A letter from William Glock to John Amis, dated July 1962
The worst has happened. I’ve been trying desperately to get in touch with you.
Nono has finished his piece.
I think he stayed away from Darmstadt (‘ill’) in order to finish it, and anyway I feel we must do our best to put it on.
But… It’s for soprano, viola, cello, d.b., celesta, keyboards, 1 tam-tam, 12 crotales covering all 12 semitones – but the exact pitch I don’t know; are you an authority on crotales? If Gigi’s letter (sent apparently 5 days ago) reaches me tomorrow morning I’ll let you know.
‘Gigi’ is Luigi Nono, Italian avant-garde composer, disciple of Schoenberg and Webern, central figure of the notorious ‘Darmstadt School’, (a term which he coined in a 1958 lecture).
Nono’s only published work for 1962 is Canti di vita e d’amore: sul ponte di Hiroshima. It’s not clear what work that Glock was referring to and, in the end, the ‘new work’ listed in the program didn’t happen. But the soprano mentioned below, Dorothy Devow, was at Dartington that year at the same time as Nono, and gave the premiere of Canti at the Edinburgh Festival at the end of August, with the London Symphony Orchestra.
Performers: (1) D. Devow – cd she be asked to come down earlier, to learn her part? L. N. will bring the material with him on Friday.
(2) Nono will conduct
(3) students can play the cymbals, tam-tam, crotales (6 players). Also the celeste – but this presumably has to be hired. Cd it be put on the Steinway truck?
Sorry to spring this all on you; the news came at 11.55pm last night.
Menuhin: $200. It seems reasonable.
Re:- the crotales. There are cr. graves and aigues, if no more; so we better wait. I’ll phone.
Did Nono and Devow rehearse at Dartington? Did the students work out the crotales? And who were these students? It was quite a class: Peter Maxwell-Davies, Richard Rodney Bennett, Harrison Birtwistle, Hugh Wood, Robert Saxton, Brian Elias, Alexander Goehr, Cornelius Cardew, Nick Maw and Susan Bradshaw among them. Nono taught in Italian, with Max as interpretor. He was an iconoclast, an ardent communist and hard taskmaster. His other claim to fame, at Dartington at least, was his refusal to shake hands with Benjamin Britten, on artistic grounds.
Can anyone out there enlighten me on what work William was talking about? And do you think it’s reasonable to pay Yehudi Menuhin $200?
I’m off to have another rummage… And you can too if you chip in to my book project. It’s now funding at Unbound. Let’s make this thing happen!