A Portrait by Renzo Cresti

Touching The Mystery We Are To Ourselves

A short reflection on Giampaolo Coral

By Renzo Cresti

In Giampaolo Coral, musical forms are the well-built river-banks between which the tumbling waters flow with their innermost drive; without these limits, expression would be excessive or, in any case, not a truly artistic achievement. On the other hand, with Coral pathos gives substance to every sound, making it vibrant and taking it to the very edge of those formal boundaries which, however, remain unbroken since it is exactly that organization which guarantees the expressive form and, therefore, that style which in the case of Coral we can dare to describe as a grand Style.

The Viennese School, and in particular Arnold Schoenberg (with his commitment to ethics) left an indelible mark on the early phase of Giampaolo Coral’s music, between 1974 and 1979. For many years he questioned himself about his belonging to this tradition. In the Maestro’s own words: ‘My work may be divided into two periods: the first was Romantic in which my dedication to the Viennese School was total (the expressionism of Schoenberg and the surrealism of Berg) and which was characterized by the emanation of my own subjectivity, as intense as the highest and natural liberation (in the work) of the feeling derived from the influence of reality as it stands in the world. The second period (starting from the Second Sonata for Pianoforte in 1979) is characterized by the essence of the logoclonic language, and is born from my research into understanding the original mechanism, the unconscious, of the act of composition. It is the manifestation of the greatest objectivity in the creation of a work and as such of the greatest control over that obscure impulse. The Subject (which should not be allowed to exclude itself) must be reduced to a minimum, only in this way can music acquire that ‘lightness’ which carries it above the weight of the world (of reality).’

The great orchestral works of the 1970’s, such as the moving Requiem for Jan Palach, the intense Magnificat, the piercing Suite for Orchestra, the hallucinatory Variationen ueber Lasciatemi Morire and his Chamber works all demonstrate a superb mastery of the elements of composition and a dazzling section which is vigorous in its weaving of line and musical depth.

The observation of his own being and of music – to understand its secrets – took Coral through a phase of lightening the ‘I’, a stepping aside to leave space for thoughts about others (the other in itself and the other from itself, like matter) by adding a diaphragm, a filter to allow matter to become more free and more itself. Amras is an exemplary piece illustrating this process of (self)analytical burrowing, of listening to one’s inner-voice through the process of connecting the sounds which are displayed in a chance fall like the pieces of a jig-saw which, as it moves towards completion, finally shows the hidden face of the Guest dwelling within each of us. In the 1980’s, the ballet Favola-Pantomima Romantica and his two one-act works Mr Hyde and The Swan’s Song invoke the subject of shadow, the unconscious and the dream-like moment where hallucination and beauty co-habit.

In the silence of the creative solitude accompanying the artist, everything which is different from us enters into a rapport with intimacy, becomes an (un)known face, a diverse reality. It is in this relationship between identity and difference that the ‘I’-plural forms. Through his music, Giampaolo Coral narrates and is himself narrated.

Coral sought to re-connect the broken shards of his own being; he has often lived at the midnight hour, when the clocks stop and everything is concentrated in a suspended time-frame, terrible because it collapses in the meandering path of the self; it is in this ferocious moment that Coral journeyed, and the reason his music communicates far beyond the skills of a great artisan, it carries us towards that mystery we are to ourselves.

In the game of smoke and mirrors, of doubles, of masques or, better, unmasking, we discover Coral’s clear civic commitment which always accompanied his introspective musical search. This need for a thoughtful and deeply-felt commitment characterized all his work from the moment he joined the association Arte Viva, the foundation Chromas, the institution for international meetings of contemporary music ‘Trieste Prima’ and the artistic direction of the music prize Premio Città di Trieste, without forgetting his long-standing dedication to the Conservatory and young musicians.

Working through these associations, Giampaolo Coral brought many composers and works to the attention of the Italian public, especially those originating in eastern Europe. He tried to shift the centre of gravity from the nostalgic and even parasitic traditional predominance of Mitteleuropean culture to one favouring new, emerging talent, and drawing closer to new ways of thinking and new ways of composing in that thirst for knowledge which he always sought to quench. In his organizational commitment too, Coral was able to give life, hating as he did routine and amateurism because he knew how to throw everything into whatever he did, and as in each of his musical works, he gave his all – his mind, his heart – and in his teaching he did the same, chasing the utopia of a better society (‘good’ and ‘beautiful’ have the same etymological roots).

The almost unbelievable creative curriculum of Giampaolo Coral must be delved into in all its fullness; the never-ending list of prestigious venues where his music has been performed, the celebrated musicians who have presented his work to enthusiastic audiences and the awards and recognitions which would be merely academic if they had not been won, achieved with passion, through research. His ability to grasp the fact that music is able express the unconscious, the hidden – is research which knows no contemporary equal.

For all these reasons, Giampaolo Coral rises above the worlds of (contemporary) music and academia, too often concerned with looking at themselves in the mirror or with making minor compromises. He took a different path and led the way; courageous, open, pure, innocent in not seeking opportunistic, short-term advantage. Dedicated to teaching great music and showing how it should not be just a shiny plaything for a self-congratulatory bourgeoisie, but as Nietzsche wrote: ‘Music is the most serious of questions. […] Life without music would be a mistake.’, because music draws us towards the essence of life. Giampaolo Coral understood this.