Sciarrino: Aspern Suite

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COMPOSERS: Sciarrino
WORKS: Aspern Suite
PERFORMER: Susanna Rigacci (soprano); Contempoartensemble/Mauro Ceccanti
To describe the works of Henry James as virgin operatic territory would be something of an overstatement. Even so, Britten apart, few composers have attempted to translate the author’s essentially melodramatic spirit into music. Setting The Aspern Papers in 1988 for Dallas Opera, Dominick Argento transcribed the novella in terms of the grand tradition. But ten years earlier, Italian composer Salvatore Sciarrino had taken the text in hand in a very different way, producing, for the Teatro della Pergola as part of the 41st Maggio Musicale Festival, an unorthodox staging that emphasised the visionary, arcane atmosphere in which the Master’s characters think and act.


Within Sciarrino’s scenario, time and reality assume a hallucinatory aspect, and a hidden sense of relationships exists both in what is enacted and its sonic correlative. Anyone who’s admired the bravura of Sciarrino’s Capriccios for solo violin will immediately respond to the atmosphere of the ‘Ouvertura’, and the exploitation of harmonics, and spectral sonorities generally, is most beautifully realised in the ‘Canzone rituale’. In the ‘Passeggiata’, the composer recreates the spirit of the aria in an extended melody delivered with panache by soprano Susanna Rigacci. The booklet notes are unhelpful, but what counts in this music is sheer sound. Nicholas Williams