Title: Lost Tapes Vol. 5 Basilio Giandonato, Alfredo D’Ascoli e la Banda di Lecce
The Banda: Grandioso Concerto Musicale Città di Lecce “Tito Schipa”
Years: 1950s/1976 © 2020
Graphic: Giulio Lekklub
Translator: Rita Valentini
Sound engineer: Mimmo Fiore, Gianluca Caterina, Fonoprint
Label: Angapp Music – It
Produced by Livio Minafra and financed by Pino Minafra
Basilio Giandonato, the myth
“An authentic revelation for the elegance of singing, the perfect technique and the emotionality of the sound”. This is how the then 23-year-old Basilio Giandonato was described in an article that appeared on the front page of “Il Messaggero” on November 27, 1947, on the occasion of the concert in Chieti with the Porta Civitanova Banda. Giandonato was born in the nearby town of Palombaro on January 13 1924, and his first studies of the sopranino flugelhorn began in this small town perched at the foot of the Maiella massif. In 1946 his story intertwined with that of Ruvo di Puglia’ ones. His fame, despite his young age, had already crossed the borders of Abruzzo. The Maestro Alessandro Amenduni, engaged in Ruvo di Puglia to re-establish the Banda (as well as responsible for the homologous Municipal School of Music), wanted to offer him a contract as soloist sopranino flugelhorn. This part was a key role for a banda since historically the concert soloist plays the role of the soprano, or rather the character that has the female protagonist of La Traviata in Violetta, of Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto or Mimì in Bohème by Giacomo Puccini or Norma work by Bellini. A strong friendship soon developed between Amenduni and Giandonato, so the soloist often asked Amenduni for lessons in composition, considering that the maestro had a degree in Clarinet and Composition from the Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Rome. This short stay would have marked Giandonato since he would later find a wife from the town and beyond. Meanwhile, with a letter dated July 3, 1947, addressed to such “Bosilico, flugelhorn player – Palombaro”, the renowned Squinzano Banda directed by the great Gennaro Abbate, through a third party, tried to offer him a contract: «We know that you are currently with the “bandetta” from Ruvo di Puglia, and you also have the idea of changing because, of course, the banda cannot give you any satisfaction. While ours, needless to say, can launch you since you are young and you need to make a name for yourself. Come immediately to Squinzano to treat the conditions that, we assure you, will be to your liking». Maybe the feeling didn’t start, or it was too far away. Squinzano was a great Banda because of first Ernesto and then Gennaro Abbate, but perhaps the young Giandonato didn’t like the ways? Who knows? And he was not even persuaded by the forwarding of this letter by his mother. She had received it in Abruzzo and sent it to him in Puglia accompanied by heartfelt written support to accept. Giandonato refused and left Ruvo to return to Abruzzo. On December 18, 1947, Amenduni wrote paternally to his friend by now Basilio «As for the study of counterpoint, don’t ask me if I’m willing to look at your works. When you want I am always ready for you». With a new letter, on March 12, 1948, Amenduni announced to Basilio: «After a big battle, I won. I will do a great Banda, the Gran Concerto Musicale Città di Ruvo di Puglia. From May we leave to return to Ruvo perhaps at the end of October. And what are you doing? If you’re not feeling well in Lanciano, I could still do something to get you to come among us. As for the price, we will satisfy you». The difficulties in providing another time with a banda for Ruvo di Puglia seemed to be definitively overcome. Still, then, in a subsequent letter of September 5 1951, a sad Amenduni announced to him «We have been without a Banda for two years. Despite the will of many, I did not see how to do it. In art, it is better to abstain than to do wrong ». Another invitation came in 1950 from Northern Italy. The Venice Banda writing as Director M° Alfredo Ceccherini, addressing Mr Zandonato thus wrote «…the position of 1st Sopranino Flugelhorn (Soloist) is unoccupied. You understand very well the importance of the Venice Banda. Of course, salaries are not exceptional as they are for the marching bands. On the other hand, many other benefits consolidate an artistic, social and stable position». The Venice Banda was, in fact, active until 1983 and its musicians were paid directly by the city-hall of Venice. But for Giandonato, staying mainly in Abruzzo