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Il Pianoforte

(Turin, 1920-1927)

Prepared by Nicoletta Betta

In 1920 the music critic Guido M. Gatti, organizer of important Italian music events and fervent supporter of modern music, founded a new periodical in Turin: Il Pianoforte: Rivista mensile della Fabbrica Italiana Pianoforti [Monthly Review of Italian Pianoforte Manufacture]. As the title Il Pianoforte suggests, at first the magazine offers mainly articles on the literature, principles and history of the piano. In its second year the title is changed to Il Pianoforte: Rivista di cultura musicale [The Pianoforte: Review of Musical culture], and the themes widened to include all types of European music, which permitted discussion of the variegated music scene of the period. Guido M. Gatti continued as editor of Il Pianoforte [PNF] throughout the magazine’s run, from January 1920 to December 1927. He defines the physiognomy of the periodical according to a few 'guidelines' – eclecticism in its interventions, with an aim to update the Italian music scene and the refusal to identify itself in specific criticisms – which, by themselves, ensure the high critical and documentary value of the magazine.

In the second year the magazine acquires its definitive structure: monthly issues with thirty-five to forty pages, with frequent double issues in the summer months. Issues are organized in the following manner. First, there are extensive articles, music analyses and critical essays, sometimes published in several instalments; second, "Life of Music," correspondence pages from the towns of Italy, Europe, and some non-European installments, third, "News in Short," that included announcements and music competition results, memorials, obituaries, information from the conservatives and from Italian music schools, concert society programmes, and news about Italian and international performing artists' tours; fourth, reviews of printed music and books of musical interest; fifth, the "New Music" page, containing a list of new publications sent to be reviewed by the magazine; and, sixth, the "Magazines and Newspapers" page (from 1924, an enriched version of the shorter "Magazine Review"), in which articles published in the main European music journals were described, with summaries of those of most interest.

From its first issue Il Pianoforte's true raison d'être is to outline a wide and accurate view of contemporary European music, highlighting the contributions of the new generations of Italian composers. The vast assembly of writers includes Luigi Perrachio with analyses of modern piano works, Guido Pannain with critical essays and articles on musical aesthetics, Gatti himself with some of the numerous profiles of Italian and international contemporary musicians, and contributions from Italian composers Alfredo Casella, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Ildebrando Pizzetti. Glimpses of musical life on the other side of the Alps are offered by Béla Bartók on Hungarian music, Albert Roussel on French music, Eric Blom on English music, George Systermans on Belgian music. Worthy of mention are the highly detailed "Letters from Turin," by Ettore Desderi, which bear witness to the liveliness of music institutions of Turin and in particular Gatti’s courageous experiment with the Theatre of Turin. Other important correspondents of Il Pianoforte are: Alceo Toni from Milan, Adelmo Damerini and Gastone Rossi-Doria from Rome, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco from Florence, Settimio Magrini and Felice Boghen from Venice, Franco Michele Napolitano from Naples, Francesco Vatielli from Bologna, Sergio Leoni from Genoa, Ottavio Tiby from Palermo, Hugo R. Fleischmann from Vienna, Georges Systermans from Brussels, L. Dunton Green from London, Vittorio De Rubertis from Buenos Aires, Zoltán Kodály from Budapest, Darius Milhaud and Georges Migot from Paris, Adolfo Salazar from Madrid, Alfredo Alessandresco from Bucharest, Hugo Leichtentritt from Berlin, Victor Belaiev from Russia, and Massimo Zanotti-Bianco from New York.

Italy in the 1920's and 1930's was marked by the rise and triumph of the Fascist regime. However, in regards to this political upheaval, Il Pianoforte ─ as in the case of the Rivista musicale italiana ─ assumes feigned indifference: Gatti's magazine relegates fascism completely, idealistically speaking, amongst non-artistic matter, while the periodical isolated itself from the political current affairs dedicating itself to ever more technical and scholarly studies.

Although in essence it was amenable to idealistic aesthetics, Gatti's magazine avoids siding either with or against certain critical and artistic trends, welcoming contributions sometimes of antithetic nature and setting itself as a neutral ground: an example of this is the large debate between Malipiero and Pizzetti which gains ground from December 1921, on the themes of music education in music schools and the value of 19th century Italian music. A crucial debate in those years, toward which PNF maintains an attitude of constructive and open discussion amidst conflicting opinions, is the one on the artistic value of dodecaphony and atonality: while Guido Pannain condemns musical expressionism vehemently, Mario Labroca sees with relief the birth of 'national schools' as a useful way of limiting the feared internationalization of musical language, and Attilio Cimbro analizes without prejudice the atonal phenomenon coming to accept it as a valid linguistic alternative and in 1927 Alfredo Bonaccorsi supports the naturalness of the atonal and polytonal systems which he hopes will be used in the future.