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The perfect Playlist for Carnival
From ancient music to opera, from overtures and symphonies to piano pieces, to violin virtuosity, from waltzes to Can can, from the Festino on Shrove Thursday evening to the high alcoholic diner of the opéra bouffe, a sparkling musical saraband unfolds and full of imagination, which leads us from the Roman Carnival to that of Venice, from the Vienna Carnival to the Carnival. . . some animals. Good fun!

Our Carnival playlist includes a variety of music pieces dating from the early 17th century to the turn of the 20th century; the songs we have chosen are for the most part directly related to the party, but we have also added something else that is perfect for the cheerful and cheerful atmosphere of the period.   

Carnival, the perfect Playlist
From ancient music to opera, from overtures and symphonies to piano pieces, to violin virtuosity, from waltzes to Can ...

Adriano Banchieri  (Bologna 1568 - 1634)

From the Party in the evening of Shrove Thursday before dinner op. 18: Capricciata and bestial counterpoint to the mind (1608)

Adriano Banchieri was a musician, composer, theorist and poet; born in Bologna in 1568, nineteen years old entered the order of Olivetan monks, where he took vows in 1590. He is also known by the pseudonyms of  Attabalibba from Peru, Camillo Scaligeri della Fratta and the Dissonant.

The creative activity of Banchieri was very rich and multiform, mainly in the musical field, with numerous sacred and profane works and theoretical and didactic writings, but he was also active in the literary field. In the monumental setting of the monastery of S. Michele in Bosco where he had begun his activity as an organist, an authentic center of culture and musical events developed around him, which in 1615 took the form of an institution under the name of Accademia dei Floridi (later reconstituted as the Filomusi Academy).

Among his numerous compositions today the dramatic madrigals or representative madrigals, whimsical and unscrupulous, humorous up to the caricature are especially remembered. These are collections of madrigals which, executed one after the other, tell a story, as in the case of Party in the evening of Shrove Thursday before dinner of 1608.

This lively and varied work, rich in dialectal phrases and brilliant timbre effects, contrasts with a pungent spirit to the contemporary cultured production. The title already shows the parodic intent of the work: it is in fact a carnival party, in which the singers perform in a lively succession of scenes, in which ridiculous characters now appear, such as the dancing old Chiozzotti or the vain spinster singer, now improbable sellers of sulfanelli and spindles who roam in the middle of the night, or young lovers; the action unfolds between dances and onomatopoeias of all sorts, which transform human voices from time to time into musical instruments (such as the lyre or the biobò cio) or into animal sounds, as in the famous and irresistible Bestial counterpoint to the mind. In this piece, after a predominantly homorhythmic introduction «Fa la la», the singers imitate the voices of a dog, a cat, a chiù (the owl) with involving hilarity. 

Athanasius Kircher (Geisa 1602 - Rome 1680)

Neapolitan tarantella, Hypodoric tone

Athanasius Kirche, a Jesuit scholar from Thuringia, was an eminent representative of seventeenth-century encyclopedism.

Philologist, scientist, collector, author of works on physics, astronomy, Egyptology, music, he was defined as a "master of a hundred arts" by his contemporaries. He conducted one of the very first studies on Egyptian hieroglyphs, establishing the correct link between the ancient Egyptian language and Coptic, for which he was considered the founder of Egyptology. He devoted himself to collecting antiquities, wrote an encyclopedic work on China, studied volcanoes and fossils, and was among the first people to observe microbes through a microscope.


In 1633 he moved to Rome, where he was called to teach mathematics, physics and oriental languages at the Roman College (1638).

Its rich collections of finds of classical, oriental and Amerindian art formed the museum fund known as the Kircherian Museum and housed in the Roman College (1651). Among his works, at least the Oedipus Aegyptiacus (1652), Mundus subterraneus (1665) and China illustrated (1667).

Athanasius Kircher was also interested in the phenomenon of tarantism and the therapeutic virtues of music - hence the Tarantella 'in a hypodoric tone' , one of the ways of Gregorian chant.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Salzburg 1756 - Vienna 1791)

Music for a pantomime (1783)

By Mozart we propose an extract from the Pantomime for the Vienna carnival of 1783, inspired by the masks of the Commedia dell'arte; a sort of divertissement in which Mozart himself had participated, who, according to the chronicles, had a lot of fun wearing the clothes of Arlecchino.

