venerdì 1 aprile 2022

Ennio, a documentary film by Tornatore to remember Morricone

 "We have to go on, looking for what? We don't know."

Morricone e Tornatore

With this emblematic sentence, which summarizes the meaning of composing starting from a blank page, and becomes a metaphor of existence itself, with this sentence pronounced with a soft voice by the composer, Giuseppe Tornatore's homage to Ennio Morricone ends, a documentary film entitled "Ennio".
A great, intense overview of the musician's work, from his studies with Goffredo Petrassi to the meeting with the major film directors of our time, after a young period as a non-trivial arranger of pop songs. An extraordinary career that the composer himself evokes with his composed kindness: the curious personality of a shy man who has conquered the world with the strength of his talent.
A life also crossed by the contradictions and sufferings of two musical worlds that seemed unable to meet, between the perplexities of maestro Petrassi and his fellow students (for example Boris Porena) and his own intentions to leave the cinema, continually diverted by always new ones successes.
In the end it becomes clear that Morricone has won a battle: an artist who is also a pop artist, but who has not forgotten Frescobaldi, Bach, Stravinskij.
We are thrilled to see him and feel him moved, when he remembers him in his nineties, his old teacher, and when he dedicates the Oscar for his career to his wife.
Meek and courageous, like his gesture as an orchestra conductor. It was also nice to hear the testimony of a great director like Pappano.
A film to see, therefore, for those who love music and great cinema.

domenica 3 maggio 2020

Piano lesson on Czerny's Study op. 299 n. 8

Piano lesson on Czerny's  Study op. 299 n. 8

Lezione su uno studio di Czerny
The Study op. 299 no. 8 in C Major by Carl Czerny is part of the collection of Studies "The school of velocity" ("Die Schule der Geläufigkeit" is the original title in German) that the author published in 1833.

Czerny, as you know, is one of the major names in piano teaching of the nineteenth century. He was a pupil of Beethoven and teacher, among others, of the young Liszt. He was born in Vienna in 1791 and died there in 1857.

The Study op. 299 no. 8 can be considered a medium difficulty study. Its main feature, immediately evident, is the fact that it entrusts to the right hand a continuous series of quatrains of sixteenth notes, which continues uninterruptedly for 54 bars and closes at bar 55 with a conclusive chord. The left hand is instead given a simple accompaniment, with some jumps and a short polyphonic passage in the central section of the piece.

Therefore, the main purpose of the study is to develop the agility of the right hand. Within the 54 bars of continuous movement in sixteenths we find a certain variety of figurations, which require different mechanisms. This will be the object of our preparatory work.

Let's not forget the need to vary the intensity of the sound: the author has specified a series of indications of dynamics, including crescendo and diminuendo, which require further technical skills to be performed correctly.

I prepared two videos: in the first, after this short presentation, you can listen to an execution of the Study, that I made on April 29, 2020. In the second video I carry out a real lesson in piano technique and execution, where I illustrate in detail all the different figurations present in the piece and the correct method of study and realization, which is achieved through appropriate movements and positions of the hand and arm.

You can download the first video at the link

The second video can be purchased by downloading it at this link: send an email to

Dear reader, if you are a person passionate about music studies visit the page Our services or access the Download Area of ​​our blog

mercoledì 12 febbraio 2020

Music, symbolic and emotional language: a psychoanalytic reading of Musorgsky

"Both dream language and musical language touch the deepest and most delicate strings of our subconscious": this is how we read on p.121 of the book published in 2018 for the publisher Osiride of Rovereto by the psychoanalyst Renzo Luca Carrozzini, entitled Domani? Forse! Analisi di un'ingiustizia (Tomorrow? Maybe! Analysis of an injustice). Music is therefore associated with the world of dreams, for its ability to fully express our inner emotional experience, of which we are often not even fully aware: here is therefore the great value of our art also for therapeutic purposes, as amply illustrated by the same author in his famous book Manuale di musicoterapia immaginativa (Imaginative musicotherapy manual, Roma, 1991).

Modest Musorgskij
In this recent work, Carrozzini is inspired in particular by some works by Modest Musorgskij (1839-1881), composer who in his whimsical and unpredictable genius lends himself particularly effectively to exemplify the assumption enunciated.

