Friday, 9 November 2012

Puccini, Schoenberg, Dallapiccola

I find myself in the middle of writing a chapter on Dallapiccola, focused on Il prigioniero. Now is not the time to give too much away - for one thing, my thoughts tend very much to emerge through the act of writing, so I do not yet really know what I am going to say - but a letter of 9 September 1949, which Dallapiccola wrote to Schoenberg, rather touched me. Dallapiccola is recalling the 1924 Italian premiere of Pierrot lunaire, which Schoenberg conducted at the Palazzo Pitti in Florence. It was that performance, Dallapiccola, would later recall, which made the young musician, studying at the Florence Conservatory, resolve to concentrate his energies upon composition. Puccini, as is well known, made the journey to hear Schoenberg's work too. Whilst many laughed, he listened intently throughout, and afterwards asked Alfredo Casella, whose Corporazione della Nuove Musiche had organised the concert, to introduce him to Schoenberg, who would relate how moved he was by the presence of that 'great man'. Dallapiccola, a quarter of a century later, recalled:

I had seen you in Florence at the time of the first Italian tour of Pierrot lunaire, but how could I, a Conservatory student, find the courage on that evening to come and shake your hand? In any case, I have never forgotten the attitude of Puccini with regard to you on that 1 April 1924, and since that evening I have considered the popular Italian composer to be of an intelligence and a humanity that I had not suspected.