Dedicated to Bergamo
Orchestra Giovanile Luigi Cherubini
Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848)
Symphony from the “Don Pasquale”
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Symphony n. 3 in E flat major, op. 55 “Heroic”
Allegro con brio
Funeral march. Adagio assai
Scherzo. Allegro vivace
“Donizetti’s Don Pasquale is rooted in the 18th-century Neapolitan School, though filtered by the knowledge of the Mozartian and classical universe. Hence, its reign is that of melody, as ever the distinctive feature of Italian opera, but with skilful use of counterpoint at the same time”. Riccardo Muti’s words may suggest why this opera – one of Donizetti’s mature works, composed in 1843 for the Paris stage, allegedly in only eleven days – has made several appearances in his extraordinary career: the performances he conducted in Florence with the Maggio and for La Scala, and then again the one recorded in London, are crucial landmarks for any musician, without forgetting that this “opera buffa” marked Muti’s debut in Salzburg in 1971. The eloquence of the plot and the colour of the instruments, as well as the melodic richness, most evidently transpire in the opening Sinfonia, which succeeds in encapsulating the plot and the different elements of the story with exceptional immediacy, from the melancholic serenade-song of the cello at the beginning to Norina’s dancing “magical virtue”.
The quickness of Donizetti’s composition process was not shared by Beethoven when, at the beginning of the same century, he began to work on the Symphony he would name “Eroica”. It was the summer of 1802, the same troubled months that, given the desperate awareness of his incurable deafness, led Beethoven to write the Heilingenstadt Testament. Only throughout a long series of drafts, revisions, and corrections did he completed, in the autumn of 1804, the final score which would be printed in 1806, no longer dedicated to Napoleon Buonaparte, who had been the work’s guiding light at the beginning, but, in a universal perspective, the “coming of a great man”. The first reactions were not especially warm, first in the palace of Prince Lobkowitz to whom it was dedicated, then in the Theater an der Wien. Since then, it has been acknowledged as an absolute masterpiece for the new features of its shape and language: the monumental expanse of the four movements, the imposing instrumentation and the role of the winds as an integral part of the motives, the triumph over more simplistic dialectics. And, above all, because the Eroica changed the very idea of Symphony, which, from then on, would no longer be regarded as entertainment, albeit a refined one, but as an ambitious tool of ethical and ideal tension, a solemn and cathartical appeal for a new world.