The text is actually an autobiographical narrative, as compelling and exciting as a novel, and in its rich articulation it presents multiple reading plans. It is the story of a tragic family event, framed in an extremely dramatic political context, that is, the years immediately following the end of the Second World War; years in which the establishment of the "cold war" and the "witch-hunt" imposed by United States politics affects even absolutely honest and morally flawless people, even decorated ex-partisans, for the sole reason of being communist militants and therefore suspected of espionage activities, however not proven. So it happens that the author's father spent five years in Gaeta prison, dismissed without reason from his job and, even more seriously, from family affections. A further drama was created by the withdrawal of the communist comrades. The title refers to the heartfelt expectation of release, expressed by the prisoner in his diary, while the subtitle highlights the injustice suffered by him and his relatives.

Very strong, in this book, it is the affective and emotional component of this personal experience, lived by the Author between 7 and 12 years of age. Starting from this story you can deepen the values ​​and the deep meaning of the bond between a father and a male child, without however neglecting the beautiful female figures of the mother and older sister.

In all this, the presence of music is fundamental, its unique ability to create bonds between people, as well as infinite symbolic resonances, a true mirror of the soul.

L'interpretazione dei sogni
An Italian edition of Sigmund Freud's most famous work,
"The Interpretation of Dreams" (1900)
Psychoanalysis responds to the need to "do personal, individual work, to try to untie, to clarify some knots" that each person can feel "heavy" in his own life (p.13). Recurring dreams, connected to memories through free associations, are the keys to re-emerge what we have concealed, because "something is always censored and omitted, consciously or unconsciously" (p.17). But "our unconscious always keeps track" (p. 23) and therefore inevitably the most hidden things somehow always resurface: it is a good therapy, combined with the goodwill of the subject, the ability to undo the knots. We must be aware of the fact that "every event of our existence binds and connects to others and to others, in an intertwining difficultly imaginable and conceivable" (p.24). The Author warns us: "Dig up the past, retrace it and put it in order, I think it is useful for each of us" (p. 31). In reality "we never know exactly what our unconscious collects and what it contains ... how numerous and how varied ... the threads that make up the skein of our personal experiences. Threads with disparate colors, of different fibers, of strength and of unequal fragility. But the skeins, if well worked, can produce beautiful and elegant clothes. If poorly worked they can give clumsy and coarse clothing" (p.33).The classic "supine position favors the state of relaxation and lowers the resistance allowing, in this way, the emergence of deep 'themes', often hidden in the crumpled folds of our unconscious"(p.33).Working on yourself can lead to the most difficult questions: "Who am I? Who is my father? Who are my parents? What is my existence? What is the meaning of it?" (p.70). The ultimate goal is that "the rigid dualism between conscious and unconscious" can "be overcome. Indeed, the two sides can integrate well and act in harmony" (p.37).

Renzo Luca Carrozzini Domani forse
Through this work of analysis and self-analysis, the Author highlights the possibility of focusing on the relationship between the subject and their parents, especially in the early years of childhood, "memories that highlighted the extraordinary human qualities of mom and dad and their solid values ​​related to family, freedom and independence" (p.34). From this derives a force that manages to transcend the drama of events. And the "split mountain" of Gaeta, "has become stronger just where the rift had been created", as well as "our family has become even more united after the violent and unjust separation", so "our strength is born where so many frailties seemed to nestle" (p.94).

There is also a nice reflection on the fundamental difference between deep needs and induced desires: "If our desires are driven by advertising and consumerism they are no longer 'our' desires, they are desires driven from outside. This is one of the reasons why in today's world there is frustration, boredom and discontent: because we cannot have everything that consumer society offers us day and night" (p.72).

And time, "what is time? Time can expand and shrink very quickly, in an absolutely irrational way, just as it can run very fast or appear still and motionless" (p. 47). Already in this statement we are close to the musical experience and its mysterious, inextricable intertwining with our deep experience. "By letting particularly meaningful and emotionally pregnant memories emerge freely, we can identify with them so deeply, from the emotional point of view, that the unconscious struggles to live the present and the past simultaneously. And this happens when the past, with all the experience related to it, it still has a strong relevance in the emotional world"(p.83). 

