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WORK OF THE WEEK – LUIGI NONO: IL CANTO SOSPESO

WORK OF THE WEEK – LUIGI NONO: IL CANTO SOSPESO

"Tension as total silenzio [...]" was perceived by Luigi Nono during the premiere of his secular cantata Il canto sospeso, and later penned to Paul Dessau. Alternatively, the total silence may have been speechlessness, given the nature of Nono's composition and the texts he set to music. Schott is now publishing Il canto sospeso in a new, opulently decorated facsimile edition.

 

Voices of the murdered - Luigi Nono's Il canto sospeso

The composer’s chosen texts for Il canto sospeso are poignant: in letters, ten freedom fighters aged between 14 and 40 write to their families, who will not live to see them alive again. This work juxtaposes the classical cantata form for the setting of these contemporary documents, with serial compositional methods, declaring it a "Divertimento" of different compositional ideas. In particular, the treatment of the voices, used to reproduce the letters before an audience, was revolutionary:

In his new "Canto sospeso", Nono develops a differentiated compositional technique that aims to attach a plastic effect to the sung word. The word-sound relationship is completely new in the choruses: the words are often divided into syllables that wander from one voice to another and determine the sound picture with an extraordinary rhythm and dynamic. Here, for the first time, vocal timbre is "composed" in conjunction with the 'serial' technique. Herbert Eimert

Nono noted his compositional texts in red ink, which one can explore via the newly published edition, also featuring numerous annotations by the composer in the notes. A cloth binding and 136 pages comprise the large-format edition, along with all song texts in German and English, a detailed foreword by the editor Christoph Flamm, and a translation by Margit McCorkle.

 

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photo: Excerpt of the first page of Il canto sospeso from the new edition

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