The wonderful Cini Foundation on the Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore is my base until this weekend. I’m working with violinist, Davide Amodio on a programme of works by Mozart, Salieri and Beethoven that we are playing in a recital here this Friday evening as part of the International conference, “Musical Improvisation in the Age of Beethoven and ‘Open Forms'” (28-9 November). Speakers include William Caplin, Scott Burnham, Elaine Sisman and Pieter Bergé. Our recital includes linking improvisations inspired by the L’Art d’inventer à l’improviste des Fantasies et Cadences pour le Violon by Bartolomeo Campagnioli (1751-1827). The piano is a 6.5-octave Viennese grand (1823) by Matthias Jakesch, and is in really beautiful condition, expertly restored. Particularly fine are the moderator and due corde devices. Already its sparkly treble and rich yet neatly profiled bass registers are suggesting ways of crafting the sound in Mozart K.304 and Beethoven Op.12/1. In the Beethoven slow movement, we’ll be experimenting with improvising in the ‘wrong direction’: radically simplifying Beethoven’s notation in several of the variations first time round, reserving what he actually wrote down for the repeats, so as to sound like local and spontaneous elaborations of something ‘on the spot’, and attempting to show in sound the immediacy of the relationship between harmonic foundation and melodic decoration – and likewise (I hope) the immediacy of relationship between Davide’s paring-down of melody and my attempts to reflect that in real time in my choice of accompanying texture! For me, this kind of openness in performance approach is basic to musical communication, recapturing for the performer and listener alike the musical moment as lived in real time, as opposed to a replication of a written encoding. Quite apart from the freshness of the experience (subject to a certain element of risk, admittedly), daring to leave the text behind in this way opens up a different kind of relationship in which the performer enters vitally into the act of compositional creation, stepping out of the shadow cast by the composer, or Work.
Founded in 1951, the Cini Foundation is home to an extensive research archive, a full programme of conferences and courses, exhibitions and visiting scholars from across the world. Its residential Branca Centre provides an opportunity for younger researchers to mix with senior scholars across a range of humanities disciplines, principally those concerned with Venetian culture and history. http://www.cini.it