Tableaux d'une exposition

Title page of the first edition (1886, post.)
of "Pictures at an exhibition" by Musorgskij,
piano work composed in 1874

The analytical work leads the Author to bring out "a set of strong emotions, a mixture of anger, emotion, bewilderment, trepidation and various suggestions that were mixed with a sense of liberation, redemption, determination and liberation" (p.61). And at this point, in nocturnal dreams, a precise memory appears, a re-enactment of a strong moment of childhood affectivity, closely linked to the experience of music: "I had a short dream in which I saw myself small, while listening to my favorite music of my father, sitting right next to him or on his knees. With him, really, I always listened to a lot of classical and symphonic music: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Mascagni and others and in the specific case of the dream, we were listening to 'Pictures at an exhibition" by Modest Musorgsky. A dream so true and real that I was sure I had heard, listened and even appreciated the music, in fact, I would say that that was above all a sound and musical dream" (pp.61-62). "In the case of the dream in question, I remember well the notes of the piano relating to the walk, to the so-called 'walk' between one painting and another exhibited at the exhibition, as I perfectly remember some pieces of music that represent the paintings on display, such as the 'old castle ', the' ballet of the chicks', 'the gnome', 'the catacombs' and' the great gate of Kiev'. " The dream and the memories of early childhood connect to the present reality: the dream "fully corresponds to reality" and the various paintings of the Musorgsky walk (which we can certainly read as dreamlike evocation of fragments of dreams) are directly associated with the facts, the objects and situations of the dramatic and sweet encounter with the father, in the Aragonese fortress of Gaeta, after five years of absence (p.87).

Silence is also full of meaning, just like pauses in musical works: "a silence full of emotions, a long, very long, or perhaps very short silence? A throbbing, intense, moving silence that expressed a lot, indeed for us it expressed everything what there was to express. Still more hugs, more eloquent than a thousand words" (pp.87-88). Instead, we know how our society is polluted by this obsessive excess of words and by the presumption of being able to express everything with words.

Viktor Hartmann (1834-73),
The Great Gate of Kiev

Hence Musorgsky's various paintings are associated with lived experience and intense emotional involvement: the chicks (the children affected by the family tragedy), the old castle (the "huge and majestic fortress" of Gaeta, "almost worrying"), the catacombs (as prison cells), the great door (the gate of the Aragonese fortress,"huge, massive, hateful and threatening", with its heavy bolts). In particular, the Author notes the ambivalence of the image of the castle, for which "Musorgsky really composed delicate and almost gentle music ... and I had remained tied to those musical images and perhaps I had also unconsciously wanted to remain tied to because they were very reassuring. It is indeed a music that befits a fairy castle. I really wanted and wanted my father to be in a fairy castle, not in a worrying prison castle"(p.91).

Therefore the Author can say that "the dream allowed me to relive extraordinary moments that I had lived with my dad: that of a boy in Gaeta and those of a child when we listened to music together. In particular, my unconscious associated with the 'paintings of an exhibition', my visit to the Gaeta prison ... I saw my father 'exposed'... We too were 'exposed' to him as he was to us ... ". Therefore he can conclude by saying that "the unconscious works within us, keeps accounts and follows its laws, laws that are different from those of rationality, and which, on the contrary, intertwine experiences, passions, fears, anxieties, desires, fantasies, needs, aspirations and more. It is a different, 'emotional' language, which is why even very young children dream, fetuses in the womb dream and higher animals dream." (pp.96-97).

And again: "There were no words, who 'spoke' was the music with its symbolic and emotional language" (p.97).

Francisco Goya, Sabba

Another subsequent dream is linked to another famous work by Musorgsky, Night on Bald Mountain: a symphonic poem that the young composer created in 1867 and which later became famous in the adaptation of Rimsky-Korsakov, after the death of friend and, as you know, "sweetening" the major harmonic and timbric harshnesses that the composer had created with his irrepressible imagination and beyond any academic rule.. Musorgsky himself had taken up his extraordinary poem to insert it as a choral page in his unfinished play, The Fair of Sorocynci of 1880, with the title The dream of the young peasant. A dream, therefore, already in the composer's fervent imagination: the dream of a young shepherd who evokes the satanic round of the witches and then awakens to the sound of a liberating bell. Dreams express "our unconscious world, where, according to Freud, fear, anguish, but also desires, fantasies, ambitions, joys and hopes linger." Above all, it is necessary to remember that "In the unconscious there are no verbal expressions, but there are other languages: those of posture, facial expression, tone of voice, love or hate. Symbolic and metaphorical languages" (pp.115-116). And what better than music can express and evoke all this? Here then the dream of shepherd Gricko becomes a "dream of transformation", in which "both the dream language and the musical one touch the deepest and most delicate strings of our subconscious" (p. 121). Therefore, "in the dream we manage to express the highest levels of our creativity. It is no coincidence that many pictorial, musical, literary and artistic masterpieces were born from dreams" (p.120).

