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  • Writer's pictureJohn Habron

Adalberto Maria Riva: Discovering Dalcroze

My first contact with the work of Jaques-Dalcroze was probably the opposite of what generally happens: I discovered him in 2011-12 at the Geneva Conservatoire library, where I was searching for scores by Swiss composers for a recording project at Gruyères castle, Switzerland. I was not in bare feet, in a Dalcroze class!

Sight-reading Jaques-Dalcroze’s early piano works (since at that time there were no recordings available), I realised immediately that I was faced by an outstanding composer, with extremely rich and interesting musical ideas, always cleverly developed through complex harmonic patterns. Jaques-Dalcroze’s catalogue as a composer includes four operas, many symphonic works, and a lot of songs and piano pieces.

At that time, I did not know anything about his method, except the fact that it was published in 1906 and is known worldwide. Years later, I had the opportunity to attend a Eurhythmics class. It was in New York and there I found the same principles of freedom and improvisation which Jaques-Dalcroze's early piano works show in their late-romantic style.

When I had the first opportunity to participate in ICDS (Quebec City, 2017) and to present a recital of Jaques-Dalcroze’s piano music, I was really impressed by the variety of fields where Jaques-Dalcroze’s ideas and principles are employed. They embrace pedagogy, medical research, musical and theatrical performance, and music therapy. For a concert pianist, it is not usual to meet in the same conference with people coming from all over the world and from so many different backgrounds. In my opinion, this is what makes every ICDS interesting and unique: its specificity resides precisely in the variety of exchanges and crossing points made possible through so many different disciplines coming into contact.

Thanks to making new contacts during ICDS, I had the opportunity to present Jaques-Dalcroze’s piano recordings in different countries in Europe and overseas and I am currently working on a new recording project more related to the connections between music and dance.

So, I was very pleased and honoured when I was able to participate in ICDS4 (Katowice, 2019). For the first time I had the opportunity to work together with rhythmicians and dancers in a very serious and pleasant atmosphere, because I had the great honour to be chosen to perform the role of Jaques-Dalcroze in Emil’s Lab, a theatrical performance by Anetta Pasternak and her students about the Hellerau period in Jaques-Dalcroze’s life. It was something absolutely new and exciting for me, but really incredibly amazing. A complete different way to approach public performance where we had all great fun!

I strongly believe that Jaques-Dalcroze’s pedagogical works are closely related to his output as a composer and vice versa. Both aspects reveal one of the most important musical personalities at the beginning of the 20th century, whose visionary ideas are still waiting to be investigated in all their fullness. So, long life to ICDS!



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