Italian operatic composer.
Autograph Note Signed, G Verdi, with a musical quotation of one measure, one page, small octavo, undated [end of April or May 1, 1874]. In purple ink, to his publisher, Giulio Ricordi. With the original envelope. Giuseppe Verdi.
“In the printed edition at p. 36, in the figure for trumpet, there is a # missing before the fa in the last line, second measure [a musical quotation follows]. It may also be lacking in the Original. Correct it if you can.”
An interesting piece offering insight into Giuseppe Verdi’s working methods and attention to detail. This correction is for the first edition of the Piano-Vocal Score of the Messa da Requiem, his quasi liturgical masterpiece, written as a monument to the poet and novelist Alessandro Manzoni, whom he greatly respected.
The manuscript was consigned to Guilio Ricordi, his publisher, on April 7, 1874 (for the first two movements) and on April 9, 1874 (for the remaining movements except for the Offertories. By April 29, 1874, Giuseppe Verdi received the first set of proofs, read them and sent them back to Ricordi. Another set reached him shortly after. Then he wrote the present note asking Ricordi to correct the omission of a sharp at measure 106 in the Dies Irae movement, sent probably before his arrival in Milan on May 2.
David Rosen, editor of the critical edition of the Requiem, explains that all copies of the piano-vocal score he consulted has the # (sharp) printed, indicating that Giuseppe Verdi must have detected the omission before the edition was published. The # is lacking in the autograph full score, where the error was never corrected. Presumably, the first edition was issued for sale on May 22, 1874 after the premiere performance that day, in accordance with Verdi’s request on March 7: “I would like the Mass to be published on the same day, just as soon as the performance is finished.”
This note documents and demonstrates the extent of Verdi’s involvement in the preparation of piano-vocal scores in the last phase of his career. The score, most likely prepared from the autograph manuscript, and with Verdi’s corrections, has greater authority than any other printed score. Verdi was able to compose the Requiem at a leisurely pace, completing the work more than a month before the scheduled performance. He had ample time to proofread Ricordi’s first edition of the piano-vocal score and performance material. The Requiem may be the first of Verdi’s works in which the piano-vocal score, choral parts, and string parts were prepared sufficiently early to allow the performers to use printed rather than manuscript material at the premiere.
The Requiem, described by the esteemed critic Harold Schonberg as “all blazing passion: a colossal work, glorious in sound,” began with the death of Rossini in 1868; Verdi was prompted to propose a Mass prepared by the leading Italian composers, each contributing one section, with Giuseppe Verdi providing the Libera me. The project was poorly organized and, while the music was eventually written, the work was never performed. Verdi’s autograph manuscript was returned to him on April 21, 1873 and is still conserved in the Villa Verdi at Sant’ Agata.
When Manzoni died in 1873, Verdi, still sensitive from the disappointment of the experience, decided to compose a memorial Requiem entirely himself. He reworked the existing Libera me, incorporating thematic material from it into the other movements. While Verdi was sincere in his desire to memorialize Manzoni, he was also aware of the Requiem’s commercial possibilities. So, while he was negotiating with the city of Milan to underwrite the premiere, and with the Church to allow women singers to appear, he was also arranging for publication and performance royalties. The première took place on May 22, 1874 at the Church of San Marco, as part of a liturgy. Verdi also arranged two concert performances at La Scala, which were met with great enthusiasm. The following year, it was performed throughout Italy, in Paris, London, Vienna and even in America. Today, the Requiem is one of Verdi’s most popular compositions.
Alessandro Manzoni, an Italian poet and novelist who had immense patriotic appeal for Italians of the nationalistic Risorgimento period, is best known for his lyric poem Il Cinque Maggio (an ode on the death of Napoleon), and his novel I promessi sposi (The Betrothed), ranked among the masterpieces of world literature. He was one of the heroes of the Milanese revolt against Austria, and his works helped forge an Italian national identity. Verdi was himself an ardent nationalist and his own career paralleled the struggle for Italian unification and independence, which he considered the most important event of his lifetime. When unification was finally achieved in 1860, Giuseppe Verdi served as a senator. Unframed; we can frame this piece for you.
This item is associated with the following category in our inventory:
- Musicians / Composers