[AN OVERALL SOUND PROCESS] «Nature and Mystery.» The influence of Bartók’s Night Music in Italy

Nicolò Palazzetti


A real Bartókian Wave emerged in post-war Italian culture. Nevertheless, the legacy of the Hungarian composer was soon forgotten in Italy and has only begun to be rediscovered by scholarly research in recent years. Is this oblivion the result of a long-lasting interpretation of the twentieth century as dominated by a cohesive “modernist” paradigm? And is the dominance of this paradigm in Western music historiography reinforced by music analysis practices whereby pitch and duration are conceived as the “structural” parameters? Whatever the reason, the investigation of Bartók’s reception in Italy should not be separated from a full evaluation of the so-called “non-structural” parameters – namely timbre. Thus, to overcome the amnesia concerning this reception means, at the same time, to reconsider the preconceived hierarchies informing our analytical approaches.

In order to support these ideas, this article focuses on Bartók’s Night music and its reception in Italy. This musical style presents an excellent analytical challenge since it places the alleged “secondary” parameters at the core of the musical structure – e.g. articulation markings, textures, instrumental techniques and non-syntactic pitch relations. Moreover, the Night music has a strong influence on Italian composers from the early decades of the twentieth century onwards (Alfredo Casella, Luigi Dallapiccola, Guido Turchi, Bruno Maderna, Stefano Gervasoni). As a result, the study of Night music reception allows us to broaden our awareness of Bartók’s influence in Italy, redefining our preconceptions of Italian modernism in a more contextualised, pluralistic, way.

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