Volume 3, January 2012
Franco Petracchi and the Divertimento Concertante Per Contrabbasso E Orchestra by Nino Rota: A Successful Collaboration Between Composer And Performer

by Alexandre Ritter

Chapter 4 — Conclusion

In this final chapter I will revisit the main research goals that shaped the investigation and the writing of this document, as objectively and briefly as possible, followed by the essential findings.  At the end, I will make my recommendations for further work.  The first research goal was to discover when and in what circumstances Nino Rota composed his Divertimento for Double Bass.  The Divertimento was composed intermittently through a long period of time from 1967 to1971.  Concerning the compositional process, it is essential to know that at the time Rota was director of the Bari Conservatory and Petracchi was the teacher of double bass.  As a result it was possible for Rota to hear the music in the classroom from his office downstairs and to visit the classroom itself.  The close proximity enabled the two musicians to discuss the progress of the work on multiple occasions, to perform the version with piano, and to use the experience to change many details of the scoring, in each of the four movements. 

The second goal was to explore the possibility that aspects of Petracchi's interpretive style and performing technique could have influenced the composition of Rota's Divertimento.  Technical features of a sort that Petracchi found important were found to be present throughout the Marcia.  In the Aria movement, Rota gave Petracchi the kind of intense lyrical phrases that would allow him to demonstrate his ability to "sing" on the double bass.  In the first and fourth movements Petracchi was given numerous chances to demonstrate his rare, exceptional virtuosity.  Thanks to this collaboration, one of Italy's most famous 20th-century composers created a work of lyrical beauty and virtuosic challenge, guided at each stage by many practical suggestions from the artist who inspired the work and performed its premiere.

The third research goal was to investigate the specific influence of Petracchi's innovative pedagogy for the bass and of his method book Simplified Higher Technique on the composition of the Divertimento.  Several chapters of Higher Technique introduced playing principles and presented exercises that bore a significant similarity to passages in the Divertimento.  The following chapters are  particularly relevant:  Chapter 18, which dealt with arpeggios; Chapter 5, which concerned scales; Chapters 7 and 8, which developed chromatic scale technique; Chapter 11, which introduced Petracchi's shifts on a single string, developed for lyrical passages; Chapter 9, which applied various double stop patterns to chord playing; Chapter 19, which introduced the playing of fourths with the "thumb position;" and, most significantly, Chapter 3, which led to a direct musical quotation in the Divertimento.

The final research goal was to determine the general circumstances and specific changes made as a result of the collaborative decision to revise the work after its publication in 1973.  By comparing the published score and Petracchi's personal copy of his revised part with additional handwritten changes, it was possible to establish main categories of revision and to survey them in detail, throughout all four movements.  The most significant changes fit into the following categories:  note alterations, additions, and deletions, rhythmic alterations, and register alterations as well as revisions of terms, titles, and special markings.

With respect to the circumstances that led to the revisions, I refer the reader to the full transcript of my 2008 interview with Petracchi and to the excerpts from it given at the beginning of Chapter 3.  It is relevant here to recall Petracchi's final words from the 2008 interview, which he spoke to me in response to my question about what revisions occurred after Rota's death:  

After his death I changed nothing.  Everything was accepted or suggested by the Maestro.  Also in the concerto by H. W. Henze, I made numerous modifications, but only with his consent.  He wrote on my score, "the corrections made by Franco Petracchi are not only accepted by me, but also desired, because they are done with reason."  The same with the music of Rota.87

In my opinion, the latest revised version that Petracchi owns is the most faithful document of what Rota really intended with the Divertimento.  Aside from all the many detailed changes discussed in the previous chapter, there are major tempo revisions throughout the Divertimento that were not incorporated into the 1973 edition.  These revisions are of great importance since they represent more accurately all the meaning, the representation of ideas, the scenarios, and feelings that are an intrinsic part of Rota's compositional style.

The musical world would greatly benefit if all the details that Rota provided to Petracchi as they worked together and which are now represented in this latest revised version that Petracchi owns would be made available in a new published critical edition of the Divertimento.