Liederiadi: Italian excellence in German tradition

by Rino Alessi

Can an example of Italian excellence such as opera bear fruit within the Lieder tradition, which is so closely connected to German culture and history? Milanese tenor Mirko Guadagnini believes so. Liederiadi, the Festival he founded in Milan and which is the only event dedicated to this stern music genre in Italy, is now in its seventh year.

Guadagnini is specialized in Baroque and contemporary music, and spent last summer in Udine and Venice giving wonderful performances of Britten. He studied at the Aslico School, and as many others started his career singing in the choir; then, in 1999, he was asked at the last moment to replace the lead of “The Rake’s Progress” at Turin’s Regio.

What attracted you to the world of Lieder? “It’s often the people you meet that determine your destiny. I had met various piano players who introduced me to this genre, sparking the initial interest that turned into this dream of mine.”

Liederiadi started in 2006, after two years of “practice” in the home of a dear friend in Milan, who welcomed the newborn event in her living room by inviting friends, artistic director, music critics and journalists. Guadagnini – who has an intelligence and humor that set him apart from most tenors – says they were “under house arrest” for two years. Then the show grew and moved for three years to the Sagrestia Bramantesca in Santa Maria alle Grazie; then it moved for another two years in San Marco, and it is now in its second edition in Palazzina Liberty in Largo Marinai d’Italia. The 2013/2014 Liederiadi, with five shows from December to May, will take place in this beautiful location immersed in nature.

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The first evening, titled “I viaggi di Aleksandra Potanina” (“The Journeys of Aleksandra Potanina”), explored some rare gems of the Russian repertoire performed by the Siberian contralto Oksana Lazareva. Magnificently accompanied at the piano by Marino Moretti, Lazareva led the audience on a musical journey from Dargomyzhsky to the little-known Sviridov, not to mention four wonderful “Songs and Dances of Death” by Mussorgsky – on the trail of the mid-1800s Russian pioneer and scientist, who was the first woman to work in ethnomusicology and to transcribe a number of traditional Asiatic songs, through notes and drawings now on exhibit in Tomsk, Oksana’s hometown. Coincidences that seem to come full circle in the distant Siberia.

In January, the Palazzina Liberty will host a concert on Lieder’s origins on the occasion of the three-hundred-year anniversary of the birth of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach; the following shows will pay homage to clarinet and voice (March), French women’s voices in Debussy and Chabrier (April), and finally “Las flores argentinas” (May).

“The festival has been a rather demanding personal investment,” Guadagnini adds. “But I have learned that being persistent in one’s dreams is helpful. I felt a strong need to express my feelings through singing, and Lieder are a great well from which only the noblest feelings emerge. Besides, the piano is still my favorite instrument. I love working with pianists.”

Oksana Lazareva had her first encounter with Lieder at school: “It is part of the required repertoire in my country. It’s not true that this genre is easier to sing than opera. It has a well rounded expressiveness and aims for a different goal. In opera singers are like athletes who have to prove they can reach the finish line; during a concert you have to convey your feelings”.

In the future, Liederiadi – supported by the efforts of its organizers, a small subsidy from Regione Lombardia, and the success it has with its loving followers – plans to continue its research on the roots of the genre, exploring Telemann’s world and broadening the approach to include other instruments, such as the guitar and the harp.

Photos via

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February 18, 2014