Christopher Evatt Dives Into the History of “The 24”
On Tuesday evening, March 20, Angela Calabrese performed a series of pieces in “Re-Examining the 24 Italian Art Songs.” A longtime staple for teaching vocal technique, every high school student taking voice lessons has learned at least one of the selections from this collection. Attendees who missed the lecture that made up the first half of this master class might have been confused to hear several of the pieces performed twice. While the differences between performances might have been a little nuanced for the average listener, they held a fascinating history. These pieces have been realized and interpreted in a variety of ways over the course of music history, a sort of precursor to the modern style of remixing.
Lecturer and accompanist Christopher Evatt gradually became interested in the canonization of the specific arrangements we pull from today over the course of his work as a teacher & pianist. The contrasts between versions intrigued him to the point of diving deeper. The origin of these pieces are mostly scattered throughout the Baroque Era, a time when music was highly technical and, compared to later eras, less stylized. During the Romantic Era, a composer named Alessandro Parisotti reinterpreted these works. Evatt demonstrated some of the changes made to the accompaniment, including the reworking of some melodies and chords and the addition of dotted rhythms. He described the romantic attitude as “cavalier” towards earlier styles. Parisotti even went so far as to suggest that his realizations were the original, adding a layer of confusion to the history.
By the 20th Century, two new interpretations were constructed in response. John Paton made a career out of restoring these pieces to their original state, while Pietro Floridia sought to reinterpret these pieces even further, dramatizing them into something altogether new. In a somewhat classier move than Parisotti, Floridia credited both himself and the original composer, displaying honesty about its origins.
Evatt’s enthusiasm for the subject was well received. His findings revealed interesting points regarding not only the music, but the history of the people behind it. He also brought attention to its importance in the context of modern music. It’s very common to find movie or video game scoring transcribed by orchestras today to draw in the public. This practice of realization and interpretation has impacted the next generation of music appreciation. As an individual who’s probably had to play these pieces enough for one lifetime, Evatt’s commitment to making these songs interesting again is much appreciated.
The Music Department Alumni Series holds two more master classes this week: “Voice Masterclass” with Jessica Best on Tuesday, March 27th at 6:30pm and “How to make it in today’s operatic world” with Jessica Best on Thursday, March 29th at 6:30pm.