A common element in all Accordone's performances is a narrative path along which the expressive force of sound and music can develop.
The beating heart of each project is a re-invention game where, thanks to the constant presence of a theme or dramatic core, the concert, no longer a dusty window-case for music pieces, turns into Sound Theatre. Accordone's musical journey overcomes the academic limits of interpretation.
(by Guido Morini - Translation: Mary Pardoe)
When I first met Marco Beasley in 1984 I immediately felt that we had so much in common (sensibility, character...) that working together would be a fruitful experience. We both had several years’ experience in the world of early Italian music and both of us were fired with passion for music of the pre-Bach period, period instruments and the new musicological approach to questions of interpretation. In 1989 we got together to form Accordone and prepare for our first concerts, focusing on our interest in early seventeenth-century Italian vocal music.
A BRIEF LOOK AT THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT
By the end of the sixteenth century change was in the air in the Italian music world. Throughout the century music had been mainly synonymous with polyphony. Although the latter was ideal for expressing the solemnity and immutability of man’s relationship to God, it was not very effective when it came to conveying the intrinsic drama of human relationships. It became clear that a new musical style was needed that would be capable of stirring the emotions, moving the listener (“muovere gli affetti”), while at the same time achieving intelligibility (which had obviously suffered through the complexities of polyphony) in the poetic text. Greek drama, in which poetry and music were ideally balanced, was put forward as the model. The writing was simplified, there was a formal move towards accompanied monody, i.e. compositions for solo voice and bass (“voce sola con il basso”); music was now required to be the “servant of oration” (“serva dell’orazione”), i.e. to serve the text, and lying at the basis of melodic invention was the desire to magnify the emotion resulting from the literary text without compromising its intelligibility. This new style came to be known as “recitar cantando”.
Today musical scores are capable of indicating with remarkable precision all the parameters that are necessary for performance. If we go back in time, however, we realise that this has not always been so. The seventeenth-century musical score is schematic, it provides a basis for performance rather than a rigid template: the orchestration is not defined, often the musician does not know clearly what to play (except that there are certain limits not to be overstepped), and the score is in other ways sparing of indications for performance. An interpreter who approaches Monteverdi today has necessarily much greater freedom of action than he has, say, in a work dating from the late eighteenth century, in which everything we hear has been carefully written down, with numerous indications of agogics and dynamics to help the musician to get closer to the author’s intentions, and where there exists a performance tradition that has not changed since the work was first played. Monteverdi’s music is no exception to the concision that characterises seventeenth-century scores; often the instruments required no longer exist, and there is obviously no continuity in performance practice, since the music was consigned to oblivion for three hundred years. It was not until the beginning of the twentieth century that there were signs of renewed musicological and organological interest in the unexplored continent that is our past; scores were revived, musical instruments were reconstructed after the originals that had survived in museums; gradually, from the available data, a tradition was built up ex novo. It was not until the 1970s that these revived works began to reach the ears of Italian audiences.
Before we began to give concerts, we spent five years carrying out research and studying the relevant documentation with the aim of finding,, above all, an effective way of proposing this music to today’s audiences. One of our main concerns was to shape an “ideal” voice for this repertoire: we still found it rather unconvincing to use for music dating from three centuries earlier a vocal style that was intended for the great eighteenth- and nineteenth-century operatic repertoire. Giulio Caccini, in his preface to Le Nuove Musiche of 1601, recommends the vocalist “to sing with a full and natural voice”, while Emilio de’ Cavalieri, in the preface to La Rappresentatione di Anima et di Corpo of 1600, asks for the singer “to have a fine voice, sing in tune, show assurance in his speech, sing with feeling, piano and forte, without unnecessarily florid passages and, above all, pronounce the words well”. And he goes on to make recommendations about the size of the room in which the music is to be performed, which must be in proportion to the musical performance; if the latter “is presented in a very large hall, it will not be possible to convey the meaning of the words to everyone in the audience; consequently the singer will have to strain his voice, which will diminish the emotion that is put across”.Marco Beasley has carried out research that is possibly unique in Europe. In the most diverse acoustic and ambient situations and with the accompaniment of various instrumental formations, he experimented to find a technique of vocalisation that would enable absolute intelligibility of the text and at the same time total compatibility between the vocal timbre and the characteristic sound quality of early instruments. The result is a voice that is different from others; the beauty of its timbre is immediately recognisable; it is never forced; stylistically it is perfectly in keeping with the instruments that accompany it.
