The oceanic music of Leonardo Vichi
By Pedro Machado
”Thou of intimate nostalgia, overflow
the innermost human heart”
The verses of the Brazilian poet Cruz e Sousa, devoted to the sea, could well refer to the intimate seascape depiction in the Oceanic Cycle Music, the Suite for Piano no.1 by Leonardo Vichi. Evoking meaningful episodes on a journey onboard a sailboat experiencing the sea, the work gives listeners of Vichi’s music the impression of being immerse in a real cycle of sound poems for piano, in which each note may evoque senses as much as the words in a lyric poem do. Nevertheless, we are before a music that would please and awaken feelings and thoughts, even if we did not know the name of the work and titles of its movements. Above all, this is highest quality music.
It is surprising that, in this work, Leonardo Vichi makes a synthesis of different influences and styles such as Baroque, French music from the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century and contemporary concert music. However, this is far from being just a demonstration of the composer’s erudition: Echoes of Bach, Chopin, Fauré, Debussy and Glass are present not as pastiches, but as the use of distinct artistic expressions, encompassed by the composer’s own style, aiming at better expressing his subjectivisms. Nothing seems gratuitous or unnecessary in this music which is free from any kind of exhibitionism. An interpretation of the Ocean Cycle requires, beside technique, a great deal of artistic sensibility.
The sea has always inspired artistic creation, partly because of its mystery, perhaps because it evokes other worlds that once existed (I remember here the myth of Atlantis) or maybe that still exist. Such mystery may be heard in Vichi’s music. If we do not hear these other worlds in it, we hear the melancholy of longing for them. His piano writing seems, at times, to tell us an intimate secret that only the depths of the oceans would be able to keep. Music is not only technique, but also the soul overflow, deep as the sea, with its storms, darkness under the starry sky and unfathomable distances. In this work, does Vichi evoke the sea, or in fact, evoke the soul? What if this is a false choice, and in music, sea and soul are exactly the same? Only each one could say.
The sound journey throughout musical landscapes, skillfully depicted, does not deny the journey through an inner and intimate ocean, so poetically implied in the suite along the course of its five movements. In them we experience through music, the darkness of the night with few stars over the sea and at dawn, the moment to set the coordinates to start the trip; the deep melancholy of distances; the obscure energy of an ocean storm with winds that bring about winter, personified in the mythological figure of Boreas; the desolate beauty of ruins from a lighthouse and the density of feelings when you finally have the sight of the sea shore, the point of arrival of this oceanic trajectory, — true portals to the worlds the inner and outer ocean holds. Regarding the lyricism of this sea evoked by Leonardo Vichi in his Oceanic Cycle, one could cite the lines at the beginning of the last stanza of the poem quoted in this article:
”Oh sea, oh sea, although this electrism
Thou have in you the germ of lyricism”