Bagni di Lucca’s Organ Transplant

I remember a colleague and fine organist playing me a transcription for organ of a pot-pourri of excerpts from Puccini’s ‘Madama Butterfly’ and very effective it sounded too. I was reminded that Giacomo Puccini came from a family of organists (for example, one of his predecessors, Domenico Puccini, wrote some excellent organ sonatas) and was foreseen by his family to eventually succeed his father (who prematurely died in 1864) as organist of Lucca’s San Martino cathedral. Indeed, in 1875 Puccini came first in the organ examinations held at Lucca’s (then Pacini, now Boccherini) music institute where he was a student.


(Giacomo Puccini as student)

However, despite his mother Albina’s persuasion, Giacomo Puccini’s applications to become organist of Lucca cathedral were all turned down. This didn’t, however, mean that Puccini was able to make a modest living playing the organ. Indeed, several of Lucca’s churches all benefitted from his competent playing. The Servite church (where Colombini holds some magnificent concerts with the Lucca Philharmonic orchestra), and San Pietro Somaldi (where Puccini carved his name on the organ case) are just two in Lucca and there were other churches where Puccini played the organ; for example at Farneta (where the recently restored organ also bears his carved name – rather in the fashion of English schoolchildren on their desk-tops).

Puccini also improvised, transcribed and composed pieces for the organ in his youth. Perhaps it was because of his improvisations that he may have been refused the ultimate accolade of becoming organist of Lucca’s cathedral. Evidently, Giacomo introduced some themes that may have been regarded as not religious enough by the church authorities and veering too much towards the operatic. Nevertheless, it was not unusual to do this until the advent of the Caecilian reform undertaken by Saint Pius X in the first years of the twentieth century. In any case, Giacomo must have soon come to the conclusion that he was more fitted for the opera stage than for the organ loft.

A CD of Puccini’s organ compositions played by Liuwe Tamminga, head organist of Bologna’s San Petronio, was issued in 2008 on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth. It’s available on Amazon at Many of the items on the disc consist of transcriptions but there are also some fugues which Puccini wrote for his pupil Carlo Della Nina who lived in Porcari (not too far from the Materis paint factory where I worked as a business English teacher).


Indeed, as recently as 2014 a march written for organ was rediscovered in a private collection at Porcari and performed ninety years after the composer’s death.

Specific Puccini works where the organ (or even harmonium, if the organ is not available) plays a major part is the ‘Vexilla Regis’, the ‘Salve Regina’ (subsequently incorporated in his first opera ‘Le Villi’), and his Requiem in memory of Verdi of 1905.

In Puccini’s major operatic works the organ plays a magnificent part in the sumptuous ‘Te Deum’ concluding act one of ‘Tosca’ and at the end of ‘Suor Angelica’.

Puccini also has an important organ connection with Bagni di Lucca. Restoration of the organ at our parish church at Corsena is commencing. This instrument, which has remained silent since 1987, was built by Paolino Bertolucci in the first half of the nineteenth century.The organ pull-down screen is particularly charming:


It is also the same organ on which Giacomo Puccini played the accompaniment to his youthful ‘Vexilla Regis’ commissioned by our mayor Betti’s great grandfather, Adelson Betti for Holy Week in 1878 when the composer was barely twenty years old and very much in need of some cash. ‘Vexilla Regis’ is a favourite of our local church choir and to look forwards to the day when this piece will be accompanied by the same organ on which Puccini himself played will, indeed, send a tingle down my spine.

(If you want to know more about San Pietro di Corsena, the ‘Vexilla Regis’, hear a recording of it and learn further about Puccini’s connection with Corsena do read my post at ).

(Some Views of the Parish Church of San Pietro di Corsena)

Of particular interest is the fact that our parish church’s organ was originally built for the church of San Michele in Foro in Lucca.


(San Michele in Foro)

If you climb up to the attic of Puccini’s birth house in Lucca you’ll get a wonderful view of the statue of San Michele which the composer would wake up to see every morning.


It was this very organ which was remounted in Corsena when San Michele received a new organ built by Odoardo Landucci in 1864. A true organ transplant, if ever there was one!

Happily, funds have now enabled restoration on Corsena’s organ to be started. The firm of Samuele Maffucci from Pistoia, where the colleague I mentioned at the start of this post also works (Enrico Barsanti), is in charge of the repair.


(The organ cabinet as it appears at present without its organ under restoration)

The work is due to be completed by 2017 and the organ will again become a major contributor to liturgical functions, concerts and general music-making. The cost is around 45,000 euros, much of which comes from local sponsorship, the Italian episcopal council and from parishioners’ contributions.