Later on we applied ourselves to making a thorough study of the theatrical aspect, which we believe to be of fundamental importance if a performance of early seventeenth-century Italian music is to be convincing. Again Emilio de’ Cavalieri advises the singer “to pronounce the words well, so that they may be understood, and to accompany them with gestures and movements not only of the hands, but also of the feet which are very effective aids for moving the affections (i.e. emotions)”. But how can a singer follow those recommendations if he is standing still behind a music stand, as is generally the case in concert? We therefore worked out a simple rule for each programme: the music stand was abolished and the singer became a “character” as in a theatre performance: using recitar cantando, he gives greater relief and credibility to the emotions contained in the poetic text. We often base our programmes on a theme or story, thus giving each musical composition a specific dramatic intent. Whenever necessary, we do not hesitate to make radical choices in order to make the performance more effective: cuts, additions and reworkings are expedients we have used on more than one occasion.
The basso continuo, or figured bass, is a synthetic form of writing that was originally closely associated with the growth of the new recitative style (stile recitativo): the bass line indicates the harmonic structure of the accompaniment but the instruments to be used are very rarely specified, nor does the musician know whether he is expected to play alone or with another instrument. The process is similar to that used in light music or jazz: the melody is fully written-out while the harmonic structure of the accompaniment is outlined by means of figures. Agostino Agazzari’s treatise of 1607, Del sonare sopra ’l basso con tutti li stromenti e dell’uso loro nel conserto, provides a great deal of interesting information on the subject of through-composing. The author distinguishes between “foundation” instruments (“strumenti di fondamento”) and “ornamental” instruments (“strumenti di ornamento”). Included in the first group, providing the basic harmonies and “which guide and support the whole body of the voices and instruments of the consort”, are the harpsichord, organ, lute, theorbo and harp. The second group, “which, in playful and contrapuntal fashion, make the harmony more agreeable and sonorous”, comprises lute, theorbo and harp again, bass lira, cittern, spinet, guitar, violin, pandora and the like. It could be said that Agozzari’s work is one of the first treatises on orchestration, where orchestration means not only the distribution of the music to the various instruments but also the composition of parts for the latter: “Those instruments which serve as ornaments are combined with voices in various ways, for no other purpose, I believe, than to ornament and beautify, and indeed to season the consort (...); these must make the melody flourishing and graceful, each according to its quality, with a variety of beautiful counterpoints.” Agazzari goes on to say that the players of “ornamental” instruments must have knowledge of counterpoint so that they can “compose new parts upon the bass, and new and varied passages and counterpoints... which lend grace to the ensemble and give enjoyment and delight to the listener”. This short treatise encourages us as musicians to avoid reducing the basso continuo to the crystallised vision of the late eighteenth century (a few chords on the notes of the bass) that is today proposed in our conservatories, and to take up the challenge of recreating, wherever appropriate, an instrumental accompaniment made to measure for each piece, turning the limitations imposed by circumstances (availability of instruments, place of performance) into as many incentives for creation. To refuse that challenge, i.e. to keep within the narrow confines of what is actually written down (and, as we have already mentioned, the written page is always very limited in the information it supplies) is to lose sight of the spirit of the time. Inevitably we also went a step further, adding to our interpretations of early works the composition of new pieces, written by myself to texts by Marco Beasley. Thus, in keeping with early tradition, Accordone also creates its own new repertoire for concert performance.
