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Musica e musicisti

(Milan, 1902-1905)

Prepared by Marika Di Cesare

Directed and published in bi-monthly installments in Milan, from January 1902 to December 1905, by Giulio Ricordi, Musica e musicisti [MEM] is a leading source for musical information in Italy at the beginning of the twentieth century. At the outset of its second publication year it merged with Ricordi’s Gazzetta musicale di Milano [GMM] to become Musica e musicisti. La Gazzetta musicale di Milano. The merging of these two publications led MEM to adopt a rather complicated publication numbering system, combining MEM and GMM’s numbering and an additional numbering system for the "Supplemento a 'Musica e musicisti’" [Supplement to Musica e musicisti].

Musica e musicisti contains articles covering a variety of topics: essays alternate with regularly appearing sections (headed by rubrics); puzzles and photographs abound on every page. Some of the colourful rubrics that are published throughout the periodical’s run are "Il giro del mondo in un mese" [Around the world in a month], "Proiezioni" [Projections (lantern slides)], "Armonie e stonature" [Harmonies and discords], "Fiori d’arancio" [Orange tree flowers], "In qua e in là" [Here and there], "Novità musicali" [Musical novelties], and "In platea"[In the orchestra pit]. In "Giro del mondo in un mese" there are day-by-day descriptions of the principal musical and dramatic events that took place in the preceding month in Italy and abroad.

Among the most noteworthy sections of the periodical is "Proiezioni" [Projections], which presents a sort of illustrated encyclopedia of musical and dramatic arts of the time. Numerous types of artists are mentioned: musicians, actors, dancers, café-chantant singers, including Dina Galli, Emma Gramatica, Salomea Krusceniska, Ernesto Consolo, Emma Calvé, Titta Ruffo, Virgilio Talli and Virginia Reiter. For each, a biographical sketch and a photographic reproduction, characteristic of the period and focusing on their artistic speciality, is published. Of a lighter nature are the contents under the rubrics "Armonie e stonature" [Harmony and discord] and "In qua e in là" [Here and there] that contain curious notices from the various parts of the musical world. The section "Fiori d’arancio" [Orange flowers] announces weddings and betrothals of members of the musical world. Noteworthy also is the rubric "Novità musicali" [Musical news], which presents to the reader Casa Ricordi’s most recent publications of chamber and sacred music, as well as a considerable number of transcriptions of the most successful operatic works, for performing at home. Beginning with the first issue of 1903 the structure of the periodical undergoes significant changes: the original rubrics are relocated within the issues, and a considerable number of new rubrics are added.

Among the most famous contributors to Ricordi’s publications are Ernesto Becucci, Victor Dolmetsch, Alessandro Longo, Beniamino Cesi, Renato Avena, Vincenzo Mattaress, Eva Lonsdale, Ellen Wright, Paul Fauchey, and still others representing international musical interests. Of interest is the rubric "In platea" [In the orchestra pit], which includes reviews of works performed in Italian and foreign theatres, with special attention given to operatic works. Giulio Ricordi is probably the author of the unsigned material under the rubric "Corrispondenza intima," [Intimate correspondence] devoted to a variety of topics, characterized by a very compact, ironic and flirtatious prose with regard to arguments of bon ton, and technical writing concerning strictly musical matters, thus answering promptly and correctly those readers who asked advice of a worldly man, experienced in cabaret life and an amateur of the arts.

Giulio Ricordi introduces, beginning in April 1904, caricatures, at the time greatly enjoyed by the public; these depict illustrious personages belonging to the world of culture and, more rarely, of international politics. From its beginning, a sense of humor is indeed one of the major characteristics of the periodical. At times much space is reserved in MEM for articles about prominent composers. Ricordi assigns special emphasis to Giuseppe Verdi, a regular presence in Musica e musicisti. The composer’s portrait appears in the first issue of January 1902, together with biographical notices. Ricordi’s intention is seemingly to elect Verdi as a signpost of the periodical. Further on in the same issue, the popular edition of Verdi’s operas is publicized, thus representing a sort of posthumous homage to the Maestro. Particular attention is given to various notices concerning the Casa di Riposo per Musicisti [Retirement home for musicians], founded by Verdi in Milan: its opening in October 1902, the inauguration of Verdi’s burial crypt there in March 1903, and a description of the institution published in several successive installments in 1905. At the close of the last installment, June 1905, a photograph features the composer together with Arrigo and Camillo Boito looking at the panorama of Milan from the terrace of the Casa di Riposo, providing a moment of everyday life of historical significance.