was the right thing to do, until 1954, however, the year of definitive changes. With reasonable certainty, its seasons from 1946 to 1954 can be outlined in this way: 1946 and 1947 Ruvo di Puglia / Amenduni, late 1947 Porta Civitanova / Bizzarri, 1948 Lanciano / Centofanti, 1949 Orsogna / Reino, 1950 Noci / Reino, 1951 Chieti / Centofanti, 1952 and 1953 we don’t know, 1954 Lanciano / Lufrano and then 1955 Lecce. In fact, in ’54 Giandonato married the girl from Ruvo di Puglia he had previously met, and after a first period in Palombaro settling permanently in Ruvo. Still, in ’54 it was also the year of the “tornado” Alfredo D’Ascoli since the 1950s Director of the glorious Banda di Lecce, which convinced him to leave Lanciano and Abruzzo permanently. D’Ascoli himself wrote in a letter to Giandonato of December 4, 1954: «In any case, in whatever reasoning you continue to hold your true thesis, that is, that your choice to left Lanciano for Lecce was not for economic reasons but for fundamental reasons, which affected your spirit, well known to them». The fact is that after the important decisions of 1954 for Giandonato, a phase of success opened up that would soon consolidate the myth of him throughout Southern Italy. He stayed in Lecce for one year, followed by three years with Maestro Raffaele Miglietta in Corato 1956/1958, 1959 Carovigno once again with Antonio Reino, then eight legendary seasons with The Great Musical Concert of the City of Lecce “Tito Schipa” directed by Maestro Alfredo D’Ascoli 1960/1967, 1968 with Maestro Nino Misasi in Acquaviva delle Fonti and finally 1969 with Maestro Pietro Marmino in Martina Franca. The Bandas between the 1950s and 1960s were still significant for social life and village festivals. As mentioned, the TV was making an appearance (the TV was starting to show up) There were many fans of Banda and Opera, and when soloists of the calibre of Basilio arrived in town, they were welcomed like stars. Giandonato was nicknamed the Callas of the Banda. In those years he was very active and in great demand. Then, as he got older, in 1969, also convinced by his mother and his wife, he preferred to fall back with teaching in Ruvo di Puglia, overcoming the relative competition and succeeding Alessandro Amenduni who had now retired. In 1968 he had graduated in Composition and Instrumentation for Banda at the Piccinni Conservatory of Bari, obtaining the necessary qualifications meeting the requirements of the announcement. It is so famous the anecdote according to which the then Director Nino Rota, knowing that Giandonato was going to Bari for the final test, asked him to take the handset with him. It seems that after the Diploma the two played the entire Lucia by Donizetti with Rota on the piano playing the piano reduction. Today in Ruvo di Puglia he is remembered as a music teacher of two whole generations. Some local bandas still play marches of him but the true myth, the valuable, confident, refined soloist, risked being lost forever. Basilio Giandonato died suddenly in Rome in August 1986, but from today the tale of him is alive again, forever.
Alfredo D’Ascoli and “La Banda di Lecce”
«The most complete and perfect Banda in existence. 70 highly selected performers. Famous soloists. Vast repertoire of Symphonic and Lyric Music». So said the 1955 presentation brochure of the Grandioso Concerto Musicale Città di Lecce. Giuseppe Pascali tells in his book “La Banda di Lecce” (Capone Editore), that the Banda was born at the dawn of the 19th century and after more than a century it had dissolved on the eve of the First World War. Only in 1949, 34 years later, the then-mayor of Lecce Nacucchi wanted to restore it. The direction was entrusted to Maestro Emilio Silvestri, who nevertheless died the following year. Then he turned to Maestro Alfredo D’Ascoli. Born in Serino (Avellino) on October 28, 1895, he was admitted in 1907 at a very young age to the San Pietro Conservatory at Majella in Naples (his fellow student was the Alessandro’s brother Antonio Amenduni) as a graduating in Banda Instrumentation in 1914. In his life, he even worked closely with Arturo Toscanini! His arrival in Lecce was a revolution. Pascali reports that D’Ascoli, in addition to proposing the repertoire of marches as well as Opera excerpts, «rearranged the repertoire, focusing mainly on the symphonic one, choosing pages of high value and musical commitment. The master began to propose, and sometimes to design, music that at the time no one could imagine listening to from a marching band: Sherazade by Rimsky