Lo Tasso Napolitano (1991) was the first project with a clearly theatrical stamp: henceforth, Accordone adopted as one of its stylistic features the concert as a musical and dramatic event. At a time when monothematic programmes were regarded more or less as the rule, we experimented, in Vox clamans in solitudine (1995), with the juxtaposition of texts and music taken from different times, places and traditions. Two years later Il salotto napoletano came into being an intimate incursion into the world of nineteenth-century Neapolitan song. In 1998, thanks to the interest of the Austrian Broadcasting Company, ORF, Accordone began to record, always strictly live. In 1999 came Il sogno d’Orfeo, a chamber opera in the true sense of the term, coloured by the participation of two jazz musicians. It was followed in 2001 by Via Toledo, a concert devoted to the traditional music of southern Italy. The same year, commissioned by the Nederland Blazers Ensemble, Una Odissea, with music by Guido Morini and texts by Marco Beasley, was Accordone’s first completely original opera. A new version for string orchestra followed in 2003. Also in 2003, Alpha brought out our first studio recording, La Bella Noeva. 2004 saw the creation of Servabo, a religious project in Latin based on an idea by Marco Beasley and with music by Guido Morini, and Le Frottole, a programme devoted entirely to the great musical tradition of the Italian Renaissance.
Endowed with extraordinary vocal gifts and an inborn communicative talent, Marco Beasley was born in 1957, the son of an English father and a Neapolitan mother; he grew up and developed in Naples, the most musical Italian town. Owing to his passion for singing, he moved to Bologna, where he attended the courses in performing arts at the University, dealing especially with the vocal music from the Renaissance and the Baroque. The rediscovery of the very rich popular tradition from Southern Italy, which dates back to those very years (the beginning of the 80’s), aroused great enthusiasm in him and contributed to the development of his very special artistic personality. At the same time he carried on his studies on the musical literature from the fifteenth and the sixteenth centuries and particularly on two stylistic pillars of that period: “recitar cantando” and sacred and lay polyphony. In this context, his English heritage has further enriched his vocal talent, already full of character and passion, granting him an incredible self-control, a deep sensitivity to sound and a wide range of highly refined timbres, which allows him to exploit a broad palette of colours in every register. The meeting with Cathy Berberian - of vital importance to him - also dates back to the same years. Unforgettable protagonist of contemporary culture, she was his teacher for - unfortunately - too short a period. Berberian’s premature death acted like a catalyst: Marco Beasley found himself with a store of eclectic musical experiences which have moulded his unique - though difficult to define - artistic personality. It is difficult to say what prevails in his performances: the magic of his extremely beautiful voice, his ability to communicate or his extraordinary powerful presence on the scene. Together with Stefano Rocco and Guido Morini, he has founded Accordone, the group within which he has fully developed his artistic personality and which has become the core of his activity as well as the natural framework where to develop new ideas. Since 2001 Marco Beasley has signed all texts of Accordone’s new works.
“I got off the train on a grey October day. I kept asking passers-by information and they kindly told me the direction with that strange accent where all sentences opened up giving the listener a sense of calmness and warm communicativeness. I was not far away, almost went by but then I suddenly saw there on the wall:
Università di Bologna.
Istituto di Discipline delle Arti, della Musica e dello Spettacolo.
I stayed there, contemplating the brass plate without knowing what to do: should I really go over that threshold, enrol for the course in musical disciplines and start the second part of my life there, in that town, together with 60.000 other students chasing dreams and teachers? In that foggy morning Naples was really far away: its colours, its sounds, the sea, I missed them so much that I really felt I wouldn’t stand it. I wondered whether it was simply the fear to face the unknown. My home, my far-away home.
I met Stefano, and the sound of the lute in the peaceful countryside of Bologna. And then Guido, the first songs together and the summer courses; his wise silence, his scant phrases, always precise, to the point, his warm and conscious way of playing, his constantly being present and suggesting emotions. We used to spend the night in the osterie with Mario, Paola, Giovanna, Luciano. And then Gianmario, David and his choir, Massimo and Satie’s music, love...
