A Venetian Violinist : Luigi Enrico Ferro and the Vivaldi Renaissance
Venice is a city that enchantes every visitor by its magic and charm. Everything in this city is linked to the past with a such continuity that we feel still in life events of the far times.
Musical life during the first half of this century has been in this city, where I am fortunately living ,very important and influenced the international musical panorama of the period more than we today remember.
The violinist that more properly rappresents the Venice of this period is Luigi Enrico Ferro. He born on Murano in 1903 , the small island near Venice famous for the art - glass productions. The father was owner of one of the most important glass factory of the island, but avowing the son' s musical turn, starts him to violin school at Conservatorio of Venice " Benedetto Marcello ". On 1917, for reason dued to the first world war, Ferro leaves Venice for Milano where continues the violin study with the famous Teresina Tua ( pupil of Massart ). She understand the potentiality of the boy .Coming back in the same years to Venice, thanks to the help of Mrs. Tua , Ferro continues to study with Francesco de Guarnieri , (1867 - 1931) important violinist (pupil also of Cèsar Frank at Paris for composition studies) pupil in his turn of Raffaello Frontali ( 1849 - 1916 ),appreciated violinist in his tours with Liszt ,friend of Verdi and Wagner.
On this regard it is interesting to remark how all the famous italian violinists of the past ages have been linked inside the different italian violin schools in an unbroken chain (teacher-pupil-teacher ) that goes on in the past till Veracini , Corelli and the most important violinists of 18 th. century. Like for luthiers,also for violinists the tradition of playing has been handed down from generation to generation maintening the taste for the italian style also with the differences of the various schools an the personal contribute of the violinists.
Coming back to Venice, Luigi Ferro starts his professional life founding in 1921 the Quartetto Veneziano that immediately dominated the national musical life as one of the best chamber group .In the following years the quartet grows and start to acquire an international importance. On 1924 it is at Paris for the International Olympic games to rappresent the Italian art and at the Musical Festival of Salzburg. Always in the same years starts the musical relation with the famous venetian composer G. Francesco Malipiero. The composer will writes for the quartet some pieces: "Stornelli e ballate ", " Rispetti e Strambotti "and also some of his famous quartets. On the authumn of 1924 ,Malipero brings the Quartetto Veneziano ( composed by Ferro first violin, Vittorio Fael second violin, Oscar Crepas viola and Edoardo de Guarnieri violoncello ) to the Vittoriale, where they know Gabriele d 'Annunzio: begin their partecipation to the musical life of the Poet,as commonly was called d' Annunzio during the fascism. He pays a salary directly to the string quartet that plays on the principal happenings and governament meetings,becaming the official group of fascist partit and of Italy of '20 years.The quartet assumes in this phase the name of " Quartetto Veneziano del Vittoriale" paying homage to the house-museum of D'Annunzio where they generally played , the Vittoriale.
Meanwhile the relations with the principal composers of the age are contiunued : with Alfredo Casella , director also of musical accademy at Siena , with Ildebrando Pizzetti that commited to the quartet the first esecution of his quartet in La , of " Three songs " for singer and quartet composed for Elisabeth Coolidge , with Ghedini , Labroca , Jachino ,Tommasini and many others. The quartet's repertory included ,among classical and romantic ,the modern composers in which they specialized.
Demanded very much abroad also from composers like Strawinskji ,Bloch , Honegger , Butting , Wood, Jareki, Beach ,Thomson, Jacobi the quartet plays in all more important festivals of contemporary music at Salzburg ,Berlin , Munich , Frankfurt , Zurich, Paris ( la Salle Pleyel )and London ( British Music Society ) where he reppresents Italy in a series of international concerts by radio at British Broadcasting Company in 1926.
In 1928 the " Columbia Graphophone Company "requests to the quartet ten records with a repertory that goes from quartet op.18 N. 5 of L. Beethoven to adagio of quartet by Francesco de Guarnieri ( the teacher of Ferro and father of cellist quartet ).
The Ferro personality was drawing inside the quartet but his members made also solists or duo.
He was also an excellent teacher for almost 40 years in Venice conservatorio ( 1931 - 1968 )and still now at 30 years from his end of activity the memory of him is strong in Venice musical life.
His sound , he played with a beatifull Montagnana violin ,had a crystalline trasparence that remembers the glasses of Murano ,his island ,and the bow tecnique ( coming from French-belgian school ) that he freely elaborated gave to him the possibility of a coloured sound named " lagunare "because it bringed to the hearer mind the colors of Venice lagoon,with its autumn fogs, its fired summer sunsets or the soft sunrises when is not yet possible to define the outline of the objects and the water seems to continue in the sky....
