Morgan Icardi, Mozart Across Boundaries

 

Nicola Gallino

Dice Morgan: «La musica, e in particolare quella di Mozart, ha un ordine, una certezza che nella vita non c’è». La sua vita, comunque, un ordine ferreo ce l’ha. Ed è anche tanto movimentata per i suoi quattordici anni. Ore di studio ogni giorno. Un’agenda che costringe papà Guido ad accompagnarlo qua e là come un globetrotter in carriera. Le lezioni di piano in Monferrato nella grande casa della professoressa Anna Maria Cigoli, una leggenda che ha plasmato generazioni di concertisti italiani. Poi su e giù per le colline fino a Valenza a padroneggiare il violino con Roberto Ranfaldi, spalla dell’Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale Rai. Quindi a Milano alla Scuola Claudio Abbado, dove nonostante la giovanissima età frequenta il corso in direzione d’orchestra con Renato Rivolta. E ancora altre lezioni sotto la guida del flautista e direttore Giampaolo Pretto a Torino, la sua città. Ritmi di lavoro che si spiegano solo con due parole: volontà e talento.

A proposito. Morgan ha un nome da talent show. Anche la capigliatura fluente da piccolo Mendelssohn. La sua pagina Facebook conta più di 200mila seguaci. Le sue esibizioni diventano puntualmente video per i social. Ma le analogie finiscono qui. Lui non si sente un aspirante youtuber o instagrammer. È un ragazzo della sua età. Maturo e consapevole delle proprie capacità, da un lato. Dall’altro sereno e concentrato a fare quello che ora sente e gli piace. E domani chissà. 

Morgan in gaelico significa «riva del mare».  Lo ha scelto papà Guido, appassionato di rock e cultura underground. Quando si è dovuto trasferire con la famiglia per lavoro a Los Angeles, Morgan era piccolissimo. Abitavano nella leggendaria Laurel Canyon, accanto alle ville appartenute a Frank Zappa e ai Mamas & Papas. Pensa lo shock a scoprire che quel bambino di cinque anni, anziché da un groove hip hop o da un riff di Jimmy Page, è attratto dallo sgranarsi clavicembalistico di un basso albertino. Tàtti-ttari, tàtti-ttari, tàtti-ttari. Morgan a L.A. inizia a studiare il pianoforte. Resta galvanizzato dalla chiarezza cartesiana e un po’ infantile del Nuovo Mondo. Ancora oggi quando vuole esprimere un pensiero complesso la frase gli esce in inglese. E capisci che non è un vezzo snob.

A otto anni il ritorno in Italia. Continua le lezioni con diversi maestri fino all’incontro con Anna Maria Cigoli che gli apre un mondo infinito e gli svela cos’è la musica. «Le ho suonato Mozart e mi ha voluto come suo allievo». A dodici anni debutta come solista in Romania con l’orchestra sinfonica di Bacau diretta da Ovidiu Balan. È l’astro nascente nel cartellone del Festival Mozart. Suona il Rondò K 386. E lì scopre che la tastiera è una cosa immensa ma non gli basta. «Quella sera rimasi colpito dalla figura del direttore, da come intrattiene il rapporto musicista-musicista oltre a quello musicista-pubblico. Quel ruolo mi ha attratto molto. Così, tornato da Bacau mi sono detto: voglio fare il direttore d’orchestra». Signori, questa è la volontà.

Va a lezione dal maestro Fabrizio Dorsi che da 25 anni tiene un prestigioso corso di direzione a Todi, in Umbria. Quando nell’estate 2019 prende in mano per la prima volta la bacchetta guida un complesso da camera nel Divertimento K 138, ancora di Mozart. Ha dodici anni. Quattro meno di Wolfgang quando scrive quel pezzo. Per dirigere, si sa, ci vuole carisma. Ci devi nascere, e se non ce l’hai non te lo puoi dare. Morgan ne è consapevole: «Il carisma è una componente essenziale perché non solo devi gestire l’orchestra e andarci d’accordo, ma devi in qualche modo ispirarla ed essere accettato. I musicisti sono anzitutto umani e devono essere convinti delle tue decisioni. Con il carisma devi raccontare, trasferire attraverso il gesto, le parole e il canto i tuoi punti di vista, quello che richiedi da quel determinato brano. Insomma, il carisma è una questione di vita o di morte». E questo, se permettete, è il talento.

Morgan Icardi, Mozart Across Boundaries

Nicola Gallino

“Music, especially Mozart’s, has an order to it – a certainty that you can’t find in real life.” So says Morgan Icardi.

His own life, however, has an unyielding order to it. For a fourteen-year-old, it’s quite busy.

He spends hours studying every day. His packed schedule obliges his father, Guido, to drive him all over the place.

There are the piano lessons in Monferrato, with Anna Maria Cigoli, a legend who has shaped

generations of Italian performers. Then they ride over the hills, all the way to Valenza, in order to master the violin with Roberto Ranfaldi, the concertmaster of RAI National

Symphony Orchestra. Then on to Milan, to the Claudio Abbado school, where – despite his young age – Morgan is studying orchestral conducting, under Renato Rivolta.

And then there are the lessons with Giampaolo Pretto, the flutist and conductor. Those are in Turin, Morgan’s hometown.

Only two words can explain this pace of work:

drive and talent.

Speaking of talent, Morgan’s name seems like something out of a talent show. His flowing locks call Mendelssohn to mind. His Facebook page has over 200,000 followers. His performances regularly go viral on social media. Despite that, he does not consider himself an aspiring YouTuber or Instagrammer. He’s just a normal kid, laid-back and focused on doing what he likes right now, though he also displays a mature awareness of his abilities.