(The Samuele Maffucci Team)

I am sure that it will be a great day when our parish church will again resound to the strains of its resurrected organ. It will truly turn out to be a fabulous occasion!

What next I wonder? The restoration of the 1774 Michelangelo Crudeli organ at the Pieve di Controni? I do hope so!





Ancient Organs

It’s often not realised that the Lucchesia has over three hundred organs which testify to the immense musicality of this area of Italy. In addition, a very large number of these organs are precious historical instruments dating as far back as the sixteenth century. In the UK it’s very much a different matter until the nineteenth century. Many of that country’s historical organs were destroyed by the taliban equivalents of the time: the reformation and the puritans. It’s, thus, a major experience to hear some of the wonderful kings of instruments which still grace so many of the churches in the Lucchesia and which are increasingly being revalued and restored.

In our own Bagni di Lucca, for example, restoration of the organ at our parish church at Corsena is planned to commence soon. This organ, which has remained silent since 1987, was built by Paolino Bertulucci in the first half of the nineteenth century. It is the same organ on which Giacomo Puccini played the accompaniment to his youthful ‘Vexilla Regis’ commissioned by our mayor Betti’s great grandfather, Adelson Betti for Holy Week in 1878 when the composer was barely twenty years old and very much in need of some cash..

Also of interest is the fact that our parish church’s organ was originally built for the church of San Michele in Foro in Lucca. It was remounted in Corsena when San Michele received a new organ built by Odoardo Landucci in 1864.


Now in its twenty-second season, the ‘Domenico Lorenzo’ Association this year presents four recitals performed on historical organs in the Lucchesia with the support of the Cassa di Risparmio di San Miniato S.p.A. and the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Lucca.

The first recital is on Sunday, October 2, at 9.15 pm, at the Church of S. Micheletto, where organist Luca Scandali performs works by sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Italian composers on the Bartolomeo Ravani organ dating from 1660, accompanied by Mauro Occhionero on traditional Renaissance percussion. On this occasion the “Balli, battles and songs” CD (Brilliant, 2016), recently recorded by the two artists on the Zeffirini organ (1551) in St. Stefano church, will be presented.


 All concerts are free entry.
For information: tel. 338 3221217 – 339 7591128; Fax 0583 370460


In the second concert, on Sunday, October 9 at 6 pm, Gabriele Giacomelli will perform music by Italian composers of the seventeenth and nineteenth century on the Odoardo Landucci and sons organ (1867-9), recently restored by Glauco Ghilardi, in San Lorenzo church, Farneta.



As per tradition, the season includes an evening dedicated to the screening of a silent film accompanied by an organ improvisation. The film is Eisenstein’s “Battleship Potemkin” (1925), and the event will take place on Wednesday, October 12 at 9.15 pm in the splendid setting of the church of St. Francesco, with Edoardo Bellotti (see photo) on the organ and with a historical and critical presentation by Pier Dario Marzi on behalf of “Ezekiel 25:17” Cineforum which organizes the event.



The season ends on Wednesday, October 19 at 9.15 pm in the church of St. Stefano, with the ‘Gesualdo Consort of Gesualdo’ chorus accompanied by organist Daniele Boccaccio (see photo), who will perform music by Pietro Vinci (Sonetti spirituali, in the version for choir and organ) and other authors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries on the precious Zeffirini Onofrio organ which dates from 1551.


Stazzema Peace Organ Concerts

Sant’Anna di Stazzema was the scene of one of the worst massacres perpetrated by nazi-fascists during World War II. (See for more details of this horrific event.)

During the Nazi massacre that, on August 12, 1944, claimed the lives of 560 innocent people, even the small organ of the church of Sant’Anna di Stazzema was destroyed by the SS machine guns. In 2007, sixty years after the tragic massacre, music returned to the small town in Versilia, thanks to its Peace Organ Festival. The Peace Organ is a remarkable instrument built by Glauco Ghilardi from Lucca. It’s in the great tradition of the Baroque organ builder in northern Germany, Arp Schnitger (1648-1710) and is the result of the awareness and input of two German musicians from Essen, Maren and Westermann, who, in 2002, embarked on a fundraising trail for the organ in Germany and Italy through concerts under the patronage of the Presidents of Italian and German Republics and with the support of the Tuscany Region, the Province of Lucca, the Municipality of Stazzema and other municipalities and Italian and German institutions.


The Peace Organ is located in the little church of Sant’Anna di Stazzema, in the National Peace, park which offers visitors the opportunity of visiting the History Museum and the park’s beautiful woodland paths.


