguaggi. Del resto, è proprio questo che seduce nella sua musica: il nostro uomo non si lascia rinchiudere in alcun sistema e, se l’ispirazione lo coglie, è in grado di creare composizioni tonali, politonali, atonali, modali, monodiche, polifoniche o di spirito minimalista, seriale… ma sempre conservando il suo tocco personale. Dev’essere proprio questo che ha reso difficile il suo compito, perché i diktat che impongono questa o quell’estetica come l’unica accettabile sono la piaga della creazione artistica.

Eppure in questo caso lo spirito indipendente resta la chiave del suo successo.

Si attribuisce a Jean Cocteau la seguente affermazione: “Coltiva ciò che ti viene rimproverato: quello sei tu!”. Noi seguiamo il grande poeta ed incoraggiamo Salvatore Di Stefano a coltivare la sua specificità: questo è il prezzo della sua ispirazione.

La raccolta dei Cinque pezzi per piano del 2010 è in gran parte autobiografica. L’esperienza della vita passa attraverso l’espressione sonora per essere pienamente tradotta.

In questo senso, Perché? Mistero apre magistralmente il ciclo, creando un’atmosfera d’inquietudine.

Poi l’originalità delle scelte fatte arriva a trascendere la realtà prosaica (Preludio ad un annuncio di partenza).

Dalla sua posizione centrale nell’album, Storia di gioventù – Ricordo porta una gradita distensione, pur mantenendo un episodio centrale più nervoso.

Errando nella notte resta accessibile, nonostante l’incredibile complessità nella scrittura (si è trattato di uno dei pezzi più difficili da leggere per me), mentre con Racconto di un sogno ci congediamo in punta di piedi da quest’universo con l’indicazione estremamente berlioziana di Perdendosi, a cui si aggiunge la menzione Fino alla soglia di udibilità, che chiude questo bel viaggio interiore.

Gian Carlo Menotti fu il primo ad osservare l’economia dei mezzi usati da Jacques Offenbach nella Barcarolle dei Contes d’Hoffmann. Oltre ad una reminiscenza che svanisce in parafrasi (probabilmente incosciente) di questo motivo articolato su tre note che percepiamo fin dalle prime battute, Terra Madre invita ad un viaggio umanista verso l’Infinito, con una partitura che risponde come specchi veneziani al verso dell’ambizioso poema.

Il ciclo completo di Iberia – composto fra il 1994 ed il 1999 e rivisitato parzialmente in seguito – si presenta al nostro ascolto come una vecchia conoscenza, come una “memoria del futuro”. Esso costituisce inoltre la dimostrazione inconfutabile che un talento così originale e potente non è nato ieri. Il diamante grezzo è ormai lavorato: ora non resta che augurarci di ammirare lo splendore crescente prodotto dalle sue mille sfaccettature.

 Patrick FAVRE-TISSOT-BONVOISIN *

* Storico della Musica, Musicologo e conferenziere, critico musicale su Lyon-newsletter.com, il redattore di quest’articolo è anche autore di una biografia di Giuseppe Verdi, pubblicata presso Bleu-Nuit in occasione del Bicentenario del 2013.

(tradotto da Stefano Corno)

 

Salvatore Di Stefano: Encounters with a visionary composer

Given that the author has travelled France and the Francophone world lecturing on the History of Music, it is unsurprising that he has met many noteworthy and upcoming stars of the artistic world. It is nevertheless remarkable that these friendships have stood the test of time and continue to be as productive as they are rewarding. This has certainly proved to be the case with Salvatore Di Stefano.

In Savoie, under the aegis of Verdi and Mozart: an unexpected discovery

I remember it was in Savoie, at Modane in the month of January 2005 to be precise. The dynamic local Dante Alghieri Society, then led by the late Mrs Platino, had invited me to present the lyrical pieces that the society was going to hear at Turin’s Teatro Regio. I was to analyse Verdi’s Il Trovatore in the morning and Mozart’s Don Giovanni in two parts during the afternoon. During the breaks, I met Salvatore Di Stefano. The few words we exchanged immediately suggested to me that this was a man of considerable musical knowledge. Moreover, the compliments he paid me in relation to my lectures caught my attention as they in no way resembled the banalities or false dithyrambs so often spoken at such events. I felt most honoured when he declared that I was “to the conference what Carlos Kleiber was to the orchestra!” Any reader with a good awareness of music will understand the magnitude of this praise, most likely unmerited.

