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       :words on music

Non-acoustic material on music: some personal notes, inspirations, and reflections in the form of scattered texts.

Between Curves
and Outlines

The concert as a process of becoming


Inspired by Gertrude Stein’s prose-poem collection Tender Button (1914), to which the title refers, this music program is shaped like a journey. The abstract meaning of being in-between represents the ordinary human condition in the middle of its existential development, crossing several seas during the process of becoming, and is central to the concert program.


To give a sense of uninterrupted flow to the concert, short piano solo interludes by Italian composer Alessandro Solbiati are played between each chamber music piece. These are ordered by ensemble size, starting with a Duo, then a Trio, a Quartet, a Quintet, and then finishing with the complete Ensemble (Sextet) on the stage.


The continuous movement of the musicians, the cross-overs of literary works, and the use of electronics, all of which happen during the concert, are all elements organically conceived as inherent in the specific dynamic of this musical project. 

The collaboration with two emerging young composers, Antonio Covello and Philipp Lack, makes the whole project really close to a travel experience. Using the words of Fernando Pessoa, «we all live onboard a ship that has departed one unknown port for another unknown to us» - in a permanent in-between condition.


©Vittoria Quartararo

This music project was created on the occasion of my final exam (New Music Ensemble MA)

Hochschule für Musik und Tanz, Cologne, AULA, 18.09.2018

Alessandro Solbiati: Interludi per pianoforte (2000-2011) - Selection         

Haruyuki Suzuki: In Between (2016) for Trombone and piano

Antonio Covello: Son tus huellas el camino (2018), for piano, violin and cello

Michael van der Aa: Quadrivial (1997), for prepared piano, violin, flute, and cello

Philipp Lack: Pierrot mondain (2018) for sextett and soundtracks                              

Arnold Schönberg: Pierrot lunaire (Selection)  

Manon Blanc-Delsalle, mezzosopran

Andria Chang, violin

Elio Manuel Herrera, cello

Evgenios Anastasiadis, flute

Till Müller, clarinet

Vittoria Quartararo, piano & direction

Anker 1

The Time is out
of Joint

Old and new music in dialogue


Is it possible to experience the philosophical concept of Time - its fluidity, its non-linearity, and its layering - in a concert? 


The phrase from Shakespeare's Hamlet, «the time is out of joint», offers a lot of room for interpretation. Perhaps music can move even more freely if it is perceived as detached from chronology and music history.


This unique concert programme for piano (or harpsichord), trombone and flute allow itself to be set in a new (dis)order. Various pieces of music from the past and present develop unexpected relationships with each other through interference. The linearity is broken up by unconventional sequences. 


By viewing the music in this way, we are given a new, fascinating idea of anarchy, which has nothing to do with chaos and disruption but serves us as a metaphor for a free world before being categorized by Time.


©Vittoria Quartararo 


Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750): Sonata for flute and harpsichord in E major BWV 135 

Béla Bartók (1881-1945) : Microcosmos - Selection 

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741): Sonata in B major for trombone and piano 

Andrew Thomas (*1939): Fear no more the heat o' th'sun (1975) for flute, trombone, and      harpsichord 

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) : The Wanderer, Hob.XXVI a:32 for flute and harpsichord (originally for voice) 

Yoshiki Matsuura (*1991): Mata aru tokiwa - Japanese Folk Songs for flute trombone and harpsichord  

Heinz Holliger (*1939) : from Mileva-Lieder (1994), V. Möge dein Leben For flute, trombone and harpsichord 

Mauricio Kagel (1931-2008): Breath for one wind player (1969-1970) 

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): A new Ground ZT 682 for harpsichord



Alessandro Solbiati (*1956) : Interludi per pianoforte (2000/2011) - Selection

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) : The Wanderer, Hob.XXVIa:32 arrangement for flute and piano 

Haruyuki Suzuki (*1962): In between (2016) for trombone and piano 

Robert Schumann (1810-1856): Three Romances Op.94 for flute and piano 

György Kurtág (*1926): Six Pieces for trombone and piano (1999) - selection 

Heinz Holliger (*1939) : - from Mileva-Lieder (1994), V. Möge dein Leben for flute, trombone and piano

Yulia Mun, Flute

Yoshiiki Matsuura, Trombone

Vittoria Quartararo, Piano/harpsichord & Direction

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Anker 3

Within the Sweet Noise of Life


For two musicians and a meditation group

The art of meditation accompanies a free improv jam session for two musicians, creating space for sounds and silence.


Sometimes sounds emerge from silence, just like some secretly cultivated desires are confessed, with the typical simplicity that the depth of a desire hides, as a sweet revelation occurs.

