Author Archive

About Leos Janàcek

by Virginio Sala

Leos Janacek (1854-1928) holds a special place in the landscape of the composers born around the middle of the 19th century, and whose activity went on up to the first decades of the 20th century. He is the third great Czech musician, after Smetana and Dvorak, and left a valuable inheritance: he was the first who researched, with a scientific mindset, the Moravia’s folksongs and folk music tradition. And out of that tradition he largely drew inspiration for his own works, giving it a new life, but with a deep originality.

Janacek paid a particular attention not only to the music, but also to the language of his country, an important aspect of the nationality issue in that time: the teaching of the Czech language was prohibited in 1777 by the Empress Maria Teresa, and only after 1848 the use of the national language was tolerated by the Austrian Habsburgs. Janacek found the best field for expressing his voice in the vocal music and in the opera – Jenufa (1904), one of his nine works for the musical theatre, is the masterwork of the Czech opera.

As Jaroslav Krejci wrote:

Janacek’s work was largely inspired by folk music and topics from Czech history or the history of other Slavic nations. The folkloristic inspiration came primarily from his native Moravia, or rather its eastern part, where the folksongs displayed a more lyrical, emotional and variegated formation. It took some time before Janacek’s style found its way to the hearts of the sophisticated, rather traditionally-minded milieu of the Czech capital, Prague (in Bohemia). But once this happened, the gate was open to the musical world at large. Significantly this was at the time of World War I, as a result of which the Czechs emancipated themselves from Austrian domination and entered the world arena on an equal footing with other nations.

Janacek wrote some instrumental music at the beginning of his career (Lachian Dances), but then devoted himself completely to vocal music and opera. He came back to the pure instrumental music only at the end of the century: the set of piano pieces collected in 1901 under the title On the overgrown path is a reflection of an unlucky phase of the musician’s life. In those years, his daughter Olga died, only twenty-one years old, his relationship with his wife was strained, and the National Theatre of Prague refused his Jenufa, after the premiere in Brno. So those pieces show a misterious and very intimate nature; their surface simplicity veils an outstanding compositional depth, and they are rather difficult for the interpreter, who has to master a subject matter,at first sight very magmatic. In 1911, requested by his publisher, Janacek added a second set of pieces to the “Path” collection,

In the Mist is a four-pieces suite, composed by Janacek in 1912: a set of fascinating pieces, soft and at the same time very deep, built out of sheer competence, with a contnuously varied repetition technique.

It will be possible to appreciate this piano cycle in Emanuele Torquati‘s concert, on air on Limenmusic Web Tv @ – Channel 1.


Frankfurt Book Fair, Day 1

by Virginio Sala

The first interesting news come from Italy: Rizzoli is publishing the autobiography of Riccardo Muti, the celebrated conductor; in Italian, of course, but I’m sure there will be translations in many languages. From the same publishing group, there is the new Umbeto Eco’s novel, but that is a little far from our main interests.

Phaidon Press, mostly known for its art and achitecture books, has just published a couple of interresting books in the area “Music and Peforming Arts”. One is Bojan Bujic’s Arnold Schoenberg (240 pages, 8 black and white illustrations), presented as “a sympathetic biography and critical assessment of Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951), a pivotal and revolutionary figure whose pioneering musical innovations are among the major landmarks of twentieth-century musical history … Traces how Schoenberg’s often controversial works were created, performed and how their influence has endured into the twenty-first century. A variety of illustrations and rarely seen extracts from contemporary documents complete a well-rounded picture of Schoenberg’s eventful life”. The autor, Bojan Bujic, studied English literature and musicology in his native city of Sarajevo, before completing his doctorate in fourteenth-century music at Oxford, where now is Fellow of Magdalen College.

With a real jump to another part of the musical universe, the second book published by Phaidon is The Beatles by Allan Kozinn (who has wrtten musical criticism for the New York Times since 1977).