Friend of quartet was the composer Ottorino Respighi. In 1929 the composers takes the quartet in Spain for a tour in which he also playes at the piano and the wife ,soprano , sings.
The program included the composer 's quartet in fa " Dorico ",some chamber lyrical ballades and one sonata for violino and piano written just for Ferro.
In 1931 Edoardo de Guarnieri leaves the quartet for to start conductor activity,becoming in short time one of the more appreciated italian directors of that age.The quartet activity has a short stop but in 1937 return to life with the arrival of two new members : Aleardo Savelli ( also first viola at Suisse Romande orchestra 1950 -1955 , jury member of international Geneve competition) and Guido Mozzato ( he also at the Suisse Romande like first violin).The Ferro life is divided in solist and quartet activity,in school teachings and orchestral activity, as he become also first violin of Teatro La Fenice in Venice.La Fenice Teathre now completely destroyed for a fire in 1996, was an international center of musical activity : only I remark the many commissions that Stravinskji received from the the theatre in '50 years , and the first ( in full world ) international festival of contemporary music ( 1931 ).
Regarding luthiers matter ,the relation between the luthiers of Siega family and Ferro was very strong , expecially with Iginio,last venetian luthier in the city after the departure of Giulio Degani and Jago Peternella for U.S.A.
Quite all Ferro pupils had a violin made by Siega and ,if possible economically, also a 18 th.century instrument and the good acustycal qualities of Siega instruments must be ascribed also to the relation between them and Ferro, very carefull in choising for pupils good instrument and giving to Siega advices about the sound he requested. Siega and Ferro both liked to fishing in the lagoon and during these relaxed moment they excanged informations and opinions about the sound of the instruments and the problems concerning the acustycal properties. I want to pay an homage to Siega liuthers as they are not well known like Degani ,the most known luthier of the period in Venice , although some of their instruments are very nice.
On teaching Ferro applied his life values : the importance of playing well with spountaneus and natural approach to the music,enjoing for the beautiness of the results. He followed his pupils with great rigour and severity but always trying to develop in them an optimistyc nature, helping them to overcome the life difficulties, teaching freely, giving free accomodation in his house and lending instruments.To an his sick pupils,when out of danger, went to meet and saw her with the quartet and played the famous Haydn serenade and " The thanksgiving for recovery "of Beethoven. Sometimes for to explain to the pupil the sound importance,speaking Venice dialect sayed:" Te piase come ti ga son�? " "miga tanto " "E alora se no xe belo par ti, figurite par i altri ! " ( " You like as you played ? " " not too much " " so if it is not nice for you ,try to think how could be for others ! ").
But Ferro name is indissolubly linked to the esecution and international spreading of Vivaldi music, on that musical movement of '50 years named " Vivaldi Renaissance ",born with the discovery of quite 550 musical pieces of Antonio Vivaldi that were catalogued ,studied and published by Antonio Sanna and Angelo Ephrikian, founders in 1946 of Istituto Nazionale Antonio Vivaldi, under the artistic direction of Malipiero. First executions of vivaldian inedited musics are held by Orchestra Sinfonica Veneziana and by Collegium Musicum Italicum : in both Ferro is soloist or principal violin. The Collegium Musicum will take in 1950 the name of Virtuosi di Roma, the musical group that showed from 1950 an important spreading work of Vivaldi and baroque music in full world. The main purpose of members group was to play observing strictly the musical remarks of composeres in the original manuscripts. Luigi Ferro became a perfect player of Vivaldi music, so that David Oistrak , after listening him in the " Four season "embraced him telling : " I will never be able to play Vivaldi so nicely like you".The Virtuosi di Roma group was composed of 14 members mainly veneti?, friends or pupils of Ferro:close to already mentioned Savelli and Mozzato, we remember Benvenuti , Guglielmo , Pitzianti and in a second period Gulli and Ferraresi, the elite of italian violinism. During the secound tour in USA ( 61 concerts Gennuary - April 1953 )and exactely on one concert held in Philadelphia, the group was honoured from Arturo Toscanini. The director listened the concert after waiting for more one hour the soloists blocked in bus from snow and after he gave to the group an anaffectionate eulogy: " You are the main chamber group of this age and I had a delightfull pleasure to listen you".Toscanini remarked the importance of their work in name of italian art. In 1954 the Virtuosi di Roma relyed on a wide discography and more than six hundred concert in the principal european and american towns ( South America included ), a really big amount if we think to the transports on the '50 years where the ship was the mean of conveyance more used for connecting America to Europe.
Ferro activity will go on till 1965 , when following to the shock for the death 's wife , Gina Russo , decided to retire from musical activity and teachings also , showing also in this choise his deep and human feeling. He died on 1975 in Venice,but also now his memory , of man that loved so much music, violin , Vivaldi and Venice is still in life.