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A lifetime exploring the unknown in sound | Followed by “L’Opera per flauto” concert

12/10/2022 | 11:30

Dialogue between Salvatore Sciarrino and José María Sánchez Verdú.

Salvatore Sciarrino is without a doubt one of the leading figures in musical thought and creativity of the second half of the 20th and the early 21st centuries. A key composer in the musical avant-garde of the  seventies, the early but consistent development of his unmistakeable musical language not only made him an enormous influence over several generations of composers who followed him, but also left a way of thinking about instruments and instrumental techniques that helped to open up possibilities and new conceptions of sound, representing a crucial contribution to avant-garde instrumental vocabulary in general, above and beyond aesthetics and styles. This career is reflected in an extensive catalogue of instrumental work, including both the iconic pieces in his Opera per Flauto – of which we will be able to hear a selection in the concert that follows his comments – and so many other works for a range of ensembles, including both chamber and orchestral pieces. His work should not only be judged by its enormous impact in this sense, but also Sciarrino is one of the authors most determined to compose operas and musical theatre throughout his career, redefining different aspects of the genre with his own vision and also developing a vocal writing style that is as distinctive and influential as his instrumental writing. His music is stunning in its “perennial modernity”. It is distinguished by a characteristic poetry and originality in the way it rereads, reinterprets and relates to the past, tradition, with a host of musical genres both avant-garde and popular, and with the codes of both music and culture in general. Thus, he is also a paradigmatic model, even though he is not at all normative and is above all surprising, of the intertextual dialogues that in the spirit of his time were closely associated with the notion of “post-modernity”. It should also be mentioned that, in a way that is totally different but complementary to others, he is one of several great 20th-century thinkers who have invoked silence as a starting point for thought, creativity, exploration and – in the aesthetics of his music – his own sound. A sound poet of silence and of a sound of nature often described as magical, his language is also a paradigm of the new notions and conceptions of time so typical of a 20th century opened up in this sense by Einstein and Bergson. Time in Sciarrino is sometime deployed both through a silence with an enormous charge of energy and through the most complex dynamic discontinuity – inhabiting the extremes of register and range of volumes, as well as with his highly characteristic extremely piano sound. It is no coincidence that this “Sciarrinian sound” becomes a space in itself, in line with the radically modern ideas and notions of physical time manifested in different forms, theories and models of thought in the last century. He has also made an outstanding, crucial contribution to the way musical discourses have developed subsequently to his work.
José María Sánchez-Verdú is one of the Spanish creative talents with the greatest international presence, with a universe of sound and thought that perfectly frames the dialogue we are to hear at this encounter. His work is also constructed on the basis of a personal sound language that sets out from an instrumental concept that is to a certain extent the heir to the above-mentioned legacy of composers like Sciarrino, developing it in his own poetic form. Likewise, the two of them share an interest in  musical theatre, given the wide range of music for the stage created by Sánchez-Verdú, extending the relationship between creative sound and the conception of space, lighting and architecture. Sánchez-Verdú is therefore our best guide in this dialogue to encourage Sciarrino to set out the keys to his creative work and share his vision of the future of music.



In 1977 Salvatore Sciarrino composed the first piece in a whole genealogy of works that would be known later as Opera per flauto. Rather than a set of pieces written over the years, Opera per flauto became a whole, constantly-expanding universe within Sciarrino’s catalogue, one that soon became a landmark in modern composition for this instrument. The transformational dimension of this repertoire at the time should be seen as being as important as the contributions to piano music by Chopin and Liszt. In Opera per flauto the flute is a kind of projection of worlds; the instrument’s genuine, original sound vocabulary means this projection contains a host of instruments, with endless ideas to be discovered in it, endless sound possibilities, most of them hitherto unknown and the product of Sciarrino’s radicalism. This hint at what has not yet been revealed but is possible in sound terms, and the notational formalisation of his vast, innovative technical vocabulary, make up a new language of enormous evocative power, one that has fascinated both listeners and performers for decades, as well as both theoreticians and scholars. Many great flautists have taken on this repertoire, among them Roberto Fabbriciani and Mario Caroli, with Matteo Cesari taking up the baton more recently as an outstanding virtuoso, a landmark in the field of contemporary flute music and in particular in Sciarrino’s sound universe.


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