In the conversation that followed he explained to me – with a modesty that is to his credit – the nature of his musical activities, predominantly as a composer. After I enquired about the extent of his work, he offered to send me a recording of his pieces. His forthrightness encouraged me to be honest with him: on receiving his parcel, I could not help but feel, despite everything, some reluctance and apprehension.

Initial surprises

However, a great surprise awaited me: when I played the CD astonishment was shortly followed by amazement. The first piece – Arabian Little Girl – seemed to be a direct extension of the Twilight of Litszt or Grieg’s final compositions. This was not plagiarism; it was like a prolonged step towards the new horizons of the future, the immensity of which these great masters of the past had only allowed us a glimpse. Buenos aires Medina – the second piece – takes the listener in an entirely different direction, boldly mixing rhythms, tonalities and melodic shape in a theoretically improbable marriage. Other pieces seemed even more accomplished and convincing as they ventured into themes already explored by their composer’s illustrious predecessors (Iberia, Tasso…). It would be unfair not to name Marcello Parolini as the flawless piano player for this captivating anthology.

I felt an even more intense stupefaction when listening to the pieces for string quartet (including an intense and poignant Sarajevo) as well as others written for a symphony orchestra. I was to experience the strongest emotions when listening to Halloween. Hearing it confused me, as this accomplished piece seemed to have a story behind it. When I asked Salvatore Di Stefano if there was a narrative or descriptive intention behind this composition, he told me that the inspiration came to him one foggy November evening whilst on Isola del pescatore (Fisherman’s Island) at the Lac Majeur and that he had faithfully transcribed the impressions that he had of that night. For my part, I still consider Halloween to be a masterpiece, the bearer of previously unheard viewpoints.

Ceased by emotions that physically moved me, I listened to the disc not once, but twice then three times, to the extent that after several days, I knew the album back to front. It was from that point that the talented author had truly won my admiration.

Per aspera ad astra

Despite obstacles and setbacks, and a number of years of continual work on a huge body of work, Salvatore Di Stefano came to the end of a dark path – after many trials – and into the light: Per aspera ad astra, as the Latin adage goes.

The present album’s listeners will experience the fruits of a powerful quest that allows us to hope for a glorious tomorrow. Supported by talented artists, this balanced project will finally materialise into a disc that you can hold in your hands. May it become a powerful vehicle for his art and help grow the reputation of the deserved artist.

Sound walks

If we are to leave the author the job of analysing his own work, as is his right, it will help to first explain a little about the pieces, before he gives a more in-depth analysis.

By listening to Richiami arcani lontani (Distant arcane callings), even the most up-to-date music lovers will be reassured that Salvatore Di Stefano is not out of touch with modern times. The most daring writing methods co-exist and we quickly understand that, where required, atonalism and more generally, 20th century composition techniques (as well as new 21st century ones) form part of his palette of languages. This is what makes his work so captivating. Our man does not allow himself to get trapped into using one particular style and, from the moment that inspiration comes to him, he is able to write tonally, polytonally, atonally, modally, monodically and polyphonically in minimal, serial styles…but all the while retaining his personal touch. Perhaps the fact that today diktats limit creativity by persuading us that such and such a style is the only worthy one, was what made his task so difficult: His independent spirit remains the key to his success.

I borrow the following affirmation from Jean Cocteau: “cultivate that which you are made to feel ashamed of: it is the essence of your very being!” Following in the poet’s footsteps, we encourage Salvatore Di Stefano to maintain his individual style: his inspiration depends on it.

The 2010 collection Cinq pieces pour piano (Five pieces for piano) is largely autobiographic. Life experience is successfully translated into sound. In this vein Pourquoi? Mystère (Why? Mystery), majestically opens the cycle, instilling an atmosphere of anxiety. The originality of the options he chooses goes so far as to transcend everyday life (Prelude to a departure announcement – on C-G-Ab-Eb announcement of French railway stations)

The central piece, Histoire de jeunesse – Souvenir (Childhood Stories – Memory), is a welcome break, despite its more disturbing central episode. Errant dans la nuit (Night wanderings) is accessible despite the astounding complexity of the composition; it is one of the pieces that is most difficult to decipher when reading the score. With Conte de rêve (Dream story), however, we take a gentle break from this universe with the very Berliozian-like indications “Perdendosi” and “Fino alla soglia di udibilità” …bringing this beautiful internal voyage to a close.

