Marcello’s Oboe Concerto

Friendly competition, especially amongst siblings, can produce interesting results. Such a pressure can make rubble just as easily as it can produce diamonds. In the case of the Marcello Brothers (Alessandro and Benedetto), such tension produced one of the most captivatingly beautiful oboe concertos ever composed.

Both brothers were born in Venice, Italy, as members of a noble family. Alessandro Marcello was determined to prove himself a composer, and while his father encouraged his younger brother to give up music in order to pursue a career in law the older Marcello busied himself with the composition of a grand oboe concerto in D minor. 

Frustrated that his elder brother got to have all the fun of being a full-time composer, Benedetto worked hard at pursuing the path given to him by their father. Upon completion of his oboe concerto in D minor, Alessandro made the mistake of providing a copy to Bendetto. Working tirelessly in every spare moment, Benedetto reworked his brother’s concerto in a lowered key (that of C minor). The oboe of the Baroque period was tuned differently than the oboes of today, and as such it naturally produced a more evocative sound in the lowered key Benedetto had assigned it in the reworked version of his brother’s concerto. 

Alessandro Marcello

But luck was not on Benedetto’s side, at least not for the moment. The legendary composer Johann Sebastian Bach took an interest in Alessandro’s original version first, and consequently transcribed its 2nd movement for the organ. To this day, many of the embellishments utilized by oboists playing the Marcello Concerto are inspired by Bach’s transcription for the organ. Professional editions include such transcriptions because they offer a strong basis upon which to further improvise musically.

Long after the passing of the Marcello Brothers, music historians put both versions of the concerto to the tes. What they found intrigued them: most professional oboists preferred playing Benedetto’s rendition of his brother’s concerto. The reason for this lay in the fact that the key of C minor was simply easier to finger for the players than the D minor original! 

As many budding oboists of professional calibre look forward to performing this piece as a staple of their repertoire, there are few who wish to go through the frustrations of learning the concerto in a key that presents more difficult fingerings to achieve nearly the same result. And so it was that Benedetto got the last laugh, his version of Alessandro’s concerto rising in popularity into more modern times as his brother’s music (referenced as the “last outpost of the classic Venetian Baroque concerto”) faded into obscurity. 

The first movement of the concerto is regal, but without the gravity required to firmly establish it as majestic. It is a stately neutral, consisting of a series of calls and responses between strings and the oboe soloist. Movement two provides a treasure trove of potential for embellishments, and this can be owed to Bach’s organ transcriptions just as much as it can be attributed to Benedetto’s re-orchestration. This is the movement which really characterizes and colors the concerto as a whole. Revered by oboists the world over, this movement provides countless opportunities to showcase improvised virtuosity. The strings and continuo pulsate throughout, providing a stable framework of support for this improvisation. Overall, this movement highlights the oboe at its most yearning and introspective, accentuating its brilliant qualities in a wide array of deep musical colors. Entirely in contrast to the 2nd movement, the final movement is all about speed and dexterity: a true test of the raw technical abilities possessed by its soloist. Comprising almost entirely of sixteenth notes, difficult running passages are peppered throughout this movement, leaving no room for even a single musical stumble. With a bright and dance-like impulsivity, this final movement shines with musical laughter even to the last note. 

Overall, the Marcello Concerto is one which does a tremendous job of showcasing the versatility of its oboe soloist, offering moments of musical anticipation and emotional payoff which clearly illustrate the oboe’s gift for moving us to our core. Resplendent with dynamic contrasts between its three movements, there are so many reasons to love the oboe when one listens to this piece.

Finding Isabella Leonarda

One of the most gifted and under-appreciated composers of the Baroque period, Isabella Leonarda spent the majority of her life in an Ursuline convent and dedicated nearly all of her compositions (nearly 200 in total) to the Virgin Mary in addition to a living person of great status (such as Austrian Emperor Leopold I). Leonarda was emphatic that she composed “…not to gain credit in the world, but so that all would know that [she was] devoted to the Virgin Mary.” 

In 1636, at only sixteen years of age, Isabella entered the Collegio di Sant’Orsola in Novara, Italy. Her wealthy family’s political ties and status as benefactors of the convent allowed her to rise in prominence as a figure of authority who commanded a great deal of respect. She worked diligently for many years, acquiring many titles including that of mother superior. 

Isabella’s musical education prior to entering the Collegio di Sant’Orsola is shrouded in mystery. Music historians suggest that Isabella, once she had been accepted into the convent, honed much of her skill as a musician and composer under the tutelage of Gasparo Casati (who had begun serving as the maestro di cappella at the Novara cathedral only one year previous to her arrival at the convent). Other scholars dispute that such a mentoring ever occurred, citing insufficient evidence. In fact, the only record that seems to support Casati’s mentorship of Isabella lies in the former having compiled two of Isabella’s earliest known compositions for his Third Book of Sacred Songs.

