Forgotten Sicilian composer’s music comes home to Sicily after 270 years

 

dscf1435A setting of the Salve Regina, composed in 1746, by the forgotten Sicilian priest and composer Antonino Reggio, had its first performance in Sicily after 270 years. It was performed at the 10th Festival di Musica Antica in Gratteri (PA) on the 31st August 2016.

Antonino Reggio (1725-1780) was born in Aci Catena in the province of Catania into a branch of the family Reggio, Principi di Campofiorito. At the age of eight he was sent to Palermo to study at the Jesuit “Collegio dei Nobili” and then to the Archbishop’s Seminary to study for the priesthood, being ordained in 1749.

During the period 1745-1750 Reggio composed a number of works of sacred music, masses, oratorios, hymns and sacred songs. After his ordination he was sent to Rome and became courier to the Apostolic Nuncio in Portugal, a post he held for thirteen years.

On his return to Rome he became a monsignor and a “Prelato Domestico” at the Vatican. During this period, he became known both as a performer and composer for the harpsichord and violoncello.

He has been described by contemporaries as; eminent for his skill and knowledge of the “science of sound” and as a man of intellect, erudite and “deep in music”. Whilst in Rome Reggio composed secular arias, taken from texts of the popular operas being performed at the time, 5 volumes of keyboard sonatas comprising 72 works, sonatas for two violoncellos and sonatas for Lute and Bass.

He never returned to his native Sicily, dying in Rome at the age of 55, and is buried in the church of the Sicilian Community of Rome, Santa Maria Odigitria in Via Tritone.

The music of Antonino Reggio had lain forgotten for some 230 years until its rediscovery in 2000 in a library in Germany. Over the last sixteen years research has been carried out into both the life and the music of this extremely talented Sicilian priest. Very little references have been found as to his life. Fortunately, he annotated many of his manuscripts with dates, places and names of dedicatees. From this information it was possible to carry out further research to establish his identity and to construct a biography.

All of Reggio’s sacred works were composed whilst he was a seminarian in Palermo, therefore it was appropriate that his Salve Regina should have its first performance in Sicily in the province of Palermo.

With the support of the Associazione MusicaMente – Arianna Art Ensemble of Palermo, a performance of Reggio’s Salve Regina was realised for the Gratteri Festival. The Arianna ensemble, comprising; Cinzia Guarino, harpsichord; Victoria Melik, violin; Paolo Rigano, archlute; Andrea Rigano, violoncello Alessandro Nasello, bassoon; Raffaele Nicoletti, viola and Francesco Colletti, violin, had invited the Spanish soprano Maria Hinojosa Montenegro to perform the vocal part.

The MusicaMente Association has promoted culture in Palermo since 2002, when it was formed with the primary purpose of the promotion and development of musical culture in all its forms and expressions, through the activity of two ensembles; Arianna Art Ensemble and Affinity of the Fourth.

musicistaSince 2007 it has organized, each year, the International Festival di Musica Antica in Gratteri. Now in its tenth edition, it is a perfect blend of quality music and the promotion of the area, which is part of the cultural heritage of the city of Gratteri and the Madonie territory.

As an introduction to this performance a lecture was given on the previous evening by the English musicologist, Anthony Hart, who had researched Reggio’s life and edited his music. This lecture was attended by a small but attentive audience. Anthony Hart briefly outlined the life of Reggio and introduced the audience to samples of his music.

On the following evening a concert of Spanish and Sicilian music entitled “Tra Sicilia e Spagna nel ‘700” was given in the 14th century church of Santa Maria di Gesù, the first established church in Gratteri. It was during this concert that Reggio’s Salve Regina was performed for the first time on Sicilian soil in 270 years. The church was the perfect venue for this performance with a brilliant acoustic which supported the excellent performance of this talented ensemble. The performance was flawless and very much appreciated by the almost packed church.

With the continued support of the Arianna Art Ensemble it is hoped to bring more of Antonino Reggio’s music to Sicily. The project, Fondazione Antonino Reggio, formed to research and perform Reggio’s works, is under the esteemed patronage of; the Dioceses of Acireale, in particular His Excellency Mons. Antonino Raspanti, bishop of Acireale; IBIMUS – Istituto di Bibliografia Musicale in Rome, in particular Prof. Giancarlo Rostirolla, and TISIA, Istituto Universitario di Studi Musicali in Cefalù, in particular Dr Maestro Diego Cannizzaro.

More work and support is needed to realize this project. The intentions are to research, edit and publish Reggio’s works, to bring them to the music public’s attention and to establish Reggio as an important part of Sicilian musical culture.

Please visit the following website for more information on Fondazione Antonino Reggio: www.monsignor-reggio.com (under review), or follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EdizioneAntoninoReggio For more information on the Associazione MusicaMente please visit: http://www.associazionemusicamente.com

 

 

 

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