ENRIQUE MARIO CASELLA
(Montevideo, Uruguay VIII/1/1891 – Tucumán, Argentina
by Lucio J. BRUNO-VIDELA (Argentina)
We may consider Enrique Casella one of the Argentine composers
whose work most requires a fresh assessment. The breadth and intensity
of his activities was phenomenal: concert violinist, pianist, viola
player, symphonic and choral conductor, composer, opera conductor, teacher,
stage designer, writer and educator. To cap it all, during his "spare
time", he devoted himself to the art of painting and engraving
pieces of furniture.
He was the son of the Italian violinist and conductor,
Italo Casella (1862 – 1936) who was himself very well-known in Italy,
Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. Enrique studied at the Argentine School
of Music with Ferruccio Cattelani and Edmundo Pallemaerts. His family
believes that the famous Dante Alighieri was one of his ancestors. So
far, we have not been able to prove if there is any family link between
Enrique and the famous Italian composer Alfredo Casella.
Once his family settled down in Buenos Aires from 1896,
in 1907, he traveled to Europe for postgraduate studies with the masters
Consolini (violin), Marco Enrico Bossi (counterpoint) and Carpessani
(piano) at the High School of Music in Bologna, and in 1909, at the
Royal School of Music in Brussels, with César Thompson
(violin), Paul Gilson (composition) and Maurice Staminat (piano). According
to certain investigations, he had been awarded a First Prize in Violin
in Brussels. He returned to Buenos Aires between 1911 and 1912. In 1913,
again in Europe, he studied in Paris with Paul Antoine Vidal and Foucher,
probably at the Paris Conservatoire.
In 1914, he was forced to return to Buenos Aires due
to the beginning of the war. This year was the first time he had traveled
to Tucumán (capital of the Argentine province with the same name)
to conduct courses at the Escuela Normal and Colegio Nacional.
By 1916, according to our investigations, he had already
written eighty works.
Between 1918 and 1920, he settled down in Goya (Corrientes
province) creating a School of Music. In 1919, he wrote his first Sonata
in C Major for violin and piano in this city.
In 1921, he settled down definitively in Tucumán
where he was appointed professor in the Fine Arts Academy. Subsequently,
he founded the Musical Institute of Tucumán (1922) with his friend
Luis Gianneo. He also established the Symphonic Association of Tucumán
(he was the president in 1930), the Tucumán Trio (1923) and the
Tucumán Quartet (1940/42). He was the conductor of Santa Cecilia
Choir and of the Provincial Band of Music (1937). He was a member of
the Rotary Club, of the Argentine Association of Composers (ex-National
Society of Music) and the President of Sarmiento Society (1945).
Casella worked, seemingly inexhaustibly, as an orchestral
conductor in symphonic concerts and operas in Mendoza, Salta, Córdoba,
Buenos Aires and Tucumán. He played in Bolivia, Colombia, Peru
and Chile between 1931 and 1932. His repertoire was wide encompassing
European and Argentine music and jazz in a duet (violin and piano) with
Gianneo in Lima (Peru) with the style of the famous jazzman of
the violin, Joe Venuti. It will come as no surprise tat Gianneo and
Casella also presented some of their own musical works at these concerts.
During the era of the ‘silents’, he provided accompaniments, playing
all kind of music, at the Majestic cinema.
It was very common to see Casella conducting symphonic
works in the first part of a concert and in the second part, playing
some famous violin concerto, such as Beethoven’s (with Hubert Leonard’s
cadenza) or the violin concerto in B minor by Saint-Saëns.
He admired the most prominent violin players of his
time, but he preferred the Austrian Fritz Kreisler, as he used to identify
himself with this great musician for his modest personality, his technique
and his sensual sound. Casella’s repertoire included many of the most
difficult works for the instrument, such as the Bach sonatas and partitas,
Vieuxtemps' concerti, the Ernst F sharp minor concerto, Paganini’s and
Sarasate's works and the Ronde des Lutins by Bazzini. It is important
to mention that in the Argentina of that period, it was unusual to listen
to complete sonatas by Bach. Casella made it possible. We may add –
as relevant information – that Enrique was one of the persons who made
it possible for the young violinist Henryk Szeryng to travel to Tucumán
with the purpose of promoting this great Polish musician in that province.
Casella conducted for Szeryng in the Concerto in D Major op.77
by Johannes Brahms, at the Alberdi Theater on July 9, 1942. It was said
that Szeryng had offered to establish an Argentine school for violinists
in order to educate young people. He requested Argentine citizenship
in return. However the government rejected the offer leaving Szeryng
to go to Mexico where for many years he did excellent work, finally
securing Mexican citizenship. It is not very well known that in Argentina
Szeryng recorded Llanura for violin and piano by the Argentine
composer Carlos Guastavino (recently dead). This recording of Szeryng
and Guastavino has high historic value.
