‘Orchestra Filarmonica’ in Italy may mean one of two things. The standard international Philharmonic orchestra may at first spring to mind but to many Italian ‘la Filarmonica’ means primarily their own town band which is largely based on wind instruments, some brass and percussion. The nearest instrumental equivalent in the UK would be the military band – certainly not the traditional colliers’ brass band.
A short time ago BBC radio broadcast a selection of some of the best filarmoniche of Italy and, indeed, these orchestras have a unique sound and a long history. Such great Italian composers as Verdi began their career conducting and arranging music for their local Filarmonica. There are clear traces of ‘Filarmonica writing, especially in his earlier operas with their march-like rhythms and oompah-accompaniments. Puccini even wrote a march for this instrumental combination: ‘Scossa Elettrica’.
Here is Puccini’s brilliant piece, dedicated to the telegraph operators of Volta near Como and played here by the Banda di Bracigliano d’Amato from Campania
Sadly, in many cases the Filarmonica has died out in several towns. For example, all we have left of our local Benabbio Filarmonica are their instruments. Its members just became older and older and without new blood to invigorate them they expired and became memories. Fortunately, in the hands of a good direttore (conductor) many filarmoniche have carried on this great tradition of Italian music making which invigorates special civic occasions, religious solemnities and summer events.
In our own area we have the meritable Filarmonica di Corsagna, for example, which dutifully presents itself at most of the religious feste in our Val di Lima. Presumably, our valley had once its own Filarmonica but alas it’s no more.
On Thursday evening we joined friends for an evening concert by the piazza Del comune of the Coreglia Antelminelli Filarmonica titled the ‘A Catalani’ Filarmonica after the great operatic and instrumental composer who sadly died young of the dreaded tisi (TB). (For more on Catalani see my post on him at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/catalanis-calamitous-life/ )
Coreglia Antelminelli’s ‘A Catalani Filarmonica’ has the privilege of having been conducted, indeed, rescued by a remarkable now retired Englishman who did the same sort of things with expiring wind bands largely manned by ex-pats in the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula. I met him briefly that evening at Coreglia and he seemed very pleased at the way the band was carrying on its good work. Now, of course everyone can join the band no matter what age or gender and this is one of its delights. I particularly enjoyed the announcer’s introduction to the pieces. She was also principal clarinettist.
The concert itself began with the Italian national anthem which, for your attention, doesn’t start with the main tune of ‘Fratelli d’Italia’ but with a brief orchestral fanfare. Anyway, everyone eventually stood up.
The operatic strains of the Italian national anthem have words by Goffredo Mameli, (Genoa 1827, Rome 1849 – died of a an infection from an accidental bayonet wound inflicted by one of his friends during the battle of the Roman republic), music by Michele Novara (Genoa 1818-1885). Interestingly, the anthem was temporarily adopted in 1945 and only officially sanctioned as recently as 2012 after much disagreement as to what the national anthem should be, many preferring Verdi’s noble ‘Va pensiero’ from his ‘Nabucco’. With its mixture of march-like exhortation and operatic exaggeration the anthems does not exactly confer that dignity which the previous ‘Marcia Reale’ possessed. Continuing with the Royal March after the monarchy had been deposed in the 1946 referendum did not seem, however, very appropriate.
My favourite national anthem ‘La Marseillaise’ was, in fact composed by an Italian and was not originally destined to become a national anthem. It was composed by Piedmontese violinist Giovanni Battista Viotti in 1781 and simply called ‘Theme and variations in D major’.
If you don’t believe me then hear this:
Here are some views of the Filarmonia:
The C.A.’s filarmonica’s concert continued with its own signature tune.
Further items included marches, wartime songs (this one from the first):
a delightful Irish rhapsody and a convincing arrangement of probably Andrew Lloyd Webber’s best tune, ‘Don’t cry for me Argentina’.
The summer concert of Coreglia Antelminelli’s Filarmonica was accompanied by shouts of children playing in the steep cobbled streets and conversations from the bar. It all added inimitably to this most Italian of musical institutions, ‘La Filarmonica’. May it long thrive!