A voyage of inner exploration
"Il Risveglo", The Awakening, is one of the most profound pieces of music conceived by multi-instrumentalist Claudia Bombardella (50), who was born in Luxembourg and now lives outside Florence with her dog Grisú ("il mio maestro in tema di amore 'incondizionato"' - "my master when it comes to unconditional love") and about 18 instruments. Claudia Bombardella exploded on to the Italian musical scene with her mysteriously beautiful voice and the penetrating sound of her baritone saxophone and clarinet, round about the turn of the 21st century. Il Risveglio, which was also performed in Germany, is a well-balanced, carefully constructed work lasting about an hour, in which Bombardella, accompanied by the choir Animae Voces (conducted by Edoardo Materassi) and a string quintet (il "'Quintetto d'Archi"), bombards her audience with all kinds of instrumental and vocal effects. A masterful mixture of music and poetry, the piece captivates the audience from the very first minute to the end, maintaining a high level of musical variety and depth throughout. Created as a study on the theme of the awakening of humanity, it takes the audience on a voyage to inner exploration and gradually increasing self-awareness. The musicians and the audience go through all phases of the awakening process together. First there is the mechanical phase, where you realise the absence of any spiritual meaning in your life. To reflect this, the strings are not played with a bow, but with a comb. The musicians wear masks to show that they are still blind, and the choir sits backwards facing the rear wall - another expression of their inability to see. This all represents the stage before Man's awakening, when he starts to see and realise that he exists.
"I cultivate this project with all my heart."
Claudia Bombardella, the musical philosopher, smiles. She obviously is quite content with this enormous spettacolo. "It has been recorded live in 2012 in the Teatro Affratellamento in Florence," she enthuses, "after a series of concerts. It is a very particular project, which I cherish with all my heart. I wrote Risveglio in 2011-2012. It took me around 7 months and many rehearsals with the musicians and the choir. The musicians were enthusiastic and the theatre was always full. The project was very succesful and I was asked to expand the composition in Mainz (Germany) a year later with a German Quintet (Simone Becker,violin; Dorothea Bauschert, violin; Verena Müller, viola; Svenja Nagel, cello; Özge Cevik-Erdem (double bass), the Junger Kammerchor Mainz and Ensemble Chordial directed by Daniel Rumpf. It is a very difficult piece and only works when all players and singers are deeply committed to expressing this important path of the human soul. The live performance is very strong, and the beauty of the poetry within the different styles of music is very moving, sending a message that tanscends mere mental understanding."
"Poems of Dickinson, Rumi and Rilke."
The piece continues with a song based on the poem "Presentiment" by Emily Dickinson, sung a capella by the choir. "This is a dark chorale, very deep and strong," comments Claudia. "It is followed by a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, which I sing in German, accompanied by the string quartet. Then there are fragments of poems by the great French playwright Jean Racine, in which he writes about God, thinking about God, feeling God. This represents the moment when Man starts to realise that love and spirituality are the path to Awakening. Next comes the moment of Doubt ("Dubbio"), reflected by a solo saxophone passage. After going through the phase of doubt, Man has the courage to enter the Valley of the Shadow, the darkness within himself. This evolution finally leads us to a traditional Algerian song and to Rumi, the Persian poet and Sufi mystic whose verses, sung by me and the choir, tell us where we have to look to find our self. The arrival of Rumi is marked by a real musical explosion, ass if people were saying: "OK, now is the time to make the effort to get out of this mechanical life. That is a very powerful passage, followed by the phases of Solitude, Revelation and The Gift (all based on other poems by Emily Dickinson). The Gift is the one you receive when you follow your own path and continue to live in this world, but with a deeper consciousness. The music accompanying all these poems is composed in many different styles and languages. There are traces of mediaeval music and Balkan rhythms, many references to Western classical style - in particular Bach - and contemporary music, a whole musical world within this microcosm." The final version of Il Risveglio, was premiered in March 2012 in the Teatro di Cestello in Florence, with subsequent performances in other European countries. The CD, released by Radici Music Recordis, is based on a recording of Il Risveglio made in July 2012 in the evocative surroundings of the Roman amphitheatre in the hills above Fiesole, a charming village just outside Florence, during the 'Estate Fiesolana' summer festival.