Coming back to Casella’s life, we may say that quite
apart from all the activities previously mentioned, he investigated
the country’s folklore and the folklore of countries such as Bolivia,
Colombia and Peru. He and Manuel Gómez Carrillo, Andrés
Chazarreta, Ana Cabrera and others, were the first Argentine persons
to compile the musical folklore of the Northern regions of Argentina.
As a pedagogue, he contributed with a compendium of
twenty-five singing solfeggi and some technical exercises for
violin. He trained an excellent group of students spreading the Franco-Belgian
technique. His master Thompson was the pedagogical successor of the
extraordinary Belgium violinist Eugene Ysaye, himself the dedicatee
of the sonata for violin by César Franck. Enrique had such a
strong affection for his master that years later, after discovering
the poor health and economic conditions he was passing through, he organized
a concert in Tucumán to raise money on his behalf. This was not
the only occasion that Enrique organized concerts for such altruistic
purposes without personal gain.
Among his many works, it is important to mention "Leyendas
Líricas" whose texts have received prizes and were published
by Sociedad Sarmiento in 1936. The work consists of three narrations,
libretti and scenic indications, preceded by a plan of the Argentine
opera, that Casella named "Triptych": Chasca, El
Irupé and El Crespín, texts to which he
added music between 1937 and 1939. The musicologist Juan María
Veniard says of the Triptych: "it is about three stagings
on legendary narrations of the North of Argentine done by him not only
with the purpose of being developed musically but of creating a comprehensive
visual and musical show with national atmosphere. He arranges in the
stage directions an spatial location for the orchestra; a simplification
of the parts in order to be simpler for the public; he avoids ornaments
with scenic projections over drop curtains, and music that recognizes
the traditional popular creole origin".1
It is interesting to mention that in this same period,
Casella created music for films with two important directors – Luis
Moglia Barth and Mario Soffici – works that received positive critic.
We suppose that the fact that he worked in the cinematography field
gave him certain ideas and knowledge that, with his experience in lyric
theatre, enabled him to elaborate reforms that he presented in his "Triptych".
We have the opportunity of seeing the film La barra mendocina
and examining the music composed for that purpose. He alternated typical
incidental parts of that kind of music with popular and easy-hearing
pieces of music, but with an invaluable artistic and musical sense.
The beginning of the film reminds the opera style.
The film Amalia, according to José Mármol’s
narration, directed by Moglia Barth, with stage design by the famous
Argentine painter, Raúl Soldi, was considered a serious and successful
production. It included technical innovations in relation to the sound
– that even today we can appreciate – and as anecdotal information,
one of the characters was represented by Alfredo Gobbi, father of the
famous tango musician of the same name. Casella created the music of
this film with other collaborators. In this occasion, it was more difficult
for us to recognize Casella’s music from third musicians’ in this film.
Both works have scenes of silent film types – yet in life in our first
sound-films during those years – , such as long dramatic scenes without
text but with background music.
Concerning the "triptych", one of
the renewal that we can notice in these works is the elimination of
the verse in the text in order to liberate the lyric composer from the
tyranny of the poem measurement and the division of the orchestra into
three groups that should be located inside the stage, out of people
sight and not in the space underneath the stage, as traditional.
For example, in Chasca, the instrumental groups have not strings
and they are divided in the following way: A)1 flute, 1 oboe, 4 saxophones,
2 clarinets, 1 bassoon, 1 harp y 2 timpani B) 2 trumpets in F,
4 horns, 2 trombones, 4 saxophones and 1 Gran Cassa C) 2 flutes,
1 oboe, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets in E flat, 2 trombones,
1 bass tuba, timpani and Gran Cassa. The stage design
of these three small operas have been detailed with drawings by the
author and the change of colors, the lightening and the specific spotlights
location. Summarizing, these works would allow an interesting stage
design play with the current techniques without betraying the original
ideas of the author.
According to the critics of that time, the musical
language of this work is mainly diatonic including rude dissonance and
some atonal parts.
Casella could nearly contemplate his invaluable contribution
of these works, since the second and the third part of the triptych
were never presented on stage. Chasca was successfully performed
for the first time in Tucumán in 1939, but the supposed authentic
renewal of the Argentine lyric theatre never occurred because the master
would never be helped to represent the two remaining parts of the triptych.2
As Gloria Casella remembers – Enrique’s youngest daughter – the costumes
for Chasca was designed in the family house with support of acquaintances
and friends who embroidered and recreated the traditional costumes necessary
for the northern opera setting.
Other prize works were the Quintet for strings,
horn and piano (Municipal Prize of Buenos Aires, 1927), the symphonic
poem Brujerías based a poem by Juan Carlos Dávalos
(Municipal Prize of Tucumán, 1932), and the National Prize for
his lyric drama La Vidala (First Prize Culture Commission, 1942).
