Salvatore Sciarrino, Ai limiti della notte (1979)
Duration: 5 minutes
Instrumentation: Solo Viola
Premiered by Aldo Bennici on July 8, 1979, in Spoleto at Festival Due Mondi, Italy
Publisher/copyright: Rai Trade

The composer writes:

The title does not specify what threshold of the night is referred to. But listening to the piece puts paid to any doubt: here in fact the music appears to conserve that tension — heavy and yet at the same time sharp and vigilant – characteristic of the very depth of the night, during which it was written. The morning after I was due to depart for Paris, where the composition was copied. The piece plots senza sforzo visibile a world apparently fixed but in reality as instable as water and allows the listener to rediscover the sounds of silence, from which it in fact descends: those internal sounds, one’s own breathing, the beating of one’s heart, as well as external ones, the faintest sounds, the “echoes of echoes”: the fading footsteps of a nocturnal wayfarer, the sounds perceived through the thickest of walls; the sonoric dimension, in other words, of the human microcosm, violated today by the diurnal ruckus.

A few years ago, I composed Tre notturni brillanti for viola. Ai limiti della notte parts company from these, and overturning their standards of virtuosity, sets up a further technical challenge, with the result that while the hands tend to remain firm, the control of the sound — of the distance of the sound – tends to sharpen, and the sound itself to “spatialize.” “There’s no moon, nor lanterns, but at night we see one another,” as the ancient Chinese poet affirms.

About the composer:

Salvatore Sciarrino, born in Palermo in 1947, boasts of being born free and not in a music school. He started composing when he was 12 as a self-taught person and held his first public concert in 1962. But Sciarrino considers all his works written before 1966 as an developing apprenticeship because that is when his personal style began to reveal itself. There is something really particular that characterizes this music: it leads to a different way of listening, a global emotional realization, of reality as well as of one’s self. After 40 years, the extensive catalog of Sciarrino’s compositions is still in a phase of surprising creative development. After his classical studies and a few years of university in his home city, he moved to Rome in 1969 and in 1977 to Milan. Since 1983, he has lived in Città di Castello in Umbria.

He has composed for Teatro alla Scala, RAI, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Teatro La Fenice (Venice), Teatro Carlo Felice (Genoa), Fondazione Arena di Verona, Stuttgart Opera, Frankfurt Opera Theatre, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, London Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo Suntory Hall, Grand Théâtre (Genève), Opéra National de Paris, Accademia di Santa Cecilia (Rome). He also has composed for the following festivals: Schwetzingen, Donaueschingen, Witten, Salzburg, New York, Wien Modern, Biennale Venice, Wiener Festwochen, Berliner Festspiele Musik, Holland Festival, Aldborough, Festival d’Automne (Paris), Ultima (Oslo) and Beethoven Fest (Bonn).

Sciarrino’s extensive discography runs to more than 100 CDs, published by the best international record labels and very often awarded and noted.

Apart from authoring most of his theater opera’s librettos, Sciarrino wrote a rich production of articles, essays and texts of various genres, some of which have been chosen and collected in Carte da suono (CIDIM, Novecento, 2001). Particularly important is his interdisciplinary book about musical form: Le figure della musica, da Beethoven a oggi (Ricordi, 1998).

Sciarrino taught at the Music Academies of Milan (1974-83), Perugia (1983-87) and Florence (1987-96). He also worked as a teacher in various specialization courses and master classes, among which are those held in Città di Castello from 1979 to 2000. From 1978 to 1980, he was artistic director of Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Academic of Santa Cecilia (Rome), Academic of Fine Arts of Bavaria and Academic of the Arts (Berlin), Sciarrino has won many awards, among the most recent are Prince Pierre de Monaco (2003) and the prestigious Feltrinelli International Award for Music (2003). He was the first winner of the Salzburg Music Prize (2006). He also won the prize Una vita nella musica (Venice, 2014).

In 2006, his opera Da gelo a gelo, co-produced by Schwetzinger Festspiele, Opéra National de Paris and Grand Théâtre de Genève, was performed to great acclaim. In 2008, La Scala Philharmonic Orchestra performed his 4 Adagi, and 12 Madrigali had its premiere in the summer of the same year in a portrait series dedicated to him by the Salzburg Festival. His new project is the cantata La nuova Euridice secondo Rilke, commissioned by Accademia di Santa Cecilia. It will have its world premiere on March 28, 2015, in Rome by the Accademia di Santa Cecilia Orchestra, conducted by Antonio Pappano.

For more information about Salvatore Sciarrino, visit