“La Tregua” (1902) by Leone Sinigaglia (1868-1944)
(Caroline Helton, soprano and Kathryn Goodson, piano)
CD, La Tregua: Songs from a Lost World by Italian Jewish Composers, Vol. II, Blue Griffin Records
University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance

 

Leone Sinigaglia was an accomplished, European composer and a renowned expert on Italian mountains and mountain climbing, developed from a lifetime spent in the mountainous northern Italian region of Piemonte, specifically Turin.
As a young man, Sinigaglia traveled abroad and spent time in Vienna, where he met Johannes Brahms and was influenced by the traditions of German Lied.
He then proceeded to Prague, where he studied composition with Antonín Dvořák, who encouraged Sinigaglia to collect and set the folk songs of his native Piemonte, two of which Kathryn and I included on our last recording of songs by Italian Jewish composers.
The story of Sinigaglia as a young man is one of promise, reflecting the optimism and opportunities that abounded for talented composers in a culturally free and vibrant Europe. With a tragically commonplace act, however, his life ended very differently than it began.
Despite the fact that he was 75 years old, the Nazi authorities arrested Leone Sinigaglia in 1944 in an attempt to transport him to a labor camp, but he suffered a heart attack during the arrest and died.
His story is just one of so many incredible lives, careers and musical contributions cut short by the barbarism of the Nazi regime. I chose Sinigaglia’s “La Tregua” with which to end the recording for two reasons.
The first is because ‘”La Tregua” is the title of one of Primo Levi’s most important books about his experiences during the Holocaust, and Primo Levi, like Sinigaglia, was also from Turin, so the coincidence resonated very strongly for me.
In the case of Primo Levi’s book, the title is translated into English as “The Truce;” but another meaning of “la tregua” is what gives me the second reason to conclude with this piece: “respite.”
Both D’Annunzio’s poem (describing the mouth of the river Arno) and Sinigaglia’s magical setting (with flowing figures in the piano bearing the melodic line along in its current to the sea) perfectly capture the essence of tranquility and respite, delivering a message of peace and healing.
We are so grateful for the gift of such beauty, and we defy the attempt to destroy it by continuing to search for, perform and record these exquisite Songs from a Lost World.

Come l’Estate porta l’oro in bocca,
L’Arno porta il silenzio a la sua foce.
Tutto il mattino per la dolce landa
Quinci un cantar e quindi altro cantar;
Tace l’acqua tra l’una e l’altra voce.
E l’Estate si china da una banda
Or da l’altra si piega ad ascoltare.
È lento il fiume, il naviglio veloce.
La riva è pura come una ghirlanda.

Sopra di noi sono le vele bianche,
Sopra di noi le vele immacolate.
Il vento che le tocca
Tocca anche le tue palpebre un po’ stanche,
Tocca anche le tue vene delicate;
E un divino sopor ti persuade,
Fresco nei cigli tuoi come rugiade
In erba a l’albeggiar.
S’inazzurra il tuo sangue come il mar.
L’anima tua di pace s’inghirlanda.

Come l’Estate porta l’oro in bocca,
L’Arno porta il silenzio a la sua foce.
Stormi d’augelli varcano la foce,
Poi tutte l’ali bagnano nel mar!
Ogni passato mal ne l’oblio giace;
S’estingue ogni desir vano e feroce.
Quel che ieri mi nocque, or non mi nuoce;
Quello che mi toccò, or non mi tocca.
È paga nel mio cuore ogni dimanda,
Come l’acqua tra l’una e l’altra voce.

Così discendo al mar;
Così veleggio. E per la dolce landa
Quinci un cantar e quindi altro cantar.
Così discendo al mar!
As summer brings gold in its mouth,
The Arno brings silence at its source.
All morning through the sweet moorland
From this side a song and on that side, another;
The water is silent between this and that voice.
And summer bends from one side
Now from the other it stoops to listen.
The river is slow, the boat fast.
The bank is fresh like a garland.

Above us are the white sails,
Above us are the immaculate sails.
The wind that touches them
Touches also your drowsy eyelids,
Touches also your delicate veins;
And a divine languor overcomes you,
Fresh on your eyelashes like dew
On the grass at dawn.
Your blood becomes as blue as the sea.
Peace encompasses your soul.

As summer brings gold in its mouth,
The Arno brings silence at its source.
Flocks of birds cross the river’s mouth,
Then all the wings bath in the sea!
Every bad memory lies in oblivion;
Every vain and ferocious desire is extinguished.
What harmed me yesterday no longer harms me;
What touched me no longer touches me.
Every question is contented in my heart,
Like the water between one voice and the other.

Thus I go down to the sea;
Thus I sail. And through the sweet moorlands
From this side a song and on that side, another;
Thus I go down to the sea!