Here is the Peace Organ programme for this year:


The Organ Festival of Sant’Anna di Stazzema Peace reaches its tenth year and, thanks to the collaboration between Italy and Germany, also hosts internationally renowned musicians. There are six concerts, each Sunday from July 17 to August 21 in the Church of St. Anna di Stazzema and a lecture at the S. Anna di Stazzema Historical Museum. The Festival, which is emerging as one of the highest musical quality appointments in the rich panorama of Versilia, is a concrete expression of the power of music to promote dialogue, understanding and collaboration between peoples and cultures.

During the concerts funds will be collected for the expansion of the organ with a deep bassregister to the pedal, whose inauguration is scheduled for the organ’s tenth anniversary.

Sunday, July 17 at 4.30 pm Edoardo Bellotti will hold a conference entitled “The Time Machine”.

At 6 pm the same day Bellotti, organist, harpsichordist, musicologist and teacher, who holds recitals in the most important world festivals, will perform the following program on Stazzema’s Peace organ:

Eduardo Torres – Gradual “Tecum principium”
Max Reger – Intermezzo Op. 80 n. 10
Franco Vittadini – Elevation
Franz Schubert
– Erlkönig D 328
– Abendlied D 382 1797 – 1828
(keyboard arrangement by August Horn)
Johann Sebastian Bach
– Concerto in D BWV 964 by A. Marcello
(Andante, Adagio, Presto)
Domenico Zipoli – Suite n. 2
(Prelude, Corrente, Sarabande, Giga)
Johann Jacob Froberger
– Toccata VI for the elevation of the Host
– Fantasia ut re mi fa sol la
– Toccata XIV in G
Tel. +39 339 1348269 +39 338 3221217


Sunday, July 24 at 6 pm there’s a recital by the German organist Sebastian Küchler-Blessing.
Tel. +39 339 1348269 +39 338 3221217


Sunday, July 31 at 6 pm there’s a recital by the Italian organist Gabriele Giacomelli.
Tel. +39 339 1348269 +39 338 3221217


Sunday, August 7 there’s a recital by the duo formed by organist Michele Savino and Italian oboist Tommaso Guidi.
Tel. +39 339 1348269 +39 338 3221217


Sunday, August 14 at 6 pm there’s a recital by German organist Martin Bernreuther.
Tel. +39 339 1348269 +39 338 3221217


Sunday, August 21 at 6 pm there’s a recital by Italian organist Alessandro Bianchi.
Tel. +39 339 1348269 +39 338 3221217







A Cool English Lesson

What do you do if the room allocated to you for your English lesson is too hot? In Italy it’s simple: just take your class out and into the nearest church, for these buildings are really cool in summer!

San Rocco, at the end of that sweet square outside the library where my lesson took place, is one of Borgo a Mozzano’s noblest building. I have already described it in my post at:

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I thought I knew this church pretty well but when I stepped into it last Thursday I was overwhelmed by something inside it I had never seen before.

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To gaze on Santini’s addition to his altar rising up like a staircase to heaven was absolutely overwhelming!

At this stage, Mr Pieroni, the sage of Borgo a Mozzano and the director of the Gothic Line project stepped in with a visitor and explained to us a little more about this fine-looking church. Santini’s additions to the principal altar had been made specially for the Feast of Corpus Domini and it took two weeks for the local townsfolk to erect it this year.

(If you don’t know what or how important the feast of Corpus Domini is do read my post on it at

Who was Francesco Santini?

Santini was born in Cerreto, which is just above Borgo a Mozzano, and there is news of him from 1640 to 1660. He came from a family of highly regarded carvers in the area. Santini’s first work is a wooden altar, dating from 1642, in the monastery church of San Francesco in Borgo a Mozzano. It’s the first altar you see on the right entering the church and was commissioned by the Society of the Immaculate Conception. I have always been taken by this altar. Its superb carving of the serpentine columns, unadorned by any overlying paint, reminds me somewhat of England’s own marvellous Grinling Gibbons (1648-1721).


Francesco Santini is a good example of an exceptional artist born into a thriving craft tradition. Much in the same way as other creators spring from a family tradition, (a great example is the number of musicians in the Bach family), he was just one of many other Santinis who carried on what they considered a craft but what many of us today would consider an art. A later Santini, for example, Alessandro created the altar of another of Barga’s churches, San Rocco.

At least we are able to give names to the Santinis. I wonder how many other great artistic works lie in our territory with their creator’s name remaining unknown!