Within the sweet noise of life is not a duet for two instrumentalists, but rather, the communication between different body subjects in a room. They feel each other in-extensions and are ruled by a strong but subtle desire to amplify the limits of sound, space, and time, behind their physical and tangible presence.

The performance invites the listeners and the meditation practitioners to live and perceive, above all. To be sensitive and alert like a tree, which extends its branches towards life, while still rooted in the ground. To stay in the world without being hurt by it. To desire sensations more than thoughts. To live an existence with ardor and ascetic solitude. To feel like a stranger to this world.


The performance is inspired by a Haiku-style poem by great Italian writer Sandro Penna (1906-1977): 


I would like to live asleep

within the sweet noise of life.


(Sandro Penna)

Translation by Alexander Booth, Seagull Books London Ltd, 2021 


©Vittoria Quartararo 2019

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Music, dance, and the Magic


In this project, music and dance investigate the union between the corporeal and the non-corporeal, the ancient sense of magic, and its role in balancing man and nature.


L'essence de l'Homme est sonore, le son engendre la lumière et l'esprit s'y manifeste. 


This maxim of Hopi Indians was found in one of the last music scores of Parisian composer André Jolivet, the Concerto pour violon et orchestre (1972).

It reveals a lot about his aesthetic and philosophical ideas, which sought to give back to music its original, ancient meaning of magic, incantatory expression.


A similar fascination with the theme of musique essence du monde, central

to Jolivet´s piano prélude Cosmogonie (1938), is also found in the piece Aqua (1994)

by Akira Nishimura. The atomistic concept of the universe gets somehow transfigured in Stockhausen’s Klavierstück V (1954), where flamboyantly spaced groups of grace notes concentrate around long central tones, «like moons around planets and planets around a sun» (Stockhausen).


Through collaboration between the pianist and dancers, the sound is re-shaped

by the human movements displayed on the scene.

Both the material and immaterial dimensions represented by dance and music offer a possible key towards the element of magic, which seems to be found in the balance between man and cosmos.

Where do we all come from? How did the world take the shape it has? 

Going back to the beginning means finding a world still preserved with the most pristine parts of nature. This idea was magically showed in visual arts by Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado (1944*) in his famous collection of images Genesis,

to which this project ideally refers.

©Vittoria Quartararo

Randall Meyers: 3 Poems for the Night and the Half-Night, for partially prepared piano (2004)

K. Stockhausen: V Klavierstück (1954) 

A. Nishimura: Three visions: 1. Aqua (1994) 

A. Jolivet: Cosmogonie (1938)

Bird or Feather

Piano music and instant drawing: an audio-visual concert


Il faut être léger comme l’oiseau, et non comme la plume. 

(Paul Valéry)

This project is about LIGHTNESS. It explores the relationship between the audio and the visual levels, thus inviting free associations.

Following Italo Calvino (Six Memos for the Next Millennium, 1988),

rather than a defect, lightness is a virtue linked to precision, determination,

and a thoughtful way of perceiving reality, looking at the world

«from a different perspective, with a different logic and with fresh methods of cognition and verification.»  


“Be light like a bird, not like a feather,” suggests Paul Valéry in his quote.

So, what’s the bird’s secret?

To find this specific sense of lightness, one must perhaps adopt a perspective metaphorically opposed to the feather’s perspective, which is instead helplessly exposed to changes, like a toy of the wind. 


Lightness as thoughtfulness is a concept perfectly represented

by the extemporaneous drawing of an artist, who indeed gives substance

to his free intuition through precise action. Both the artist and the pianist

are equally involved in this project, as time flows in sound and pen drawing. While the music is played, the lines and the shapes that occur from the artist’s inspiration are projected on a canvas hanging on the piano’s upper cover, making the whole creative process visible.

Different piano pieces and impressions, echoing one into the other,

are connected in a non-stop audio-visual experience.

A selection of Debussy’s piano Études recurs throughout, inviting the listeners to connect the hidden dots between the variety of images offered. 

The associative freedom was essential to Debussy, and he expressed the need for greater imagination and contact with the natural world himself: 

«Music is a mysterious mathematics whose elements participate in the infinite.

It lives in the water movement, in the play of waves of changing winds; nothing is more musical than a sunset!.»

(DEBUSSY, Claude. MONSIEUR CROCHE THE DILETTANTE HATER. London: Williams and Norgate, [1927])


The evocation of the impression, the dream, and the involuntary memory are connected to the unconscious or indecipherable. To grasp that complexity, the mind must be able to untangle itself from constraints. And fly light.   