Many moments in the life of Giacomo Puccini are also presented, beginning in February 1903, his biographical sketch is published in successive installments, accompanied by numerous photographs of the composer. In March 1903 many photographs are published concerning Puccini’s car accident which occurred near Lucca. A substantial photographic representation concerning Puccini’s trip to Buenos Aires is given in the periodical in 1905, with the composer appearing in various situations: from boarding the ship Savoia, to his residency in the rooms of the Palace of the newspaper La Prensa, all representing a remarkable battage of advertising promoted by Giulio Ricordi.

Noteworthy publicity is also given in the journal to the inaugurations or to the re-openings of various Italian theaters, such as the Teatro Verdi in Naples, the Teatro Del Corso in Bologna, the Teatro Sociale in Rovigo, the Teatro Regio in Turin, the Teatro Nuovo in Novara, the Teatro Massimo in Palermo, and the Teatro Dal Verme in Milan. These theaters are presented with a rich selection of photographs and an outline of each theater’s particular history and its architectural characteristics, undoubtedly with the intent of giving prestige to Italian culture. A similar informative treatment is given to certain Italian musical institutes. A case in point is the two installments about Milan’s Regio Conservatorio Musicale "Giuseppe Verdi." Along with the more than twenty illustrations dedicated to this institute, considerable information is given on its architectural features and the structure of the building, on the library and on the museum of musical instruments; there is also a detailed account of the teachers, including high praise of director Gallignani, who had endorsed the dedication of the conservatory to Verdi. This extensive article certainly denotes the special connection that existed between Giulio Ricordi and the city of Milan.

With the review by Arturo Marescotti (1866-1928) of the VI Internazionale d’Arte di Venezia [Sixth Show of the Venice Internationale], the periodical begins to pay attention to the visual arts, thus anticipating the editorial aims of the subsequent Ricordi journal Ars et labor (1906-1912), a continuation of Musica e Musicisti. Marescotti’s articles explore the works exhibited in the halls of the Exhibition using a technical and refined prose—somewhat difficult for the uninitiated—to illustrate the various national schools, with special attention given to the national participants. At the close of his contribution Marescotti denounces the methodological incoherence and professional hypocrisy of many artists whose works were exhibited, but were solely interested in obtaining the recognition of the public.

Another outstanding collaborator is the poet-musicologist Salvatore Di Giacomo. In his articles he expertly explores Neapolitan musical culture. In the October 1905 issue, for example, he recounts the circumstances of the debut of the bass singer Luigi Lablache (1794-1858) at the Teatro Carlino in Naples at Easter 1814. In an article of December 1905, he faithfully reports on an unpublished document by Agostino Gervasio found in the Biblioteca de’ Gerolamini in Naples, titled "Osservazioni musicali intorno a’ Compositori napoletani, ricavate dalla Conversazione col signor Paisiello" [Musical observations about Neapolitan composers, profiting from conversations with signor Paisiello]. In this writing Giovanni Paisiello (1740-1816) expresses interesting opinions on significant eighteenth-century composers Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787), Nicolò Jommelli (1714-1774) and Giambattista Pergolesi (1710-1736).

A valuable collaborator to Musica e musicisti is Pompeo Molmenti (1852-1928), author of interesting monographs on Venice’s cultural life. In April 1903 he signs a rubric published in successive installments titled "Arte, storia, costume. Giuochi, feste e carnevale veneziano" [Art, history, costumes. Games, festivals and carnivals of Venice], in which he describes the typical entertainments of the lagoonal city, such as the gondola races practiced since the fourteenth century. In July 1905 Molmenti writes another article on festivities and musical entertainments taking place in Venice in the sixteenth century. In the last number of the journal, in December 1905, Molmenti publishes another contribution dealing with an altogether different subject, bearing the explicit title "Il fallimento artistico dei concorsi e i cartelli dell’esposizione di Milano" [The failure of the competitions and posters of the Exposition of Milan]. In this article he criticizes the publicity posters proposed by the committee for the Milanese exposition of 1906, expressing a net preference for posters by Leopoldo Merlicovitz (1868-1944) promoted by Ricordi’s editions.

The articles by Amilcare Sebetius, pseudonym of Amilcare Lauria, are characterized by a notable irony. Under the title "Musica allegra," Lauria narrates amusing and curious stories, which have unusual protagonists, such as Marquis Palmizi, a staunch admirer of Wagner; Don Gabriele Siesto, a member of the baritone section of the chorus of the San Carlo Theater in Naples; the Neapolitan Marquis Don Alfonso Rodriguez and the teacher of singing Rita Gabussi-De Bassini. In one of the articles we also find Giuseppe Verdi, the great "Beppino," whose bad-tempered and biting character is very vividly sketched by Lauria. The memory of Busseto’s Great Old Man is certainly still present in the minds of the readers of the periodical.