Serving as a music teacher in the convent, Isabella continued to hone her abilities as a composer. Her works delved into nearly every genre of sacred music (including sacred concertos, Latin dialogues, litanies, and masses), and she also found time to compose for strings, chorus, and solo/continuo. Her Sonate da chiesa (Opus 16) is regarded as the first instrumental sonata written and published by a female composer.

Isabella specialized in the solo motet, but is remembered for her sonatas (in particular her only solo sonata, Sonata 12). Unlike many women of her time, Isabella had been educated in formal counterpoint and other advanced techniques at a young age. Her complex usage of harmonies was ahead of its time by nearly half a century, and she pushed the genre of polyphonic music as a whole forward with her intricate compositional insight. 

Leonarda is best remembered for her sonatas, in part, because of their unusually varied formal structure. In contrast to Archangelo Corelli’s standard form (four movements of alternating fast and slow tempi), some of Isabella’s sonatas feature as many as thirteen movements (as in her Sonata 4). Additionally, those sonatas she composed in four sections do not often align with Corelli’s slow-fast-slow-fast model. Her usage of the refrain in Sonata 10 characterizes just how complex her understanding of music was: instead of a single refrain unfolding in an ABAB pattern, she chooses to double the refrain in the zig-zagging pattern of ABCDEBDFBG.

She was quite fond of using canzona-style imitation and duple meter in the faster sections of her sonatas, emulating both toccata and recitative in the homophonic sections of contrasting tempi. Her dance-like sections in triple time showcase the spirited brilliance of her compositional genius. Though history has attempted to reframe her as a nun who held special privileges within the convent (privileges which would have allowed her to bypass her daily duties in favor of finding time to compose) we now know that is not the case. In the dedication to her 10th Opus, Leonarda writes that she “wrote music only during time allotted for rest so as not to neglect [her] administrative duties within the convent.”

Although Isabella Leonarda was well-known in her native Novara, other parts of Italy did not experience the joy of hearing her work performed very often. It would take several hundred years for a handful of her sonatas to reach the ears of the wider world. Her compositional career spanned six decades, and the bulk of her sonatas were completed after she turned fifty years of age. Yet the only works of hers to appear in broad circulation before 1670 were the two pieces her alleged mentor Gasparo Casati had borrowed for his Third Book of Sacred Songs.

Blessed with compositional gifts and insight ahead of her time, Isabella Leonarda lived a quiet but busy life of spiritual devotion and musical excellence.

The Carnival of Venice

The history and characters of Venice’s spectacular Carnivale are just as varied as the masks and colorful garments which have traditionally populated it. Legend has it that the bombastic celebration of all things artistic started following the military victory of the Venetian Republic over the Patriarch of Aquileia, Ulrico di Treven in the year 1162. Rejoicing at the victory, the people started to dance and gather in San Marco Square. 

Becoming an official event during the Renaissance, it was not until the seventeenth century that the Baroque Carnival was used as a way of preserving the image of Venice as a city of prestige to the rest of the world. Its popularity increased to greater heights in the eighteenth century as a means of reducing civil unrest. Unfortunately, the festival was outlawed entirely in 1797 under the rule of the Holy Roman Emperor and later Emperor of Austria, Francis II. The use of Carnivale masks became strictly forbidden. 

The festival made a comeback over the nineteenth century, but the focus shifted towards prioritizing private feasts and opening up the event to a wide variety of artisans. The Carnival returned in 1979, when the Italian government decided to bring back the history and culture of Venice. Mask-making skyrocketed after some Venetian college students pursued this centuries-old hobby for the satisfaction of tourist trade. It is said that approximately 3 million visitors come to Venice every year just to celebrate the Carnival. 

Those who enjoy the artistic beauty of masks will always find plenty to be impressed by at the festival, in particular the contest for la maschera più bella (“the most beautiful mask”), judged by a panel of international fashion and costume designers. The masks themselves have always been an important part of Venice’s Carnival. In its early days, people were allowed to wear them between the festival of Santo Stefano (St. Stephen’s Day, December 26) and the end of the carnival season at midnight of Shrove Tuesday (usually held during February or early March). As masks were also allowed on Ascension and from October 5 to Christmas, people could spend a large portion of the year in disguise.

As a result of this booming mask industry, Venetian mask makers (known as mascherari) enjoyed something of a privileged social position in the Carnival’s early years. They had their own guild, and honed their craft by importing leather, porcelain and certain types of glass. In modern times, the majority of genuine Italian masks are made with the application of gesso and gold leaf and are hand-painted using natural feathers and gems to decorate. It is likely that each mask, while unique in certain elements of form and decoration, will belong to one of several distinct styles. Let’s peruse some of the most popular options!

