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La Musica

(Naples, 1857-1859)

Prepared by Marina Marino and Marcello Conati
1 volume* (1989)

Between 1842 and 1853 four music journals of great importance were established in various cities of the Italian peninsula: in 1842 the Gazzetta musicale di Milano; in 1847 L’Italia musicale (Milan); in 1852 the Gazzetta musicale di Napoli; and, in 1853 the Gazzetta musicale di Firenze. All four journals were supported by music publishers and each reflected the concerns and point of view of the supporting company. In 1855, 1857, 1876 and 1883 four distinct attempts were made to establish a music journal of significance in Naples independent of the control of a music publisher. Each of these four journals was entitled La Musica.

The large space dedicated to the detailed treatment of technical topics, ranging from counterpoint to acoustics, makes the second Neapolitan La Musica (1857-1859) somewhat special to the panorama of nineteenth-century Italian music periodicals. There are no links with its previous namesake except for the usual theater chronicles. The topics covered in 1857 through 1859 are strictly related to the scientific aspects of music, without incursions into other artistic or cultural fields. Baron Giuseppe Staffa, founder and editor, was the author of a harmony and composition method and director of the orchestra at the Teatro del Fondo. From the beginning he defined the technical and scientific nature of the journal, called upon expert collaborators and reprinted earlier scientific studies in serial form. Staffa’s primary conviction was that a modern didactic text on music theory was lacking. He intended to close this gap through pertinent offerings in his periodical. To this end Staffa contributed or commissioned articles on the science of sound, the parallels between spoken and musical languages, the elements of music (pitch, dynamics, duration and tempo), systems of musical organization, the nature of vibration, etc.

Particularly attentive to the works of the two major contemporaneous Italian composers, Verdi and Mercadante, a great deal of space is devoted to their most recent operas in both journals of the 1850s. Verdi’s operas are the principal topic addressed in the 1857-1859 La Musica. Discussion revolves around the merits of the middle operas Rigoletto, La Traviata, Il Trovatore, Aroldo and I Vespri siciliani, as well as the performers who portrayed the leading roles. Simon Boccanegra is treated in five articles, while Verdi’s “new" opera Un Ballo in maschera is discussed in 1859. Mercadante’s Leonora, La Vestale and Il Giuramento are also main topics of discussion. Of great interest as well are reviews of operas by secondary composers active in this decade including Nicola Albertini, Vincenzo Battista, Francesco Chiaromonte, Giuseppe Persiani, Emanuele Muzio, Nicola De Giosa, Vincenzo Fioravanti, Napoleone Giotti and Enrico Petrella. The popular and posthumous operas of Donizetti are discussed in reviews of productions in Italy and abroad.

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