Giancarlo Menotti was the first to identify the economy of means that Jacques Offenbach uses in the Barcarole from The Tales of Hoffmann. Terra Madre goes beyond an unconscious, paraphrased, evanescent reminiscence of this motif, which is articulated in the three notes that we hear in the very first bars, and invites us to partake in a humanist journey towards infinity, the score corresponding to the verses of the ambitious poem like a Venetian mirror.

Like a “memory of the future”, the complete cycle of Iberia – written between 1994 and 1999 and revised from time to time ever since – is like an old friend to the ear. Furthermore, it is an undeniable demonstration that such an original and powerful talent is not of yesteryear. The raw diamond has been cut. It only remains to wish that his many talents continue to gain him standing in the artistic world.

 Patrick FAVRE-TISSOT-BONVOISIN

Music historian, musicologist, lecturer and musical critic for Lyon-newsletter.com, the author of this article also wrote a biography of Giuseppe Verdi, which was published by Bleu-Nuit on the occasion of the bicentenary in 2013.

(translation by Liz Kingett)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Articolo di presentazione del mio CD « Immagini ‘altri universi » de Patrick FAVRE-TISSOT-BONVOISIN

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An article introducing my CD  “Images of universes” by Patrick FAVRE-TISSOT-BONVOISIN

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Salvatore Di Stefano: Encounters with a visionary composer

Given that the author has travelled France and the Francophone world lecturing on the History of Music, it is unsurprising that he has met many noteworthy and upcoming stars of the artistic world. It is nevertheless remarkable that these friendships have stood the test of time and continue to be as productive as they are rewarding. This has certainly proved to be the case with Salvatore Di Stefano.

In Savoie, under the aegis of Verdi and Mozart: an unexpected discovery

I remember it was in Savoie, at Modane in the month of January 2005 to be precise. The dynamic local Dante Alghieri Society, then led by the late Mrs Platino, had invited me to present the lyrical pieces that the society was going to hear at Turin’s Teatro Regio. I was to analyse Verdi’s Il Trovatore in the morning and Mozart’s Don Giovanni in two parts during the afternoon. During the breaks, I met Salvatore Di Stefano. The few words we exchanged immediately suggested to me that this was a man of considerable musical knowledge. Moreover, the compliments he paid me in relation to my lectures caught my attention as they in no way resembled the banalities or false dithyrambs so often spoken at such events. I felt most honoured when he declared that I was “to the conference what Carlos Kleiber was to the orchestra!” Any reader with a good awareness of music will understand the magnitude of this praise, most likely unmerited.

In the conversation that followed he explained to me – with a modesty that is to his credit – the nature of his musical activities, predominantly as a composer. After I enquired about the extent of his work, he offered to send me a recording of his pieces. His forthrightness encouraged me to be honest with him: on receiving his parcel, I could not help but feel, despite everything, some reluctance and apprehension.

Initial surprises

However, a great surprise awaited me: when I played the CD astonishment was shortly followed by amazement. The first piece – Arabian Little Girl – seemed to be a direct extension of the Twilight of Litszt or Grieg’s final compositions. This was not plagiarism; it was like a prolonged step towards the new horizons of the future, the immensity of which these great masters of the past had only allowed us a glimpse. Buenos aires Medina – the second piece – takes the listener in an entirely different direction, boldly mixing rhythms, tonalities and melodic shape in a theoretically improbable marriage. Other pieces seemed even more accomplished and convincing as they ventured into themes already explored by their composer’s illustrious predecessors (Iberia, Tasso…). It would be unfair not to name Marcello Parolini as the flawless piano player for this captivating anthology.