The score has been reconstructed, since today only the first violin part remains, while there is no documentation for the other four parts provided by its staff (a string quartet with continuo).

Niccolò Paganini (Genoa 1782 - Nice 1840)

The Venice carnival op. 10 (1829)

Variations in A major on the Neapolitan song Oh mom, dear mom

Composed in 1829 and premiered at the Leipzig Stadtheater on 12 October of that year, the Venice Carnival it is based on a simple popular song theme in 6/8 (Andantino), followed by twenty variations, all in the same tonality and with the same harmonic system. The variations constitute a sort of compendium of all the most difficult aspects of the paganinian violin technique. The composition is in B flat major but the violin, as Paganini requires numerous other times, must be tuned a semitone above, in order to play in A major and bring out more brilliantly the amazing virtuosic technique.

La playlist di Carnevale

Gioacchino Rossini (Pesaro 1792 - Passy, Paris 1868)

From The magpie, Overture (1817)

The magpie, a semi-serious work by Rossini, debuted at the Scala in Milan on May 31, 1817. The subject was taken from the drama La Pie voleuse or La Servante de Palaiseau (1815) by Théodore Badouin d'Aubigny and Louis-Charles Caigniez.

The opera, of very high musical quality and once very famous, is rarely performed today, mainly due to the large number of singers required; the famous and bubbly overture has always remained in vogue in the symphonic repertoire, a must in every New Year's concert.

Gaetano Donizetti (Bergamo 1797 - 1848)

From The elixir of love  cavatina of Dulcamara: Hear, hear, or rustic! (1832

The elixir of love it made its debut on May 12, 1832 at the Teatro della Cannobiana in Milan. Felice Romani's libretto derives from The Philtre (The filter), written the year before by Eugène Scribe for Daniel Auber, a very successful French composer.

Donizetti had only fourteen days to complete the work (seven were those granted to the poet for the adaptation of the libretto) and wrote a masterpiece. The elixir and in fact one of the highest examples of nineteenth-century comic opera,

a beloved work and permanently on the bill in theaters all over the world.

The proposed piece is of course the famous cavatina of Dr. Dulcamara, 'ambulant doctor ', superb charlatan who magnifies his elixir by entering the scene with a trumpet blast .: Hear, hear, or rustic!

Robert Schumann  (Zwickau 1810 - Endenich 1856)

Faschingschwank aus Wien. Fantasiebilder (Vienna Carnival. Fantastic Paintings), op. 26 (1839)

The composition of the Vienna Carnival  it began in the last days of Schumann's stay in Vienna (which lasted six months, until April 1839) and ended in 1840 in a state of intense inspiration ("Galloping: created, written, printed; here's what me like it”, Wrote Schumann himself).

Although writing to his friend Simonin de Sire, Schumann said he had conceived the Vienna Carnival like one “Grosse romantische Sonatas”(Great romantic sonata), is the same title of the work (which explicitly refers to the Carnaval of 1835) to clarify its nature: a series of extraordinary musical ideas that follow one another, now heroic, now poetic in a sort of sparkling musical kaleidoscope. This is clearly a new way of conceiving the sonata of classical derivation, which starts from the "piece of character" of which Schumann had already given extraordinary proofs.

Carl Michael Ziehrer (Vienna 1843 - 1922)

Faschingskinder, waltz op. 382

Prominent personality of the imperial Vienna music scene, Ziehrer had a long career (over 50 years), in which he was often in rivalry with the Strauss brothers. In Vienna he gave a large number of concerts with his orchestra, often for charity, which earned him the esteem of the city. The pinnacle of artistic success came in 1893 with the invitation to perform for the Universal Exposition in Chicago representing Austria. Returning from the United States he accepted a series of engagements in Berlin and with his orchestra Konzert Chicagoer-Kapelle he performed in 41 German cities, always with great public success. In 1909, Emperor Franz Joseph appointed him director of the imperial court dances (KK Hofballmusikdirektor), a position that had remained in the hands of the Strauss for decades.

In our list, Faschingskinder, one of the best known of the hundreds of waltzes composed by Ziehrer.

Hector Berlioz (La Côte-Saint-André 1803 - Paris 1869)

Le Carnaval romain, op. 9 (1844)

Berlioz took this famous symphonic page from his unfortunate work Welcome Cellini (1838), a resounding failure; embittered, the composer wanted to recover at least part of it, using themes taken from the love scene between Cellini and Teresa, and from Carnival party in Piazza Colonna (1. And 2. Framework of the first act).

