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.

The 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 this.

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”

In 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 write:

“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”.

[1] I Copialettere di Giuseppe Verdi, edited by Gaetano Cesari e Alessandro Luzio, Milano 1913, preface of Michele Scherrillo, p.249.
    [2] Letter dated January 1871, in Carteggi verdiani, edited by Alessandro Luzio, Volume IV, Roma, Reale Accademia d’Italia, Studi e documenti, 1935-XIII,  p. 242
    [3] Letter dated 1 February 1871, in  I Copialettere di Giuseppe Verdi, see (1), p.242.
    [4]Letter dated 20 February 1871, in I Copialettere di Giuseppe Verdi, see (1), p.250.

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