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La Riforma musicale

(Alessandria; Turin, 1913-1919)

Prepared by Rosario Arnesano
Introduction by Richard Kitson
Online only (2016)

The Italian music journal La Riforma musicale [RIM] was published weekly (settimanale) from May 4, 1913 until November 23, 1913 in Alessandria, Italy, then weekly in Turin from November 29, 1913 until February 28, 1915, and then fortnightly (quindicinale)from the issue dated March 7 – 14, 1915 until the final issue dated February 15-28, 1918. Owing to the problems of the First World War, no issues were published after the issue dated March 7 – 14, 1915 until resumption of publication in the issue dated November 15 – December 1, 1917. Carlo Scaglia of Alessandria is named from the outset as Director, and from November 29, 1914, Carlo Emmanuele Croce of Torino is also named a Director. The issue of February 1, 1914 gives Guido M. Gatti’s name as chief editor (redattore-capo), also working in Torino. The issues of Vols, I through III usually contain four unnumbered pages but are occasionally increased to six unnumbered pages, all organized in a four-column format. The pages of the issue Vol. IV, no. 1-2 are numbered 1 through 16, while Vol. V, nos. 1 through 3 are numbered continuously 1 through 24. Six four-page supplements containing critical reports of concerts and operas from various Italian and European centers are published in 1914 and 1915.

Each issue is generally organized in six sections: (1) several articles about contemporary or historical topics; (2) reviews of operas, concerts, and critical reports from various Italian cities under the title “La vita musicale” [Musical life]; (3) “Notizie” [Miscellaneous news], (4) “Concorsi” [Meetings], (5) “Publicazioni” of new books about music and sheet music. (6) Pubblicità [Advertisements] is found on the final pages.

The perceived need for reform in all aspects of Italian musical life is made clear from the first issue, in which the various symptoms of musical decay are exposed. Each subsequent issue contains one or more articles, each written by a significant writer, that deal with the causes and details of reform specific to the various branches of musical activities: for example, Gino Bellio on musical composition; Luigi Torri on sacred music; M. A. Oddone Manera on the teaching of the piano; Alfeo Buja on the training of band conductors, the quality of new operas and the musical education of the public; Carlo Nicolò, Corrado Marchi and Eugenia Corti Mattioli on the governance of conservatories and private musical institutes; and Fortunato Rizzi on the treatment of operatic librettos.

Italian musical life in various cities ‒ Milan, Naples, Parma, Ferrara, Torino, Busseto, Siena and Genoa among the many ‒ is treated in detail. Reports are also given occasionally from other European and South American centers such as Geneva, Paris, Malmo in Sweden and Buenos Aires.

La Riforma musicale was the first journal edited by Guido M. Gatti, prior to Il Pianoforte and La Rassegna musicale, and the ideas on modern music and music criticism that are expressed in the pages of this journal are strictly connected with those of Pianoforte and La Rassegna musicale. The "reform" that gives its name to the journal is first of all a necessary renewal of the Italian music culture of that time. Gatti and his collaborators found that Italy was not contemporary on the directions and ideals of new European composers and music schools. In Gatti and his collaborators’ words, Italian music culture was simply too conservative. The journal La Riforma musicale was therefore intended to give information on new music coming from abroad, and on the activities of young Italian composers. From the point of view of the music critic, this journal (like the other two edited by Gatti) did not aspire to a precise orientation: its purpose was to keep an almost neutral position, between the German positivistic school and the Italian Idealistic aesthetics led by Benedetto Croce. But in reality, the Idealistic orientation was prevalent, as was the leading aesthetical orientation of Italian culture for first half of the century. Often mentioned in the journal is the will to struggle against the fanatical cult of interpreters and composers, against dogmatism of critic evaluation, against the mannerisms in style found in composers such as Pietro Mascagni.