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Author: Licia M. Sirch
Date: April-June 2021
From: Fontes Artis Musicae(Vol. 68, Issue 2)
Publisher: International Association of Music Libraries, Archives and Documentation Centres
Document Type: Article
Length: 8,926 words
Lexile Measure: 1550L

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The historical events of the coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte as sovereign of the Kingdom of Italy (1805-1814) are well known: the solemn and sumptuous ceremony took place in the Cathedral of Milan on 26 May 1805 after days of preparations. It is also known that the new Kingdom with its capital in Milan was entrusted and administered by Napoleon's stepson, Viceroy Eugene de Beauharnais (1781-1824), son of Josephine, first wife of the French Emperor.

The young and refined Viceroy, a lover of fine arts and music, is also remembered for having founded the Milan Conservatoire (18 September 1807) on the institutional model and with a pedagogical direction derived from those of the Paris Conservatoire: that is, founded on ideals and civil and democratic innovations at the core of the French Revolution, which provided for a secular school open to all interested citizens, thus putting an end or reducing the privileges accorded to young people belonging to higher social classes, who could afford private tuition. Based on the same principles, the newly-founded institution was no longer, not even, a 'professional' school, albeit of a high level, such as the one represented by the historic Venetian and Neapolitan 'orphanages', dependent on religious institutions 'of public piety'. Following the establishment of the new Milanese music school, and as a tangible sign of its ideal affiliation to the Parisian one, on 30 January 1809, Eugene donated the splendid Methodes de musique-the methods used in the French Conservatoire-to the new institute, at the same time founding its Library (1). In the donor's intentions, the original guidelines relating to the teaching and training of the musician in the new Milanese Conservatoire obviously had to follow either the French ones or be based on texts produced by an editorial council of experts, and inspired by a uniform and normative model, unlike what traditionally happened in the Italian (Neapolitan and Venetian) empirical and individualistic schools (2).

History shows that the events that followed soon took other directions, so that the voluminous French Methodes, conceived as 'codes' for the training of professionals with academic integrity in every musical sector, were soon replaced by the methods produced by Italian teachers (3). These were 'more practical' and, apparently, more modest methods; certainly, they were more suited to the social context of the school, or to the task of training composers and performers apt to foster the rebirth of the musical opera theatre, and befitting 'the needs of the local artistic labor market'. The Magisterium of Bonifazio Asioli (1769-1832), Maestro of the Milanese Royal Chapel and Court music master, first Director and composition teacher of the new Milanese Conservatoire by appointment of Beauharnais, contributed decisively to this turning point of programmatic and didactic ideals (4).

Currently, the Library of the Milan Conservatoire holds various music collections of considerable historical, documentary, and artistic value: for example, the collection of the Chapel of Santa Barbara in Mantua, a precious witness to the sacred music of the late Italian Renaissance; the 'Fondo Noseda' containing...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A669688474