These are truly UNSUNG heroes of the 1800s, and I thought it might be interesting, and educational, to highlight those contemporaries of Brahms, Verdi, Rimsky-Korsakov, Sibelius, Dvorák, Vaughan Williams, Schumann, and Wagner, who did not write it down.
Some historical perspective: This was a time of artistic nationalism, and characterized by extensive choral works and huge orchestras, all with vastly improved technical and musical abilities. The mechanics of musical instruments had risen to meet the demands of the more competent and technical players. Beethoven had previously proven that there are absolutely no limits to how high, or for how long, soprani can sing! Conductors had become specialized, and were of a high virtuostic level. The stage was set (metaphorically and actually) for epic performances.
I wish to open up this thread to everyone of you who has a favorite improvisor from the Nineteenth Century. Of course, the more prolific ones will be obvious.
To get things rolling, I will start off with that venerable contemporary of Giuseppe Verdi, INNORANTE NONSO. Signor Nonso “composed” from 1827 through the turn of the Century; a long and distinguished career. His work spanned many and varied genre, including the forms canto, cantini, cantinini, motivi, and the very concise gesturi.
Immediately, as musical scholars, we have a problem: there is the small matter of the missing (non-existent) notebooks and sketches. This makes it a real challenge to trace artistic development of this composer. Cataloging of works also becomes a real problem.
I was able to uncover a brief and rare interview with Maestro Nonso, that fortunately has been translated into English. It should shed some light . . .
Q - Maestro, you are friends with Verdi, no?
A - Si - very close friends
Q - Does he inspire you?
A - I like Joe a lot. We play briscola together! I like to think that I inspire him!
Q - Ah, I see. How many works have you improvised?
A - Please _____ they are COMPOSITIONS, and they are countless.
Q - Very well then, could you guess how many works you have “composed”?
A - Counting the gesturi , approximately 19,378, including my symphony.
Q - (Astonished!) You are writing a symphony?
A - Please, not “writing” -- I am composing a symphony.
Q - When will it see its premier?
A - As soon as I can get all the players improvising properly. Would you like some wine?
Q - Thank you, Maestro Nonso, but we are almost out of time. Would you tell us briefly what are your musical plans for the immediate future?
A - A grand opera.
Q - (Choking!) Unbelievable! From whose libretto will you be working?
A - Dear, silly girl, the libretto will not be written down . . . . .
One final insight on the works of Innorante Nonso: He felt that improvising on any actual instrument was severely limiting to his artistic expression, and thus refrained from casting any of his compositions in that light. He preferred to imagine, and have his audiences imagine, his improvisations - err, compositions - they sounded better that way!
Well, I have hogged this thread so far, so let’s open it up now ===
Other great improvisors from the Romantic Period?
In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.