"I am a maniac, I love to study sounds and languages."
Claudia Bombardella, singer, composer, researcher, voice teacher, former saxophone teacher and highly skilled multi-instrumentalist uses all those characteristics to build her compositions, some based on regional traditions, others entirely of her own making. Her projects include a huge work based on Klezmer music for the Orchestra della Toscana that she wrote together with Luca di Volo, with herself and Luca di Volo as soloists. "Klezmer music traditionally performed by wnadering Jewish players, has roots going back almost two thousand years," Claudia explains, "but the present Klezmer style was developed in nineteenth-century Bessarabia. These Jewish musicians plauyed in many different styles. i have studied a great deal of Jewish music; Klezmer music is delightful, it is a passion of mine because it has so many ancient themes. Very deep and melodic. And there is another side to Klezmer music, which is very lively and has gipsy influences. That was very interesting too."
Claudia Bombardella, who grew up in Luxembourg with an Italian father and a German mother, started playing the violin at the age of 5 and the saxophone when she was 16. "The violin was my first instrument, but I can't say that I played the violin, I just used it. My first instrument now is the voice, though the saxophone is still the instrument I know best." Forty-five years after she first touched the violin, the list of instruments she plays exceeds by far the range of a normal musician. Apart from her special interest in the various uses of the human voice as a musical instrument, Claudia has studied at least 18 instruments during the past years, proving her credentials as a true multi-instrumentalist. They include chimes (Chinese tubular bells); the steel drum; the violin; the Balafon; the Berimbao; polyethylene tubes; the Sansa thumb piano; the Basset horn; the Cajón (a percussion instrument, originally from Peru); the tambourine; the Darbuka goblet drum; the Glockenspiel; the accordion; the cello; the fiddle horn (like the cello but with only one string and a horn to amplify the sound); Tibetian singing bowls; the harmonium; the milk pan; the Dan moi (jaw harp from the mountains of Vietnam) and the baritone saxophone.
"I need to be very precise with the colour of my sound."
"The bariton saxophone is my main instrument; I have studied it all my life," Claudia says. "I use the cello to accompany my voice. The other instrments - some bigger, some smaller - serve mainly as background accompaniment. I play all these instruments to study the sound they produce, in particular the quality. I am a maniac, I am fanatical about both sound and languages. I am keenly interested in all kinds of languages and I study musical styles from many different countries. I need to be very precise with the colour of my sound. I sing in many languages, like Armenian, Azerbaijani, German, English, French, Italian, Algerian and Iranian, because I love the sound of these languages. I can't speak them fluently, but I study their music and poetry as far as I can, asking friends that come from those countries for help. Each people's secret philosophy is hidden in the sound of its language. Of course I love to listen to classical music too and the deep harmonic world that has been built up here over the centuries. I love to study and analyse the music of the immense classical world from the perspective of my personal background. But above all I love the incredibly profound world of the Orient and try to grasp its essence as well as I can."
