Alfredo Casella

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Casella, Alfredo

outstanding Italian composer and teacher; b. Turin, July 25, 1883; d. Rome, March 5, 1947. He began to play the piano at the age of four and received his early instruction from his mother. In 1896 he went to Paris, and studied with Diémer and Fauré at the Cons. He won the premier prix in piano in 1899. He made concert tours as a pianist in Europe, and appeared as a guest conductor with European orchs. He taught piano classes at the Paris Cons, from 1912 to 1915. Returning to Rome, he was appointed a prof, of piano at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia. In 1917 he founded the Società Nazionale di Musica (later the Società Italiana di Musica Moderna; from 1923 the Corporazione delle Musiche Nuove, Italian section of the ISCM). On Oct. 28, 1921, Casella made his American debut with the Philadelphia Orch. in the triple capacity of composer, conductor, and piano soloist; he also appeared as a guest conductor in Chicago, Detroit, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Los Angeles; was conductor of the Boston Pops from 1927 to 1929, introducing a number of modern works, but failing to please the public. In 1928 he was awarded the first prize of $3, 000 from the Musical Fund Soc. in Philadelphia; in 1934 he won the Coolidge Prize. In 1938 he returned to Italy. Apart from his activities as pianist, conductor, teacher, and composer, Casella was a prolific writer on music, and contributed numerous articles to various publications in Italy, France, Russia, Germany, and America; he possessed an enlightened cosmopolitan mind, which enabled him to penetrate the musical cultures of various nations; at the same time, he steadfastly proclaimed his adherence to the ideals of Italian art. In his music, he applied modernistic techniques to earlier forms; his style may be termed neo-Classical, but in his early years he cultivated extreme modernism.

Works

DRAMATIC: Opera: La donna serpente (Rome, March 17, 1932); La favola d’Orfeo (Venice, Sept. 6, 1932); II deserto tentato (Florence, May 6, 1937). ba11et:II convento veneziano (1912; Milan, Feb. 7, 1925); La Giara, “choreographic comedy” (Paris, Nov. 19, 1924); La camera dei disegni, for children (Rome, 1940); La rosa del sogno (Rome, 1943). orch.: 3 syms. (1905; 1908–09; Chicago, March 27, 1941); Suite in C (1909); Italia, rhapsody (Paris, April 23, 1910); Le Couvent sur l’eau, symphonie suite based on the ballet II convento veneziano (Paris, April 23, 1914); Elegia eroica (Rome, Jan. 21, 1917); Pagine di guerra (1916); Pupazzetti, 5 pieces for Puppets (1918); A notte alta for Piano and Orch. (1921; also for Piano, 1917); Partita for Piano and Orch. (N.Y., Oct. 29, 1925); Scarlat-tiana, on themes by Scarlatti, for Piano and Orch. (N.Y., Jan. 22, 1927); Concerto romano for Organ and Orch. (N.Y., March 11, 1927); Violin Concerto (Moscow, Oct. 8, 1928); Introduzione, Aria e Toccata (Rome, April 5, 1933); Concerto for Trio and Orch. (Berlin, Nov. 17, 1933); Concerto (Amsterdam, 1937); Paganini-ana, on themes by Paganini (Vienna, 1942). chamber:Barcarola e scherzo for Flute and Piano (1904); 2 cello sonatas (1907, 1927); Siciliana e burlesca for Flute and Piano (1914; also for Piano Trio, 1917); 5 pezzi for String Quartet (1920); Concerto for String Quartet (1923–24; also for String Orch.); Serenata for Clarinet, Bassoon, Trumpet, Violin, and Cello (1927); Sinfonia for Clarinet, Trumpet, Cello, and Piano (1932); Piano Trio (1933). keyboard: piano: Many pieces, including 2 series of stylistic imitations, À la manière de...: Wagner, Fauré, Brahms, Debussy, Strauss, and Franck (1911), and (in collaboration with Ravel) Borodin, dlndy, Chabrier, and Ravel (1913); Sonatina (1916); A notte alta (1917; also for Piano and Orch., 1921); 11 pezzi infantili (1920); 2 ricercari sul nome Bach (1932); 3 pieces for Pianola (1918). vocal:Notte di Maggio for Voice and Orch. (Paris, March 29, 1914); L’Adieu à la vie, cycle of 4 Hindu lyrics after Tagore’s Gitanjali (1915; also for Voice and Orch., 1926); 4 favole romanesche (1923); Ninna nanna popolare genovese (1934); 3 canti sacri for Baritone and Orch. (1943); Missa solemnis pro pace (1944).

Writings

L’evoluzione della musica (publ. in Italian, French, and Eng. in parallel columns; 1919); Igor Stravinsky (1926; new éd., 1951); ”21 & 26” (1931); II pianoforte (1938); I segreti della Giara (1941; Eng. tr., 1955, as Music in My Time: The Memoirs of Alfredo Casella); La tecnica dell’orchestra contemporanea (completed by V. Mortari; 1950).

Bibliography

L. Cortese, A. C.(Genoa, 1935); F d’Amico & G. Gatti, eds., A. C.(Milan, 1958); R. Calabretto éd., A. C: Gli anni di Parigi: Dai Documenti (Florence, 1997).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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Casella, Alfredo (b Turin, 1883; d Rome, 1947). It. composer, conductor, pianist, and author. Visited Russia 1907 and 1909. On return to It. in 1915, as prof. of pf. at Liceo di S. Cecilia, Rome, became champion of all that was new in the arts and headed It. section of ISCM. Anticipated tastes of a later epoch by interest in It. baroque mus., particularly Vivaldi. His own mus. reflected restless and questing mind. Early works influenced by Mahler, whose mus. he cond. in Paris in the early 1900s. Tempted by atonality but after 1920 identified himself with neo-classicism. Comps. incl.: OPERAS: La donna serpente (1928–31); La favola d'Orfeo (1932); Il deserto tentato (1937).BALLETS: Il convento veneziano (1912); La Giara (1924).ORCH.: syms.: No.1 (1905), No.2 (1908–9 unpubd.), No.3 (1940); Italia Suite (1909); Pupazzetti (1919); Scarlattiana, pf., orch. (1926); vn. conc. (1928); Concerto romano (organ) (1926); conc. for pf., vn., and vc. (1933); vc. conc. (1934–5); Conc. for Orch. (1937); conc. for pf., timp., perc., str. (1943); songs; and pf. pieces (incl. 2 series entitled À la manière de … (In the style of … ) (1911 and 1913), 2nd series collab. Ravel).