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What Music Owes to Italy

It is with a deep feeling of reverence that we commence these paragraphs upon the marvelous benefactions of the astonishing little peninsula which, jutting down into the Mediterranean Sea and continually making us aware of its existence by earthquake, volcano or flood, must at the same time always remain in the memory of man as the birthplace of the most peaceful and beautiful of the arts. How very new we are and how very ancient is Italy. A thousand years before the great Italian, Columbus, discovered our country music schools were founded in Rome. From that time to the day of Verdi, Puccini, Leoncavallo, Mascagni, Bossi, Perosi and Sgambati the history of music has been so closely related to the history of Italy that they are inseparable. To whom must we be grateful for the earliest evolution of the opera, the oratorio, the sonata, the violin, the piano, the organ and, in fact, the better part of musical notation itself?
 
It is true there has been no Italian Beethoven, no Italian Chopin, no Italian Liszt, no Italian Strauss; but what of that? The world of music is limitless. The nationality of the composer, as well as all the racial traits that have marked his people for centuries, must always become evident in his music. The Latin love for sensuous melody, the mystery and pomp of the church, the deep and sincere religious fervor, the reverence of the classical, the exhileration (sic) of the drama and the opera, the superstitions of the occult are all embodied in the music of the Italians. More than this they have overcome their ^racial conservatism in later years and have awakened to the stimulating influences of other lands. When the gigantic Wagner shook musical Europe to its foundations the Italians were among the first to be converted to his revolutionary beliefs. Giuseppe Verdi, born in the same year as Wagner, was so deeply moved by Wagner's ideas that when an old man, after he had made two noteworthy careers as a composer, marked by two distinct epochs, he produced Aïda, Falstaff and Otello, the latter probably the greatest of Italian operas.
 
So great has been the influence of Italy that it would require a library of no mean dimensions barely to encompass the subject. Although in the last century Italian music has been principally operatic music, it has been operatic music of a kind that does not in all cases demand the equipment of the theatre for its appreciation. The teacher who would cultivate a love for charming melody in his pupils can find no better method than the use of piano transcriptions of some of the Italian operas. True, a diet of this kind altogether would not be wise, but occasionally it is highly profitable to listen to the simple but exquisite tunes of the Italian opera writers. The modern sound-reproducing machine is also of immense help to the teacher who realizes that in this way the wonders of Italian opera can be brought into the studio.
 
This "Italian Issue of The Etude is representative of a large variety of opinion by writers of different nationalities. We have tried, above all things, to be fair and to give full justice to the music of Italy.
 

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