Now, Genoa. The blooming terraces, the midday bells, the sirens of the ships majestically entering the port, escorted by sea gulls looking for food. Other smells, other tastes, other emotions.
My home, my dear home, now so close to me. I go back to Naples now and then and I realise we have never parted, that it is still a part of myself. Fires still flare on the beach, voices still sing in my dialect, everything is new and unalterable, vital, constantly moving, animated by the same passion, in front of the same sea. But without suffering any longer.”
“An accommodating character, good preparation and a certain amount of fortune have all helped me find a place in the concert world. After a period of hard work rising through the ranks I began to work with several famous ensembles, those that were important for the curriculum and career, without, however, managing to find a way that satisfied me completely.
I feel a growing sense of unease and reach the point of changing jobs, but as often happens when one reaches rock bottom, a way out suddenly appears: I discover the theatre and throw myself into it with all the enthusiasm and ingenuousness of the beginner. I want to become an actor and I join a school of small dimensions but of huge traditions and I live several years with an overwhelming intensity.
Musical inspiration starts flowing again and leads to the formation of ACCORDONE with my friends Marco Beasley and Stefano Rocco, a group full of energy and ideas, in which we push ourselves past the limits imposed by academic interpretation.”
Born in Milan in 1959, Guido Morini graduates in organ and harpsichord, specializing in early music and studying in depth the practices of bass continuo and improvisation.
An intense concert activity has led to collaboration with some of the most important musicians in Europe; he has made over fifty recordings, many of which have received awards and the highest acclaim from the international press and critics.
For the Austrian Radio ORF, Accordone makes exclusively ‘live’ recordings. Together with Marina Spreafico of the Teatro Arsenale di Milano, he has founded a workshop on the relationship between sound, space, gesture and instrument. He also composes music for productions of the same theatre.
Just as a ‘Maestro di Cappella’ from the past was not only occupied in the performance of music already in existence, but also dedicated to music ‘made to measure’ for his own ensemble, Guido Morini began making arrangements and revisions in the style of the period before moving on to free composition, thinking up concerts, performances, oratorios and liturgical music. ‘Odissea’ and ‘Servabo’, composed respectively in 2001 and 2002 in collaboration with Marco Beasley, are two projects based entirely on original scores that preserve, nonetheless, a language firmly rooted in the renaissance and baroque period.
VOX CLAMANS IN SOLITUDINE
music by: Monteverdi, Sances, Peri.
Four musicians for a programme in three parts where sacred, profane and traditional music find their place side by side, connected by the common theme of love. The lover, initially impatient, furious, suffering, changes array to contemplate the mystery of Death through the eyes of the Virgin Mary shedding tears at the foot of the Cross. But the concert is closed by a simple fisherman who sings the woman he loves and mourns the early death of a friend grasped by the billows and never come back.
IL SALOTTO NAPOLETANO
music by E.A. Mario, Falvo, De Curtis.
Oh, canzune massicce, cunciette a ddoje sole!
One evening, at the light of a small lamp, a man tells everything about himself and his life, confessing the emigrant's daily suffering together with the joys of love. Alternating despair and hope, happiness and regret on the notes of the most beautiful and famous Neapolitan songs, he draws the deeply humane portrait of a forgotten (or disregarded) world.
IL SOGNO D'ORFEO
music by Purcell, Strozzi, Monteverdi, Calestani.
On the foggy and arid fields of Thrace, painfully looking for the cold source, sacred to Mnemosyne, Orpheus intones his last song beyond the extreme border of silent Chaos, where our secret dreams sleep.
Cross this threshold with us.
music by Fauré, Händel, Dufay,
Refined musical cuisine in a heterogeneous programme, which is at the same time moving and flashy.
