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Janusz  Ekiert


After the war, the return to a real musical sonority of the past centuries has been an ambition through scientific competition and playing. All the consequent arguments and controversial discussions have acquired a contagious and aggressive aspect. The musicologists reflected on the definite role of the vibrato in Europe, when, where and at what point this phenomena had been applied to song and playing of the violin. The historians of this art have announced that Tintoretto wanted to depict the sentimental drama and not that of the characters, like Monteverdi, that later develops the theory of the affects and the representative style. The restorers of monumental arts wanted to verify the real colours of the frescos of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, before they had become blackened by soot made from the smoke of the candles, dirt and dust, and the humid breath of the people. Having taken off the soot and dirt from the paintings, the experts asked themselves if the colours found were of the great Maestro, if true or false, because Michelangelo had created a gamma of colours using also the soot.

Those who wanted to return to the vocal Italian bel canto were impaired by false conceptions with regards to the use of the vibrato, also the vocal techniques of the singers were not ready to follow the scientific developments. It was necessary to discover a personality that could understand and dominate, not only from a technical point of view but also from a practical point, the consequences of the novelty of the Italian Song, that of the birth of the “accompanied Monody”. The enthusiasts of the beautiful antique music have observed with admiration how Nella Anfuso has been able to assimilate the exact esthetical principles and sonority wanted by Caccini and Monteverdi. We have admired the vocal mastery and the historical truth in the art of the Italian Singer, but an even greater surprise was that Nella Anfuso was able to leave an imprinting of her artistic personality in the discovery of these antique sonorities.

The world acclaimed this discovery of the antique sonority like the sensation received by the landing on the moon. One would aspect that the moon would loose some of its mystery and romanticisms to enrich the science for truth. We thought that this is the price that we had to pay. Nella Anfuso did not agree with this way of thinking. For her the correct realization of the artistic need of the Camerata Fiorentina did not signify the victory of science over art. In her singing the airs of Caccini, the madrigals and the “stile rappresentativo” works of Monteverdi have not lost the charm of the romantic fable.

Her phenomenal singing techniques arouses admiration, and fulfils the aesthetical refinements of Caccini, the representative style of Monteverdi, but above all permits the rebirth of a particular sonorous atmosphere, found and approved in the history of music in the imagination of these Masters. The historic truth, the perfection and charm of her voice have created an enormous sensation in France, Spain, Poland, Italy, America etc. Her art of singing has put on a second level all the other interpretations of the Italian Monody in the Seicento. Messa di voce, portar la voce, trills, gruppi, exclamations in the CDs of Nella Anfuso have the delicacy and softness of colours realized by Tiziano in the dress of his daughter Lavinia. The pictures of the abandoned Arianna or Didone, in her records give an impression of a procession of ghosts of a dream, but they are phantoms with a real heart, pulsating, tormented by human suffering. The declamation, the cantabile, the spiccato, the sprezzatura and the beauty of the voice of Nella Anfuso are firmly attached to the significance of the word song, but at the same time they are without the acute reality, similar to the mist on the Venetian lagoon, painted by Francesco Guardi, premature impressionist.

It has been said of Nella Anfuso that she has revolutionized the musical interpretation of the Seicento because she has revived the vocal techniques of Caccini and the aesthetics of Monteverdi, but she has done more. She has recreated a sounding atmosphere, unknown at the present time. She has revived an artistic style independent and unique.

The connoisseurs are enthusiastic of her trills, similar to invisible bells. They are impressed by her “portar la voce” similar to a pilgrimages of the moon’s rays, they admire the warm colours of her sounds and her trills similar to jewels finely cut and Nella Anfuso confirms all these qualities are result of total union of the resonances of the head and chest. Thanks to this fusion her voice has suppressed the limits of the soprano and contralto and can move freely between the three octaves. The articulation, the ornaments and most important effects, expressions in the golden age of Italian Bel Canto, sound like someone speaking after 300 or 400 years of silence. It is true, but above all a particular appeal, enchantment of a poetic fable unknown in our days. The secret of this phenomena, not only, is the penetrating vibrato of expression, perhaps incomprehensible to those who do not know the real history.

The theory of affects by Monteverdi and the characteristic parlar cantando, spoken song, osmosis of the spoken language and of the music, of the technique and style, for the first time after centuries resound with much suggestion. No one possesses up to this point the understanding to differentiate the density of the vibrato with respect to the atmosphere, the tension, the significance, the melody and the rhythmic sense of the poetic word. In the art of the song by Nella Anfuso the tonic accents, the irregular pulsations of the language, also the metrical and phonetic use of the poetry penetrate the melody and rhythm of the Italian Monody of the Seicento.

Nella Anfuso has also recorded the “Arie preferite di Carlo Broschi Farinello”. It is an exceptional experiment near the truth, minimizing the distance from a unique phenomena - the legend of the famous castrato, of his volatine, spiccato, agilitŕ martellata, canto di sbalzo.

The Art of Nella Anfuso tries to close in on the imagination, sensibility and sentiments of the people of that period, people who listened, played, laughed, cried, and danced, introduced the ladies to the alcove and searched for the philosophy of life at the court of Gonzaga, at Isabella d’Este in Mantova, in the Florence of the Medici, in Venice of the Dogi, in the palaces of the Roman Cardinals. Her singing does not reflect the musical palaeography, and has nothing to do with lessons of the old treatises. In her CDs the lament of Arianna, Penelope, Didone and of women alone, abandoned, betrayed, hurt, resound like the singer collects all the shades of desperation. The madrigals and frottole evoke the illusion that Nella Anfuso sings for the noble ladies and cavaliers of the frescos by Mantegna in the Camera degli Sposi dei Gonzaga, that her public is composed by the figures of the pictures by Tiziano, Tintoretto and Pontormo. They listen attentively to the long trill in one breath. They are seduced by the magic of her voice, also Cupido and Psiche, the nude lovers and winged angels, that love playing in the court, are fascinated by human sentiments, symbolized by the music of Caccini and Monteverdi.


Studiował grę na fortepianie w Wyższej Szkole Musycznej w Krakowie i muzykologię na uniwersytetach Krakowa i Warszawy. Na Uniwersytecie Warszawskim uzyskał tytuł magistra muzykologii. Przez wiele lat był krytykiem muzycznym polskiego dziennika Express Wieczorny, tygodnika Wiadomości Kulturalne, warszawskiego Radia i Telewizji. Napisał wiele artykułów dla gazet i tygodników w Amsterdamie (Het Parool), Wiedniu (Die Presse), Helsinkach (Hufvudstadsbladet), Zagrzebiu (Vjesnik, Telegram), jak również artykuły o polskiej muzyce do niemieckiej encyklopedii Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart w Kassel. Występował jako autor i prezenter wielu telewizyjnych seriali muzycznych (“Życie Beethovena”, “Historia Konkursu Chopinowskiego”, “Sentymentalne ślady”, “Penetracje”ii.), jest ekspertem teleturnieju “Wielka Gra”. Jest autorem książek “Pejzaże z fetyszem”, “Bilet do raju”, “Lustro epoki”, “Bliżej muzyki” (nagradzanej dwukrotnie na konkursach wydawców) i innych.

Został zaproszony przez Departament Stanu w Waszyngtonie do USA, by zwiedzić centra muzyczne w N. Jorku, Filadelfii, Baltimore, Waszyngtonie, Chicago, S.Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas. Brał udział w filmie poświęconym polskiej muzyce (wywiad przeprowadził z nim James Michener) dla amerykańskiej telewizji PBC. Zasiadał w jury konkursów chopinowskich w Getyndze, Prix Italia (1985) i innych.


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