Italian harmony during the Second World War: analysis of Bruno Maderna’s First String Quartet
During the last two decades many scholars have focused on Maderna’s works, sketches and letters of the 1940s. Nevertheless, his First String Quartet (ca. 1943- 1945) has been left aside by this “Maderna Renaissance”. In this article I focus thus on this work in order to show why it constitutes an extraordinary viewpoint on Ma- derna’s pre-serial harmonic conceptions and on some forgotten sources of his poetics – such as Bartok and Hindemith. A specific “harmonic atmosphere”, i.e. octatonicism, informs the entire Quartet. Firstly, the symmetrical and acoustic qualities of the octatonic scale are the basis for recovering the dialectical principle of sonata form and for arranging the structures of the work (i.e. a palindrome) according to symmetrical criteria. Secondly, the octatonic collection is a way to problematise the historical dimension of the musical material – tonality and modality coexist with quartal harmony – and to avoid a perfect symmetrical construction. Because of its crucial relation to Bartok, I conclude that Maderna’s “War” Quartet ushers in an Italian Bartokian Wave during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Moreover, I postulate a continuity between this early work and Maderna’s serial works – a continuity based on the quest for a generative and homogeneous principle in musical compo- sition as well as on a need for deconstructing preformed schemas and fixed points of reference.