This opera, supposed to be the last complete work for stage by Enrique,
orchestrated for woods x 3, 2 harps, male and female choir and various
characters, has the typical characteristics of Casella’s music, but
covered with some dissonant language in some parts without losing his
own style nor showing influences that he could not amalgamate, producing
a fluent musical hearing, typical of the author. In another parts, we
can find aspects similar to the works by other well-known Argentine
opera composer: Constantino Gaito.
La Vidala is divided into 5 acts or "stages",
the plot by Alberto Córdoba Alais, whom Casella appreciated so
much. The clear score of this work is at the File Record Section of
Colón Theater of Buenos Aires. It is autographical. As many operas
of the master, it remains unknown. Another opera that was not presented
but that might have contributed to the musical history of Latin America
is El Maleficio de la Luna, a fantastic and surrealist work,
with cruel and heartbreaking parts where Casella used, perhaps for the
first time in Argentina, an atonal language with other more lyric language
but without applying autochthonic music or simply melody. Applying the
excellent plot of the Italian Bontempelli, whose fantastic realism inspired
subsequently to many generations of Latin-American writers, is an important
exception in Argentine opera history, where national plots were preferred
during those years.
Casella is considered to have a very vigorous personality,
passionate in his ideas. The musician and stage designer, Guido Torres,
has expressed his enthusiasm about his master: as an artist and as a
creator: a tireless worker; as a human being: honest and generous; as
a violinist: one of the most distinguished in Argentina; a violin player
at the same level of the most remarkable international violin players
(this comment is relevant taking into account that Guido Torres has
been a professional violinist and had personal relationships with many
virtuosi, such as Ruggiero Ricci). He remembers the proverbial
sound that he reproduced with his violin, a Domenico Montagnana from
XVIII century (that we were pleased to evidence). Guido Torres also
told us that he was very surprised at the Concert for violin and
orchestra, and the solo-violin work Brujerías (we
ignore the relationship between this work and the symphonic poem with
the same name), both works with northern folkloric character, showing
a fluent violin technique.
According to Gloria Casella, Enrique and Gianneo’s
families lived together in the same house in very good terms, and that
their respective daughters keep nowadays.
Unbelievably, his work and music were ignored by European
musicians that emigrated to Tucumán due to political problems
of the old continent, who had very important posts in official institutions
of musical culture in Tucumán. These musicians mainly spread
European music and performed a very intensive teaching activity, but
in contrast to Enrique, under no circumstances did they create a movement
or any Argentine school for composition - fundamental base for any important
development- making the students ignore the composer from Tucumán.
In this way, the following generations were educated ignoring Casella’s
life and work. Enrique’s artistic work has been obstructed due to this
unfair event, becoming worse when his friend Luis Gianneo decided to
go to Buenos Aires in 1942. Enrique was likely to be convinced by Luis
to go to Buenos Aires with him to become known in the musical atmosphere
in the Argentine capital, but Casella wanted to avoid the influences
of Buenos Aires and he wished continue spending the spiritual peace
the province provided him in order to compose; therefore the friends
had separated their lives. The fact that his work did not enter in Buenos
Aires was perhaps the reason for its ignorance, even of his friends
Casella died in 1948, when he was 57 years old, being
an Argentine citizen. His health had weakened from 1946. He was operated
on one of his legs in Tucumán, losing a vein. Subsequently, he
suffered from many swoons up to cerebral dysfunction that, after a prostration
year, led to death.
The following year, on April 8, 1949, his friend Juan
José Castro – one of the most important Argentine musicians -
conducted Casella's symphonic work Acuarelas at the Colón
Theater of Buenos Aires, perhaps as paying homage to the master. This
was the unique Casella’s work that was performed in our most important
coliseum, up to our knowledge.
Taking into account that there is no registration of
his works nor catalog, and considering that his manuscripts are widely
spread, it is difficult for us to analyze his creative work. In our
research, we could find a lot of material in Buenos Aires and Tucumán,
but a great amount of works is missing and we are only submitting -
for the first time - a list known by references or that have been preserved,
as its pertinent analyses exceeds the presentation of this article.
LIST OF WORKS
Song and orchestra: Brumas (1937)
(text by the author); 4 songs (voice and chamber orchestra).
Choir a capella: Cantar de arriero
(1930, presented for the first time in 1936) (text: R. Jijena Sánchez);
Canción de las voces serenas (Three female
voices – 1934; text: J. T. Bodet); Three Vidalas (plaintive folk
song in Argentine.) (ca. 1935?); Baguala (with "caja" - type
of Indian drum) (1930, text: R. J. Sánchez).
