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<<  -- 3 --  Roderic Dunnett    LUCIANO CHAILLY

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Yet Chailly owed arguably his most important musical training, like Busoni before him, to the German tradition. Most valuable of all was the influence of Hindemith, whose postwar classes he attended at the Salzburg Mozarteum. From Hindemith Chailly learned the command of counterpoint that informs his twelve Triple Theme Sonatas or Sonate Tritematiche, for a wide range of different instruments and ensembles [listen -- Sonata No 3, opening], and the Improvisations, a valuable series of a dozen works for various solo instruments, ranging from violin, flute and harp to piano, organ and saxophone.

Hindemith giving a postwar class
Hindemith giving a postwar class

Five of the 'Sonatas' are orchestral, echoing the famous Kammermusik of Hindemith, who 'added the icing' to Chailly's musical education -- rather like Vaughan Williams's 'French polish' from Ravel in the early 1900s. Chailly himself detected the influence of Stravinsky in several of his works; Berg and the Expressionists hovered in the background, and arguably (in the operas) Puccini, Pizzetti and Malipiero too.

Chailly at home
Chailly at home

'After World War II', Chailly pointed out, 'it was a decisive moment for a composer : which way did you go -- did you follow the Hindemith route, or embrace the brave new world of Darmstadt?' Compared with his innovating contemporaries -- Nono, Berio, Clementi, Donatoni, Bussotti -- Chailly sought to achieve a balance, striving to reconcile the mid-European tradition and a modified Serialism with innate Italian cantabilità -- 'that evocative, specifically Latin lyric strain mixing dissonance with sweetness (dolcezza), vitality with luminosity' -- that runs throughout Italian music from Rossini to Puccini. Chailly was never afraid to be eclectic, and current trends have to some extent vindicated him.

Fyodor Dostoievsky
Fyodor Dostoievsky

Like many a postwar European artistic figure, he was essentially anti-establishment, but of it. As a composer he inveighed against the 'self-flagellation' of the Serialists (although his opera L'Idiota, after Dostoievsky, shows the clear influence of Berg), electing rather to employ varied techniques where it suited him. Chailly liked to tell a (by now well-known) story retailed to him by another contemporary Italian musical giant, his friend the composer Goffredo Petrassi (who died, aged 98, on 7 March 2003, only a few months after Chailly), of how Luigi Dallapiccola, doyen of Italian Serialists, once 'asked Schoenberg's permission to use the same note twice in quick succession in a twelve-tone section of an opera'. Schoenberg said "no", but Dallapiccola went ahead anyway! What a life! Strict Serialism was sheer slavery!'

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Copyright © 20 April 2003 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK

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