On a different level, also by Phaidon, The Music of Painting by Peter Vergo: subtitled “Music, Modernism and the Visual Arts from the Romantics to John Cage”. The publisher’s presentation says that the book “explores how artists attempted to translate musical rhythms and structures into painting, and how musicans developed visual themes in their compositions. Analyses individual pieces of music and works of art, from Paul Signac’s musical seascapes and Modeste Musorgsky’s popular piano pieces to Wassily Kandinsky’s abstract paintings and John Cage’s silent works”. 320 pages, with 15 color and 150 b/w illustrations.

Gingko Press reminds us that 2011 will be the Mashall McLuhan Centennial. The Berkeley, CA company republished many of McLuhan’s works, edited and with new introductory essays; others will be reissued next year. Understanding Media was already published in a new, critical edition. The anniversary will give us a chance to reassess the thought of McLuhan.

Gingko Press has also a new book for the rock music student: Jim DeRogatis’s The Velvet Undeground. An illustrated History of a Walk on the Wild Side, 192 pages, with 100 color illustrations.

Laurence King publishes mostly fashion and design books, of course big and heavily illuustrated books. At least a couple deserve a mention: the second editions of History of Modern Design by David Raizman and of How to Write Art History by Anne D’Alleva (one of the few non-illustrated books). But Graphic Design for Fashion by Jay Hess and Simone Pasztorek is such a beautiful book that I cannot resist mentioning it here.

And then a book that was published in 2009, but I saw for the first time today: Erik Satie by Jean-Pierre Armengaud, published by Fayard (in French), almost 800 pages that deserve a further scrutiny.

That is, of course, a very personal choice of titles. Tomorrow I’ll explore the German Hall. For the digital books issue, well, I’ll ty to summarize my impression the last day, or maybe after my comeback to Italy.


From Frankfurt

by Virginio Sala

Here I am, in an hotel room in Roedermark, a few train stops from Frankfurt, Germany.
I arrived a few hours ago, via a Lufthansa flight from Milano. Tomorrow the International Book Fair will open. It is a traditional gathering of the people in the publishing industry, the place where you can gauge what’s happening in the field. Or, at least, so it was. Of course, most of the news travel faster today and you can have a good knowledge of who is publishing what well in advance. So you come mostly for meeting people “in person”, the whole thing is for relationships and the feeling – trying to understand what didn’t happen yet but could happen in the near future.
Anyway, I attended the Frankfurt Fair in 1980 for the first time, and then I came every year. So if I’m not miscalculating, this should be my 31-st time at the Buchmesse. A long, uninterrupted strip I wouldn’t like to disrupt for some more time.
Publishing is the field where Limenmusic is also playing, in its own way, and we need to understand what’s moving on. Or at least I have to understand it. Although I already did some work in the field in the years, it always was in Italian and for an Italian audience or, better, an Italian readership; now we are adding an international dimension, and that is a demanding endeavour. At the Frankfurt Book Fair you can meet publishers (and other people in the works) from every corner in the world, and here you can have, in a relatively short time, a very wide view of the global production. In between, I’ll try to find out the new publications, and will report about that in these pages.
And then there is the issue of digital publishing, and of the attitudes towards what seems to be an unavoidable transition. Something I’m particularly interested in.


Guido Salvetti on Schumann’s Lieder

Guido Salvetti recently edited a book for Edizioni ETS (Pisa), whose title is
I canti dell’ultimo Schumann [The last Schumann’s Songs], with contributions of authors as Quirino Principe and Erik Battaglia.

Thanks to the publisher, here you can find the (Italian) text of one of the chapters of the book, written by Salvetti, and titled «L’ultima fase di un arduo percorso (1849-1853)» [The last step of a steep path]. The text is particularly interesting because it sheds a light on the time when Schumann composed the Lieder (Op. 39), whose performance, by Salvetti and Stelia Doz is on schedule in these days, on our web tv.

The text of the chapter, in pdf format, is here.


Skrjabin’s Nocturne Op. 9

Alexsandr Nikolaevič Skrjabin (1872-1915) at the beginning of the Nineties was successfully building a career as a virtuoso piano player, although he already proved his talent as a composer (he wrote his first work at thirteen).

