Political thinker, philosopher, patriot, and republican, Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-1872) sought solace from his intense activity as a political activist and writer by singing to his own guitar accompaniment. A genuine music lover, in 1836, Mazzini published a pamphlet (40 pages) entitled Filosofia della musica in which he denounced the condition into which music had fallen and suggested the remedy for its resurgence -- this time as a social art. "The committed composer cannot restrict himself to writing notes and chords, but must understand the vast influence which [opera] could exercise on society. He should not renounce the idea in favor of the form; progressive operatic music must abandon the rigid rules of the classicists, to take on characteristic tint and historical reality; the idea of opera as entertainment must change to one of opera as a mission; the chorus, which portrays the people, must be used more." Little known among English-speaking musical scholars, Mazzini's work is presented here in a version edited and annotated by Franco Sciannameo.
It comprises (1) a Foreword by American leading musicologist Lawrence Kramer, (2) a historical introduction which also offers a critique of various commentaries on Mazzini's work published in Italian and French during the past fifty years, (3) an English translation of Mazzini's original text and notes published in 1867 by Emilie Ashurst Venturi with Mazzini's full approval, (4) a full bibliographical apparatus, (5) Mazzini's original Italian text. This book is of interest to musicologists, philosophers, political, and social historians. This publication of Mazzini's Philosophy of Music comes at a juncture when musicologists, especially in the English-speaking world, are increasingly reconsidering the topics and formulas through which the history of music in the nineteenth century has familiarly, for a long time now, been written. Mazzini's text offers this project some promising leads. It does not as theory but as practice, not for the answers it gives but for the questions it raises.