Korsakov, “La Moldava” by Smentana, “I Pini di Roma” by Respighi (of which we have an incredible recording dated the late 1950s, A/N), “Feste Romane”, “Il Reggente” by Mercadante (also present in the cd, A/N), “Messa da Requiem” by Verdi (named in D’Ascoli’s transcription La Grande Messa), the Swan Lake by Čajkovskij as well as other demanding authors like De Falla or Khachaturian (the famous Sword Dance was performed). Probably, many reductions were also concerted by other bandas (aboveall Squinzano Banda with Ernesto and Gennaro Abbate), but D’Ascoli was able to give a very personal touch to work, taking musical “freedom”. The need to proceed with a careful selection of musicians was linked to the intelligent choice of the repertoire. The maestro personally selected, and with infallible care, soloists and individual instrumentalists» from a staff that in those years, in the best tradition dictated by the theories of Maestro Alessandro Vessella, consisted of no less than 70 elements. Those were the times when the Patronal Festivals Committees and the Musical Associations took care of the concerts during the various celebrations and anniversaries. The Bandas “made the seasons”, that is, they left on tour from Easter and then sometimes return in December, touring far and wide throughout the South, even providing for the payment of social security contributions to all these musicians. A job in his own right. Those were the times when a glance said more than a thousand words, and when the younger ones couldn’t wait to learn from the older ones. Those were the times when words and a handshake were enough. Those were the times when there was no TV and the Banda, before the diffusion of the Radio, was the means of dissemination of the prevailing music, namely Opera, Melodrama. Those were the times when, between Surbo and Lecce, a favourable ‘astral’ conjunction had put together a zealot first clarinet, concertmaster and tour manager “capobanda” like like Nino Farì (1925-2015), a conductor like D’Ascoli and prestigious soloists like Alberto Chiriacò (1924- 2019) to the Tenor Flugelhorn, also called Tenor Trombone, Romano Marra (1931) to the Baritone Flugelhorn, often called Bombardino, but above all Basilio Giandonato (1924-1986) to the Sopranino Flugelhorn called Flicornino. D’Ascoli directed the Banda of Lecce until 1971 and died there on January 10, 1975. Farì was its first clarinettist, logistic and artistic manager from 1957 to 1995. The Banda with D’Ascoli changed its name to Grandioso Concerto Musicale Città di Lecce “Tito Schipa”. Today the Banda sees D’Ascoli alongside the name Schipa and, coordinated by Enzo Blaco, is directed by M° Paolo Addesso. At the same time, most of the scores of the time are kept at the “Nino Farì” Fund by M° Antonio Farì.
Gaetano “Nino” Farì
He was born on March 6, 1925, in Surbo (Lecce) and after his first clarinet studies at the Lecce Conservatory, he was examined by maestro Gennaro Abbate, joining, when he was only 14 years old, the Gran Concerto Bandistico di Squinzano. The outbreak of the war marked an interruption of artistic activities, so that between 1940 and 1944 Nino Farì devoted himself to studying with maestro Abbate, taking composition and instrumentation lessons at his home in Squinzano and becoming his protégé. At the end of the conflict, in July 1944, he was offered the role of first solo clarinet in the band concert of Carovigno, which had just been formed and directed by maestro Giuseppe Piantoni. In the 1945 and 1946 seasons, he returned to the Squinzano Banda as a Concertmaster; in 1947 and 1948 he was in the Mesagne Banda directed by Maestro Gioacchino Ligonzo. In 1949 he was in Noci with maestro Lippolis and finally, from 1950 to 1956, again in Squinzano with maestro Abbate, this time as first solo clarinet, artistic band leader and vice-master. In 1957 (three years after Abbate’s death) the last and broadest phase of his career begins, the one that inextricably binds him to the Gran Concerto Bandistico “Città di Lecce”, an institution that has its most brilliant period under the direction of master Alfredo D’Ascoli (from 1957 to 1971). Upon his death, Nino Farì remains the only organizer and artistic director of the Lecce Banda, to which he gives the proper name of D’Ascoli and the famous Tenor from Lecce Tito Schipa. He will be the organizational and artistic manager of the “Schipa-D’Ascoli” Banda Concert City of Lecce until 1995. He died at the age of 90 on December 3 2015. In the CD we appreciate him everywhere as first clarinet and concertmaster.
