Maestro Carlo Ipata and Auser Musici – Celebrating Vivaldi with a New Album

Maestro and flute virtuoso Carlo Ipata is dedicated to early-music research and performance. As director and soloist of the ensemble Auser Musici, he has been performing and educating audiences for over two decades. Recently, Maestro Ipata and Auser Musici have released a new album of Antonio Vivaldi’s Flute Concertos, No’s 1-6, Opus 10 (on the Glossa classical music label) on which Maestro Ipata performs on a Traverso flute – the transverse or side-blown flute; a flute held horizontally when played. He spoke to me from the beautiful and historic Tuscan city of Pisa, where he makes his home.

Please tell us about the ensemble you founded, Auser Musici. 

I founded Auser Musici almost 25 years ago. Auser was the name of a river. You know that Pisa is crossed by the Arno River. Before the construction of the Leaning Tower, Pisa had two rivers, one was the Arno and the other, the Auser. The Auser was used to transport the stones and materials needed to build the Duomo (the Cathedral) and the Tower of Pisa. We took on this name symbolically since we wanted to rebuild the renown of Tuscan early music.

We came up with this idea called the Tuscan Early Music Project, and our activity is focused on music that derives, directly or indirectly, from Tuscany, which was an important musical center in Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries during the rule of the Medici family in Florence. We did research on Tuscan repertory, its importance in the history of music, and the influence it had on other European countries at the time. There were many artistic connections, such as between Pisa and Paris at the court of Louis XIV and later, the same with Madrid, with London, with Vienna, and there were Tuscan musicians who also went to Saint Petersburg to the court of Catherine the Great.

Maestro Carlo Ipata – Photo by Rudy Pessina

How did your new album of Vivaldi’s Flute Concertos come about?

It was during the pandemic that we decided to record this particular Vivaldi album of six flute concertos, collected as Opus 10. This project was born because, first of all, we really wanted to play music. We had already performed a few of these concerti. In the meantime, I studied other concerti from Opus 10 and then I just proposed, why don’t we do an album? First, we tried it out in two live concerts. We had a very nice concert in an abandoned theater in Pisa and we did a great trailer for crowdfunding. Then we recorded the album and the Glossa label released it. We are all very pleased with it.

I noticed that the movements of these concertos are very short. 

This is characteristic of Vivaldi.  He composed these concerti while he was a violin teacher at the Ospedale della Pietà (Hospital of Mercy) in Venice, a home for abandoned children where there were only girls. One of them was a certain Lucieta Traversie, named so because she played the Traverso flute. Lucieta was probably so virtuosic that she inspired Vivaldi to write these concertos for transverse flute. Possibly the reason why the movements are not long is because he wanted to write something more condensed. 

The publication of  these concertos as Opus 10 happened in Amsterdam in 1729, but they were already circulating in Venice and in Europe before then. What is special about them, apart from the fact that they are very beautiful, is that they’re the first publication of concertos for the Traverso flute, which is made of wood. Its sound is completely different from the recorder, for example. The recorder sounds more like a whistle. With the Traverso you can have a warmer, smoother, softer yet more direct sound, in a way closer to the human voice. Actually, I no longer even play the modern flute, the one you now see and hear in orchestras.

Vivaldi wrote so much music, that it’s still possible to discover unknown music by him. Here in Pisa, we found a violin sonata in an ancient palazzo. There are also many other concerti for the Traverso flute, also called the Baroque flute. But the distinctiveness of Opus 10 is that there are three thematic concertos that aim to describe a certain situation. “La tempesta del mare” (The Sea Tempest) or “La notte” (The Night) which describes the night with its phantasms in a series of contrasting movements between wakefulness and rest. The famous one is “Il gardellino” (The Goldfinch), third on the track list; the flute imitates the little bird.

