Easy-listening in Rome's Quirinale Palace,
with KAREN HAID
The Vatican has its Swiss guards and the Quirinale has its carabinieri corazzieri, atypically tall Italian men with fancy hats and swords who guard the palace of the President of the Republic. The Vatican has its Cappella Sistina and the Quirinale has its Cappella Paolina, a large chapel often used for official functions of the Italian government. Today, one wouldn't necessarily see the connection between the seat of the Pope and the seat of the President, but the Quirinale was originally conceived as an alternate papal seat by Paolo V in the early 17th century. On Sundays at noon from October to June, the beautiful Cappella Paolina is the site of a concert series hosted by the President of the Republic and RAI Radio 3, who provide commentary and a simultaneous broadcast for their listeners.
The concert on 8 June 2008 featured composer and pianist Ludovico Einaudi, grandson of Luigi Einaudi, the second President of Italy, and for whom an exhibit in the halls of the Quirinale is currently dedicated in honor of the 60th anniversary of his election. Arriving early to these concerts is recommended as one must wind through the spectacular halls of the palace along with the many other visitors who are mostly there to take pictures of the chandeliers and the aforementioned carabinieri corazzieri. The audience is primarily made up of locals who know that if they don't arrive in the chapel by 11:30, there's a strong likelyhood that they'll have to view the performance standing on the lovely, but hard, marble floor.
Performing his own compostions, Einaudi began with I Giorni ('The Days'), a work written in 2001 and (according to the program) conceived in part by the musical and cultural ideas he collected on a trip to Mali, as well as by his introduction to the kora, an African stringed instrument. The music was very improvisational in nature and was structured around simple motives used as ostinatos. Lasting about half an hour, the composition had four main sections, the first relied on a three-note descending motive (F-E-D, quarter-quarter-half) over which he placed melodic as well as harmonic material that developed with an increase in speed of the accompanimental figures. The second ostinato (A-F-G-E) in the bass of the piano enfolded with the use of contrasting registers. The third section was more chordal and was based on the alternation of two harmonies with a bass of G-E flat. It had a slower feel as there were only two pulses per bar. After an extended transitional section with a strong D major feeling, the final section alternated between two ostinatos (B-A-G, quarter-quarter-half and D-A-B-G) and had a strong D major ending. The melodic material could be described as pleasant meanderings.
The second work of approximate equal length was entitled Divenire ('To Become'). Written in 2006, it received Italy's Disco d'Oro. In the key of A minor, the composition began with a harmonious use of parallel chords followed by an extended dominant pedal tone that introduced the first bass ostinato (A-G-F-G). His music created slighty different moods within a static structure that didn't venture much outside of a very placid atmosphere.
Copyright © 11 June 2008
Karen Haid, Rome, Italy