©Vittoria Quartararo 2021

C. Debussy: Étude III pour les quartes

I. Fedele: Reflets (2018)*

C. Debussy: Étude VII pour les degrés chromatiques

F. Filidei: Berceuse (2018) *

C. Debussy: Étude X pour les sonorités opposées

G. Ligeti: Etüden n.10 Der Zauberlehrling & n.11 En Suspance (1988-1994)

C. Debussy: Étude VIII pour les agréments

E. Carter: Matribute (2007)

C. Debussy: Étude XI pour les arpèges composés

Anker 5

A Music of Flame
and Crystal


A note on Dutilleux piano music

Discovering the music of Henri Dutilleux has been truly precious for me.

When I first experienced his orchestra concerto Métaboles I felt amazed,

and a little overwhelmed, by the perfect blend of incantatory force

and lucid structure behind the music.


At that time I was spending an unforgettable summer in Paris,

hosted by Cité internationale des arts, and had only the duty of focusing

on music and myself. Very aware of the dream I was living, I took every day

as an opportunity to discover the city, following the tracks of the great artists

who lived there and absorbing all impressions I could find, before coming back

to my studio to practice. In some ways, Dutilleux became the discovery

I was longing for during all the “haunting” hours spent in Paris.  

Nevertheless, it was only some time after, during the isolation caused by

the pandemic, that I found the time and the solitude required for a more intense and direct journey into the entirety of Dutilleux´s piano music, which presents itself as a collection of very heterogeneous pieces, written during the span of

a quite a large period of his life. Written between the Sonata and the Trois Préludes, probably the pillars of his piano works, there are a number of miniatures and sketches, where it is possible to sense his very intimate and sincere relationship with the instrument.

The compositions for piano display the traces of the development of

the composer's life, and the evolution of his very personal language, from

the years where he was working at the radio (the short pastiches-pieces of

the suite Au gré des ondes were conceived by Dutilleux as “fillers'' between

the different broadcasts of Radio France) until the time when he could live off

only his music, having achieved international recognition as a composer. 

Furthermore, they seem to be permeated by the same basic substance of imaginary and extra-musical concepts that Dutilleux developed, in works like

the string quartet Ainsi la nuit (1974-76) or the masterpieces for orchestra

Timbres, espace, mouvement (1977-78) and Mystère de l'instant (1986-89),

with which some piano pieces share similar notations and structures. 

The philosophical topics of time and memory, the aesthetics of Marcel Proust,

the theme of the night, the stars and counterparts of light and flame, but also

the space and the possible vertical and horizontal reflections and mirrors contained in it, are some of the subjects that have inspired Dutilleux throughout his life, often brought into focus by works of poetry or visual art.

Recognizing these extra-musical aspects in Dutilleux’s music has been particularly stimulating for me, for it pushes me to think broadly about

the musical matter, often by finding connections with other forms of art in order to give  a mature interpretation of his music. 

In certain other pieces, like hand-to-hand combat with sound matter,

the composer concentrated his artistic interest on the essential quality of music: the natural phenomenon of resonance.

In its constant relation with silence, the sound seems to have a phenomenology similar to the one that objects have with gravity, but it dares to create illusions, defying physical laws and playing with infinity. 

Perhaps starting from a question of speculation about nature, Dutilleux wrote certain moments of his piano Sonata, willing to express the incantatory lyricism of music, which plays unconsciously with the memory and brings the senses back to our genesis. This mystery of universal existence seems to fade away in shadow and silence (Préludes, I. D'ombre et de silence) and to crystallize itself into a form, hanging onto one chord (II. Sur un même accord); then, always changing in motion, it seems to fall into a vortex of entropy, where within, there may be areas of order for some logical and geometrical procedures:

a play of opposites (III. Le jeu des contraires). 

Often the music of Dutilleux seems to shift towards a visual level:

as the verticality of piano chords resonates as light does on a black canvas, one’s gaze becomes more horizontal, distant, and at times visionary, detecting

the reverberation of a sound transformed in liquid crystal, as many annotations seem to suggest (brilliant, clair et cristallin..).


To the image of crystal, the opposite symbol of the flame comes, serving

as complementary weight, for these contrasting images are also used to make visible the alternatives offered to nature, concerning for example the process of the formation of living beings. As Italo Calvino wrote in his brilliant essay Exactitude in Six Memos for the New Millennium (1988), crystal and flame reflect «two forms of perfect beauty that we cannot tear our eyes from, two modes of growth in time, of expenditure of the matter surrounding them, two moral symbols, two absolutes, two categories for classifying facts and ideas, styles and feelings». 

Between the crystal and the flame, in the infinite play of sound and silence

- to me it is there that the music of Dutilleux lives.  


©Vittoria Quartararo

This text was written as a short artist's note for the booklet of the CD

"Henri Dutilleux Complete Music for Piano Solo - Vittoria Quartararo", ©PIANO CLASSICS /Brilliant Classics 2021

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