Harmonious Sisters at Bagni di Lucca’s Casinò

Today’s the last day of a three-day conference entitled ‘Sphere Born Harmonious sisters, Voice and Verse: the interconnections between music and the written word’.

Anyone living or staying in or around Bagni di Lucca will have missed a lot if they haven’t been to at least one session of this fascinating conference. On day one, for example, there were talks on the relationship between Giacomo Puccini’s choice of libretti and his music. I was immediately reminded of Richard’s Strauss’s ‘Capriccio’ where the question ‘what’s more important the words or the music?’ are profoundly debated in his late opera.

Bareham’s talk on the Vauxhall pleasure gardens was for me an excursion into nostalgia since Finchcocks, the country house, once housing the Burnett collection of old keyboard instruments and which had an excellent exhibition on the phenomena of London Pleasure gardens, was closed and sold at the end of last year.

Other themes included Oscar Wilde’s relationship with music and the woman singer in Victorian novels. Charles Lamb’s description of music in his ‘essays of Elia’, the relationship between romantic and contemporary rock music, the origins of Mick Jagger’s ‘sympathy for the devil in Milton’s London’, the myth of Orpheus, aspects of sound in the American novel and (my favourite one) the close encounters between James Joyce and Michael Balfe, the opera composer, whose texts and musical procedure underline so much of Joyce’s work (he composed too) right to the end of ‘Finnegan’s wake’.

The highlight of day two was a concert given by students of Lucca’s Boccherini conservatoire which reflected a recital given in the same magnificent casinò where the conference was held, of a concert given by Doehler in 1842. The inspiration of this concert came from the unexpected find by Bruno Micheletti of a concert programme of the original recital in Lucca.

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(The programme yesterday)

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(The programme in 1843)

The performers’ standard was incredibly high and both the piano playing and the singing were very enjoyable. In particular, Doehler’s fantasia on themes from ‘William Tell’ played by Federico Ciompi were almost Lisztian in virtuosity. That’s no coincidence since both composers knew each other and indeed, Liszt played in our casinò (in front of the prince of Lucca) just a couple of years later.

No doubt all these talks will be issued as a volume as part of the Michel de Montaigne foundation’s increasing library of conferences it has sponsored since 2008 so I’m not going to say anything more about the substance of what was delivered except to remark that the speakers had largely researched into some quite extraordinary connections, so many of which were quite new to me. The delivery was also of a good standard and the presentations were mostly very good.

There’s no need to go far to find excellences of the highest order in and around Bagni di Lucca. A considerable part of this contribution must be owed to the munificence of the Montaigne foundation under the indefatigable chair of Marcello Cherubini.

Today we are promised talks on folksong and one I’m particularly looking forwards to the talk on Janet Ross’s love of Italian peasant songs. (See my post at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2014/09/25/poggio-gherardo/ for more on this formidable woman). There’s also a talk on Harems and Mozart’s ‘abduction from the seraglio’ which should be fun.

Now I’m off to hear the last day of this, one of the most enjoyable events the foundation has laid on since its inception.

 

 

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