Le idee di Giuseppe Verdi sulla riforma
degli studi musicali sono valide ancora oggi?, in Musica theorica SPECTRUM,37,
Anno XIII - Gennaio 2001. Milano, Curci.
musical study reform started to be considered as a topic of discussion in Italy
immediately after the Unity. The various ministers who followed one after the
other at the Ministry of Education regularly used to summon Commissions in order
to examine the problem. Naturally, Giuseppe Verdi’s name, at that time
undisputed idol of the Italian musical art, used always to be proposed to
preside over said Commissions. Verdi always used to be sceptical with regard to
In 1862 Verdi was consulted for the Milan Conservatoire reform, but as he wrote
to Countess Clara Maffei in 1864 “the head wanted me to propose, first of all,
the abolition (for goodness’ sake, Mazzuccato and Filippi ought not to learn
it), of the schools of Aethetics and of High Musical Composition. I jumped up in
fear and wrote to the Minister refusing it”
In 1871, Minister of Education Correnti tried to convince Verdi to join a
Commission for the rearrangement of the musical studies in the Italian
Conservatoires. Verdi did not want to participate and he wrote to Ricordi in
January 1871 as follows:
“I’m convinced that it is not a Commission that may reform the
Conservatoires. If we had even
outlined excellent rules (allowing the possibility) of teaching, what would
would we have done? Nothing”
a letter to Minister Correnti, dated 1 February 1871, Verdi used to write in
Genoa: “As a proof of my saying, I wish to add that there were no teaching
rules in the ancient Conservatories of Naples, directed by Durante and by Leo.
They used to create themselves the path to follow. Those paths used to differ
each from the other, but they were both good. Not even later did any teaching
rules exist under Fenaroli, who left his "partimenti"
which are now adopted by everybody. In the same way at the Lycée in Bologna at
the time of Father Martini, in the name of whom everybody, whether Italian or
foreign, including Gluck and Mozart, bows. On the contrary, the Conservatoire of
Paris has excellent rules; yet, in spite of this, there were good results only
when one man of great value, Cherubini, directed it.”
Only thanks to his friend senator Giuseppe Piroli did Verdi accept to join said
Commission, about the result of which he was
distrustful. In a letter to Piroli, dated 20 February 1871, he would
“Thus I would expect very long and
difficult exercises on all branches of Counterpoint for a young Composer.
Studies on ancient church and secular compositions. But it is necessary to
observe that even among the ancients, not everything is good; thus, it will be
necessary to choose.
No study of the modern ones! This may sound strange to somebody, but when today
I hear and see so many works realized like a bad tailor makes suits over
a patron, I cannot change my mind. I know very well that many modern productions
could be mentioned as worth while the ancient ones; but what does it matter? –
When the young student has studied hard; when the young student has acquired a
style and has acquired self-confidence, he will be able to study these works
later on, if he thinks it is useful and he will not run the risk of being
considered an imitator. Somebody could object: “Who will teach the
instrumental part to the young student ? Who will teach him the ideal
composition ? His head and his heart will do, if he has got any”.
I Copialettere di Giuseppe Verdi, edited by Gaetano Cesari e
Alessandro Luzio, Milano 1913, preface of Michele Scherrillo, p.249.
Letter dated January 1871, in
verdiani, edited by
Alessandro Luzio, Volume IV, Roma, Reale Accademia d’Italia, Studi e
documenti, 1935-XIII, p.
Letter dated 1 February 1871, in
Copialettere di Giuseppe Verdi, see (1), p.242.
dated 20 February 1871, in I Copialettere di Giuseppe Verdi, see (1), p.250.
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