In Gaelic, the name Morgan means “seashore.” It was chosen by his father, Guido, who is an underground rock fan. Morgan was very young when his family moved to Los Angeles for work. They lived in the legendary Laurel Canyon, next to houses that had once belonged to Frank Zappa and The Mamas & The Papas. What a shock it must have been to discover that this five-year-old, instead of going for hip-hop grooves or Jimmy Page riffs, was

drawn to the harpsichord-like Alberti bass pattern: DUH-da-DAH-da, DUH-da-DAH-da.

He began studying piano in L.A., stirred by the simple, Cartesian directness of the New World. To this day, when he wants to express a complex thought, it comes out in English instead of Italian. It’s clear that it’s not for show.

He returned to Italy at the age of eight. He took lessons with various teachers until he met Anna Maria Cigoli.

As he tells it, “I played Mozart for her, and she agreed to teach me.” It was Cigoli who opened his eyes to what music really is.

When he was 12, he debuted as a soloist with the Bacau Symphony Orchestra in Romania, directed by Ovidiu Balan. He was the rising star headlining the Mozart Festival. He played Rondo for Piano and Orchestra, K.386. That was when he realized that the piano,

though awesome, was not enough for him. “That evening, I was struck by the conductor’s role, how he fosters not only the connection between one musician and another but also the connection between the musicians and the audience.

I was really drawn to that role. So when I got back from Bacau, I said to myself: I want to be an orchestra conductor.”

Now that’s drive.

He went to study under Fabrizio Dorsi, who has headed a conducting course in Umbria for the past 25 years. In the summer of 2019, as he held a conducting baton for the first time, he led an ensemble through Mozart’s Divertimento in F Major, K. 138. He was still 12 at the time, four years younger than Wolfgang was when he wrote that piece.

It takes charisma to conduct. And charisma is something you’ve got to be born with. Morgan is aware of that. “Charisma is an essential part of conducting. Not only do you have to manage the orchestra and jibe with them, but you also have to inspire them, and get them to

accept you. At the end of the day, musicians are human beings, and they must feel comfortable with your decisions. It’s your charisma that will let you tell your version of the

story. Through your gestures, you will draw out from them whatever is needed in that part of the composition. Basically, charisma is a matter of life-or-death.”

And that, then, is talent.

Some might think that this fourteen-year-old wiz, with his magic wand, could never work out the formula for a symphony. Of course, natural gifts must be shored up by hard work, study, personal growth, and experience.

But still, wouldn’t it be great to find out how the naturally

endowed perceive things?  

“Music comes instinctively to me,” Morgan says. “Study and practice are key to fully understanding the piece, and being able to get it across. But you have to start with

awareness, with insight. You need strong musical instincts to carry it through well. In your head, you have to be able to hear the melody, the harmony, and the counterpoints all

weaving together. It’s like you can see the overall design, even if you’ve never heard it before. And you must know how to read between the lines to find the composer’s intentions.”

Anyone with Morgan’s talent, at his age, has two paths to choose from. One is a messy, juvenile binging, whereby a youngster will try to take in and absorb everything that comes his way, to make it his own. The other is a humble methodicalness, a gradual mastery, step by step.

That latter path is the one that Morgan is on.

That’s why this album only features Mozart – whose works are a cosmos in and of themselves. The many selections are varied. There’s Piano Sonata n. 8 in A Minor, K. 310,

and Fantasia in C Minor, K. 475, both proto-Romantic, switching back and forth from pessimistic drama to elegiac grace. There’s Fantasia in D Minor, K. 397, a mysterious

perihelion in which Mozart touched on the contrasts of Empfindsamkeit, Carl Philip Emanuel Bach’s sentimental style. Like glittering antimatter, there’s the sunny, charged energy of Piano Sonata in D Major, K. 576.

Lastly, there’s Symphony No. 29 in A Major, K. 201. Written in 1774 in Salzburg, Austria, when Mozart was only 18 years old, it is steeped in the Sturm und Drang emotionalism that, in those times, blew through Europe like a shivery wind. No. 29 is like a magic faultline

between time and space through which we can spy the chasm-like depths of his later works.

Morgan is now on to studying two other pre-Romantic Mozart symphonies, No. 25 (K. 183) and No. 40 (K. 550), both in G Minor, in addition to Mozart’s stoic, brilliant “Jupiter” (Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551) and symphonies by Beethoven and Brahms. What’s

more, he’s already dipping his toes into the twentieth century, as he deconstructs and reconstructs Igor Stravinsky’s neoclassical “Dumbarton Oaks” Concerto.

In a way, Morgan is like a rare specimen of times past. He’s not on TikTok or Spotify. He doesn’t follow the latest hits. He doesn’t care about becoming an Instagram star. If you remind him that a kid like him must bear the great responsibility of explaining to his peers that there’s more to life than just trap music and Auto-Tune, he ponders. Suddenly, he looks like he’s grown ten years more mature.

“Yes, I realize that classical music is harder to deal with because it requires mindful listening,” he answers. “That’s why I chose Mozart. It’s catchy, likable. And you can just

jump into it, without any special background.” That’s Mozart Across Boundaries, to a tee. “It’s

outgoing yet deep, at the same time. It links ‘before’ and ‘after.’ That’s really modern, actually. It fits in with today’s world. No matter when you discover it, it’s still beautiful.”

 

 

 

 

 

Nicola Gallino is a journalist

and music critic of La Repubblica,

historian, musicologist