PS I’ve written more about the great Santini in my post at

The attractive floor decoration in the nave of San Rocco was composed out of coloured sawdust and is yet another long-standing local tradition. It clearly represents the plight of the refugees, over four thousands of which have been drowned this year alone. (Indeed, only a couple of days a boat was lifted from the ocean depth (using some very sophisticated Italian technology)  with over eight hundred bodies trapped in the boat’s hold. The remains of the corpses are now in Augusta, Sicily being identified through taking DNA samples from them.

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I found the contrast between the depiction of the grim ocean depths before the heavenly stairway rather poignant.

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The floor decoration should have been placed outside in the square but due to the unpredictable weather this year it was placed inside the church and very effective it looks there too.

Why is there an oval stuck in the middle of this painting? It’s because it’s actually a door opening out and showing a miraculous image of an ancient terracotta Madonna behind it. No-one had the key, however, to show it to me.

Ou English lesson consisted in developing a vocabulary to describe ecclesiastical features like nave, apse, transept, portico, altar etc and by the end of it I’m sure that any one of my students could have become a very good guide! Actually, the student in my tutelage is an excellent artist and restorer and she was able to point out to me several artistic features in the beautiful paintings adorning the side altars and, in particular, be able to give me her opinion as to some were superior to others. She pointed out to such features as composition, the way the hands were painted, the way the light fell on the faces, the manner of laying on the brushstrokes.

San Rocco’s organ is a fine Agati organ dating from 1851. I climbed up to have a closer look at it and it still produces a rather good sound. I think, however, that prosepctive organists in this area must be tested for vertigo before they take up any job…

I think I leant more from that lesson that she did from mine! However, learning a language is all about being able to get one’s meaning across and I’m sure we both, in our own ways, managed to express quite involved aspects of aesthetics and art in general.

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So, if you’re in a hot classroom and perhaps not feeling too inspired just take your students to visit a nearby church. At least in Tuscany’s now torrid afternoons you can do that and turn a routine lesson into something much more stimulating!



Corsanico Music Festival

The 2016 Corsanico festival opens in the atmospheric church of S. Michele Arcangelo.


The 35th International Festival of Classical Music is organized by Corsanico’s “Vincenzo Colonna Organ Friends Music Cultural Association “. Eight concerts, four in July and four in August, will have as their central theme the great and historical organ now known throughout the world. The festival is sponsored with the prestigious patronage of the Senate, the Tuscany Region and the Province of Lucca.

index(The Vincenzo Colonna Organ at Corsanico)

The opening ceremony, on Sunday July 10th at 9.15 pm, is entitled “Tribute to Francis Poulenc.” It stars a sensational sextet comprising members of Genoa’s Carlo Felice theatre orchestra: Francesco Loi – flute; Guido Ghetti-oboe; Luigi Tedone -bassoon; Valeria Serangeli-clarinet; Carlo Durando-horn; Edward Barsotti-piano and organ.
Tickets are € 10 each.
Info:, – tel. 0584 954016

Saturday 16th.Dal Barocco al Romanticismo”. The great organist Giancarlo Parodi will perform music by J. Kayser, G. Salvatore, J. S. Bach; Mendelssohn and Liszt.

Saturday 23rd. “Serata Bach: preghiera e poesia” (‘Bach evening: prayer and poetry’) . Music and cantatas by J.S. Bach, performed by Anna Caprioli-soprano and Sergio Chierici-organ.

Saturday, 30th. “Meraviglie del Barocco veneziano”, with the “Trio Sophia”
Alessandra de Negri-soprano; Lilian Stoimenov-trumpet and Marco Vincenzi-organ; music by A. Caldara, C. F. Pollarolo, T. Albinoni, Vivaldi, Galuppi and G. Giordani.

Borgo a Mozzano’s ‘San Rocco e San Sebastiano’

Italy is so full of riches that just one church in a provincial centre could require several posts dedicated to it. Piazza San Rocco in Borgo a Mozzano is easily missed unless one is going to the library, now re-housed in the splendid palazzo Santini on the south side of the square.

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Closing the piazza is the parish church of san Rocco, a saint better known as Saint Roche in France and the UK and the patron saint of plague and pestilence victims.

San Rocco, patron saint of illnesses, became one of the most popular saints of all time and still has a devoted following today, especially among those afflicted by rare conditions. According to tradition, Saint Roche had a very eventful life, eventually dying in a prison around 1380. He, too, fell a victim while healing the sick and had to retire to a cave since his plague sores were beginning to make him stink unpleasantly. The only companion he found was a dog who would steal bread from his own master’s table to bring it to Saint Roche. This delightful animal story is represented in many statues depicting the saint and in banners celebrating him. Here’s the banner and statue in the Borgo church:

Fortunately, occurrences like the Black Death have been wiped out (I hope) in the west so there is less need to invoke Saint Roche. However, the beauty of this secondary church in an easily by-passed square in an easily by-passed town needs to be savoured and appreciated.

