On Saturday, the 5th of June, we performed Maestro Ottavio Dantone’s philological reading of Mendelsshon’s Italiana and Schumann’s Renana on the stage of the Ravenna Festival, in front of a (finally!) live audience.
It’s not easy to convey all the emotions of that evening in these few lines, but it is still possible to relive it in music: until the 5th of July 2021, the live recording of the entire concert will be freely available on the on-demand streaming platform ravennafestival.live.
We hope that, albeit virtually, you will want to venture with us into Accademia Bizantina’s new challenge.
Ottavio Dantone conductor
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809-1847)
Symphony no. 4 in A Major Op.90 “Italian”
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Symphony no. 3 in E-flat Major Op. 97 “Rhenish”
Recorded live on June 5th, 2021 at Rocca Brancaleone, Ravenna.
When it comes to early music, one usually thinks of a repertoire ranging from the Middle Ages to the 18th century.
Between the end of the eighteenth century and the Romantic period, a revolutionary change took place in the arts, in aesthetic and philosophical terms. But it is equally certain that many gestures, many expressive, interpretative and performing aspects from the past still survived in that era.
In this respect, what drives us in our reading of the Romantic repertoire is the awareness of being able to analyse this music and bring to light details that may go unnoticed, or be misunderstood, when they are read through a performing filter that is later than the moment of artistic creation.
Romantic music offers a great deal of scope for philological research and the study of language. We like to think that today, almost two hundred years later, we can also consider authors such as Mendelssohn and Schumann assimilable to so-called “early music”.
A reading that originates from a performance practice that predates the music of these composers can show what is not written in the score, but is concealed by performance codes from the past, and continues to live on in the textures of music writing.
They usually have baroque music on the music stand. They are, as they say, ‘specialists’ in the genre: critical editions based on the original manuscripts, ancient instruments, historically informed philological performances. Tonight, however, the musicians of the Accademia Bizantina are tackling two pieces that can’t get any more Romantic than this: Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 in A major Italian and Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 3 in E flat major Rhenish. “But we play them in our own style,” says Ottavio Dantone, who since 1996 has been music director of the Accademia Byzantina, a musical formation in Ravenna with which he has been collaborating since 1989.
A chronological step forward and an important turning point: the concert scheduled for this evening at the Rocca Brancaleone will see the Accademia Bizantina, the group from Ravenna that has so far dedicated itself to the music of the 17th and 18th centuries, look out for the first time on the century of Romanticism, the 19th century, with two symphonies by Felix Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann. Compared to the performances of music from this period that we are accustomed to hearing, the difference will be palpable, because the Accademia Bizantina play on period instruments and for decades has specialised, with its director Ottavio Dantone, in historically informed performances, based on research into sources and performance practices that translates into aesthetic vision.
Photo © Zani-Casadio