Academic journal article Transactions of the American Philosophical Society

Palermo (1931-36)

Academic journal article Transactions of the American Philosophical Society

Palermo (1931-36)

Article excerpt

After depositing his thesis with the secretary of the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy (October 1931), Nino Pirrotta returned to Palermo and began concertizing. In the 26-27 December 1931 issue of L'Ora he was praised for a concert inaugurating the new organ at the Church of S. Maria di Gesù:

A musician of broad and sound culture who knows every secret of his complex instrument, Nino Pirrotta Restivo possesses a remarkable sense of style as well as an impeccable technique. He is able to express the essential characteristics, to find the right interpretive approach ... for each piece of music.... Thus in the Pastorale of [Domenico] Zipoli,1 the Petit Poncet [sic; recte: Poucet] of Ravel,2 and the Vecchio Castello of Monssorgsky [sic; recte: "Moussorgsky"],3 he attains a singular delicateness of touch, while in the Toccata of Palasuti, the Preludio e fuga in mi min. by Bach,4 and the HI Córale of Franck5 he demonstrates to perfection his gifts of execution and style.

These are demanding compositions, exemplifying a range of styles and high expectations concerning technical proficiency and sensitivity to stylistic interpretation.

A pressing obligation awaited him, however: his military service. Pirrotta's status in Italian society was such that he could enlist as an officer. He therefore trained at officer candidate school, and given his tall and slender frame-he was affectionately nicknamed "sfilatino" {"baguette")-he was detailed to the cavalry and served as lieutenant. Upon being discharged,6 and finally free of all previous obligations, he was able to contemplate his career more purposefully.7

Many years later, Pirrotta recalled wanting to devote himself to the history of music but was having difficulty realizing his ambition. Ottavio Ziino, his boyhood friend and future brother-in-law, was a music critic from 1929 to 1931 and wrote on Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, Moussorgsky's Boris Godunov, Boïto's Ν er one, and similar subjects for the Palermitan daily L'Ora. Ziino's journalistic activities suggested a means for Pirrotta to establish himself professionally, an outlet for his developing musical and music-historical interests.8 Between December 1933 and October 1935, he wrote at least 26 journalistic pieces for the same daily that had published Ziino's music criticism. These critical writings were long neglected, but they have recently been republished and are illuminating documents of Pirrotta's earliest activities as essayist and aspiring music historian.9

While writing for L'Ora, and even earlier, Pirrotta was also deeply involved with the Palermitan "Friends of Music" ("Amici della Música"), serving as secretary in August of 1933.10 Throughout the early to mid-'30s, he was also establishing himself-initially on an incaricato (visiting or adjunct) basis-at his Alma Mater, the Conservatory of Palermo:11 in early 1935, his father Vincenzo reported to Pirrotta's sister Giulia that "[b]y now, Nino has made himself at home at the Conservatory.'"2 Thus even before his formal appointment in 1936 to the Conservatory's roster of full-time faculty, as docent in music history and librarian, Pirrotta was employed there on a temporary basis, fiiori ruolo, which suggests his developing professional dedication to that institution and to music librarianship.

In 1934, while he was concertizing,13 writing critical pieces for ¿Ora, teaching part time at the Conservatory, and contributing his time and energies to the "Amici della Música," Pirrotta was approached by a close friend, Ettore Li Gotti (1910-56), Romance philologist and docent at a local liceo, who invited him to collaborate on a study of the verse of Trecento Florentine poet Franco Sacchetti and its musical settings.

Pirrotta's acceptance of the invitation was among the most consequential developments of his career, as he would later recount. Li Gotti immediately became an important figure in his professional formation. Giulia PirrottaZiino recounted that her brother's musicological career had "begun almost by chance. …

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