In 1527 a chapel was built over the site of Saint Sebastian’s oratory by members of the confraternity of San Rocco in Cerreto (the village overlooking Borgo a Mozzano) and dedicated to San Rocco and Saint Sebastian. The chapel was expanded into a church between 1607 and 1627. San Rocco e San Sebastiano was consecrated on the third of July, 1746. The present church dates largely from between 1760 and 1791 when the choir and apse were enlarged.

The classical façade is both dignified and elegant, looking out onto the square which was formed by the demolition of some houses.

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Above the entrance there’s a round marble bas-relief depicting Saint Roche.

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The construction of the campanile in 1690 made the church rather unstable and it has had to be stabilised and reinforced by iron chains.

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San Rocco’s interior is aisle-less and in the form of a Latin cross. It has six altars. The four before the transept are decorated in stucco and were built by Giovanni Battista Lazzari, Sebastiano Lippi and Giovanni Maria Michelacci.

The four side altars are dedicated to Saint Anne, the Crucifix, the Virign of Sorrows, and Saint Gregory, respectively:.

Of particular interest in the apse are the three rare frescoes by neo-classical Luccan artist Luigi Ademollo who worked at the beginning of the nineteenth century. They represent the Centurion, the Redeemer and Baptist and the distribution of the loaves.

For me one of the major delights in the church is the decoration of the organ (by Nicomede Agati) balcony depicting musical instruments including the violin and a viola da gamba, showing that this instrument was still very much in vogue in the eighteenth century. Who knows, perhaps music-making in the organ loft was once enriched by orchestral instruments in a manner similar to that described in Dorset by Thomas Hardy in his ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’.

I hope Borgo appoints organists who don’t suffer from vertigo!

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The church doesn’t stop at ‘old art’: the recent stained glass windows illustrating the four evangelists are superb:

There are many other points of interest in this church:

It’s so easy to get blasé about the lovely things which particularly abound in Italy. Often one has to see familiar places with new eyes to really relish them.

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Organ Morgans


Now in its twenty-first season, the Domenico Lorenzo Association offers, this year, a program of four concerts performed on the territory’s historical organs with the sponsorship of the Cassa di Risparmio di San Miniato SpA and the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Lucca. The first event is on Friday, October 2nd, at 9.15 pm, at the Church of S. Salvatore della Misericordia, where organist Andrea Vannucchi performs Italian composers from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century on the instrument attributed to Domenico Pucci (1830 ca .) which has been recently restored.


Free admission.

For information: tel. 338 3221217 – 339 7591128; fax 0583 370460



In the second concert, Saturday, October 10th at 6:30 pm, Gianpaolo Prina inaugurates the restoration of the Domenico Pucci organ (1828) in the church of the Convento di San Cerbone, restored by Glauco Ghilardi through the Lions Club Lucca Host. Free admission.

For information: tel. 338 3221217 – 339 7591128; fax 0583 370460



The third concert is on Friday, October 16th at 9.15 pm in the church of St. Peter Somaldi, Lucca with organist Antonio Galanti who performs music by Italian composers from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries on the valuable Cacioli Domenico organ (1687), expanded and modified by Paolino Bertolucci, Pietro Paoli and Filippo Tronci. Free admission.


For information: tel. 338 3221217 – 339 7591128; fax 0583 370460



Now in its twenty-first season, the Associazione Domenico di Lorenzo offers this year four concerts performed on the territory’s historical organs, with the contribution of the Cassa di Risparmio di San Miniato SpA and the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Lucca. As usual, the season will conclude with an evening dedicated to the screening of a silent film accompanied by organ improvisation. The event, will screen a masterpiece by Fred Newmeyer and Sam Taylor (“I prefer the elevator,” 1923), will take place on Friday, October 23rd at 9.15 pm in the sumptuous setting of the church of St. Francesco, with Matteo Venturini at the organ and an introduction by Pier Dario Marzi on behalf of the “Ezekiel 25:17” Cineforum who is helping to produce the event. Free admission.

For information: tel. 338 3221217 – 339 7591128; fax 0583 370460


Child Murder and Martyrdom in Casabasciana

Casabasciana’s fan-tail shape can be easily spotted from the heights above it. It is a large village and the next to last one that leads to Crasciana La Pomposa, its traditional rival and the highest village in the Val di Lima at a height of 2585 feet.

