Silvia Colasanti: ‘The collaboration with Quartetto di Cremona enriches my music’

Silvia Colasanti, photo Barbara Rigon

Whether employing flowing melodies, driving rhythms or dense sound clouds, the music of Silvia Colasanti (Rome, 1975) is always lyrical. On Monday 29 January Quartetto di Cremona will perform the world premiere of Ogni cosa ad ogni cosa ha detto addio in Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ Amsterdam.

The concert forms part of the brand new String Quartet Biennale that will take place in the Dutch capital from 27 January to 3 February 2018. The ambitious programme presents a great variety of music in concerts, workshops and masterclasses, opening each morning with a string quartet by Joseph Haydn, mastermind behind the genre.

Apart from classical and modern repertoire there are new works by composers such as Jörg Widmann, José Maria Sánchez-Verdú, and Silvia Colasanti. Colasanti’s quartet was commissioned by the Biennale and will be played in the first early morning concert, along with Haydn’s quartet nr. 28. Colasanti: ‘I have often collaborated with the Quartetto Cremona, which greatly enriches my work.’

Why did you call your quartet ‘Ogni cosa ad ogni cosa ha detto addio’?

This is the title of a collection of poems by the Italian poet Valentino Zeichen. It is dedicated to the city of Rome, not only as it appears to us today, but also at the time of the Roman Empire. Zeichen speaks of themes such as nostalgia and adulthood; the book is about beauty and time that passes, about the city and its contradictions. I must add, however, that I have avoided trying to compose a musical equivalent of the poetry, my quartet is not a translation of poetic lines or thoughts.

I dedicated Ogni cosa ad ogni cosa ha detto addio to Ilaria Borletti Buitoni, secretary of state in the government of Paolo Gentiloni for the department of culture. I admire her because she is not only active in politics but also in numerous organizations in the cultural field, especially music. She is a highly sensitive woman. Our roads crossed only three years ago, but we developed a relationship of friendship and deep esteem.

Your quartet is on the programme with Haydn’s quartet nr 28. In 2010 you wrote ‘Chaos: Commento a Haydn, Hob. XXXI:2’ for chamber orchestra. Will your new string quartet also reflect on Haydn?

No. In my new work our oldest musical roots – those of Monteverdi – coexist with the most advanced achievements of the recent avant-garde. Thus distant and veiled harmonies can resonate in a new shape without losing their original power of expression. The quartet is in a single movement, with alternating contrasting sections. It is based on two different ideas: the one more rhythmic and aggressive, the other more delicate and lyrical. For this second idea I took some harmonies from Monteverdi’s madrigal Darà la notte il sol. I reworked these with modern timbric, formal and harmonic techniques so that the ancient material is still audible, but in a different guise.

You seem to have a preference for melodious music.

Indeed, it’s a shame there were years when it seemed music could no longer be lyrical. But I strongly believe the melodic aspect of music must continue to exist, though reinvented with the means and words of the present. In this respect there are many composers who I admire, but I will mention one name to represent all of them: György Ligeti. He taught us how all the traditional musical parameters can be redefined.

What do you do first when you begin working on a new piece?

I start from a basic idea that I try to crystallize into a structure, a project. This initial idea however is very fluid and absolutely not rigorous, so I always leave open the possibility to welcome new ideas that pop up while composing. I do not work at the piano, nor at the computer, but only use my head. – And paper, pencil and rubber.

Quartetto Cremona often performs your music, did you work together with them on this new piece?

I have known Quartetto di Cremona for over ten years now, practically since it was founded. We worked together for the first time at the Fondazione Spinola-Banna per l’Arte, for a wonderful project on contemporary music. That meeting sparked a close collaboration, also in the writing phase. They have a profound affinity with my music, not only with its technical aspects but also the thoughts and emotions behind it.

This deep understanding allows us to work with mutual profit, both during the composition process and in rehearsals. Their questions, their doubts are a source of reflection for me and have occasionally led me to review something. I always seek a close relationship with the interpreters, and our intense collaboration greatly enriches my work.

More info and tickets for the concert here

About theaderks

Thea Derks is a Dutch music journalist, who studied musicology at Amsterdam University. She' specialized in contemporary music and always has an eye open for women composers. In 2014 she wrote the biography of Reinbert de Leeuw and in 2018 she published 'Een os op het dak: moderne muziek na 1900 in vogelvlucht'.
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