Francesco Balilla Pratella

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Cover of the 1912 edition of Musica futurista by Francesco Balilla Pratella – cover art by Umberto Boccioni

Franceso Balilla Pratella (February 1, 1880 – May 17, 1955) was an Italian composer and musicologist.

Life and work[edit]

Pratella studied at the Pesaro Conservatory where he was a pupil of Pietro Mascagni.

He joined the Futurist movement in 1910 and composed a number of modernist works for voice as well as for orchestra and chamber ensemble. He is the author of the Manifesto of Futurist Musicians (1910), the Technical Manifesto of Futurist Music (1911) and The Destruction of Quadrature (Distruzione della quadratura), (1912). In The Manifesto of Futurist Musicians, Pratella appealed to the young, as had Marinetti, because only they could understand what he had to say. He boasted of the prize that he had won for his musical Futurist work, La Sina d’Vargöun, and the success of its first performance at the Teatro Comunale at Bologna in December 1909, which placed him in a position to judge the musical scene. According to Pratella, Italian music was inferior to music abroad. He praised the "sublime genius" of Wagner and saw some value in the work of Richard Strauss, Debussy, Elgar, Mussorgsky, Glazunov and Sibelius. By contrast, the Italian symphony was dominated by opera in an "absurd and anti-musical form". The conservatories encouraged backwardness and mediocrity. The publishers perpetuated mediocrity and the domination of music by the "rickety and vulgar" operas of Puccini and Umberto Giordano. The only Italian Pratella could praise was his teacher Mascagni, because he had rebelled against the publishers and attempted innovation in opera, but even Mascagni was too traditional for Pratella's tastes.

In the face of this mediocrity and conservatism, Pratella unfurled "the red flag of Futurism, calling to its flaming symbol such young composers as have hearts to love and fight, minds to conceive, and brows free of cowardice".

His musical programme was:

  • for the young to keep away from conservatories and to study independently;
  • the founding of a musical review, to be independent of academics and critics;
  • abstention from any competition that was not completely open;
  • liberation from the past and from "well-made" music;
  • for the domination of singers to end, so that they became like any other member of the orchestra;
  • for opera composers to write their own librettos, which were to be in free verse;
  • to end all period settings, ballads, "nauseating Neapolitan songs and sacred music"; and
  • to promote new work in preference to old.

He is known now aso for his dedication to collecting the folk music of his native region of Italy, Romagna.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]