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Il Pensiero musicale

(Bologna, 1921-1929)

Prepared by Nicoletta Betta
1 volume (2007)

Il Pensiero Musicale [PEM] was published in Bologna from 1921 to 1929 by the firm Mattiuzzi and Biancani, music publishers active since 1863. As evident in the subtitle Rivista mensile di cultura musicale [Monthly review of musical culture] the primary goal of the periodical was to appeal to a wide audience by offering information about current musical events, introducing the rudiments of music and musical theory to those without such knowledge, covering Bolognese and national musical events and reviewing scores and writings of musicological interest. The Bolognese Antonio Costa, founder of the periodical and its first director, was the author of numerous articles appearing in the first fascicles. After his sudden death in March 1922, he was succeeded by Francesco Balilla Pratella—who, with Luigi Russolo, was the most significant representative of the Italian futurist movement. After reaching the height of his interest in the futurist movement Pratella chose to devote more attention to the rediscovery of musical folklore of the Romagna region. Under Pratella’s directorship the periodical focused greater attention on Italian music and musicians, in line with the nationalistic movement that he himself promoted. Pratella’s precise aim was to build an interest in contemporary music that did not find favor with the public. In 1925 he left the directorship of the periodical. From 1926 to 1929 Cesare Brighenti-Rosa edited the journal. He placed even greater emphasis on the need to rediscover the musical features thought to be typically Italian, in keeping with the cultural ideals of the nascent fascist regime.

The periodical maintained the following structure:

1)The first section contains essays, at times continued in successive issues, on historical and musicological topics and musical criticism. Among these are the biographical “Medaglioni” [Medallions] (and later “Profilo” [Profile]) dedicated to Italian and foreign composers written by director Antonio Costa (pseudonym “Anko”). The rubric “Brevi cenni di storia e teoria musicale” [Brief instructions on musical history and theory] by Ottino Ranalli, appears at the end of each issue in 1921-22, as does the rubric “Storia popolare della musica” [Popular history of music] signed by Guido Guerrini dealing with the tracing of the origins and historical evolution of various families of instruments. Under the rubric “Descrizioni,” stylistic analysis and summaries of librettos of contemporary operatic works are featured, while under “Letture al pianoforte” [Pianoforte literature] Italian contemporary composers were discussed. The signatures of twenty-four principal collaborators are found in this section.

2)The second section contains regularly recurring rubrics:
–– “Vita musicale” provides notices of concert activities in Italy, and detailed information on operatic and symphonic seasons, as well as on tournées of Italian musicians. From 1923 onward this rubric includes reports from various cities. The principal correspondents are: Dina Pasini from Milan; Carlo Ravasenga from Turin (substituted by Lodovico Rocca in 1926); Emilio Gragnani from Livorno; Giovanni Monagheddu from Sassari; Guido Pannain from Naples; Dario Rambelli from Lugo di Romagna; A. Fava Tempesta from Venice; and Camillo Pariset from Parma.
–– “La musica a Bologna” contains detailed accounts of activities of the city’s musical institutions. Dino Poli and Melchiorre Rosa are the principal contributors. From 1926 onward this rubric is titled “Vita petroniana” [Petronian life] featuring even more detailed reports dealing with each one of the city’s musical entities. Throughout the years, “Vita musicale” and “La musica a Bologna” are assigned greater space in the periodical.
–– From July–August 1922 to the end of 1923 “La rubrica della FA–MI” [The rubric of the F-E] is published regularly. It is written by Elisabetta Oddone who reports on the activities of the Federazione Audizioni Musicali Infantili [Federation of Juvenile Musical Auditions] that she founded.

3)“Recensioni” [Reviews] contains discussion of music editions and publications of musicological interest written by Antonio Costa, Nino Rossi, Francesco Balilla Pratella, Aristide Giungi, Melchiorre Rosa, Guido Guerrini, Cesare Carlo Cantino and Fauro d’Arco. From 1924 onward the reviews are signed exclusively by Pratella, Rosa and Guerrini. Occasional rubrics are “Rivista delle riviste” [Review of journals], namely content summaries of recently published Italian and foreign periodicals; and the list of “Musica ricevuta in omaggio” [Complimentary music received]. From 1926 additional rubrics are “Notiziario” [Miscellaneous chronicle] which contains many announcements of Italian and international competitions, and “Echi d’oltralpe” [Echoes from beyond the Alps] focusing on tournées of Italian musicians abroad as well on the dissemination of works by Italian composers. From 1926 each issue features poetic texts by Fauro d’Arco, intended as verses to be set to music. In 1928 the rubric “Recensione dischi” [Reviews of recordings] is introduced, attesting to interest in the new medium; this rubric concentrates especially on products of the Fototipia Carish, devoting at times some attention to recordings of jazz and popular songs.

The publication of PEM coincided with the political advancement of the fascist regime in Italy in its initial phase of enthusiastic and propagandist élan. And even though the periodical never treats straightforward political topics, it fully adheres to fascist ideals. Pratella’s writings are openly nationalistic and interventionist in attitude, while Brighenti–Rosa subscribes entirely to fascist political ideals, publishing the text of an “Inno dei commercianti” [Hymn of the merchants] in praise of “Patria e Duce” [homeland and leader] in 1929. Set to music by Melchiorre Rosa it is performed at the Teatro del Corso in Bologna during the regional Congress of the “Federazione fascista dei commercianti” [Fascist Federation of Merchants].

In 1927 PEM received a letter of high praise from Fedele, the Minister of Education, containing expressions of his gratitude to the authors of the periodical for having followed readily the Ministry’s decree concerning the organization of concert activities in middle schools. In this respect it is significant that the publication of Mussolini’s message commemorating the centenary of Beethoven’s death appears in the first page of the journal’s February–March 1927 issue.

From its beginning, PEM is outwardly nationalistic, campaigning for the promotion of “Italian art,” to be realized through the discovery of the national musical patrimony and of simple vocal writing. The essays feature topics about the nation’s musical past, and celebrated composers that need to be brought to the attention of its readers: Palestrina, Benedetto Marcello, Lodovico Grossi da Viadana, Veracini, Giacomo Carissimi, Tartini, Monteverdi, Frescobaldi, Leonardo Leo, Adriano Banchieri, and the harpsichordists Pier Giuseppe Sandoni, Giovanni M. Placido Rutini and Giovanni Battista Serini.

Ample space is also given to Italian contemporary composers who have reached maturity and gained a certain reputation: Malipiero, Pizzetti, Respighi, Alfano, Casella, Marco Bossi, Castelnuovo–Tedesco, Wolf–Ferrari, Zandonai and Pratella, as well as to young little-known composers including Giacomo Orefice, Vittorio Gui, Domenico Alaleona, Guido Guerrini, Luigi Perrachio, Amilcare Zanella, Riccardo Pick–Mangiagalli. These composers, attracted by the innovations coming from abroad, ran the risk of having their musical language contaminated by elements extraneous to the Italian tradition. Salvino Chiereghin––who shows particular interest in the future of Italian music––firmly asserts in his essays that the artist must become “the people’s voice” and must utilize rudimentary elements of music that the common listener is capable of grasping. There is no agreement concerning Alfredo Casella, the principal exponent of Italian music of this period: he receives attention and is appreciated for his activities as director and promoter of Italian music abroad, but as a composer he is considered with some diffidence because his musical style is too avant-garde for the contributors to the periodical. According to Giorgio Franchi, Casella represents, with Malipiero, the most modernist and controversial musical trends of contemporary Italian music; and Fauro d’Arco, who reviews Casella’s works, expresses some perplexity regarding the “harmonic estrangements” that at times annoy his ears.