The bauta is a mask which features an odd, but incredibly practical design element. Originally a simple white, it was fashioned to comfortably cover the entire face, and bauta today are heavily gilded in something of a gaudy fashion. Characterized by an over-prominent nose, and a face shape which looks something like an upside-down pentagon. The beak-like chin bears no opening for the mouth, but projects outwards to enable the wearer to talk, eat, and drink without having to remove it. 

Traditionally, the bauta is accompanied by a red or black cape and a tricorn hat. This mask was endorsed for use by the Venetian government during the 18th century. In addition to a black circular or semicircular clasped cape called a tabarro, it was a required piece of uniform at certain political decision-making events (especially when the involved citizens were required to act anonymously as peers). The bauta is a stately authoritative mask, and makes one look quite the dashing commodore when paired with a tricorn.

Legend has it that female mask-wearers were disappointed at the ancient decree that only men should wear the bauta, so female mask-makers made them a subsequent design of their own.The Colombina is a half-mask, covering the wearer’s eyes, nose, and upper cheeks. Often highly decorated with gold, silver, crystals, and feathers, it can be held up to the face by a baton or tied with a ribbon at the back for dancing. Named after a stock character in the Commedia dell’arte, Colombina was a maidservant who was an adored part of Italian theatrical productions for generations. Some claim that it was first created for an actress who did not wish to have her beautiful face covered completely. However, there are no historic paintings depicting its use on the stage, and it seems to have been a modern invention primarily intended for use at masked balls.

The Larva (meaning ghost in Latin) is another iconic modern Venetian mask, one which is often made of white porcelain or plastic. It is frequently decorated, and like the bauta can be commonly observed on Carnival attendees worn with a tricorn and cloak. Heavier than a typical mask and with a much tighter fit, it is secured in the back with a ribbon. The Larva covers the entire face of the wearer and extends farther back to just before the ears. Depicting the nose and lips in simple facial expressions, this mask is nearly impossible to wear while eating and drinking. As the Larva was never a stock character in Commedia Dell’arte, the design of this mask has not been reworked to feature a hinged jaw. 

The Zanni are masked characters who often play supporting roles in commedia performances, often fulfilling societal roles such as a local policeman or shopkeeper. Zanni masks take several different shapes, but they all share several features in common: their half mask is made of leather, featuring a low forehead, bulging eyebrows and a long nose with a reverse curve towards the end. In Commedia Dell’arte, a long nose denotes a character’s stupidity (as does a low forehead). One of the most recognized of the Zanni is Arlecchino, meaning harlequin, who is meant to be a servant devoid of reason and full of emotion. His originally wooden and later leather half-mask depicts him as having a short nose, a set of wide, round, arching eyebrows, a rounded beard, and always a “bump” upon his forehead. 

The most well-known mask at Carnival is easily Pantalone, the lecherous old man whose name stems from the Italian “pianta il leone”. This bawdy reference to the character’s many lovers in Venice is only a veneer… for Pantalone is usually represented as a sad old man with an oversized nose like the beak of a bird, with high eyebrows. A half-mask worn almost exclusively by men, its popularity has begun to wane in recent years. With so many different interpretations on these classic characters, its no wonder that Carnival continues to be a Mecca of sorts for mask-enthusiasts everywhere, year after year. We hope you enjoy the dazzling sounds of the Venetian Carnival in our concert, featuring your Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra.

Tartini the Virtuoso

If you’ve ever been to a dog park, you’ve likely come across the great pyrenees: a massive canine with the look of a dandelion puffball and the courage of an elephant. But have you ever met the Greatest Piranese? That honor is reserved for Giuseppe Tartini, a composer born in the small town of Piran (which was situated on the peninsula of Istria, and which is now a part of Slovenia).

In Tartini’s childhood, his native Piran was a part of the Republic of Venice, the local governor being an appointed man from Florence (Gianantonio Zangrando) and his wife Caterina (who was a descendant of one of the oldest aristocratic families in Piran). Tartini’s parents were set on him becoming a Fransiscan friar, and so they took the appropriate measures to ensure he was musically trained. But it soon became clear that Tartini was not destined for monastic greatness, as he had his eye set on law. Leaving Piran, he journeyed to the University of Padua, where he began to study law and hone his fencing skills. 

The death of his father in 1710 prompted him to settle down, but he defied his parents’ expectations of him once more: he married Elisabetta Premazore, a woman his father would never have given him blessing to wed. Elizabetta’s lower social class and age difference to Tartini didn’t bother the latter one bit, and it seemed as though a happy ending were in store for the two newly-weds. That is, until the intervention of the powerful Cardinal Giorgio Cornaro!

Elizabetta was the apple of Cardinal Cornaro’s eye, and he promptly charged Tartini with abduction. Fleeing Padua and a distraught Elizabetta, Tartini took refuge in the monastery of St. Francis in Assisi in order to escape prosecution. It was almost as if his parents had been trying to help him avoid this traumatic turn of events all along. During his stay with the Fransiscan friars, Tartini began practicing the violin as a hobby. 

