Monday, 6 February 2017


A portrait of a young Puccini, as the
musician would have appeared around
the time he composed the 21 pieces of
music for the organ (shortly thereafter).
c. 1884
Exciting news out of Italy today for fans of 18/19th century Romantic composer Giacomo Puccini: the Center for Puccini Studies (Centro Studi Giacomo Puccini) in the musician’s birthplace of Lucca, has just announced plans for the “first modern performance” of some 21 compositions for the organ penned by the composer – all of which have gone unheard by fans of the iconic musician since Puccini’s brief stint as an organist in his youth during 1874-1880 before leaving the Tuscan city to study music in Milan (after receiving a grant from Italian Queen Margherita).

It was during Puccini’s controversial run[1] as substitute organist at Lucca’s San Martino cathedral (the very same cathedral in which his father served as chief organist) that the young musician took on a pupil from the neighboring village of Porcari, one Carlo Della Nina, the son of a local tailor. It would be in Carlo that the 21 pieces of organ music, all of it penned in maestro Puccini’s hand, would be entrusted into safekeeping. Carlo did indeed preserve the music - bequeathing it to his grandson, Charles, who, the Center states sold the original pieces in the latter part of the twentieth century – but not before making photocopies of the music.

According to the Center for Puccini Studies, research complied by Puccini enthusiast Aldo Berti on the Della Nina family inspired a fan of the composer, also by the name of Della Nina (Giuseppeunrelated) to attempt to track down the safe-keeper of the photocopies, Carlo’s grandson Charles. Giuseppe would find him in 2015, at which time he acquired the 21 copies of music.

Cumulatively lasting some 45 minutes, the formerly unpublished works will receive their 21st century premiere on Friday May 5th at the Church of St. Peter Somaldi, in Puccini’s hometown of Lucca during the Lucca Classical Music Festival. The acclaimed organist and harpsichordist Liuwe Tamminga performs.


[1]Puccini never achieved the level of acceptance as an organist as had his father (or even his grandfather Domenico, who successfully composed for the instrument). A young Giacomo was said to have somewhat of a wayward pupil who seemed to march to the beat of his own drum, ignoring the traditional manner of performing on the instrument - even going so far as to improvise on sacred works in a more secular – or operatic – manner. While this wasn’t unusual per sae prior to the Caecilian reform issued by Saint Pius X in the early 1900’s, it nonetheless left a sour taste in the mouth for the cathedral’s more religious parishioners. In any event, Puccini would quite rapidly come to the conclusion that he preferred opera over organ, and would soon ditch the instrument to focus on composing in this new realm.

Learn more:
  • Puccini’s music for the organ to be heard for the first time in over 150 years: Press Release (Italian)

Listen through the link provided below* to excerpts of organ music by maestro Puccini - also performed by Liuwe Tamminga, head organist at The Basilica of San Petronio in Bologna. The CD of known Puccini works – consisting of fugues written for Della Nina, in addition to transcriptions of the composer’s famous pieces for the instrument – was released in 2008 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Puccini’s birth.
Music can be purchased or sampled at amazon: Puccini Organist
*Not available online for listening. In lieu of Puccini’s organ music, enjoy below one of my personal favorite Puccini arias, the gorgeous E lucevan le stelle from Tosca, the composers' 1900 tragic opera – and the musical format in which Puccini would find himself in his natural milieu:

Jose Carreras performs.

Did You Know?

The 1900 premiere of Puccini’s Tosca (held on the 14th of January at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome), would open to a nation on high alert. Italy had scarcely been recognized as unified country (having previously been divided up into separate states – most notably among them the Papal State - for many centuries) by the time the opera was to make it’s debut.

The young nation, declared the United Kingdom of Italy by King Victor Emmanuel II on March 17, 1861 was very much still in the process of overcoming it’s growing pains – with much of the populous hopeful for prosperous progression following the "Risorgimento" (Italian phrase for the Unification, literally meaning "Rising Again") remaining impoverished, public displays of social unrest had become commonplace – so much so that the premiere of Puccini’s opera – originally slated for the 13th of January, had to be postponed for the following day after police officials received warnings of an anarchist-related bombing of the theater.

Compounding the already tense atmosphere of the newly formed nation, Italy was currently in it’s Jubilee Year (a year designated by the Church as a year of “remission of sins and universal pardon”) [1], which had attracted many religious as well as anarchist/anti-clericals to the Capital in which the opera was slated to hold its premiere. Conductor Leopoldo Mugnone had been cautioned by police that should a riot or other disturbance ensue, that he was to immediately stop the opera and begin to lead the orchestra in a monarchist anthem: the Marcia Reale d'Ordinanza (Royal March of Ordinance).

There would, in fact, be a disturbance at the premiere – not by violent anarchists, but rather more tamely, by a group of tardy would-be audience members trying in vain to enter the theater, one of whom was alleged to have shouted in frustration “Bring down the curtain!” Mugnone, not one to take any chances with public safety – particularly considering the fact that many of Rome’s elite were in attendance at the premiere, not the least of which included Queen Margherita herself – at once stopped the orchestra until assurance was made that there was not an emergency-in-progress.

Once assured, Mugnone would take up where he left off, and would complete Tosca’s world premiere to mixed critical review. Of the more positive aspects of the opera’s first performance were the tender and lugubrious arias “Vissi D’arte,” and “E Lucevan le Stelle,” both of which had to be encored.

A gorgeous and deeply moving rendition of Vissi D’arte, as performed by Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu in the opera’s titular role (Antonio Pappano conducts):

[1] Source (quoted text): wikipedia

UPDATE - MAY 2017:

Ticket for the premiere
Apparently, interest in this event was so overwhelming, event organizers at the Lucca Festival could barely keep up with ticket sales - in order to meet public demand, the overseeing committee had to schedule a second, repeat concert the same evening at the church of San Pietro Somaldi. It was literally a back-to-back performance: with an approximate duration of 1 hour in length, the premiere concert was held May 5th at 9PM, and was encored at 10:15!

Unraveling Musical Myths will post video/audio from this event and/or any upcoming releases of these formerly unpublished 21
* unpublished organ sonatas at such time as the media becomes available.

Read all official press releases (from the Lucca Festival) here (external link).

*One report by the Lucca Classical Music Festival lists the number of unpublished sonatas at 25.


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