05 November 2007
Giuseppe Verdi is viewed as one of the most important, and most popular, opera composers of Italy. Few composers knew how to balance artistic ideals and commericial interersts like him. He was a composer of 'hits', like his "La donna è mobile" from his opera Rigoletto and his "Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves" from his opera Nabucco, and he was careful not to have his audience feel bored at any moment. Especially his early works are characterised by strongly propelling, rhytmic power. A common example is his Il Trovatore. Yet, Verdi was also a composer with ideals. If he would get intrigued by a character, it became his mission to portray to persona as best as he could in the music. This sometimes meant he was forced to alter or neglect traditional opera forms, like he did in Rigoletto. He was not afraid to touch on socially sensitive matters, which at times led to issues with the establishment. For instance, his opera La traviata turned out to be a controversial one, due to its courtesan heroine. Verdi never engaged in the intellectual discussions on music of his time. He pretended to be a simple man who felt most at home in the countryside. Nonetheless, with the masterful fugal ending of his last opera Falstaff he undoubtedly showed his intellectual level of composing.
The Russian composer Dmytro Bortnianski studied Moscow as well as St Petersburg. In the latter city, he studied under Baldassare Galuppi, with whom he left to Italy. This journey was sponsored by Catharina II of Russia. In Italy, he continued his studies in Bologna, Rome and Naples. He is mostly known the his motets and operas Venice (1776) and Modena (1778). In 1779, he returned to St Petersburg where he composed several operas, piano sonatas and songs. The liturgical movies he wrote for the Russian-orthodox church is still recorded and performed regularly today. In this religious music Bortniansky combines Eastern and Western European influences.