The piece, written for symphony orchestra, is the perfect implementation of the principles outlined in the treatise on orchestration (Traité d'instrumentation et d'orchestration modernes) which Berlioz published in the same 1844. At the same time it is one of the most representative examples of the inventive exuberance and brilliant instrumental taste of the brilliant French musician: the piece begins with a lively sound explosion, followed by the re-enactment of the landscape of the Roman countryside; different themes intersect and intertwine with each other in a wide-ranging discourse that takes on particularly colorful and descriptive tones with the entry of the tambourine, the triangle and the cymbals. A quick and dancing saltarello is grafted onto this episode, which contains the rhythmic and timbric verve of the overture.

Camille Saint-Saëns (Paris 1835 - Algiers 1921)

The Carnaval des Animaux  (Carnival of the Animals), 1886

The carnaval des animaux  is one of the best known pieces of Saint-Saëns, originally written as divertissement private but then risen to global popularity. Composed of two pianos and a small orchestra, this 'great zoological fantasy' was designed to celebrate the Mardi gras in the circle of friends, and was in fact performed in Paris on March 9, 1886 in the home of the cellist Charles Lebouc, son-in-law of the great tenor Nourrit; only Liszt, passing through Paris and on the recommendation of Pauline Viardot, was able to witness an execution of the fantasy. In fact, Saint-Saëns forbade the performance and printing of the score until his death, fearing that a piece so not very 'serious', in which, moreover, he mocked colleagues and critics, could harm his career. The composition was thus published by Durand immediately after the death of Saint-Saëns, and had its first public performance in Paris on February 26, 1922 under the direction of Gabriel Pierné.

The Carnaval, divided into 14 numbers, each of which musically paints as many anthropomorphized animals, immediately liked for the brilliance of the writing, full of verve and humor, and for the singularity of the subject, with those animals that were also an ironic roundup of characters from the Parisian musical environment.

To represent the Saint-Saëns Turtles, for example, he uses the famous theme of Jacques Offenbach's Can Can, which is the last piece proposed on our list, (from Orphée aux enfers quotes "La, La, la, la, la, partons, marchons" is "Ce bal est original, d'un galop infernal") but slowed down in a grotesque way, accentuated by the banal accompaniment of the piano.

Jaques Offenbach (Cologne 1819 - Paris 1880)

From La Périchole  Ah! That diner ...  (1868)

La Périchole, opéra bouffe in three acts by Jacques Offenbach, with libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, is based on comedy

Le Carrosse du Saint-Sacramento, by Prosper Mérimée (1829), in turn inspired by the events of a truly existed character, the famous Peruvian actress, singer and dancer María Micaela Villegas called la Perricholi (Lima 1748 - 1819), lover of Manuel de Amat y Juniet, viceroy of the Peru in the period 1761-1776. From Mérimée Jean Renoir drew a famous film with Anna Magnani, The golden carriage.

The plot of the opera, set against the exotic backdrop of Peru, has a happy ending when the protagonist, after various ups and downs, manages to marry her beloved Piquillo.

Really hilarious and the air Ah that diner ..., that the Périchole sings in a state of delightful intoxication.

Pietro Mascagni ((Livorno 1863 - Rome 1945)

From The masks,  Tartaglia  That's a road ...  (1901)

The masks, an opera in a prologue and three acts by Pietro Mascagni on a libretto by Luigi Illica, is a tribute to Rossini's comic opera and to the tradition of the commedia dell'arte. The opera debuted in 1901 simultaneously in six different Italian cities, but was unsuccessful - not even at La Scala under the baton of Toscanini - except for the performance at the Costanzi in Rome directed by Mascagni himself. After a few sporadic takes, the work has been forgotten, but sometimes the funny aria of the stammering baritone Tartaglia is revived, 'That's a road….'

Jaques Offenbach (Cologne 1819 - Paris 1880)

From Orphée aux enfers, Galop infernal (1858)

Another comic opera by Offenbach, performed for the first time in 1858 at the Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens.

The plot takes up, in a comic-satirical key, the mythological story of the descent of Orpheus into hell to bring his beloved Eurydice back to life. It is a decidedly spectacular work, which constitutes the first peak of Offenbach's opera production.

Made wildly popular by the unleashed Galop infernal  of the finale (the main theme of the can-can), Orphée it is one of the fundamental works of the French lyric repertoire.

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