But Tartini was competitive by nature, and when he heard Francesco Maria Veracini’s playing in 1716 (and realized he had a long way to go before reaching violin mastery), he fled the friars to find lodgings in Ancona. According to music historian Charles Burney, Tartini would lock himself inside his chambers for hours every day with his violin “in order to study the use of the bow in more tranquility, and with more convenience than at Venice.”

Tartini’s violin playing improved greatly over the next five years, so much so that he was appointed Maestro di Cappella at the Basilica di Sant’Antonio in Padua, the very same Padua he had fled at the “encouragement” of Cardinal Cornaro. His contract there allowed him to play for other institutions if he wished, and while in Padua he befriended fellow composer and theorist Francesco Antonio Vallotti. By now the Cardinal had all but forgotten about Tartini, and he was able to reinvent his life in Padua with a new friend by his side.

Tartini was the first known owner of a violin made by the famed instrument builder Antonio Stradivari. The violin itself was his pride and joy, fashioned in 1715 and passed down to Tartini’s student Salvini, who in turn gave it to Polish composer and virtuoso violinist Karol Lipiński upon hearing him perform. One of the most famous violins in the world, the instrument is known today as the Lipinski Stradivarius. Tartini was also fortunate enough to own and play another Stradivarius violin (the ex-Vogelweith) which had been fashioned in 1711.

Five years into his position in Padua, Tartini started a violin school which attracted students from across Europe. As he grew more proficient on the violin he became more fascinated in the theory of harmony and acoustics, and published treatises on this subject from 1750 to the end of his life. Giuseppe Tartini laid down his bow for the last time surrounded by friends and students in Padua. A statue of Tartini was erected in the square of the composer’s home town of Piran to commemorate him and all he contributed to the world of music during his lifetime. Not only that, they named the entire square and even a hotel after him! His birthday is celebrated by a concert in the main town cathedral to this very day.

While the vast majority of Tartini’s compositional output are violin concerti and sonatas, he did pen a few sacred works (such as Miserere, composed between 1739 and 1741 at the request of Pope Clement XII). Tartini’s music poses increasing problems for scholars and editors interested in sharing his music with the world, because the composer never dated his manuscripts. He also had the infuriating habit of revising his finished works, meaning that placing his compositions on a timeline is nearly impossible to do. The greatest effort made towards solving this problem was undertaken by scholars Minos Dounias and Paul Brainard (who have attempted to divide Tartini’s works into stylistic periods based on the musical characteristics of each individual piece.

Tartini and the Devil

Today, musical scholars can all agree that Tartini’s most enduring work is the “Devil’s Trill Sonata”. This solo violin sonata requires a number of demanding double stop trills, difficult even by modern standards. An urban legend spread by the Russian Philosopher Madame Blavatsky claimed that Tartini was “inspired to write the sonata by a dream in which the Devil appeared at the foot of his bed playing the violin”. This hectic piece is daunting even to the most experienced violinists, and only played in public by those who are willing to risk carpal tunnel syndrome!

But Tartini’s genius was not merely reserved to his compositions for the violin. Tartini was also a music theorist, and is credited with the discovery of sum and difference tones. His treatise on ornamentation was eventually translated into French in 1771, and is still useful as the first published text devoted entirely to ornament. In modern times, this text has provided first-hand information on violin technique for historically informed performances. A later edition of this text includes a facsimile of the original Italian, copied in the hand of Giovanni Nicolai (one of Tartini’s best known students) and which features an opening section on bowing and a closing section on how to compose cadenzas not previously known.

A remarkable composer and violinist, Giuseppe Tartini will forever be remembered for his seemingly “supernatural” abilities on the violin, earned through a great deal of practice and dedication to his craft! 

The Virtuoso Vivaldi

While some fans of rock music are more partial to an electric guitar solo, others prefer the passionate folk strummings of a well-loved acoustic. But all fans of virtuosic string playing owe a debt of gratitude to one rock star in particular: Antonio Vivaldi. 

The year was 1700. Violin virtuosity had been steadily building for nearly a hundred years, with instrument builders like Antonio Stradivari, and Giuseppe Guarneri creating violins whose sound quality was unrivalled throughout all of Europe. With the music publishing industry taking off, composers from around the world saw an opportunity to create truly unique musical works. If you wanted to be known as a composer of merit during this period of music history, you needed to know how to write increasingly complex works for the orchestra. Enter the Venetian Virtuoso, Antonio Vivaldi…

Born in 1678, Vivaldi quickly established himself as a master of writing for the violin. A superbly innovative player himself, Vivaldi had an intimate understanding of those conventions of traditional violin playing which might be bent (or in some cases completely broken) in order to create the daring music people wanted to hear. His playing was lightning across a darkened sky, one contemporary of his going so far as to exclaim that the sounds he made on the violin were “terrifying”. 