Vivaldi was nicknamed “Il Prete Rosso,” the Red Priest…

Yes, that’s why the album cover has an image of red hair on it. Vivaldi had red hair and he was ordained as a priest.  But he wasn’t active as a priest. You know, his music was rediscovered in the 20th century. It was relatively unknown until the 1920s and 30s. Much of his work was found in a monastery near Torino in 1926 by two Italian researchers.  

Why should more people listen to Vivaldi’s music today? 

Because Vivaldi is very “modern.” He uses harmonic and rhythmic combinations in all of his music that are very close to how we can feel. There are such combinations that are, in a way, close to pop music, even. That doesn’t take anything away from Vivaldi, neither does it add anything to pop music. He had a way of composing that is very direct and speaks instantly to the mind and to the heart; his music goes straight to the soul of the listener. Plus, it’s beautiful. It’s not even a question of culture. Clearly, Vivaldi and all the composers of the era are the fruit of European culture at the time. But some of them, like Vivaldi, have known how to write and organize musical ideas and thoughts in a transcending, captivating way. Vivaldi definitely had an enormous, incredible imagination that still feels modern today. Listening to his music and playing his music can still be entertaining, it touches you and it makes you want to dance. The music is truly rhythmic; we were actually dancing among ourselves when we were recording it.

You live in Pisa. How is the classical music situation in Italy at the moment, given everything that is happening in the world?  

For the performing artists, of course the past two years were very difficult. This album comes out of wanting to free ourselves from the heavy sensation of a weight on our shoulders. And now that we’re coming out of Covid, we are dealing with another fear coming from what’s happening 2,000 km from here. It’s such a terrible situation and feeling. But I am starting to perform concerts again. We recently did an opera production at the Teatro di Pisa, Giulio Cesare by Handel, and I have several concerts coming up. I have to go to Germany at the end of the month, and then I would have had to go to Poland and to Prague, but now I don’t know if I will go. The war situation in Ukraine is not something that we just talk about here; it is definitely impacting our daily lives and affecting our work possibilities as artists. The gas prices have doubled here. And it’s impossible to predict what will happen in the next week, so if you have projects further out than a week, now it’s not certain that they will happen.

Do you ever perform in the United States?

I played in the Tropical Baroque Festival in Miami. I also did a couple of lectures at NYU. And many years ago, I  spent some time in Canada, at the Banff Center for the Fine Arts; I was there for eight months,  doing the winter and fall program. But I have no current plans to come to the U.S.

Any special message for your fans and our readers?

We see that music and the arts in general are the first things to be cut in terrible situations. But I think that music and the arts, and the way people can find relief in them, are very important, especially now, so we can have access to something that goes beyond the real problems. We need to deal with the real problems, of course, but we also need to keep in mind that life is also made of beauty, and to try to think of this during the bad times. I also believe that if women had been in power, this war situation in Ukraine wouldn’t have happened. Maybe if Merkel would have stayed in power in Germany, Putin wouldn’t have done this. So, I believe that more women should have more power in the world.

Top photo: Auser Musici ensemble – Photo by Rudy Pessina

Learn more about Carlo Ipata and Auser Musici.

Download the Vivaldi Flute Concertos, Op. 10 album on Spotify, Amazon, or Apple Music.

About Maria-Cristina Necula (129 Articles)
Maria-Cristina Necula’s published work includes the books "The Don Carlos Enigma: Variations of Historical Fictions" and "Life in Opera: Truth, Tempo and Soul," two translations: "Europe à la carte" and Molière’s "The School for Wives," and a new collection of poems, "Evanescent." Her articles and interviews have appeared in "Classical Singer" Magazine, "Das Opernglas," "Studies in European Cinema," and "Opera News." As a classically-trained singer she has performed in the New York City area at Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Merkin Hall, Florence Gould Hall, and the Westchester Broadway Theatre, and has presented on opera at The Graduate Center, Baruch, The City College of New York, and UCLA Southland. She speaks six languages, two of which she honed at the Sorbonne University in Paris and the University of Vienna, and she holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from The Graduate Center. Discover more at www.mariacristinanecula.com.