Note(s): Riproduzione del manuscritto dell'autore. For mezzosopran, klaver, fløjte, klarinet, violin, cello. Donatoni (1927-2000) is among the most prominent Italian composers of his generation, along with his contemporaries Luciano Berio and Luigi Nono. Donatoni's most prominent early influence was Bartók, along with his countryman Petrassi. To them one might trace the roots of Donatoni's distinctively vibrant rhythmic style and concern for instrumental color. One of his larger works, L'ultima sera for mezzo-soprano and five instruments is a setting of Italian translations of fragmentary texts by the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa. The piece was commissioned by Radio France. The instrumental ensemble -- flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and piano -- recalls Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, as does the work's scope of nearly 20 minutes. There are eight text fragments, which are set without pause, though to some degree changes in instrumental texture mark differences in compositional approach. The transitionless shifts between these sections illustrates an architectural approach distinct to Donatoni: skittering high violin gives way to sharply punctuating chords for piano and pizzicato cello, followed by scalar passages in the woodwinds, for example. More extended melodies typically build from small-scale cells that develop in chains of slowly altering permutations. Rhythms spring from a strong base pulse that changes from section to section, parallel to changes in instrumental color. The vocal line of L'ultima sera can be heard as an extension of the instrumental group, particularly through long sections of melisma. Lyricism isn't an issue here, nor, it seems, is the true-to-life setting of Pessoa's words, which seem to be merely the medium for the mezzo-soprano's vocal stances ( illustrated with sotto voce and laughter). Particularly in the final movement, Donatoni draws upon vocal writing that owes something to the hyper-romantic lyricism of Italian music dramas.
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