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Casabasciana’s patron saint is San Primo, an early Christian martyr whose remains were brought here from a Roman catacomb in the nineteenth century when churches all over Italy were looking for  saintly relics.

Saint Primo is celebrated every year on the second Sunday in August but every five years the celebration expands in pomp and glory and this year we decided to visit the village to witness the greater festivities.

We arrived just as the procession was re-entering the church in this this incredibly steep village.

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The church bells were clanging at an earth-shaking reverberation throughout the picturesque streets of the village. The confraternity were holding their elaborate standards and religious banner and a company of cleric included Don Castellani the bishop of Lucca whose presence and celebration of the Mass confirmed the great importance of this event.

The church itself is dedicated to saint Quirico and Giulitta. The present building dates from 1513 but its origins go back to 918 where the original Pieve di Casabasciana, now commonly known as the Pieve di Sala, still stand between the Lima River and Casabasciana and is now (at last) having it beautiful bell tower restored. (For more on this Pieve see my post at

In 1836 the relic of saint Primo was installed in the church and the saint became Casabasciana’s patron saint. His little body is now covered with wax and kept in a glass fronted wooden reliquary in which there’s also an urn containing his blood.

There are some significant works of art in the church including a painting by Luccan artist Giovanni Domenico Lombardi representing the martyrdom of saint Quirico and Giulitta which is placed on the main altar.

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The organ loft and cantorum are wonderful works dating from the end of the eighteenth century and designed by Mastro Benigni from san Quirico di Valleriana. The steps leading to the organ loft are the steepest I’ve found anywhere!

Who was San Primo? Not much is known about him except that he lived around 300 and was executed when four years and eight months old by the emperor Diocletian. What a bastard of an emperor!

Primo’s remains were re-discovered in 1831 and, thanks to the Jesuit father Silvestro Iacopucci, were taken to his own village of Casabasciana, The remain were carried by boat to Viareggio, thence by ox-cart to Lucca where they were venerated in the Angeli Custodi oratory (where those wonderful concerts are now held). Thence they were taken to Bagni di Lucca and finally in 1833 installed in Casabasciana.

The inner walls of the church were bedecked for this rarer occasion with fabulous shot-silk hangings dating back to the eighteenth century were. To the right of the altar, gorgeouly surrounded by fresh flowers, was little saint Primo himself.

The bishop gave his blessing. The congregation lined up to kiss a relic of the saint and then depart from the incredibly hot and close atmosphere of the beautifully kept church into the fresher air outside. We headed towards the main square where a concert by the Corsagna band was promised at nine.

I know the Corsagna band and it high standard well and we preferred instead to take a walk into the woods surrounding the elegant borgo before taking to our car and driving back home.

If you wish to join in the procession do remember it’s on the second Sunday of August and that the next big one will be in 2020.

We are so glad we managed to make it to the festa. After all, who knows where we’ll be in five year time when the big time for the little saint return?

Great July Programme for Music in Lucca Province


The 48th season of concerts at Pieve a Elici, organized by Massarosa Municipality and Associazione Musicale Lucchese opens with a piano recital by Jin Ju. The famous Chinese pianist, Tuscan by adoption, performs Rameau’s double Gavotte and Variations in A minor and well-known pieces by Debussy and Chopin.

On Sunday, July 12th Pavel Berman, a fine violinist and “Virtuosi Italiani” leader, with Roberto Arosio, piano, performs Grieg’s violin sonata n. 3 in C minor, Schumann’s violin sonata no. 1 in A minor, Chausson’s Poème and Wieniawski’s variations on a theme from “Faust”.

The season’ third event is on Sunday 19th with the great cellist Enrico Bronzi and Lucchese pianist Simone Soldati who perform Bach’s solo cello suite no 5 and Beethoven’s variations on Bei Männern, welche Liebe fulhen from Mozart’s Magic Flute and his Violin Sonata No. 3 in A major, Op. 69.

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The events conclude on Sunday 26th July with the young pianist Mariangela Vacatello. The programme includes music by Schumann, Chopin, Liszt, and Ginastera.