In conclusion, the Author teaches us that the therapeutic experience, or even self-therapeutic, can truly heal our wounds, it is a "path within ourselves" (p. 102): "My emotions were transforming, they were coming out of the swamps of inertia and rushing towards life ... New life ... I felt stronger and more determined myself. I was beginning to feel that I had weapons inside me that I would need to fight life's adversities and difficulties" (p.95)."From the most atrocious and profound pains, to the joie de vivre that often arises from suffering. And it is perhaps in these extraordinary transformations that the secret of inner peace lurks" (p.122). With the fundamental help of music, great music, for example the extraordinary one of that suffering, unpredictable genius, out of any rational logic (just as our dreams seem to us), truly dreamlike, which was Modest Musorgsky.

(Note: the choral version of Night on Bald Mountain, perhaps less known than the symphonic poem, can be heard at this link:

sabato 11 gennaio 2020

Playing the opera at the piano. An example from Mascagni's "Cavalleria Rusticana"

Playing the opera at the piano is a practice  that requires specific skills: in particular it is a matter of rendering the idea of the original version for orchestra, limiting itself to the piano only. Obviously, it is not a question of "imitating" the sound of the orchestra, but rather to "evoking" it through choices of piano instrumentation and instrumental timbre appropriate to the effect we intend to simulate.

Let's take an example, from Mascagni's "Cavalleria Rusticana" (1890) and specifically the orchestral introduction to the choir "Gli aranci olezzano".

The piano reduction that is usually used is the classical one, made by Leopoldo Mugnone for the original Sonzogno edition of 1891. We note that already in the first exposition of the main theme the melody doubled in octave, while the left hand performs an accompaniment which requires continuous jumps between the bass and the internal parts.

Gli aranci olezzano

Subsequently, in correspondence with the first entry of the choir, the writing is even more massive, especially in the left hand.

Cavalleria Rusticana

It is not possible to make excessive simplifications to "facilitate" the piano part, because this would preclude the effect of evoking the orchestral sound: it is not possible, for example, to play the melody with single keys, avoiding the doubling of octave and the filling in agreements in some moments of support. In fact, if we look the orchestral score, we note that initially the theme is given to all the strings, with doubling of octave between violins (first and second in unison, plus the oboe 1) and violas and cellos. The effect is already vigorous and well sustained in sound, as can it easily seen when listening.

Gli aranci olezzano

In the following ripresa, at the entry of the choir, the orchestral writing becomes even more massive, with the entry of all the winds (including the blaring trumpets), arranged even on three octaves, while the accompaniment is marked by percussion and tuba (in addition to the basses of the strings and winds) and in particular with the heavy chords of the trombones.

Cavalleria Rusticana di Mascagni

All this cannot be achieved with a light and chamber sound, but with a powerful and massive sound, although always soft and never strained. The suggestion of orchestral sound must accompany the sonorous idea of the pianist, ready to accompany even a large choir, in this festive and luminous page that does not yet predict the imminent tragedy what will be told in the opera.

We can hear a beautiful orchestral performance, conducted by the author himself in 1940 at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, at this link.

venerdì 11 marzo 2016

Study of double jumps in music for piano

One of the difficulties that are often encountered in the piano music are the quick movements, the jumps that we must do to reach distant keys from the position where you will find the hand.

Very often the jump is double, because writing is expected to reach a distant key and then go right back to the previous position.

There are many examples. Now I'm studying a transcription for piano of Mozart's famous Serenade for strings, "Eine kleine Nachtmusik". It is a beautiful transcription made by Ludwig Stark (1831-1884), the author of the famous Method "Lebert und Stark". Here's an example:

Lezioni di pianoforte

As you see, there is a double jump (highlighted by the first blue square) between bichord 'F sharp - A' in the central octave, the 'G' under the 'middle C' and then the bichord 'G - B' in the central octave. Similarly another passage, highlighted by the second blue square.

To study well these passages necessary to fix well with the eye of the target position and then execute the move at lightning speed: as exercise is useful to make the move in sudden way and then stop in front of the key or keys to arrival.

It's 'evident that the glance is very important, as well as the speed of movement of the arm.

