La Stüa

published 2017, Unit Records

Marco Santilli CheRoba & il Fiato delle Alpi
CD cover La Stüa

Marco Santilli cl, bcl, comp
Lorenzo Frizzera class-g, ac-g, 12-strings-g
Ivan Tibolla p, acc, fl, gl
Fulvio Maras perc
Isabell Weymann fl, afl, picc
Davide Jäger eh, ob
Tomas Gallart hn
Alessandro Damele bn
Filipa Nunes cbcl, cl

Marco Santilli develops his compositions by carefully blending influences from different European styles, including classical, contemporary and folk music as well as world music. His unique style emerges from this combination of different genres in such a way that their various sources are no longer recognizable. If we had to label “La Stüa”, we would find it categorized under “jazz”. Jazz in the sense of an open style of music and, typically Santilli, in Italian. In Italian? Yes, because although these are instrumental pieces, they reflect certain kinds of mood, themes and melodies that hark back to the musicality of his mother tongue.

Compositions commissioned by the International Alpentöne (Alpine Sounds) Festival are inspired by daydreams in the “stüa” * recreated at the Leventina Museum in Giornico in Italian Switzerland. Here, as a boy, he gave his grandfather, the Museum’s curator, a hand whenever it was necessary to explain to tourists the use of the antique objects on display. And even then he found himself improvising. The art of story-telling has remained with him. Today, however, he tackles stories instrumentally. His village of origin and Switzerland in general continue to be a source of inspiration for many of his compositions, which Santilli refines and develops with jazz improvisations. Memories reawaken images with vivid colours, translated into diverse timbres for chamber or orchestral settings, with echoes of big bands or his own expression of rock.

To enlarge his jazz quartet “CheRoba” (the idiomatic equivalent of ‘wow’), Santilli turned to “Il fiato delle Alpi” (the breath of the Alps), a quintet of low register wind instruments: alto flute and cor anglais (instead of the oboe), and contrabass clarinet which, together with the French horn and bassoon, help make the sounds warmer and more intense.

Marco Santilli has surrounded himself with trusted associates to represent this journey along the Swiss north-south axis during which, probably for the first time, a jazz quartet meets a classical wind quintet in a musical context “(CH)ontaminato” (a pun on Switzerland (CH) and contaminated).

The CD “La Stüa” was recorded live at Musikinsel, Rheinau (Switzerland), 2016 February 8-9; mixed at Powerplay Studios, Maur (Switzerland) and mastered at Silvertone Mastering, Gansevoort, NY (USA). Follow this link to listen to some snippets.

Sächsilüüte** (six o’clock bell – traditional spring holiday in Zurich) This song, which processes the childhood trauma of a snowman (the Böögg)*** on fire, is also intended as a tribute to the inhabitants of Zurich, those curious folk from north of the Alps with whom Marco enjoyed many an entertaining hour in the ‘stüa’ at the Museum and now he considers himself one of them.

Leventango – a short “tango” from the Leventina Valley to introduce a complementary one from further north..

Tangu da Wassen (Wassen tango) An expression once used by people from the Leventina valley to denote a traditional Swiss German folk dance. To the eponymous municipality in the canton of Uri and its inhabitants, our museum visitors, a homage which preserves only the first five notes of a tango…

Strada alticcia (tipsy trail) On the high altitude trail, the sweaty members of the group take comfort from a flask of grappa with the inevitable repercussions for the end of the march.

Giornico liberata (Giornico liberated) An epic composition of contrasting moods, inspired by the Battle of Boulders (1478). A few years later, the inn was built which now houses the Leventina Museum.

Morbus helveticus (the Swiss disease) That famous disease, feverish homesickness, the attrition and exhaustion of Swiss mercenaries. To avoid depression and desertion, they were forbidden to play the “Ranz des vaches”, a simple alpine horn melody played to accompany livestock up or down the mountain.

Giorni di Giornico (days of Giornico) Brilliant blue sky, surrounded by the chirping of crickets. Giornico-Claro 1-0. The only goal Marco scored in a competitive match, with holes in his shoes, hoping that nobody else would score so he alone would secure victory.

Sette (seven) Number or noun meaning ‘sects’?  A word with different meanings. Or a reference to Giornico’s seven churches? John Locke would appreciate that.

Variations on the name of Hesse Variations on the name Hesse. German musical notation can spell the name Hesse: H (B), E, Es (E flat), Es, E. That alone is incentive to compose. Hesse’s novel Siddhartha was on the teenager’s literature syllabus.

Musik des Einsamen (music of the lonely man) Title of a work by Hesse set to a Dorian mode Gregorian chant.

When Hermann meets Hari Hypothetical meeting in Montagnola between Hermann Hesse and George Harrison; both lived in the same village but in different eras.

Serenada in minur (serenade in a minor key) Inspired by the eponymous poem in dialect by Giuseppe Arrigoni from Balerna. Takes us back to the cosiness of the living room. „Cantava ‘n clarin…“ (a clarinet was singing…)

Translator’s Notes:

* Stüa – the local dialect term for the living room in traditional houses of the Leventina Valley. Usually the only room that was heated (by a stove) in which most of the household’s activities would take place.

** Sächsilüüte – this unique Spring festival’s unusual name comes from the fourteenth century custom of ringing a bell in the Great Minster at six o’clock in the evening to proclaim the end of the working day during summer. The first ringing of the bell provided a good opportunity for a small springtime celebration.

*** the Böögg – a snowman made of wadding with fireworks in his head is placed on top of a huge bonfire. The flames are ferocious enough but when the snowman burns and the fireworks explode, it can certainly be traumatic for a small child.

For further information on Giornico, the Leventina Valley and Switzerland in general see

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