Michael Stüve, Founder and Director, Musica Ricercata /Progetto Musa Museo Musica, Florence

Musica ricercata in Florentine museums: a new approach to cultural understanding

Musica Ricercata is a Florentine chamber music ensemble and a non-profit cultural organization, which since 1989 has been engaged in the realization of cultural projects, learning from the example of the Capella Academica Wien, the ensemble that has performed for many decades in the Albertina Gallery, its directors showing a lifelong interest in museums and in the conservation of cultural artifacts, and being renowned for their contributions to a historically informed musical performance practice.
A living tradition of the musical past, contrary to the preservation of written documents in libraries (including musical documents) and of artistic objects in museums (including musical instruments), has not been characteristic of European musical history until after the time of Haydn and Mozart, the first composers whose works have been performed continuously ever since. While the objects preserved in museums bear witness to the history connected with them and continue to be admired and studied, the music of earlier epochs was forgotten as soon as its tradition faded away. In the 20th century this led to the well known controversy between cyclical and linear interpretations of music history, between traditionalists and a musical Avant-Garde, the former aiming at ‘saving’ the music of the last great period, the classical-romantic epoch, by its constant repetition in modern concert life, the later trying to promote a new and provocative repertory which, however, attracts an ever decreasing number of listeners.
Towards the end of the 20th century these two ideologies both seemed to have failed. A certain historicist movement seems to be the winner, thanks also to the results of modern musicological research that enables us to revive and perform a great part of the repertory of the entire history of music, exploring its epochs in a way very similar to the visiting of different rooms in a museum. Thus music, aside from being spettacolo, is becoming more and more a real cultural good and this induced us to collaborate with those institutions that preserve cultural assets: the museums. The decision was facilitated by the fact that in the meantime many museums no longer limit themselves to the study and conservation of objects, but have broadened their cultural activities to create social events, a necessary prerequisite for musical activities.
Musica Ricercata’s participation in these activities has been multifarious, and this paper will introduce some of our major projects and strategies.