Published by Casa Ricordi, the monthly Musica d’oggi [MDO] first appeared at the conclusion of World War I. Its forerunner was the Gazzetta musicale di Milano (1842-1902), transformed in 1903 to the monthly Musica e musicisti, and in 1906 to Ars et Labor, before ceasing publication in 1912. The title of the new journal reflects a desire to document the most recent developments in contemporary European music.
Rodolfo Galli was the periodical’s first director. His duties were undertaken by Antonio Manca in 1924, and by Carlo Clausetti in 1926; in 1929 Manca returned to the position. Initially, MDO’s issues contained from thirty-two to thirty-six pages; from 1924 they increased to an average of forty pages until autumn 1939, when the number of pages was drastically reduced, in compliance with a government ordinance. The opening pages of each issue contain articles and critical essays at times of a commemorative nature, by, among others, Arnaldo Bonaventura, Alberto Cametti, Alfredo Casella, Andrea Della Corte, Raffaello De Rensis, Guido Maria Gatti, F. B. Pratella, Giuseppe Radiciotti, Vito Raeli, Mario Rinaldi and Ettore Romagnoli. The opening articles are followed by notices of significant operatic premières and by foreign correspondence placed under the rubric "Vita musicale."
The “Rivista delle riviste” section contains musicological studies concerning contemporary music, and brief abstracts of articles in other Italian and foreign music periodicals. The section “Vita musicale” often consists of four parts: “Theatri,” “Concerti,” “Corrispondenze dall’estero,” and “Recensioni.” These constitute the most cogent and informative section in the periodical, featuring notices on current operatic and concert activities, frequently drawing on articles that appeared in other journals, such as Il Pensiero musicale, Musicisti d’Italia, L’Arte pianistica, Il Bollettino bibliografico musicale, La Critica musicale, Il Pianoforte, La Rassegna musicale, Rivista musicale italiana, La Musica, Libri del giorno, etc., as well as in daily newspapers such as Il Corriere della sera, La Stampa, Il Secolo, Il Popolo d’Italia, La Nazione, Il Lavoratore, etc.
Also evident in the journal is an effort to fill in “gaps in the field of bibliography,” by listing in the final pages of each issue all recent Italian music publications. Collectively these pages offer a valuable documentary resource treating Italian musical publications between the two World Wars.
An extensive number of collaborators correspond from foreign cities and countries from London (Edwin Evans and Giorgio R. Foa) and Paris (Robert Russel and Vincenzo Davico) as well as from cities in Austria (Hugo Fleischmann and Brügemann), Belgium (Ernest Closson), Russia (M. Ivanov-Boretzky and Boris de Schloezer), and Switzerland (Gustave Doret). Correspondence from Germany is the most frequent and constitutes the central part of the information transmitted from abroad, with reports signed by Hugo Fleischmann, Adolf Weissmann, Wilhelm Virneisel, Walther Hirschberg, and, from 1926 onward, signed exclusively by Alfred Brügemann. The latter’s reports, written originally in Italian by a German author, are rather awkward, cluttered with many inaccuracies in the translation of German titles into Italian; but above all one feels a deep sense of repulsion reading the correspondence published following Hitler’s rise to power (1933), as they are rather replete with ideological contortions tending to justify the racist and anti-Semitic philosophy of Nazism. Reviews of publications of musicological and theoretical arguments are assigned mainly to Giulio Bas and to A. Della Corte. Reviews of music editions are signed—in addition to Bas and Della Corte—by Michelangelo Abbado, Marco Anzoletti, Nicola Costarelli, Adelmo Damerini, Aldo Finzi, Bettina Lupo, Elisabetta Oddone, Lino Ennio Pelilli, Vito Raeli, and Maffeo Zanon. Considerable space is reserved for Casa Ricordi’s publications, with supportive citations from reviews in various Italian and foreign journals, in particular—with regard to Italian journals—the Rivista musicale italiana, Il Pianoforte, La Rassegna musicale, Il Pensiero musicale, and Il Bollettino dei Musicisti. Noteworthy is the “Referendum” rubric (1921-1925) with subjects of articles selected by votes of subscribers (e.g., Wagner’s influence on Italian opera, favorite operas by Verdi and Puccini, music criticism, the influence of symphonic music on contemporary musical theatre).
In the midst of the political events of the 1920s and 1930s, MDO maintains a cautious position, if we set aside the ignoble correspondence by Brügemann from Germany written to justify Nazi anti-Semitism and the expulsion of Jewish musicians. The only essay featuring an explicit political outlook is that of the young Remo Giazotto published in the August-September fascicle of 1940: “Popolo e valutazione artistica. L’arte di Verdi in clima fascista” [People and artistic valuation. The art of Verdi in the fascist climate]. In all other cases, the periodical maintains a position that in a certain way is moderate, by walking at times a narrow path. For example, Musica d’oggi does not report at all on the fascist aggression toward Toscanini that took place in Bologna in 1931, but continues to report on the activities of the Maestro from Parma—by now openly anti-fascist and anti-monarchist—at the Salzburg Festival, on his tournées in Israel, and at the Lucerne Festival.
MDO is an attentive and timely witness to the revolution taking place in the communication media: the ever-increasing dissemination of recordings along with music used to accompany silent and subsequently sound movies; the rapid growth of radio broadcasts and the formation of the first radio orchestras; mention of television in Great Britain, Germany and the United States. Ricordi’s periodical reports on the introduction of music produced by new mechanical instruments, and documents the evolution in the organization of operatic and concert activities, increasingly under the control of the state, and of the totalitarian regimes in Russia, Italy and Germany. The journal reports as well on the new ways of producing and listening to music, such as the widespread organization of open air spectacles and the progressive development of numerous Festivals, namely in Salzburg, Venice (dedicated to contemporary music), Florence (the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino), and Lucerne; and about the numerous festivals organized by branches of the International Society for Contemporary Music in Western Europe. Furthermore, the periodical documents the progressive emergence of jazz and the decline of operetta, which almost dies out on the verge of the Second World War. On the evolution of musical language (whether considering the treatment of dissonance or “objective music,” quarter tones or “mechanical music”), MDO provides essential information, whenever necessary, by granting space to polemics and discussions. The “generazione dell’Ottanta”—almost totally represented by Ricordi (not only Respighi, Pizzetti, Malipiero, and Casella, but also Zandonai and Pick-Mangiagalli), and the successive “generazione di mezzo” (Dallapiccola, Petrassi, Salviucci)—receive regular attention.