|Claudia Bombardella playing an Armenian melody on the accordeon|
"Movesi l’amante per la cosa amata.” -The lover moves to the beloved (Leonardo da Vinci)
Claudia Bombardella was born in Luxembourg in a musical family with an Italian father and a German mother who used to play the violin, the piano and the typewriter (she was a translator by profession). "I heard her typewriter making a kind of metallic music all day long," Claudia reminisces. "I went to Italy when I had graduated from secondary school, mainly because I had an Italian boyfriend in Florence. As Leonardo da Vinci said 'Movesi l'amante per la cosa amata.' (The lover moves to be with the beloved). Love is the motor of life for me." In Italy Claudia started studying at the Music School in Fiesole near Florence (Scuola di Musica di Fiesole), and remained there for 7 years. "It was a good school. I didn't just study there, but also taught. I was an assistant saxophone teacher right from the beginning. I had been studying music for so long that I could teach the younger pupils something. During my time in Fiesole I was studying saxophone, composition, history of music etc., while teaching saxophone techniquer." Apart from the violin and the saxophone, Claudia also studied drama and jazz. "I took a jazz course in Remscheid near Heidelberg, Germany, one summer," Claudia continues. "They had very good jazz teachers there. There is not much jazz in my work nowadays. I am mainly focused on classical themes, combined with folk music from all around the world. I don't have a fixed style of playing and singing. Of course I don't have the voice of a Maria Callas, but I try to use my voice in a very spontaneous way. I love to put an ironic tint in my singing and music-making. On the other hand, my music has a very deep, sometimes dark side, like the dark side of the moon. Both are always present in my work. I have been playing in many different combinations since 1986 - in a duo, a trio, a quartet, a quintet, a sextet, with an orchestra as well as a soloist. I perform less nowadays, though, because I want to concentrate on composition."
Claudia playing the alto clarinet in the concert "Un Mondo fra le Mani"
"One of the outstanding female figures in the new Italian music scene. "
Claudia Bombardella won the 9th Teresa Viarengo Prize, awarded to Italian interpreters of traditional and ethnic music, in 2008. The jury responsible for selecting the winner described her work as follows: "Claudia Bombardella's singing gives a new reading of the essence of tradition, representing it with new sounds and creative ideas from the perspective of both timbre and composition." When her CD "Un mondo fra le Mani" (A world between your hands) came out, she was praised by critics as "one of the outstanding female figures in the new Italian music scene, who has for many years composed and arranged the music for the spectacular works that are performed by huge ensembles sometimes including orchestras and choirs." She has given concerts throughout Europe, has issued 6 CD's with various groups over the years and has composed the music for two films. During the past decade, she has focused on her research concerning "vocalisation and creativity", giving seminars on this topic in Florence, Rome, Segovia, Madrid, Paris and Náměšt’ (Czech Republic). One of her most recent CDs, "Un mondo fra le Mani", has received two awards, FBIS from the Italian Folk Bulletin and BRAVO from the French Trad Magazine. "I also won the First Prize at the Busker Festival held in the little mediaeval town of Pelago, a few kilometres from Florence, twice, in 1995 and 1996,” added Claudia proudly. “The first time I was playing in a duo with Luca di Volo, and the second was for a group of 15 saxophonists for whom I wrote and arranged the music.”
"Amor mio" is a free interpretation by Claudia Bombardella of an extraordinary song composed by Giovanni Stefani and first performed in Venice in 1618. The melody is a fitting accompaniment to the words of this song of total love, of intense poetic passion and sincere dedication, transcending light and darkness and accepting both with all one’s heart. “I can ‘t explain how much I loved this song from the very first time I heard it,” Claudia says. “Its simple melody has a perfect structure – premise, reply, development, closure and repetition – like the beating of the lover’s heart on meeting the beloved, like an eternal wave, alternately crashing and resting, expanding and contracting. A kind of vital respiration of the soul, a delicate glance at the most intimate and profound recesses of human existence. The original title of the song was “Bella Mia” – My Lovely. Stefani gave the song an extraordinary melody. The words are marvellous. This is one of the very few songs I sing as such – I am not much given to singing conventional songs."