I felt an even more intense stupefaction when listening to the pieces for string quartet (including an intense and poignant Sarajevo) as well as others written for a symphony orchestra. I was to experience the strongest emotions when listening to Halloween. Hearing it confused me, as this accomplished piece seemed to have a story behind it. When I asked Salvatore Di Stefano if there was a narrative or descriptive intention behind this composition, he told me that the inspiration came to him one foggy November evening whilst on Isola del pescatore (Fisherman’s Island) at the Lac Majeur and that he had faithfully transcribed the impressions that he had of that night. For my part, I still consider Halloween to be a masterpiece, the bearer of previously unheard viewpoints.

Ceased by emotions that physically moved me, I listened to the disc not once, but twice then three times, to the extent that after several days, I knew the album back to front. It was from that point that the talented author had truly won my admiration.

Per aspera ad astra

Despite obstacles and setbacks, and a number of years of continual work on a huge body of work, Salvatore Di Stefano came to the end of a dark path – after many trials – and into the light: Per aspera ad astra, as the Latin adage goes.

The present album’s listeners will experience the fruits of a powerful quest that allows us to hope for a glorious tomorrow. Supported by talented artists, this balanced project will finally materialise into a disc that you can hold in your hands. May it become a powerful vehicle for his art and help grow the reputation of the deserved artist.

Sound walks

If we are to leave the author the job of analysing his own work, as is his right, it will help to first explain a little about the pieces, before he gives a more in-depth analysis.

By listening to Richiami arcani lontani (Distant arcane callings), even the most up-to-date music lovers will be reassured that Salvatore Di Stefano is not out of touch with modern times. The most daring writing methods co-exist and we quickly understand that, where required, atonalism and more generally, 20th century composition techniques (as well as new 21st century ones) form part of his palette of languages. This is what makes his work so captivating. Our man does not allow himself to get trapped into using one particular style and, from the moment that inspiration comes to him, he is able to write tonally, polytonally, atonally, modally, monodically and polyphonically in minimal, serial styles…but all the while retaining his personal touch. Perhaps the fact that today diktats limit creativity by persuading us that such and such a style is the only worthy one, was what made his task so difficult: His independent spirit remains the key to his success.

I borrow the following affirmation from Jean Cocteau: “cultivate that which you are made to feel ashamed of: it is the essence of your very being!” Following in the poet’s footsteps, we encourage Salvatore Di Stefano to maintain his individual style: his inspiration depends on it.

The 2010 collection Cinq pieces pour piano (Five pieces for piano) is largely autobiographic. Life experience is successfully translated into sound. In this vein Pourquoi? Mystère (Why? Mystery), majestically opens the cycle, instilling an atmosphere of anxiety. The originality of the options he chooses goes so far as to transcend everyday life (Prelude to a departure announcement – on C-G-Ab-Eb announcement of French railway stations)

The central piece, Histoire de jeunesse – Souvenir (Childhood Stories – Memory), is a welcome break, despite its more disturbing central episode. Errant dans la nuit (Night wanderings) is accessible despite the astounding complexity of the composition; it is one of the pieces that is most difficult to decipher when reading the score. With Conte de rêve (Dream story), however, we take a gentle break from this universe with the very Berliozian-like indications “Perdendosi” and “Fino alla soglia di udibilità” …bringing this beautiful internal voyage to a close.

Giancarlo Menotti was the first to identify the economy of means that Jacques Offenbach uses in the Barcarole from The Tales of Hoffmann. Terra Madre goes beyond an unconscious, paraphrased, evanescent reminiscence of this motif, which is articulated in the three notes that we hear in the very first bars, and invites us to partake in a humanist journey towards infinity, the score corresponding to the verses of the ambitious poem like a Venetian mirror.

Like a “memory of the future”, the complete cycle of Iberia – written between 1994 and 1999 and revised from time to time ever since – is like an old friend to the ear. Furthermore, it is an undeniable demonstration that such an original and powerful talent is not of yesteryear. The raw diamond has been cut. It only remains to wish that his many talents continue to gain him standing in the artistic world.

 Patrick FAVRE-TISSOT-BONVOISIN

Music historian, musicologist, lecturer and musical critic for Lyon-newsletter.com, the author of this article also wrote a biography of Giuseppe Verdi, which was published by Bleu-Nuit on the occasion of the bicentenary in 2013.

(translation by Liz Kingett)

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