An important part of classical music is historically linked to liturgical functions. Without commissions from churches of various denominations, our reference repertoire would be much more streamlined. But, even when we set aside practical necessities, for centuries religion proved to be a crucial pretext for music, a driving force and stimulus behind its creation.
At the same time, music was considered, in a variety of contexts, the sole voice that could evoke the supernatural, whether it be a forest spirit, one of Cupid’s arrows, or the very voice of God. Mankind turned to music, and classical music in particular, as a way of addressing our own spiritual longing. Today, in our highly secularized world, listening to a Psalm, a Stabat Mater, or a Salve Regina may spark new attitudes in people. Some find that it is now only at a concert that they can experience a sentiment akin to sacrality, which is handed down to us and transmitted through music. There are those who, being unconsciously in search of the answer to a spiritual question, are moved by the power of music and the vision, inspiration and absolute beauty it offers.
Many are the domains where music puts us in touch with the spirit, and this year’s MITO is dedicated to them, as we explore a theme – which was chosen long before the outbreak of the pandemic – that has become, in dramatic fashion, even more relevant today.
Analogously, widespread nonreligious cultural consumption and multiculturalism pave the way for similar moments of spirituality when we listen to secular music that becomes the object of our most profound attention and abandon, which temporarily fills the void left by the dismantling of the religious dimension in our lives.
Thus, many are the domains where music puts us in touch with the spirit, and this year’s MITO is dedicated to them, as we explore a theme – which was chosen long before the outbreak of the pandemic – that has become, in dramatic fashion, even more relevant today.
Of course, this year’s edition of the festival promises to be a special one. For the first time in our history, the curtain will go up without foreign artists. As we were putting our program together, travel restrictions fell in place. In light of the events, the idea of presenting an all-Italian edition of MITO appealed to us. It’s a way to highlight Italy’s talented musicians and provide greater focus on the festival’s two host cities, which have both been hard-hit by Coronavirus. This year’s edition will see performances that feature smaller-sized groups of players to ensure proper social distancing among them. Look forward to new, never-before-heard, and perhaps bizarre sounds, as the energy of performers bursts forth in very special ways. We put our trust in them, so that they may keep the fire burning until the day that large orchestras and ensembles make their return, along with choirs singing elbow-to-elbow.
This year will provide an opportunity for audiences to reflect upon the extent to which music unites us.
This year also provides an opportunity for audiences to reflect upon the extent to which music unites us. Sitting before a pianist or a chamber orchestra, busy listening to music of the past or freshly composed pieces, that meter of social distancing that keeps us apart from our fellow listeners will be of little matter. What matters is that once again we will be able to join together and identify with the emotions expressed by Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Schumann, and Stravinsky, and look to the future with optimism.