Amor mio questo mio core
Per voi vive e per voi more
Che voi siete per mie sorte
La mia vita e la mia morte
Col bel guardo mi ferite
Col bel guardo voi mi guarite
Quando dunque mi mirate
Morte e vita aimè mi date
O d’amor miracol novo
Vita e morte a un tempo io provo
Ne so qual’è più gradita
Se la morte oppur la vita
Pur di dubbio non son priva
D’esser morta o d’esser viva
Ma sia quel che vuole il fato
Viva o morta a voi mi ho dato
My love, this is my heart
Will live and die for you
For you are my destiny
My life and my death
With your beautiful gaze you wound me
And with your beautiful gaze you cure me
When you look on me
You give me death and life
This miraculous new love
Gives me life and death to taste at the same time
I don't know which is more welcome
Death of life
I am not without doubt
Do I die, or do I live
Bu whatever the fates grant me
I know that you gave me life or death
|Claudia Bombardella practicing the double bass clarinet at home outside Florence.|
The study of music is demanding: it wants all of you."
"I stopped teaching the saxophone when I was 28. Apart from my work as a musician, I am also active as a voice teacher, giving workshops in various places and master classes here in Florence. I have an unusual approach to the human voice," (as explained in the next section). "I studied drama when I first came to Italy; I have always been interested in human beings, in the various ways they express thermselves. Studying drama was one way of finding out more about this. We did bodywork, voice work and expression, and learned what space is and how to fill it. But I soon decided to switch to music and to concentrate on that. Music is very demanding, you know, it needs you to devote all your strength and all of yourself to it. So I started studying the saxophone at the Music School in Fiesole. Luca di Volo was my teacher for 13 years, until I was 34. He is a good composer, an extraordinary saxophone player and a multi-instrumentalist like me. When I started playing the saxophone, I just played from morning to night, improvising all the time. After my 7 years of study in Florence I started studying lots of other instruments because of my interest in composition. I like to be able to play the instruments I am composing for. I started composing when I was 21. I was always having fights with my composition teacher, because he wanted me to play strictly according to the rules, but that is not my way. So in the end I started studying composition on my own, though of course I did have excellent teachers as well."
"I am not a normal singer"
"My interest in the voice is closely related to my work as a composer. I am not a normal singer, you know. I regard the human voice as one of the instruments I use in my compositions. I don't just sing songs, but investigate the potential of the throat to produce musical sounds. I don't have a singer's mentality, because first and foremost I am a musician. The singing came later and I started studying many aspects of song in depth - including, of course, the technique. But my primary interest is in the relationship between the voice and the human being. The voice is the instrument that is closest to each one of us, without the need for any technical intervention."
Claudia Bombardella has become known as an eclectic musician, who has been composing and arranging the music for years for her own performances and for often large ensembles, frequently involving choirs and orchestras such as the Volksoper Wien and the Orchestra della Toscana. Poetry plays an important role in Claudia's compositions, as she explains: "I love poetry, and being able to tell stories with the aid of simple images. Words have the great advantage compared with pictures that they contain sound and leave listeners free to add their own colours and forms. Poetry liberates both the reader and the audience, stimulates the imagination and the powers of contemplation, and renews itself continually. Poetry lays out a landscape in front of you, and allows you to stop for a moment and look at it."
Paesaggi Lontani - Distant Landscapes
Paesaggi Lontani (Distant Landscapes) by Claudia Bombardella is a lengthy composition that takes the audience through a wide expanse of music and culture, just as nomadic tribes pick up the cultural essence of the people they come across in the course of their wanderings. The composition covers a variety of folk music styles. Paesaggi Lontani was recorded before a live audience in February 2004. It was the first CD that Claudia Bombardella released without Luca di Volo, her saxophone teacher from Fiesole. The music was performed by the Claudia Bombardella Ensemble, consisting of Claudia Bombardella (voice, clarinet, accordion and baritone saxophone), Gloria Merani (violin, voice), Filippo Burchietti (cello, voice), Samuele Venturin (guitar, accordion, mandolin, voice) and Massimo Pinca (double bass). "This piece can be understood at two levels," Claudia explains. "At the superficial level it takes the listener on a journey from one country to the other, from one musical style to another. At the same time it is a voyage of internal discovery, which is much longer and more demanding. Music is an excellent guide on this voyage of internal discovery. We performed this piece at venues throughout Italy, and in Luxembourg, France, Austria and Yugoslavia. This was my first solo CD. It has been very well received all over the world."
