Christmas time reached Borgo a Mozzano yesterday evening. On the road leading to the town’s level crossing, and in the area around the schools, stalls were out in force selling not just food and clothes but lots of Christmassy things.
In the distance I could see that snow had already fallen on the upper Apennines and the temperature had fallen ten degrees since the rain and hailstorm yesterday. Time to wrap up warm!
We were heading for the town’s library where, in the orangery of the old aristocratic Palazzo Santini, a concert, featuring a guitar trio, was to be held with Laura Sarti, violin, Giuseppe Cecchi, ‘cello and Dario Atzori guitar. I’d never been to such a combination of instruments before so was curious to know what sound would result.
The programme was equally novel; I’d never heard any of the pieces apart from Granados’ ubiquitous ‘Danza spagnuola no. 5’
De Fossa’s trio was long and contained highly virtuosistic parts for all instruments which the players negotiated with aplomb. In case you didn’t know who De Fossa was neither did I! Actually, he was a French guitarist and composer. Born in Perpignan in 1775 De Fossa was also an officer in the French army, hence his portrait in uniform here:
De Fossa translated Spanish guitarist Aguado’s tutorial method for the instrument into French and had it published. He also travelled in Mexico and died in Paris in 1849.
I wonder when I’ll next hear another piece by De Fossa.
The programme was a little rejigged so that Piazzolla’s languorously melancholic ‘Café 1930’ referring to Paris came next. I thought of a city of light that has been so shaken by recent events.
The Granados Danza was artfully arranged for guitar and ‘cello and was most effective.
Sarti and Cecchin have also formed their own duo called ‘Duo Vernissage’ (trans. ‘’Debut’) and they came together to play what had to be the most extraordinary (and difficult) piece in the concert.
Martinu’s ‘Tre Madrigali’ was rearranged by the duo from its original violin and viola combination, for violin and cello . Frantic rhythms dominated the first ‘Madrigale’ with astonishing sonorities created by double-stoppings, chord clusters and arpeggios so that the music sounded as if rather more than two were playing it! The second piece introduced a welcomed calm before excitable Czech folk rhythms re-emerged in the last part of this extraordinary work which dates from 1949.
Paganini was also an excellent guitarist apart from being the violin virtuoso we all know about (especially in Lucca where he was promoted from official music teacher to unofficial lover by Napoleon’s sister, Princess Elisa Baciocchi). Paganini was a dab hand, too, at composing and the movement from the terzetto in waltz rhythm is a welcome addition to his famous violin concerti.
If I had a little cavil about the performance it’s the old one of the guitar not being to be heard distinctly enough against the modern use of steel strings on stringed instruments, Perhaps they should use cat-gut? (Not real cat, however!).
Throughout the concert we felt as if the trio were playing just for us, so intimate was the atmosphere.
Long and loud applause followed the end of the programme. No encore was played but I doubt whether either players or listeners would have wanted anything to follow such a dazzling performance.
The musical feast was rounded off by a food one at the nearby ‘Pescatore’ (‘fisherman’ or ‘fisherperson’?) restaurant, which unsurprisingly specialises in fish. One of my friends chose a trout while I stuck to my pizza Napoli with capers, mozzarella and anchovies. Mmmm!
The photographs also show the danger of asking for chips in Italy for ‘chips’ in Italian means the same as ‘crisps’ in English. (For chips one has to ask for ‘patatine fritte’).
The concerts have been arranged by the local music schools of Borgo a Mozzano and Barga together with Valdottavo’s Teatro Colombo under the artistic direction of guitarist Giacomo Brunini. I’ve mentioned the admirable Brunini at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2014/11/25/a-guitar-feast-for-saint-cecilia/ and very much look forwards to future appointments in this series of concerts. The next one’s at Teatro Colombo on Tuesday 8th December at 5.30. Will you be there?