Antonio Reino, text edited by Pierfrancesco Galati, Musicologist and Music Historian
He was born on January 21, 1922 in Sant’ Eusanio del Sangro (Chieti). He graduated in clarinet and composition at the “S. Cecilia” Music Conservatory with Agostino Gabucci. After participating in World War II as an air force officer, in 1947 he began his career as a banda director in Rodi Garganico, where among other things he founded and directed a music school. His skills were recognized by other cities that called him to lead their respective bandas: S. Eusanio del Sangro, Orsogna, Noci, Loreto Aprutino, Vasto, Carovigno, Squinzano “Ferruccio Burco” Martina Franca “Mondial”, Lecce, Squinzano “Ernesto and Gennaro Abbate”, receiving many awards everywhere, including a gold medal in 1953 with the Noci Banda for admirable instrumentation and perfect execution. He has transcribed numerous symphonic compositions by Mussorgski, Borodin, Tchaikovsky, Rimski-Korsakov, Mosolov, up to the great Beethoven, Schubert and others. Among the essential transcriptions, we remember that of George Bizet’s I Pescatori di Perle, Wally by Alfredo Catalani, La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi. In addition to the conducting activity, he joined that of clarinet teacher at the “Tito Schipa” Conservatory of Lecce. His career was interrupted by his untimely death in Lecce on May 12 1978, the year in which he was director of the “Abbate” Banda from Squinzano.
Some consideration on the Banda
It is crucial to make a double consideration. Listening today, for example, the Banda di Lecce conducted by D’Ascoli between the 1950s and 1960s, should not be surprising for intensity, precision and intonation. Squinzano, Acquaviva delle Fonti, Gioia del Colle, Lanciano and also the Sicilian bandas had the same rigour. So what happened to make the Banda lose that artistic charge and credibility? And then why do we have recordings of Beniamino Gigli, Mario Del Monaco, Callas or Tito Schipa himself and about the great soloists of the Banda of the past almost nothing? What happened? Were they children of a lesser God? Just listen to “Il Reggente” by Saverio Mercadante from Altamura orchestrated by Alfredo D’Ascoli, or even the fragment of “Pini di Villa Borghese” by Respighi to change your mind about the value, the object of the Banda and how they played. Cannot forget the magnificent Lucia and Norma. If the Banda has never been less than the orchestras, the sense of inferiority unfortunately was. Over time, even the name “Banda” has been sacrificed in favour of the Wind Orchestra and today, even the typical organics of Southern Italy of more than 100 years, indicated by Alessandro Vessella, are at risk, in favour of the Symphonic Bands. Furthermore, in the Conservatory the trumpet models were embodied by foreign champions such as Maurice André. Yet what did a contemporary Giandonato have less than so many other excellent soloists of baritone flugelhorn, tenor trombone or soprano flugelhorn? Ignorance or blindness? This is the reason why this CD is crucial for the South, for the Banda, for the Italian school of flugelhorn and everyone’s historical memory.
Technical note about The Lost Tapes
Norma was recorded by Mimmo Fiore in Molfetta on September 9, 1976, on a Telefunken device. Lucia di Lammermoor is instead from 1966, and everything else was recorded between the end of the 1950s and 1966 by an enthusiast whose tape was first owned by maestro Nino Farì and later kept by the Piccinno family of Surbo. The recordings reveal dazzling, brilliant and virtuoso performances, absolutely not accelerated. Proof of this is, for example, the ending of the “Scena della Pazzia”, with its famous E flat. Even the Aria “Fra poco a me ricovero” is in D flat and not D, to foster the keys with flats (more comfortable and resonant for bandas). The reasons – says Michele Di Puppo, clarinettist and Bandleader of the Lecce Banda in the 70s – are that the masters at the time were divided into two categories. The prudent but precise, with comfortable tempos and attention to timbres, and the unscrupulous, with spectacular and disruptive beats. Such is the case of Maestro D’Ascoli.
