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La Musica popolare

(Milan, 1882-1885)

Prepared by Paola Colombo and Marcello Conati
1 volume (1993)

At first a weekly, and later a monthly, La Musica popolare: giornale ebdomandario illustrato was published in Milan by Edoardo Sonzogno to compliment his other journal, Il Teatro illustrato. The two journals were merged in December 1885. Sold for a modest price, La Musica popolare’s objective was to provide sheet music to Italian families. In addition, it published portraits of composers, instrumentalists and singers, along with their biographical sketches, as well as technical articles on music literature written in an uncomplicated manner. The title of the journal does not refer to “folk music” or a musical subculture in today’s terminology. Rather, its meaning lies in the late nineteenth-century sense of “popular” applied to the dissemination of scientific information to a large public. In this sense it reflects efforts by the intellectual class with a liberal-radical or a socialist orientation to popularize the arts and sciences.

Each issue opened with Medaglioni artistici, critical-biographical profiles, or with articles about composers by Amitore Galli, and articles about performers (mainly singers) by Vincenzo Valle. Contributions relating to musical topics of a technical or scientific character, “rendered for the understanding of all,” deal with the physiology of music, harmony, choral singing, acoustics, the study of language pronunciation, the history of polyphony, and notation.

In the collection of classic and modern music offered as supplements to the individual issues are compositions by seventeenth- and eighteenth-century composers (from Bach to Corelli, from Handel to the two Scarlattis), by composers of the romantic period (Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, Mendelssohn), and by composers of opera (Gluck, Mozart, Rossini, Bellini, Meyerbeer, Glinka). The greatest attention in the music supplements is given to the compositions of about sixty young and little-known composers of the era. Among them, the name of the young Giacomo Puccini stands out. Informative comments introduce each musical supplement. One hundred and fourteen portraits are published in the journal. These represent eighteenth- and nineteenth-century composers—including Bach, Couperin and Lully to Berlioz, Liszt, Wagner and Verdi—and leading contemporary singers and instrumentalists such as Elena Teodorini, Romilda Pantaleoni, Adelina Patti, Victor Maurel, Italo Campanini, Marie Galli-Marié, and Anton Rubinstein. There are also over twenty illustrations of theatres, stage settings and instruments.

Of particular interest are the reviews that focus on performances of new and recent French, German and Italian operas such as Verdi’s Aida, Bizet’s Carmen, Boito’s Mefistofele, Catalani’s Dejanice, Delibes’ Lakmé, Thomas’s Francesca da Rimini, Gomes’ Il Guarany, Marchetti’s Ruy Blas, Pinsuti’s Margherita, Wagner’s Parsifal, Goldmark’s La Regina di Saba, and Saint-Saëns’s Enrico VIII. Also important in reviews of instrumental music are the activities of the Società del Quartetto. While the central emphasis of the journal is the musical life of Milan, there is considerable material from other important Italian centers—Rome, Turin, Venice and Naples—as well as smaller cities such as Verona, Padua and Palermo.