Gallo Rosso Gallo nero (Red rooster, black rooster)
"Gallo Rosso, Gallo Nero is a splendid partisan song, probably from a Spanish original," says Claudia. "It tells of two roosters, a red one representing the Communists and a black one representing the Fascists, who are continually sparring. Their contest is obviously a simile for the struggle between the partisans on the left and right of the political spectrum. I kept the original text, and composed the music to accompany it and the various film fragments chosen to illustrate it."
BIS Particolare - A weird interlude where Claudia plays the part of Johann Sebastian Bach
BIS particolare, an encore performed by Claudia Bombardella, to accompany Il Risveglio, is a whimsical musical journey based on a mixture of a saxophone solo, classical music and cabaret. Claudia starts off telling a story, a sort of fairy tale of her own invention, about an event that takes place around 1700 and involves an unnamed famous composer who, it is clear from the context, is meant to be Johann Sebastian Bach. The narrative gradually changes into a cabaret act in which Claudia tells funny jokes, gestures with her arms, produces various sound effects and drums on her saxophone to imitate her mother working on her typewriter. The fairy tale starts off slowly with a soft musical accompaniment, but the rhythm gradually speeds up and the tension increases, leading to a finale that is as explosive as a volcano. The authoritative performance captivates the audience. "It's all a bit of a joke," Claudia explains. "The story is placed in the early 18th century. A very famous composer has just been attending a concert and as he walks along the street he suddenly falls to the ground and drops off to sleep. This scene is accompanied by an improvisation on the baritone saxophone that leads seamlessly into Bach's second cello suite. The entire theme here leads on from the idea of the Gift (of inspiration) in Il Risveglio. Our imaginary personage, representing Bach himself, falls asleep because of an overload of inspiration. As he is sleeping on the ground, an African shaman passes by and decides to help him to come to his senses by playing a strong, penetrating rhythm on his sacred drum. I play this healing melody with my tongue and my voice, and it has the desired effect: the Bach personage - played by me - wakes up, enlightened by the music played for him, and starts to write his second cello suite, typing it out on the saxophone and singing at the same time."
Claudia Bombardella's CDs are listed in full below.
|(1996) - "Shalom" with Luca Di Volo and Nicola Vernuccio.|
|(1997) - "Klezmer experience" with Luca di Volo and the Orchestra della Toscana.|
|(1999) - "Maremma" con Luca di Volo, Gloria Merani and Filippo Burchietti.|
|(2000) - "Strumenti di pace" with the choir Armonia Cantata and various soloists among whom Giancarlo Schiaffini.|
|(2003) - "Ruminando" with Samuele Venturin and Matteo Bennici.|
|(2004) - "Paesaggi lontani" with Gloria Merani, Filippo Burchietti, Massimo Pinca and Samuele Venturin.|
|(2008) - "Un mondo fra le mani" with Gloria Merani, Filippo Burchietti, Massimo Pinca e Silvio Trotta.|
|(2012) - "Coscienza di sole" with Gloria Merani, Filippo Burchietti, Massimo Pinca e Silvio Trotta.|
|(2012) - "Il Risveglio" with Francesca Macchione (violin), Eleonora Macchione (violin),
Matilde Orsecci (viola), Veronica Kulpa (cello), Riccardo Ragno (double bass) and the Choir "Animae Vocis".
|(2014) - "Orchestrada" for the Musica Strada Festival in Toscany, with Ruben Chaviano (violin), Gabriele Bavarese
(violin and bouzuki), Tomasso Papini (guitar), Molestino Musico (accordeon) and Piero Spirilli (double bass).
For further information please visit: www.claudiabombardella.it