Here is another example taken from the same piece; as you see, teaching graphic helps to focus attention on the single pass:

Metodo per pianoforte

 With a short video I explain the mechanism:

venerdì 12 febbraio 2016

The vocal style at the piano in Chopin Nocturnes

The Nocturne is one of the most typical forms of piano music of the nineteenth century and the Romantic music. In this kind of composition the musician writes for the piano keyboard thinking ideally expressiveness that is typical of the human voice

The romantic Nocturne-form was born, with the Irish composer John Field (1782-1837), but the word was in use in the eighteenth century: But at that time it indicated the musical entertainment of the evening, he could hire the gallant tones of serenade, or those more generally worldly of the fun (the most famous example is "Eine kleine Nachtmusik", "a little night music", by Mozart).

Chopin Nocturnes
In the nineteenth century, with marvelous examples of Field and then with the Fryderyk Chopin masterpieces (1810-49), the Nocturne becomes the expression of a romantic vision of the world: the night, the darkness become the metaphorical place of desire to exceeding the limit, the soul expand to the dimensions of the dream and the irrational. 

We listen to the most famous of the Chopin Nocturnes, op. 9 n. 2 in E-flat Major. Click on the following link: Chopin, Nocturne op. 9 n. 2.

Consider the rhythm of the music: it is a time 12/8, ie a slow pulsation that inside provides a ternary subdivision. More artifices of musical writing are directed to evade and counter any idea of rhythmic rigidity or excessively regular scan: some indications urge the search for phrasing and emotionally moving rhythmically elastic.

The vocal style, as I said at the beginning, is the reference model for the construction of the melody: it is a song (given to the right hand), supported by an accompaniment (left hand), this latter as important and ample, as subordinate and functional to the maximum expansion of lyrical singing. Therefore, it is precisely the same thing that happens when a singer's voice is accompanied by an instrument (for example, the piano itself).

Amples bounds toward the high notes determine the lyricism of this song, we might imagine given to a lyric-coloratura soprano, that is characterized by clear timbre, brilliant of acute and vocal agility.

This agility is made pianistically from Chopin through ornaments and grace notes, that elude the regularity of the musical phrase and culminate in the vaporous, iridescent concluding cadence.

The piano performance requires a piano touch that knows how to satisfy the infinite nuances of sound in his right hand, while the left supports the low harmony and accompanied with a large extension chords.

A delicious physical wellbeing envelops the performer in playing this piece, which really makes us exceed the boundaries of materiality, evoking our deepest sighs.

YouTube channel:

giovedì 28 gennaio 2016

Five reasons why you should sing

Singing is good for health! Is good for our body, it is an effective natural therapy for the physical well-being and of the whole person.

I share an article written by Umnia Shahid and published in "The Express Tribune" on Oct. 9, 2014.

Are you afraid to sing at a family gathering or in the privacy of your bedroom because you feel it won’t be music to people’s ears? Don’t sweat it. Bring out the Madonna in you because singing has multiple physical, mental and spiritual benefits. The Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health has undertaken extensive research to support their aim of getting the National Health Service in the United Kingdom to provide medical practitioners the option of “singing on prescription.” As compiled from, here are five reasons why you should sing.

1.Boosts cardiovascular health:
Singing is an aerobic activity that increases oxygenation in the blood stream and exercises major muscle groups in the upper body, even when sitting. It decreases risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease.

2. Stimulates the brain:
Singing requires memorising lyrics and following a melody as well as connecting words with emotion. Breathing while singing brings more oxygen to the brain, which results in neurons firing, enhancing mental awareness, concentration and memory.

3. Reduces stress:
When you sing, your brain releases feel-good chemicals including endorphins. This makes singing an effective mood lifter and a valuable tool in alleviating depression. Singing with a group develops a sense of community and belonging, thereby reducing anxiety. Singing is even used as therapy for people with cancer, dementia and for stroke survivors.

4. Natural healer:
Other than time, music is a great healer. Singing has similar effects on the body and mind. It ensures physical, mental, psychological and social well-being. It also improves the posture and breathing, as it increases the capacity of the respiratory system.

5. Builds confidence:
Singing helps develop skills to speak in a natural, powerful and confident voice. It can improve your ability to use your speaking voice with more clarity and confidence. Singing releases a hormone called oxytocin, which helps reduce anxiety, thus helping you overcome your fear of public speaking. Oxytocin also increases feelings of trust, which strengthens confidence in not only yourself but also those around you.