Unfortunately, in 1893 an illness made him unable to use the right hand – a condition very hard to endure. Only in 1895 he had the possibility to resume his career, but in the meantime he at least partly overcame the gloomy moods of that period writing two really challenging compositions for the left hand only: a Prélude and a Nocturne, that together form his Opus 9. A real tour de force for the daring pianist, the Nocturne in particular isn’t simply a showing of technical prowess, it’s also a turning point in his exploration of the music’s world. As Piero Rattalino wrote in his Storia del pianoforte [History of the piano], «It is possible to see the shift from conceptions of the sound that are still Chopinian-Henseltian, to Skrjabinian conceptions in the Nocturne op. 9 #2 for the left hand; the starting point, that is almost plagiarized, is the second movement of Haneselt’s Concerto, but the very quick movements of the hand, needed for jumping awesome distances across the keyboard, cause a different attack of the key and a sound tone that isn’t romantic anymore». His sound constructions are not movements of lines or masses, but «movements of light beams inside a nebula».

It will be possible to appreciate these first steps of Skrjabin towards his mature style in Aki Kuroda’s concert (tomorrow on Limenmusic Web Tv @ – Channel 1). Aki’s mastery of this

For a trailer of the concert, Click here

Equally remarkable is the taste Aki Kuroda shows in choosing the programs of her performances, often giving to her audience vibrant renditions of not-so-well-known works, and enlivening this way our appreciation of the musical universe. In this case, the theme is «the left hand»: the Skrjabin’s Nocturne is paired with one of the Piano Studies of Brahms, based on Bach’s Ciaccona from a Partita for Violin – not a lesser technical challenge.

As a conclusion, the complete Italian passage of the above quotation from Rattalino’s book:

Si può cogliere il passaggio da concezioni del suono ancora chopiniano, henseltiane a concezioni scriabiniane nel Nottuno op. 9 n. 2 (1894) per la sola mano sinistra; il punto di partenza, che quasi viene plagiato, è il secondo tempo del Concerto di Henselt, ma i rapidissimi spostamenti della mano, necessari a coprire enormi distanze sulla tastiera, provocano un attacco del tasto diverso e una sonorità non più romantica.

[…] Nella formazione del suo stile pianistico si possono così individuare influenze dirette o indirette di Chopin come di Liszt, di Schumann, di Henselt, ma il suo stile, in quanto ha di suo proprio e di irrpetibile, sic hiarisce nello sviluppo dei movimenti di parti interne fino a che le sue costruzioni sonore non si articolano come movimenti di linee e di masse, ma come riflessi, come movimenti di fasci di luce all’interno di una nebulosa.

(From Piero Rattalino, Storia del pianoforte, Milano, Il Saggiatore, 1988, pp. 278-279)


The left hand of Aki Kuroda

The second update of October 1st on Limenmusic Web Tv will be a concert of the popular Japanese pianist Aki Kuroda.

She will perform a concert for the left hand, with music of Bach-Brahms and Skrjabin.

In detail:

A.N. SKRJABIN, Nocturne for the left hand

BACH – BRAHMS, Chaconne Linke Hand allein

A special performance, not to be missed!


Here we are…

This is our first «official» post. Today the blog goes public.

Limen main asset is the web tv (, based on «live» audio/video recordings made in our studio. Our headquarters are in Milan (Italy).

The web tv is focused on classical and jazz music, and the performing musicians are among the finest in the world – we’ll introduce them along the way.

The goal of this blog is to document the musical life around the web tv, opening a conversation which the staff, the musicians and (hopefully) all the people interested in music all around the world will take part to.

We’ll talk about our programs, the changing world of musical performance, the activities of the musicians, but there will be space for in-depth information and analysis of the performed works; for  texts, audio and video documents about every aspect of this world, as well as for the relationships between music and the arts, music and philosophy, music and literature… And probably something else, we don’t even imagine yet.

Comments, remarks and suggestions are welcome.