Born as a divertissement bringing together very different authors, "Surprise" is one hour's entertainment with the two musicians who try to find a daring balance between apparently incompatible styles ... with plenty of humour.
LA BELLA NOEVA
music by Grandi, Stefani, Monteverdi.
Created to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the group's first official concert, La Bella Noeva is, so to say, Accordone's musical manifesto, a programme which shows all musical and interpretative peculiarities developed over ten years. From Gregorian chant to Monteverdi, from the ancient tarantellas from Salento (actual forms of magic therapy) up to the music specially composed by Guido Morini, Marco Beasley's charismatic voice captures the public and leads them to rediscover a repertory all too often regarded as enjoyable only by specialists and musicologists.
music by Guido Morini; texts by Marco Beasley
"Tell me your name!"
"Nobody is the name my father, my mother, my friends give to me."
Aged and on the threshold of death, Ulysses gives in to reminiscences from his wanderings: storms, spells, loves and revenges in a constant alternation of sailing, landing and shipwrecks. The king from Ithaca sits by the sea with tearful eyes and, breathing deeply, pays his last homage to Athena.
"Una Odissea" was commissioned by the Nederlands Blazers Ensemble
music by Marco Cara, Bartolomeo Tromboncino and others
Servabo is an original work which follows the tradition of the Passion plays dealing with Christ’s passion and death. Marco Beasley’s texts and Guido Morini’s music are inspired by Gregorian chant as well as by the most ancient forms of Mediterranean polyphony. The sound structures and the ritual movements which naturally match them arouse a subtle dramatic feeling leading to the contemplation of the gloomiest and most desperate episode of new-born Christianity.
Music on the roads of the Two Sicilies.
The message - handed down orally from father to son - of a world now slowly but inevitably declining under the assaults of modernity.
For once Accordone leaves aside the music of the churches and the palaces, to let you hear the most genuine and secret popular tradition from Southern Italy: song and sound become magic and medicin.
“Recitar cantando” stands out overbearingly in the Italian musical world at the end of the 16th century; the birth of this new melodic style is spurred by the desire to recreate the magical symbiosis between text and music which characterised Greek lyric poetry. Its specific, self-imposed aim is arousing the listeners’ passions while searching the intrinsic dramatic character of human relations, rather than the immutable bond between man and God.
Faithful to ancient musical practice, Guido Morini presents a completely improvised concert, which changes every time. Toccatas, follias, passacaglias, chaconnes and ricercari: a programme inspired by the atmosphere of the moment and open to unpredictable developments.
Guido Morini organ, harpsichord
A MUSICALL BANQUET
In the Europe that is moving from renaissance to baroque:
From Dufay’s Flemish counterpoint to Sances’ Roman Cantata enjoying Cara’s frottole, Dowland’s songs and the unrestrained tarantella from Southern Italy.
A varied and rich programme where an extremely delicate refinement coexists with an irresistible and swaying joy of living. Gracefully and ironically.
Marco Beasley, voice - Stefano Rocco, lute
DOWLAND IN ITALIA
Roma, 13 Luglio 1595
Molto Magnifico Signor John Dowland,
ho inteso con quale cordiale affetto vi mostriate desideroso di conoscermi.
Vi ringrazio di cuore e mi metto a vostra disposizione poiché i meriti,
le qualità e le virtù vostre sono universalmente riconosciute.
Vi bacio le mani.
Vostro affezionatissimo servitore,
Marco Beasley, voice - Rolf Lisveland, lute
LA FESTA DI ACCORDONE -2004
LA BELLA NOEVA -2003
IL SALOTTO NAPOLETANO -2003
UNA ODISSEA -2002
L'AMORE OSTINATO + GUIDO MORINI SOLO -2000
IL SOGNO D'ORFEO -2000
ANIMA DI MARE -1998
VOX CLAMANS IN SOLITUDINE -1998
with the Nederlands Blazers Ensemble
SI DOLCE 1-2000
MARCO BEASLEY eMail
GUIDO MORINI eMail