Mark Mandarano, Artistic Director

Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Giuseppe Verdi. His music, which is so well known and so beloved by opera-goers, is often somewhat overlooked by instrumentalists. Even his overtures, once a staple of the concert repertory, seem to be rarely performed by symphony orchestras these days. What a shame, because it is such great music: full-blooded, sincere, honest, skillful, inventive and, in its way, provocative.

In January (just over the temporal border into 2014), the Sinfonietta will have a chance to celebrate Verdi’s legacy with an orchestral performance of his sole String Quartet in E minor. This concert will take place at Wave Hill and its purpose is to honor Toscanini, who once lived there — which is an honor in its own right, being a part of such a performance. (more info here.)

However, in preparation, looking at the notes on the page and hearing the music in my mind, my thoughts are not so much with the conductor who promoted the music as they are with the genius who conceived of it. The quartet, of course, is chamber music for instrumental forces; nevertheless, it exhibits Verdi’s flair for dramatic expression and singing melody — the opera composer’s fundamental fingerprints. On the other hand, looking deeper, there is much in this music that can be placed alongside Brahms when one ¬†examines the motivic saturation, the importance of the intervallic structural elements, the extensions of harmonic periods — and throughout, the weird phrase-lengths that always sound perfectly normal to the ear, no matter whether they consist of 4 bars or 5, or 7, or 9 and a half. A mystery. Created by mastery. A mastery that emerges from a profound mystery.

In short, music both to please the casual concert-goer and to intrigue the serious performer or scholar.

Happy Birthday, Maestro Verdi! Thank you.

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