Fantasy on the Norma (Vincenzo Bellini, transcribed by Gennaro Abbate)
This fantasy about the Norma is the most famous transcription of Bellini’s Opera that runs in the repertoire of marching bands in the world of the Bandas. Designed by the great Gennaro Abbate, it presents the most significant moments of the Opera. As Galati points out, «the transcriptions were usually instrumented and adapted by Ernesto and Gennaro Abbate, Giuseppe Piantoni and many others. They were suites for those audiences who were eager to hear the “Aria del Flicornino”, the “Flicorno Tenore”, the “Duetto” between Tenor and Flicornino, etc .., however, without theatrical philology, therefore freely transcribed by the author; hence the term fantasy)». In our recording the soprano Norma part is entrusted to Basilio Giandonato and the conduction to Maestro Antonio Reino. We will listen to the famous cantabile “Casta Diva”, “I figli uccido” by the recitative “Dormono entrambi”, the beautiful “Duetto Norma and Adalgisa” also called “Mira oh Norma”, the choir “Guerra, Guerra!” and the final scene, the recitative “Deh non volerli vittime”. Is omitted the cabaletta “Ah! Bello a me ritorna” and the beginning of “Dormono entrambi”. Vittorio Bisanti the soprano flugelhorn who duets with Giandonato.
Fantasy on Lucia di Lammermoor (Gaetano Donizetti, transcribed by Alfredo D’Ascoli)
The Prologue mainly contains excerpts from Act I with the chorus “Il tuo dubbio è ormai certezza” and from Act II, in which Enrico (the baritone) sings “Ma si taccia del passato…”, in a banda interpreted by Romano Marra on the baritone flugelhorn. The Fantasia then jumps to the Finale, known for the Aria “Tombe degli avi miei”, in this case starting with “Fra poco a me ricovero” with Edgardo as a protagonist, the Tenor, similarly interpreted in a banda by the Tenor trombone Alberto Chiriacò. This is followed by the famous Scene Della Pazzia, Act III, Scene V, or the recitative “Il dolce suono” combined with the first part of the Aria, or the cantabile “Ardon gl’incensi”, where the Soprano Lucia contains passages of particular difficulty often intertwined on the flute of Enzo Bisanti (then for decades the first flute of the Police Banda). In the banda, the Soprano is covered by the Flicorno Sopranino, known as Flicornino, and in this case, this role was entrusted to the skills of Basilio Giandonato. Then follows “tempo di mezzo” of the Area, “Segnai quel foglio, è vero” (played by Marra and Giandonato) and finally the cabaletta “Spargi d’amaro pianto” with Giandonato as the protagonist. The penultimate moment fantasy “Chi raffrena il mio furore” by D’Ascoli, Act II, Scene V, or the Quartet composed of Edgardo, Enrico, Lucia and Raimondo (the Bass, in the banda, was the second Baritone Flugelhorn) that sees in this recording Chiriacò incredibly together Marra, Giandonato and Antonio Stefanizzi as Raimondo! Finally, always from the same scene, the recitative “T’allontana, sciagurato” with the desperation of Edgardo, again with Chiriacò on tenor trombone. The “Pini di Roma” instead were written by Ottorino Respighi and adapted for Banda by Antonio D’Elia. All four movements are online. This is followed by the Overture from “Il Reggente” by Saverio Mercadante in the transcription by Alfredo D’Ascoli as well as a joyful final march dedicated to the city of Lecce by D’Ascoli himself, “Lecce in Festa”. Online you can also listen to the first part of Gioacchino Rossini’s “La Scala di Seta” in the transcription of D’Ascoli with soloists Modesto Martello oboe, Vincenzo Bisanti flute and of course Nino Farì lead clarinet.
Many thanks in alphabetical order to Paolo Addesso, Antonio Anselmi, Vincenzo Anselmi, Enzo Bisanti, Enzo Blaco, Filippo Boscia, Giovanni Cassanelli, Barbara Chiriacò, Giambattista Ciliberti, Angelo Cotturone, Elisabetta D’Ascoli, Alfredo D’Ascoli, Cesare Dell’Anna, Michele Di Puppo, Rocco Fabia, Antonio Farì, Domenico “Mimmo” Fiore, Pierfrancesco Galati, Brunilde Giandonato’s family, Fedora Giandonato’s family, Pasquale Mariella, Romano Marra’s family, Emanuele Maggiore, Prof. Giuseppe Pascali, Osvaldo Piccinno, Umberto Rizzo.