CELLIST ROBERTO SOLDATINI’S MUSIC OF THE SEA
When I was a youngster, my piano teacher gave me Poems of the Sea by Ernest Bloch, which peaked the imagination about waves and other oceanographic phenomena. But Roberto Soldatini has bonded with the ocean and its mysteries, thus showing us that it is possible to live ones dream while still holding a job – with some adjustments. Seven years ago he decided to move beyond the same old daily grind; sold his house, bought a Moody 44 sailboat with all the trimmings and took a course in how to use it.
So Soldatini spends six months of the year in liveaboard lifestyle sailing the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas with his companion, a 1714 Stradivarius cello (of likely attribution to the luthier), and the other half teaching at the Music Conservatory Domenico Cimarosa in Avellino, Italy. His boat is moored in Naples and he has chalked up over 25,000 nautical miles that include visits to exotic ports in Turkey, Corsica, Sardinia; he follows trade routes of the ancient Romans and has even serenaded dolphins in the Cyclades Islands.
Soldatini began his successful musical career at the National Academy of Saint Cecilia in Rome where he studied cello, conducting and participated in master classes of Leonard Bernstein. In fact, his father served as principal trumpet of this city’s Orchestra of the National Academy of Santa Cecilia. In spite of Soldatini’s responsibilities as an orchestral player, his talent for conducting soon led to appointments at major opera houses in Europe and Italy including assistantships with Italian opera conductor Giuseppe Patane and Myung-whun Chung at Opera Bastille in Paris.
In addition to stints as a theater actor, Soldatini also devotes time to composing and has written the chamber opera Come la maree sotto la luna (That ebb and flow by the moon) after Shakespeare’s King Lear. He founded and participates in the concert series La Musica del Mare (Music of the Sea). Of special interest is his authorship of three books not as yet translated into English: The Music of the Sea, Mediterranean Symphonies and Denecia, after his namesake sailboat that he describes as “a novel between fantasy and reality.” Roberto Soldatini discusses the ebb and flow of music with Editor Leonne Lewis.
You have taught cello at the Music Conservatory Domenico Cimarosa since 1984. Has your connection to the sea influenced the way in which you teach students?
Certainly. Sailing with its slowness has changed my way of interpreting music. When musicians play they tell something of themselves. Today life is so accelerated and many people run around at a fast pace so performances sound faster and faster. If you slow down the execution time of a piece to say seven knots, using sailing terminology, you can savor all the variety of nuances that occur between the beginning and ending of a composition by Bach, for example.
What repertoire do you perform at the Music of the Sea concerts?
I alternate between pieces for solo cello and pieces in which I play and act simultaneously. This resembles the kind of experimentation I began with the great actor and director Leo de Berardinis. Texts are not just read with a musical accompaniment but rhythms and vocal melodies are written into the score together with collaboration from the cello. The audience experiences an imaginary journey through mythical scenes that feature literature about the sea – from the classics to modern authors such as Jules Verne, Jacques Brel and Bjorn Larsson.
Composers such as Debussy, Ravel, Mendelssohn, Vaughan Williams and John Luther Adams have written works inspired by the sea. What do you think classical musicians can learn from the ocean?
Composers continue to write music that evokes an emotional response to the sea, which is reflected in the sound of the wind when it inflates the sails or the sound of waves generated by the hull. All this is already music with its rhythms, melodies, polyphony and harmonies.
What is the most important thing you have learned from this music of the sea adventure?
Many things. I have learned to respect the sea, to fear it and feel it as a friend. I learned what my limits are and not to overcome them. I learned how to acquire greater calm and a proper detachment from the less important things in life. I learned to be silent, which along with loneliness is what people fear most. I learned to love and respect people for what they are. I learned to sail by myself, to do it alone, which matters most.
Traveling by airplane and arriving a thousand miles away in a couple of hours is like being catapulted into another world without understanding everything in between. When sailing from Rome to Istanbul you can enjoy all the contrasting differences, flavors, traditions and culture. Airplanes and fast trains may shorten distances but end up shortening the ability to understand the world.