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“Historical Musicology Alive and Well in Cremona” by Irene Brigitte Puzzo (University of Coimbra)

Irene Brigitte Puzzo (Portugal)

If someone asks me if students from the Musicology and Cultural Heritage Department of the University of Pavia (situated in Cremona) “receive the necessary training to go on to a research career in early music”“ (EarlyMuse Memorandum Of Understanding, p. 2), I would answer yes, and how!

I would like to explain my point by telling a few stories. Lucia, a young woman in her last year of the Musicology Master, said that each student receives ”the tools to do bibliographical research” and to “look at the sources with a critical approach.” Indeed, while attending Dr. Antonio Calvia’s Musical Palaeography class, I noticed that the information he provided (such as dates or lists of treatises) was constantly problematized and contextualized, stimulating a critical attitude in the students. ”The method of doubt as a guide” seems to be the motto of Dr. Luca Gatti’s class (Romance Philology) as well.

I met Lucia during her 150 hour-long internship at the Monteverdi Festival (organized by the Ponchielli Theatre), while she was working on the production of L’Incoronazione di Poppea by Monteverdi. Another part of Lucia’s work will consist of writing a transcription of various arias by Cavalli, for a competition that will take place next year. Lucia told me that the education she received in Musical Palaeography and Philology allows her to feel comfortable with this work, which she likes, but when she talked about the involvement in production, her eyes sparkled: ”At the moment, to spend half of my time having an active role in the making of an opera and the other half writing editions, would be ideal.” When students from the Musicology Department go to the theater to do their internships, the team always tries ”to understand which are their interests,” as I was told by Lorenzo Pecchia (Musical, Opera and Festival Artistic Secretary), “and whether they are comfortable with their tasks or need training before starting.”

This is not the only collaboration between the Department and the Theatre. Angela Romagnoli, Professor of History of Music and Performance Practice, told me about a workshop which she supervised in order to perform the critical edition of one of her master’s students, Elia Pivetta. The first modern performance of the cantata “Il ritorno di Tobia” by Baldassare Galuppi debuted at the Monteverdi Festival with students from the Conservatories of Pavia, Bergamo and Gallarate as musicians. The student responsible for the critical edition, now a PhD student in the Musicology Department of Pavia, is an example of a professional musician who enrolled in the Musicology master’s with a bachelor’s in music performance. “I felt the necessity to improve my musicology competence in the Italian University system” said Pivetta, despite having obtained his degree in one of the best Early Music schools of Europe. “What I learned during my master’s in Musicology saved my life while pursuing my current PhD.”

In fact, students and professors whom I interviewed highlighted the impact that different backgrounds have in facing a master’s in Musicology. Sometimes there could be a “resistance to scientific thought” from trained musicians who have great practice expertise but are unfamiliar with the academic approach, as explained by Ingrid Pustijanac (Professor of Musical Analysis), and ”it becomes a problem when they have to work on their own dissertation, because they are not used to library-based research.”

At the same time, I have to report that almost the entirety of the teachers I interviewed are musicians as well, with a Conservatory diploma in composition or in a specific instrument. Generally speaking, “now the Department is more open to welcoming a practice component than it was in the past, even if this integration is not linear,” said Massimiliano Guido (Professor of Musicology but also responsible for several tutorial sessions dedicated to Improvisation Techniques). The variety of profiles can be a challenge: “We cannot offer a guaranteed future,” said another professor, “but we can try to create a space in which students can find their own direction and stand on their own feet as soon as possible.”

Since 2016, the department offers a course in Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage for musical instruments, which deepened connections with Museo del Violino of the Stradivari Foundation and the Arvedi Laboratory of Non-Invasive Diagnostics located at the museum. This laboratory is a valuable asset for musicological research too: for instance, it allowed scholar Antonio Calvia to analyze the ink and parchment of two newly discovered musical fragments of the San Fedele-Belgioioso Codex, adding to the information pool that helps establish even more connections between them.

While there is no report that can substitute a visit in person, I hope that these excerpts of my conversations and observations are able to transmit an image of a department in constant motion, open to connecting with external institutions, to somehow rethinking itself, and to giving students the tools to understand which are their talents and passions through different stimulating experiences. If (and only if) they discover they enjoy research, “the transition to that field is automatic” since they have already acquired the necessary skills.