During his early years as a composer, Italian instrumental music was still held firm under the conventions of Arcangelo Corelli’s concerto form. Developing from the trio sonata (which featured two violins and one cello supported by strings and continuo), this form was regarded as highly-respected and tasteful for its time. It was daring… but not so much as to abandon the traditional aspects of string music. Vivaldi’s response to Corelli’s established form of concerto occurred in the former’s publication of Léstro armonico , something of a musical manifesto which changed violin-playing for all time. 

L’estro armonico didn’t pull any punches, it set straight away at establishing new standards in violin playing for Vivaldi’s contemporaries. Some of the more revolutionary shifts Vivaldi incorporated into his compositional style included increasing the depth and singing quality of the violin’s voice in slower movements, and imitating the brassy qualities associated with a trumpet by way of arpeggios and quick repeated notes. This latter innovation encouraged violin players to insert bits of virtuosic passagework into their playing at a much more prolific rate than ever before.

As a whole, L’estro armonico served to establish Vivaldi’s preference for three contrasting movements (fast-slow-fast) while utilizing the ritornello form in new and exciting ways. Ritornello (which translates to “return”) constituted a sort of musical interlude which functioned as a refrain, and Vivaldi was brilliant enough to see how it might be used as the standard form for all concerto movements. Ensemble ritornello sections in Vivaldi’s music begin in a tonally stable fashion, establishing the home key at the start and end of each movement. The solo sections which are scattered among these movements, however, are tonally unstable: they leap, dive, and soar through key modulations to increase tension and build the 

In Vivaldi’s music for concerto, ensemble ritornello sections are tonally stable to establish the home key at the start and end of the movement and reinforce each change of key during the movement. The solo sections, in turn, are tonally unstable, modulating between keys, which amps up the tension during the daring solo passages. Just as we can’t look away from a tight-rope walker as they perform their daring act under a circus big-top, so too were Vivaldi’s audiences mesmerized by the sheer musical bravery and bravado these solo sections demonstrated. 

They were lucky instrumentalists indeed, those who were the first to play Vivaldi’s glorious new music… customized as it was for a bold new breed of concerto. Those who criticized his musical vision early on would come to adopt the spirit of his instrumental virtuosity later in their careers as composers and music-makers. Antonio Vivaldi died penniless in Vienna, having invested all his wealth of musical experience in bringing a clear structure and dynamic power to the Baroque concerto. His work for the violin made him a household name, a true Baroque star. So we say long live the King of the Strings, Viva Vivaldi!

A virtual tour to Italy!

Our live stream La Dolce Vita – Valentines from Italy features stunning footage of one of the most beautiful and fascinating places in the world.

Italy has long caught the imagination of artists, poets, musicians, lovers, and tourists. It’s a country where history meets you around every corner, and a culture as vibrant today as hundreds of years ago. You find yourself happening on a Roman road, getting Aperol Spritz at a street café, snapping pictures of the spires and duomos, and letting the gelato cool you down!

We’re busy putting together stunning visuals curate to match the passionately romantic music – but ahead of the concert you should take a chance to explore the absolute beauty of Italy!

There are lots of great places online to take a virtual tour, but Italy Guides gives you a chance to see the sites and learn about the stories in each city. How many steps are there in the Duomo in Florence? Have you seen all the fountains in Rome? Take some time and soak up Italia!

Click for Tours

Watch Party Ideas for La Dolce Vita

We knew we had to do something romantic for the Valentines weekend – and nothing is more romantic than a trip to Italy!
We love seeing everyone getting in to the spirit of travel with our 90th season’s musical adventures, and creating a watch party for La Dolce Vita is going to be one of the best of the year!

Care to treat your Special Someone to an evening of culinary delights? Scrambling for that perfect recipe? Well look no further – everyone at the SSO got together to come up with ideas of our favourite little pieces of Italy!

So wee’ve handpicked some traditional recipes for an Italian dine-in your Amore won’t soon forget. The best part? These recipes are easy to make.

Venetian Lasagne recipe incorporates savory Eastern spices and flavors, and is an absolute must for an Italian adventure – click for recipce 

Our guest artist Spencer McKnight makes a mean pizza – in 2019 he spent the summer in Italy doing a production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni…and while there he learned a thing or two about pizza too! A Margherita Pizza to rival all others, this recipe boasts a mouth-watering combination of buffalo mozzarella and fire-roasted tomatoes – click for recipe


Tonight is a night to treat yourself and the one you love! For those who enjoy baking, we highly recommend trying some of the following pastry recipes: each with their own distinct texture and sure to top your list for favorite comfort food of 2021!


