2016 has been described as a year of great losses in the field of exceptional persons who have left this earthly plane to reach immortality in whatever terms one defines that word.
Their names are imprinted in our ears and in our hearts: David Bowie, Prince and (for me especially) Leonard Cohen among so many others.
As a lover of classical music I would add the following to be especially remembered among, again, a very considerable list of departed, inspiring persons:
Pierre Boulez, composer and conductor (e.g. of Berg’s ’Lulu’s’ first complete performance).
Nicholas Harnoncourt, Early Music pioneer conductor
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, British composer (particularly for me. See my post at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2016/03/15/farewell-to-max/ )
Einojuhani Rautavaara, Finnish composer (remember his ‘Canticus Arcticus with those haunting polar bird sounds?).
Neville Marriner, British conductor and violinist. Remember the Academy of St Martin’s in the Fields?
Some may say that quite a few of these greats had a good innings (after all, even Beethoven didn’t survive to his sixtieth birthday and Schubert was just turned thirty-one when he left the world). However, they all represent a great loss to our lives, a taking away of unique richness and a reminder that we too are getting older…..
There are the personal losses too. For me there was a loved relative to which I felt very close. My uncle, who was professor of French literature and an admired poet, I remember particularly for the wonderful mountain walks he took me when I wasn’t yet a teenager and for his deep appreciation of art and architecture and the visits he would take me to art galleries and ancient buildings. His sense of humour was both whimsical and pointed and he had a deep faith which many of us would envy.
Just one day after Christmas another deep loss: a friend with whom I had shared so many walks in this lovely part of Italy where I live. As I wrote to his widow, an equally keen walker: “Dear ***** we are so saddened by your news. We will always treasure the time we spent with **** and you: those wonderful walks on the hills and mountains surrounding us in Italy – the Pisan mountain, the hill of Vinci, that big trek around the Pania della Croce, just to mention a few. ****’s kindness and hospitality to us was so exceptional. We shall always remember him as one of the dearest persons we have ever met. We feel so privileged to have been able to share some of our most convivial moments with you and ****. We send you and your family our deepest most heartfelt condolences and our thoughts are near you in this saddest of losses.”
There are also losses of people who we never knew and who so unnecessarily lost their lives. I’m referring to victims of that cancerous social disease, terrorism – a madness that must be cured if humankind is to have any future, just as wars must be halted in favour of grinding one’s teeth and actually talking to each other.
There are finally losses of persons who are still alive but who, through an unexpected misunderstanding are no longer with us in heart and mind. Political views have much to do with this and, regrettably, a particular event in June this year in the UK has divided both friends and families. I understand from friends living in America that the same sort of thing has happened over there with regard to the presidential elections.
The simple fact is that life is just like a game of chance (or rather a game of chance is just like life). Nothing can be predicted. Nothing is certain (except death and taxes, of course). The one thing that is certain is that in the end we are all losers – the owner of life’s casinò (gambling house such as in Bagni di Lucca was famous for) ultimately gets to win.
What more appropriate note then to finish this year than photos of our recent visit to the old games of chance, destiny and fortune displayed in Bagni di Lucca’s Terme alla Villa’s magnificent Palazzo Buonvisi and have them described to us by the master croupier, Virgilio, who also reconstructed this marvellous collection:
I wish all my blog readers a very Happy New Year and may the game of life play gently with you and make you win at least occasionally!