By Daniela Enriquez
On Sunday, December 17, 2017 New York City’s Carnegie Hall will host a concert featuring the music and works of Italian Jewish composer Aldo Finzi. Like me, you may be wondering why you haven’t heard about this Italian musician before, and the reason is linked unfortunately with the history of our own country.
Aldo Finzi’s musical upbringing was similar to other composers. He grew up in a family of musical talents – his grandfather was a flautist and his aunt a soprano. He studied music in Rome and distinguished himself with his first composition so much that he gained the attention of Ricordi, who published some of his works.
Finzi’s career was put to an end – when he was only 39 years old – by the rise of fascism and anti-Semitism. As is well-known, with the promulgation of the racial laws Italian Jews lost their civil rights and were forced to escape or hide to save their lives.
Finzi decided to stay in Italy, and hide in Turin. One of his works, La serenata al vento, was supposed to be the winner of a competition announced by La Scala Theatre, but was cancelled before the winner could be proclaimed. Despite the horrors of the situation, Aldo Finzi continued to compose music till the day he died of a heart attack at the age of 48 when the Black Brigade found the refuge where he was hiding. His last wish was to have his music performed. Recently, his works are undergoing a worldwide revival and his music and operas are been played all over the world.
In order to learn more about Aldo Finzi, his music and his story, I interviewed Maestro Luca Ceretta, who is taking care of the artistic supervision of the Carnegie Hall concert.
Interview with Luca Ceretta
DE: Aldo Finzi’s music and compositions are undergoing a worldwide revival. Why do you think this is happening now?
LC: After WWII the musical world was focused on musical research and experimentation, and that was totally different from Aldo Finzi’s style. This musical trend obscured, for the second time, Aldo Finzi’s music. In the past few years the situation has changed. Experimental music found its space – and its festivals – and musical institutions began to wonder what they had missed of the post-WWII period, while they were focusing only on experimental music. They discovered high-level composers such as Aldo Finzi. He is a great composer and his works masterpieces: that is why there is increasing interest on him and a desire to re-discover his unknown work.
DE: What makes Mr. Finzi’s music unique?
LC: He represents a musical route that starts from great composers such as Mahler and Strauss. He is the continuation and the evolution of this path, bringing to it a specific lyricism and timbre, a particularly Italian lyricism that makes his music very personal and unique.
DE: Mr. Finzi’s musical career was abruptly interrupted by the ascent of Antisemitism and the racial laws. His last wish before dying was that his music be performed. Knowing this, is there an emotional element in spreading his music?
LC: I think we feel the responsibility for spreading his music because of its high quality. We have a great body of music that was subjected to an injustice, and we have the duty to right that wrong.
DE: Tell us something about the program you are going to present at the Carnegie Hall on December 17th.
LC: The program includes an overture of Shylock, an opera – and a masterpiece! – that Aldo Finzi couldn’t finish because of the implementation of the racial laws. There are also two duets and an aria from the lyrical opera La Serenata al Vento, which should have won a competition at the Teatro La Scala but – again because of the racial laws – never occurred. Lyrics for piano and soprano, as well as a sonata for violin and piano will also be performed, as well as the symphonic poem Cyrano de Bergerac.
Another young Jewish composer will perform during the evening – Matti Kovler. Aldo Finzi was really in favor of supporting young talents and, because of this, we decided to give a young composer the chance to perform during an important evening in such a famous venue. It will be like the passing of a baton!
DE: Is there a piece/composition you prefer, and why?
LC: I personally love La Serenata al Vento. I feel close to this work because I consider it a masterpiece, and I hope it will go back to being well-known and played all over the world thanks to its musical quality and because of the injustice it was subjected to.
DE: In this historical moment, in which unfortunately racism in general, and anti-Semitism in particular, are rising, how important do you think it is for Mr. Finzi’s personal story and music to be known and spread?
LC: I think that in this historical moment Aldo Finzi as well as all the artists – not only the musicians – who experienced injustice, represent for us an icon. It is important to use music to make people aware of what happened. Art should always send a message, never one of violence. Despite the extremely difficult moment he lived through while composing his music, Aldo Finzi’s music always sends a positive message of peace.