The delicious Pevarini – click for recipe


The tasty Nadalin – click for recipe

The musc have Zaletti – click for recipe


For dessert though we highly recommend Gelatto is an Italian ice cream…but so much better than ice cream! For a creamy and refreshing palette cleanser, we suggest trying gelatto – and we’re crazy lucky here in Saskatoon to have Beppi’s Gelatto.  If you haven’t tried it, what are you waiting for?!?

But it wouldn’t be a trip to Italy without enjoying a refreshing drink!

Obviously, there’s so much amazing wine, and with each region of Italy there’s more wine to explore! Whether you’re looking for whites like Pinot Grigio, Soave, or Frascati, or reds like Chianti, Amarone, or Barolo, or something fun like Prosecco, Lambrusco, or Grappa – we highly recommend trying out a few!

But there’s more to enjoy than wine! Our Executive Director, Mark Turner, fell in love with sipping on Aperol Sprtiz – if you find yourself wandering from piazza to piazza, the exceptionally refreshing Aperol Spritz is a must-have. You’ll find them on the menus of Milan and Venice…we highly recommend giving it a try – click for recipe

Now, if you want to put the perfect treat to the end of your night, you’ll need a little glass of limoncello!
Capturing the golden sunshine of the lemons of Italy, ice cold Limoncello cleanses the palette and readies you to leave the cafe and head on to more site-seeing.

With all things Italian, the more is the merrier! So why not bulk up on some savory cheeses from Broadway’s Bulk Cheese Warehouse? You can find the perfect wine pairing at Ingredients and Urban Sellers, and we highly recommend supporting your local bread-maker by paying a visit to the Night Oven Bakery!


Wishing you and yours a sensational (and savory) Valentines Day to remember!

Con Te Partiro

“When I’m alone, I dream on the horizon and words fail;

yes, I know there is no light 

in a room where the sun is absent,

if you are not with me…”

So begins one of the most romantic Italian pop ballads of all time, and even if you don’t speak Italian… the second you hear the lush orchestration of “Con te partiro”, you know your heart is in for an emotional ride. 


Written by Italian composer Francesco Sartori with lyrics penned by Lucio Quarantotto, Con te partiro was debuted by superstar Andrea Bocelli at the 1995 Sanremo Music Festival. It was recorded the very same year for inclusion on Andrea’s aptly-titled album “Bocelli”, serving as an A-side single with “Vivere”. Although the song’s original single release by Polydor Records wasn’t a commercial success in Italy, where it received a bare minimum of radio play, the rest of Europe soon became absolutely smitten with the song.

To say Con te partiro exploded in popularity is an understatement. It became an absolute phenomenon, topping the charts in France and swiftly becoming a massive hit in Switzerland. The single topped charts for six weeks straight, earning a triple gold sales award for its efforts. Within weeks, the moving nature of this ballad had inspired all of Belgium to declare Bocelli their new muse: Con te partiro became the biggest hit of all-time for the country while spending twelve weeks at No. 1.

But the song refused to let the ebb and flow of musical popularity slow down its journey across Europe and beyond. A second version of the song was released the following year with partial English lyrics. The catch? This time Bocelli would not have to deliver its powerful lyrics alone. British soprano Sarah Brightman (of Phantom of the Opera fame) was recruited to contextualize Bocelli’s Italian lyrics with English verses of her own. This added a dimension to the song’s meaning that previously could not have been realized. Nor could the original composers of this piece predict what was to come next.

The new version of Con te Partiro, re-titled as “Time to Say Goodbye”, achieved even greater success to that of its predecessor. It topped charts all across Europe. Germany couldn’t get enough of this new version, and they joined the ranks of Belgium in honoring it as the biggest-selling single in their history. Brightman and Bocelli were happy to continue to experiment with the different ways in which Quarantott’s melody could create “all the feels” in audiences worldwide. They produced an altered version of Time to Say Goodbye, made available on the CD of the same name, with Brightman singing in German and Bocelli in Italian. At present, that version alone has sold more than twelve million copies around the world, establishing it as one of the best-selling singles ever recorded.

Though Brightman would bow out at this point in the song’s development, Bocelli was determined to test whether audiences worldwide would embrace yet another version. So he recorded a full Spanish version of the song in 1997, titled “Por ti volaré” (“For You I Will Fly”). And, wouldn’t you know it, he struck gold again. Out of all three versions (four if you count the German/Italian duet rendition) this song encountered even greater popularity in Europe. Today, Con te Partiro (in the guise of Por ti volaré) is considered Bocelli’s signature song.

Con te partiro’s magic lies in its ability to move each of us in a special way, to reach across time and conjure those passionate and meaningful memories we hold for those we will always cherish. The song melts away all regrets of the heart to reveal that it is love for those who matter to you which matters most in the end.

The Songs of Naples!

