Eclecticism and judgement: notes on Pizzetti's Tre sonetti del Petrarca

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The work of Ildebrando Pizzetti has attracted little attention in Anglophone musicology, and the most detailed English-language treatment, that of John C. G. Waterhouse in his unpublished doctoral dissertation (1969), has been largely inaccessible. The present article provides a summary of Waterhouse’s argument, but also a critique. The British critic’s identification with what is analysed here as an ideology of liberal progressivism produces a skewed vision of Pizzetti’s compositional career, of which a re-evaluation is long overdue. With a focus on the composer’s songs, in particular the Tre sonetti del Petrarca of 1922, the present article suggests that Pizzetti’s work as a whole is poorly served by the kind of evaluative framework that judges music by the extent to which it manages to remain abreast of a teleologically conceived historical narrative of progress. Instead, it is proposed, Pizzetti’s music should be considered remarkable for its stylistically eclectic, open quality, something that is understood here not in the usual pejorative sense, instead, following Theodor W. Adorno, in terms of a critique of the liberal conception of artistic “personality” still dominant in English language musicology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-212
Journal Chigiana: rassegna annuale di studi musicologici
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2020


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