Guest post by Diana Lavarini
I am not a musician, just someone who decided to start learning piano as an adult. I didn’t have any expectations back then, but eight years have passed and I’m still doing it, I’m still learning and letting music become an increasingly bigger part of my life as time goes by.
Languages are my job and my lifelong passion, but when I launched a YouTube channel with a teacher friend I knew that I wanted to do something different than simple lessons: I wanted to teach Italian while also talking about our immense cultural heritage. I wanted to talk about history, literature, visual arts and, of course, music.
Looking for a way to bring language and music together, I decided to write a series of videos about all those tiny but crucial annotations in Italian that are scattered across musical scores and influence our interpretation and understanding of the music.
Piano, forte, crescendo, sforzando, lento, vivace, alla marcia – as a native Italian speaker, I thought it would be easy for me to explain the meaning of these words, most of which are still part of our everyday language. As it turns out, many of these terms have acquired a life of their own as they have become part of an international language, together with French, German, and English words, so much so that we can hardly claim them as our own anymore. Through the centuries, Italian and non-Italian composers have attributed different meanings and nuances to them, according to the times and to their own understanding, so much so that some of these words even ended up indicating opposite things. We can’t even be certain of the way they sound anymore, as millions of people around the world pronounce them in their own personal way.
We still felt that it would be interesting for musicians out there – Italophiles or not – to hear how these words sound in Italian, and what is their literal meaning in our language. This often helps to understand how they should be interpreted when playing music, even though a fair amount of research and knowledge of different styles and genres are still needed.
Italian for Musicians is a set of three videos where we explain almost 100 Italian musical terms, grouped into Tempo markings, Dynamics, and Expression & Articulation, and provide examples for most of them, mainly taken from piano music. We hope that you will find them useful. And if you happen to be fascinated by the Italian language, you may find other interesting videos on our channel, such as our series on Italian opera, which launched with Verdi’s Rigoletto just before the coronavirus outbreak and will continue as soon as the situation allows.
Diana Lavarini is from Verona, a small city in Northern Italy that hosts an opera festival in a 2000-year-old Roman amphitheatre. She’s always been passionate about music and languages. She studied Chinese in Venice, and has been working as a freelance translator for over 20 years.