The concerts start at 9.15 pm. Tickets are 12 € (10 € reduced; 7 euro for AML members). For information contact Associazione Musicale Lucchese tel. + 39 0583 469960;


This festival continues until July 7th. The International Academy of Music Festival is an event that, since 2003, brings some of the best international chamber music performers to the Serchio Valley. These are the events for July: Wednesday, 1st at 4 pm in the “Boccherini” Institute Auditorium in Lucca, a students’ gala concert will take place, while at 5 pm, in Castelnuovo Garfagnana’s Sala Suffredini, Henry Wang plays piano music by Haydn, Liszt, Ravel and Rachmaninov. The same day, at 9.15 pm at Cardoso, clarinettist Julian Milkis and pianist Natalia Strelle perform 20 miniatures by Kancheli, while tenor Nils Neubert, accompanied on the piano by Yuri Kim, sings arias by Beethoven, Brahms and Puccini.

The following day there will be a concert at the Church of the Capuchins in Castelnuovo at 9.15 pm, with pianist Phillip Kawin with Dmitri Berlinsky, violin, and Efrem Briskin, piano. Friday 3rd at 9.15 pm at Castelnuovo’s Teatro Alfieri the Orchestra della Toscana conducted by Federico Ferri play music by Vivaldi, Martini, Mozart and Telemann.

The evening of Saturday 4th, always in Castelnuovo, while several concerts will be taking place outdoors at the Porta Loggiato and piazza Ariosto, in the Capuchin Church, there’s also a Brahms concert  with Joseph Rosen (clarinet), Berthine van Schoor (cello) and Natalia Strelle (piano) followed by the violin and piano duo of Elena Peres and Yuri Kim.

July 5th at 5 pm, in the Sala Suffredini there’s a recital by pianist Aleksandr Bolotin, and at 9.15 pm the “Boccherini” Institute Orchestra, conducted by GianPaolo Mazzoli, will perform at the Teatro Alfieri, with pianist Jonas Aumiller and Daniel Eras Saborio.

Monday 6th at 5 pm Saborio performs a piano recital in the Sala Suffredini, while in the Church of Cascio at 9.15 pm there’s a chamber concert with Julian Mikis, clarinet, and Gena Raps, piano, Irina Tseitlin violin, Eugene Briskin, cello, and Efrem Briskin, piano. The Festival’s closing ceremony will be held at the Teatro Alfieri on 7th July at 9.15 pm.




The traditional Festival of Sacred Music, sponsored and organized by Polifonica Lucchese directed by Egisto Matteucci, is now in its thirty-first year. Saturday, July 4th at 9.15 pm in Lucca’s Basilica of San Paolino, the “Johann Sebastian Bach”, women’s choir conducted by Brunetta Ulivieri Carmignani, will perform sacred music from medieval times and also by Marco Antonio Ingegneri, Matteo Adola, Monteverdi, Gounod, Poulenc, Kodaly and Dobri Hristov. The concert is free.


The Puccini Festival in Torre Del Lago, now in its 61st year, presents four operas by Lucca’s composer across sixteen evenings beginning on July 24th and ending on August 31st. They are Tosca, Turandot, Madama Butterfly and Il Trittico.

Tosca (July 24, 31 / 15, 21, 30 August) will be sung by Daniela Dessi, Fabio Armiliato and Giovanni Meoni. Valerio Galli conducts. New theatrical scenarios by Mimmo Paladino. Direction by Vivien Hewitt.

Turandot (July 25, August 16, 23, 29) will be presented with four of the alternative ending of the opera. Puccini’s, with a performance stopping when the Maestro died. Another performance will have Alfano’s first finale version and the other two performances will have Alfano’s second finale version and Luciano Berio’s ending. Singers are Giovanna Casolla (Princess), Rudy Park and Rubens Pellizzari (Calaf), Alida Berti and Valentina Boi (Liù). Bruno Nicoli conducts. On the 28th August there’s a performance by Beijing’s Chinese National Opera House. Production is by Angelo Bertini.

Madama Butterfly (1, 8, 14, 22, 29 August) have singers Svetla Vassileva (Butterfly),  Sergio Escobar and Rubens Pellizzari (Pinkerton), Laura Brioli and Mariella Guarnera (Suzuki); Alberto Mastromarino (Sharpless). Francesco Ivan Ciampa conducts. Stage sets by Renzo Giacchieri.

The season ends on 20th August with Il Trittico with the young talents of the Puccini Festival Academy directed by Massimo Morelli.

The Puccini Festival is also presenting the legendary Spandau Ballet (9th August), a concert by the “Il Volo” trio (12 and 13 August) and Puccini heroines with French choreographer and dancer Julien Lestel (August 18). In the program, as part of the Festival, there are also contemporary art exhibitions and events.

