A unique sound of Italian elegance: L’Addio by Raffaello Squarise

For many years, Auckland Libraries has engaged with the music loving community by providing opportunities for musicians to perform at our Thursday Heritage Concerts series. At these concerts, our local musicians, and even some from overseas, have showcased their prodigious talent and highlighted a wonderful and varied musical repertoire – the vast majority of which the Library holds in our extensive music collection. We have had the joy of hearing beautiful interpretations of well loved works and had the privilege to hear lesser known works we would not have heard otherwise. One example being Purcell’s Harpsichord Master which was wonderfully presented by Peter and Katharine Watts in our concert series in 2019. Auckland Libraries holds the only extant copy of this work, first published in 1697. It was so exciting to hear it brought to life by such experts.

I thought that this time in lockdown would be the perfect opportunity to reflect and take a look back on another special performance in our Thursday Heritage Concert series, where a most engaging work, one that has in fact never been published, was performed.

Image: Portrait of Gemma Lee (on the left) and Charlotte Francis of the Francis-Lee Duo.

On 4 October 2018, the Francis-Lee Duo (Charlotte Francis, violin, and Gemma Lee, piano) performed a programme called '150 years of music: Beethoven to Gershwin'.

The programme featured the works of Beethoven, Debussy and Gershwin. Highlighted in the middle of their programme was a work entitled 'L’Addio for violin and piano' by the composer Raffaello Squarise, described in his day as “Dunedin’s chief musical asset”.

Image: Charles Clarke Armstrong. Studio portrait photograph of Raffaello Squarise, about 1925.
(Public domain image retrieved from Wikipedia on 6 October 2021).

Raffaello Squarise – or 'Old square eyes' as he was fondly known – was born in the North Eastern Italian town of Vicenza in 1856. From the age of 12 he attended the Instituto Musicale, Turin. Squarise graduated with a master’s diploma studying violin under Francesco Bianchi and Pietro Bertuzzi and composition under Carlo Pedrotti. He toured as a concert artist in an ensemble and served for four years as a military bandmaster. On his discharge, he emigrated to Australia in 1882 where he established a very busy and lively musical career in Melbourne and then Adelaide as a performer, composer and teacher.

In 1887, Squarise married Camille Villanis (née Chapuis). They departed Australia for New Zealand in 1889 after he was appointed the leader of an orchestra formed for the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition held in Dunedin. Once the Exhibition had finished in 1890, they decided to settle in Dunedin. Squarise quickly established himself as a teacher, and with the pianist Arthur Barmeyer founded the Otago Conservatorio of Music. He conducted several bands, the Dunedin Liedertafel (later to be known as the Royal Dunedin Male Choir), and other choirs.

Image: New Zealand Graphic. Portrait of Raffaello Squarise, 25 July 1896.
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections NZG-18960725-110-1

By the end of 1892, Squarise had become hugely influential in developing Dunedin's enthusiasm for and participation in classical music. In 1905, he was elected president of the Otago Society of Musicians which saw the musical life of the city grow to impressive proportions in quantity and quality.

In 1904, Squarise established the Dunedin Philharmonic Society orchestra enabling him to perform a number of New Zealand premieres of orchestral works and feature some of his own works in his performances, including his Symphony in C minor. Squarise continued to conduct the orchestra until it was disbanded in 1933 when he retired from public life. Squarise eventually moved to Roxburgh, Central Otago, where he died in 1945.

The 'L’Addio', like some of his other smaller works, was never published. It is held in the Hocken Collections at the University of Otago alongside Dr. David Murray’s research papers for his thesis 'Raffaello Squarise (1856-1945): The Colonial Career of an Italian Maestro', and other unpublished manuscripts of Squarise works. About 32 of Squarise's works are safely stored in private or institutional collections in New Zealand, Australia and Italy. Murray reveals that the 'L’Addio' manuscript had been presented by Squarise to his pupil Ngaio Garland, who performed it with the Dunedin Philharmonic Society in 1925. The piece seems to have been composed about forty years earlier, no later than 1884, when Squarise was still in Australia.

In the year 2000, Alistair Gilkison, music score copyist, cellist, musical director and arranger, discovered the manuscript at a Dunbar Sloane Auction in Wellington. It was then acquired by Dr David Murray and subsequently donated to the Hocken Library.

Squarise performed the piece on a number of occasions - in Adelaide on 25 April 1884, 20 August 1884, 7 January 1885, and 1 October 1886. Then in Dunedin on 16 June 1892 and Waitati on 1 April 1893. It was reported favourably in the local newspapers:

‘A violin solo by Signor Squarise, a writing of his own entitled “L’Addio,” was one of the most pleasing selections of the evening. Besides being an exhibition of the true spirit of musical art, it abounded in instances where technical skill was manifest. The double stopping especially was most accurate, as only a master of the instrument could produce...’ (Register, 2 Oct 1886)

‘In response to the demands for an encore, Signor Squarise played a composition of his own entitled 'L’Addio,' which contained some very pretty music. . .’ (Otago Daily Times, 17 Jun 1892) Concert at St Peters Church.

'L’Addio' was next performed in 2004 by Alex Vaatstra and Terence Dennis in Dunedin as part of a concert of Squarise works organised by Dr David Murray.

So how did the Francis-Lee duo come to perform this work in 2018?

Violinist Dr Charlotte Francis shares: “Playing violin remained a big part of my life whilst pursuing my PhD in Classics at the University of Otago in Dunedin. I first came across the piece through a colleague Dr David Murray who works at the Hocken Library and had studied the life of Squarise for his PhD and his significant impact on musical life in Dunedin. I had kept an old copy of the violin part amongst my music collection and contacted David about obtaining the complete music and performing it with Gemma. He sent me the original score in handwritten form as it had not been transcribed yet into a modern readable form. Transcribing the piece into Sibelius was an extremely enjoyable task and the end result of being able to perform the piece was very rewarding."

Image: Page of the transcript of the sheet music of 'L'Addio' by Rafaello Squarise.

Pianist Gemma Lee notes: "We always try to incorporate at least one New Zealand work in our concert programmes. Being able to perform 'L'Addio' as part of Auckland Libraries' Heritage Concert series was an absolute treat. An incredibly romantic and melancholic piece that definitely deserved to be performed on the concert stage more often!"

Why was the popular gem 'L’Addio' never published? It was probably because there was no financial incentive, with little hope to even cover the costs of printing. A lot of early New Zealand compositions were published, but more to publicise the composer, although a select few had some commercial success.

Auckland Libraries was fortunate to be able to record this unique work live at the concert in 2018 and as such it is the only recording available. We hope you enjoy listening to this gorgeous piece of New Zealand’s cultural and musical history, written in an era of gracious elegance and brought to life by the Francis-Lee Duo.

Listen to the track here.

Author: Marilyn Portman, Senior Librarian Music