Choir and orchestra: Segunda Suite Incaica
"Pachacutec Inca" (from Las Vírgenes del Sol?)
Religious music: Mass for chamber orchestra,
organ and male choir (1938); A Santa Teresita del Niño
Jesús (solo voice, violins, organ and choir,
1938); Himno a Santa Inés (female choir and harp,
1939); Himno de los Niños Católicos (song
and piano, 1941).
Violin and orchestra: Concerto
Piano and orchestra: Concerto in F Major (1945).
Ballet: Los Poemas del Agua (1933).
Parts: La Lluvia; El Manantial; El Lago; El Arroyo; El Torrente; El
Piano: Sonata; Preludes; Study in F (1945);
Three Norteñas, and diverse pieces of music.
Violin solo: Brujerías (references
to Guido Torres)
Harp solo: Al pie de una ventana (1933);
Study for Harp (1935)
Song and piano: available near 50 songs, in
Italian and Spanish.
Mimo-drama play: Caperucita (song,
recitative and piano; Goya, 1920).
Chamber music: Suite in old style for flute,
oboe, clarinet and bassoon; Quintet for piano, violin, viola,
horn and violoncello (1925); First String Quartet (1928); Second
String Quartet "Romantic" (1944); First Sonata for violin and
piano (1919); Second Sonata for violin and piano; Suite Quechua:
Orgía del Inti Rayn - Ha muerto un inca – Danza del Fuego (lyrical
legend for quartet of lutes, presented for the first time by "Cuarteto
Aguilar"); Six Songs for voice and string quartet; Antaño
y Ogaño - I: Aria - II: Angustias (Piano, Violin and
Violoncello) 1941; diverse short pieces of music and Argentine dances
for violin and piano.
Symphonic Music: Two Norteñas (1928):
Little dance - Duerme un niño; Nahuel Huapi (symphonic
poem, 1926, presented for the first time in 1929); Brujerías
(symphonic poem, 1932); Interludes of "El Maleficio de la
Luna"; De Tierra Adentro (1933): Pequeña Danza-Yaraví-Duerme
un niño; Four Acuarelas (1945): Quena en
el Cerro (Vidala)- Las Trenzas Negras ondulaban en el Aire
(zamba) – La Tarde Roja moría en las Cumbres (triste)
– Entre espuelas y faldas se enredó el corazón
(chacarera); La Salamanca (symphonic poem); La ruina del puesto
(symphonic poem, 1929); En la Puna (symphonic poem); Don Quijote
(symphonic poem); Faetón (symphonic poem, 1924); El
Rey Midas tiene orejas de asno (symphonic poem, according to Ovidio,
1925); Cumbres de Tucumán (symphonic poem); Suite Incaica
(from "Corimayo"); Tres Miniaturas Criollas (Junto
al pozo – Nocturno – De Palique); Tahuantisuyo (symphonic poem
Music for movies: La barra mendocina (Mario
Soffici, 1935); Loco lindo (Arturo S. Mom, 1936); Amalia
(L. Moglia Barth, 1936)
Operas: Corimayo (libretto: Luis Pascarella)
premiered at the Teatro Alberdi of Tucumán and at the
Teatro Avenida, in Buenos Aires (1926); Las Vírgenes
del Sol (libretto: Ataliva Herrera) (1927); El Maleficio
de la Luna (libretto: Bontempelli) (1932-34); La Tapera
(libretto: Enrique Casella) (1929) premiered at Teatro Cervantes,
in Buenos Aires (1934); El Embrujo de la Copla (libretto: Rubén
F. De Olivera) (1935); El País del Ensueño (libretto:
Ricardo Chirre Danós); Triptych: a) Chasca; b) El Irupé;
c) El Crespín (libretto: E. Casella) (1937/39); La
Vidala, 5 acts (libretto: Alberto Córdoba Alais) (1942).;
Karchis (unfinished); Juan María Veniard has found references
to: Adamá and Huancú.
Zarzuela: La Virgencina de Covadonga
(with Luis Gianneo) (Libretto: Ramón Serrano). Premiered at Teatro
Avenida in Buenos Aires. (1926)
Transcriptions: Casella is supposed to have
transcribed the music of other composers for choir, bands, etc. We have
discovered three of these: Six Inca Preludes (P. Chávez
Aguilar) for string quartet; Canto popular Basko by Padre Donasti,
for violin and piano in 1927; Eight Peruvian Songs for string
Argentina, Bolivian and Peruvian folkloric music compilation.
Literary Works (poems and libretti for his operas)
The author of this article is a conductor, composer
and violinist, and his main activity in the field of music is to investigate
and play Argentine-related music.
© Copyright 2002 - Lucio J.
Bruno-Videla - Grupo Drangosch para la Difusión del Patrimonio