Ah… Naples. One of the most gorgeous cities in all of Italy, known across the world not only for its fine architecture and food… but also for its music! The song tradition of Naples and its surrounding countryside is a rich one, stretching back hundreds of years. There are three Neapolitan standards, however, which stand out from the rest, songs which will endure long after others have been forgotten: O sole mio, Mattinata, and Torna a Surriento. Journey with us as we delve into the history of these timeless classics of Italian song…

O sole mio was written in 1898, with lyrics penned by Giovanni Capurro and music by Eduardo di Capua and Alfredo Mazzucchi. Despite the immense popularity it has gained over the years by way of reinventing itself through countless alternate language renditions, it is sung most often in the original Neapolitan language most frequently. 

“O sole mio” can be translated to the standard Italian “Il mio sole”, meaning “My sunshine”. Notable artists who have covered this song include Mario Lanza, Andrea Bocelli, and Enrico Caruso. But no performer has derived nearly so much commercial success from the song as did Luciano Pavarotti, who won the 1980 Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Performance for his rendition of O sole mio.

For nearly 75 years after its publication, the music of O sole mio was attributed to Eduardo di Capua alone. Then, in November 1972, the daughter of Alfredo Mazzucchi lodged a declaration with Italy’s Office of Literary, Artistic and Scientific Property, seeking to have her father recognised as a co-composer of 18 Neapolitan songs credited to di Capua. 

According to Mazzucchi’s daughter’s testament, O sole mio was one of twenty three songs which di Capua purchased from her father. It was only through a slight process of elaboration on Mazzucchi’s original melody that di Capua was able to forge one of the most iconic Italian songs of all time. There had been written authorisation on the part of Mazzucchi, granting di Capua permission to make free use of the melodies, but thankfully in October of 2002 Judge Maria Alvau ruled in favor of Mazzucchi being O sole mio’s legitimate co-composer. 

Mattinata was composed by Ruggero Leoncavallo in 1904, and maintains the honor of having been the first song ever written expressly for the Gramophone Company (today known worldwide as EMI). Dedicated to Enrico Caruso, the famed operatic vocalist who first recorded it with Leoncvallo on the piano, this piece has become a concert favourite of tenors worldwide and a staple of their Italian repertoire. 

Warner Brothers published a cover of the song as performed by Emilio Pericoli in 1964, and in 1982 the Costa Rican band “Gaviota” recorded a Spanish version arranged by Carlos Guzmán Bermúdez for CBS Indica Records. The song describes “the dawn, dressed in white” and “opening the door to the sun”. It paints a portrait of flowers, of nature as being disturbed by “a mysterious trembling”, framed by the singer’s impassioned plea of “where you are not, there is no light” as they bid adieu to their beloved while bathed in the colors of sunrise. 

The juxtaposition of Mattinata’s melancholic farewell speech with the hopeful imagery of sunrise is poignant and touching in a way that few other Italian art songs can match. The raw passion infused in the final lyric “Where you are, love is born” speaks of a love that we all hope to experience before we too must sail away on the white light of dawn.

Its melody composed in 1894 by the Italian musician Ernesto De Curtis, Torna a surriento is a Neapolitan song whose lyrics were written years afterward by the composer’s brother: poet and painter Giambattista De Curtis. Receiving its official copyright in 1905, Torna a surriento has grown over time to become one of the most popular songs of this traditional genre. The song’s title translates from Italian as “Turn towards Sorrento”, and has been regarded as the city’s unofficial anthem for decades

Tradition maintains that the origin of the song in its completed form can be traced to 1902, when Guglielmo Tramontano (then the mayor of Sorrento, Italy) asked his friend Giambattista De Curtis to compose a song the song for Prime Minister Giuseppe Zanardelli. The Prime Minister had been vacationing at the largest seaside hotel in Sorrento at that time, the Imperial Hotel Tramontano. 

Giambattista De Curtis met with his brother Ernesto that very day, and the latter was finally met with an opportunity to flesh out the melody he had been sitting on for the better part of eight years. The combined efforts of the De Curtis brothers produced a song which celebrated Zanardelli’s stay in Sorrento, but many music historians claim that the song’s lyrics reveal an alternate thematic agenda…

In fact, Torna a surriento might not be a song meant for toasting Prime Minister Zanardelli at all. It is more likely that the song represents something of a veiled plea to Zanardelli to keep his promise to help the impoverished city of Sorrento, which at the time of the song’s composition was especially in need of a sewage system. Reflecting on the beauty of Sorrento’s surroundings, as well as the love and passion of its citizens, Giambattista may have been trying to curry favor for the municipality he belonged to. While no record exists of whether or not Zanardelli liked the song, or even if Sorrento got a new sewage system out of the deal, it is known that Torna a surriento began its life in 1894 and has inspired legions of listeners since. 

All three of these Neapolitan gems prove that a song is more than what you hear or what you see on a page. It is irrefutable evidence of humanity, that someone, somewhere, has cared enough about something to commit their poetic views, emotions, and inspirations on a piece of paper… hopefully to spread joy to many people across the globe. Neapolitan music certainly accomplishes this feat with gusto, so that no matter where you are you can instantly be transported to that land of canals and fine wine every time you hear the lilting phrases of its proud musical heritage. 

Catching up with Janna Sailor

Conductor Janna Sailor returns to lead her hometown orchestra for Postcards of Buenos Aires – we were able to ask her some of the questions we’ve been itching to ask!

SSO: When it comes to the rich musical heritage of Latin America, there is so much to love. What  do you feel is the most rewarding aspect of performing traditional Agrentinian music?

Janna: What I love about Latin music is the humanity that always comes through… everything from heart on your sleeve emotion to the pulsating rhythms,  there is something so universal about the musical language that surpasses  cultural and language barriers to be relatable, captivating, and engaging.  Piazzolla’s music is a very intimate look at the human  experience, outlining everything from an unsettled bad dream, the introspective and longing of  love, and a crushing and oppressive  anxiousness that we can all relate to. On the other hand, Ginastera’s “Four  Dances from Estancia” pulsate with dance rhythms and folklore that take  your breath away and make your heart beat faster. Both works are  rewarding and enticing in their own way, and prompt you to dig deeper into  your own human experience as a performer, both emotionally and  technically. 

SSO: Over the past hundred years, the bandoneon has become a staple for tango ensembles  worldwide. How has Piazzola’s writing for the bandoneon inspired your collaboration with  Jonathan Goldman in bringing this music to life?

Janna: I have played the works of Piazzolla in many different contexts…as an orchestral musician,  soloist, and even with my harp and violin duo! A wonderful thing about his music is how versatile  it is, and the composer himself encouraged transcriptions and arrangements of his work by  many different ensembles and instrumentations that would not have traditionally played tango  music. I wanted to be sure to feature the bandoneon in this performance because it was  Piazzolla’s instrument, and he had such an intimate understanding and connection with it. 2021  marks the centenary of Piazzolla’s birth, so I envisioned this program as a celebration of the  music and life of the man himself. I highly recommend sourcing a video of Piazzolla himself  performing on the bandoneon – I am always inspired by his intensity and commitment to his  culture and art form. 

SSO: Four years ago you founded the Allegra Chamber Orchestra. What was the process of  creating an all-female classical orchestra like, and how has it informed your work moving  forward?

Janna: The creation of Allegra happened quite by chance! I had an idea to raise funds through a benefit  concert for Music Heals, a charity that establishes music therapy programs in Vancouver. I put  out the call to my fellow musicians, and only female players responded. The outpouring of  interest from the musicians for the concert was so overwhelming, I soon realized we had  enough players for an orchestra, and that this was he beginning of a movement of “women  helping women through music”. Our first concert raised enough funds to start a music therapy  program at the WISH Drop in Centre for women living on the street in Vancouver, and we have  continued to support the program through fundraising concerts and employing women from their  transition work experience program as ushers and assistants at our past concerts over the  years. Through my work with Allegra it has opened my eyes further to not only many of the  imbalances within the classical music culture and programming, but in society as well. The music industry is a microcosm of our society at large, and through Allegra’s work we strive  to bring awareness to the inequity not only on our stages, but to shed a light on the larger social  and community issues that contribute to these inequities on a larger scale. To be able to  combine my two passions – music and community change making – has been a truly rewarding  and humbling experience for me, and I have grown tremendously as a person and artist  because of it. 

SSO: You have led orchestras all over the world, performing with the likes of Mariah Carey, The  Canadian Tenors, and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. What would you say to young aspiring  maestras who wish to advance their careers during this time of change and uncertainty?

Janna: I certainly put in my time exploring a wide variety of styles and experiences! I think the biggest  thing that I learned was to be open to taking on jobs that were outside my comfort zone and  current experience, and to be willing to grow, observe and learn from each of them, no matter  what genre or artist I was working with. I feel privileged to have collaborated with renowned  artists from many genres, and found something to admire and replicate within my own artistic  output from each of those experiences. Looking back I also realized that each job and  experience lead to another in some way, even if it was for a basic reason – like the fact that I  worked very hard, was prompt and pleasant to work with, etc. and the contractor would take  notice and offer me bigger and better jobs and more prominent roles in the months and years  that followed as a result. I tried to take any opportunity – no matter how big or small – with  gratitude and know that I was working my way forward and gaining more confidence and skill as  I went. No experience is ever wasted if you choose to learn and grow from it. 

SSO: Astor Piazolla was adamant in his belief that “the tango was always for the ear rather than the  feet”. How do you tap into the essence of tango music to deliver its vibrant nature authentically?

Janna: To me, his music is all about colour and various states of energy and evolution. However the  essence of the motion is internal rather than external, and his music always has a sense of  restlessness and is never fully at ease. To me, Piazzolla’s music embodies the essence and full  bodied flavour of the tango so fully, you don’t even need the dancers!