Info and reservations 0584 359322- 0584 427201;



The Lucca Summer Festival is now eighteen years old and for this wonderful birthday offers for its first event an unforgettable evening with Bob Dylan (who inaugurated it in 1998) and Francesco De Gregori. The two great artists will take the stage in Piazza Napoleone on Wednesday, July 1st at 8 pm in separate sets for a truly memorable evening. The festival continues throughout July in Piazza Napoleone with twelve other events attracting thousands of fans from around the world. Here are the programme details: Sunday 5th (9 pm) John Legend, an artist who has sold over seven million records; Tuesday 7th (9.30 pm) the “Los Lobos” band, an explosive mixture of rockabilly, country, blues and salsa; Wednesday 8th (9 pm) the welcome return of Paolo Nutini, born in Scotland but whose father is from Barga; Thursday 9th (9.30 pm) “The Script” band consisting of three brilliant young Dubliners; Friday 10th (9.30 pm) Billy Idol, great exponent of pop music; Saturday 11th (9.30 pm) another welcome return of a great artist: Elton John with his band; Monday 20th (9.30 pm) evening with MS Lauryn Hill who won five Grammys in 1999; Wednesday 22nd (9.30 pm) Mark Knopfler will be performing with a seven-piece band; Thursday 23rd (9.30 pm) Robbie Williams presents a show entitled “Let Me Entertain You Tour”; Friday 24th evening with two exponents of Italian rap, Fedez and Jax; Sunday 26th (8.30 pm) performance by the New York rocker Lenny Kravitz; Finally on Tuesday 28th (9 pm) concert by Snoop Dogg who has sold over 35 million albums worldwide. Info +39 0584 46477

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There will also be three free events, all at 9 pm: July 16th, an evening dedicated to Lucca’s talents; July 17 tribute to Pino Daniele and Joe Cocker with Enzo Avitabile and Tony Esposito; July 18th,  live on Rai Radio1, 610 with comedians Lillo and Greg.


The “Città di Camaiore” organ festival, held in the Badia di Camaiore, is now into its twentieth year, enriched, as you may read in LuccaMusica’s “History” section, by the archive from Camaiore’s Arrosti musical family, with music by Marco Santucci and other Camaiore composers which up to now have remained in Rinuccini family ownership and were inaccessible. The start is on Saturday, July 18th with a concert by Stefan Kagl dedicated to the memory of Albert Schweitzer, the great twentieth century scholar and Bach interpreter on the fiftieth anniversary of his death, and continues on Wednesday 22nd with organist Mario Ciferri (see photo) and Tuesday 28th with Enrico Barsanti (all concerts are at 9.15 pm: entry tickets 5 euro). The evening of July 28 will begin at 6 pm and is a celebration of the organ festival’s 20th anniversary, the presentation of the proceedings of the 2010 Study Day that saw the presence of Christoph Wolff and other prestigious scholars and finally a dedication for the acquisition of Camaiore’s Arrosti musical family’s archive. The meeting will also be attended by Lucca musicologist and historian Fabrizio Guidotti. After dinner at 8 pm, a concert by organist Enrico Barsanti follows.

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Saturday, July 11th, in the Parish of St. Michael the Archangel, Corsanico, the “Corsanico Festival 2015” starts. The opening evening, entitled “From Vivaldi to Beethoven,” features the Cembalorchestra with Nello Salza as violin soloist and conductor. The program includes Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Bellini’s trumpet concerto and Beethoven’s Romanza-transcription for trumpet and strings with Michelangelo Lentini as trumpet soloist. Saturday, July 18th, with the “Voce di Assisi”, tenor friar Alessandro Brustenghi and organist Matteo Venturini, perform “il Canto della Lode”, in addition to Saint Saens, Frank, Bizet, Dike, Casini, Morandi, etc.

Friday, July 24, with the title “Journey to Italy” we’ll hear a cultural and musical interlacing with organist Andrea Vannucchi. The programme includes music by Pasquini, Martini, Bach, Mozart and Catenacci. Main protagonist of the festival is Vincenzo Colonna’s historic seventeenth-century organ now known throughout the world. The concerts start at 9.15 pm, tickets cost €. 10 each and events will continue with great artists throughout August. Info: – ​​  tel. +390584 954016


The Orchestra Filarmonica Di Lucca’s concert season continues in July under the artistic direction of Andrea Colombini with two great events and with soloists of national and international fame. Wednesday, July 1st, in the Chiesa dei Servi at 9.15 pm, the Grosseto Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Giancarlo De Lorenzo accompanies the famous bandoneon player Cesare Chiacchiaretta in a programme of music by Astor Piazzolla for bandoneon and orchestra. Sunday, July 12th, also in the Chiesa dei Servi at 9.15 pm, there’s a symphony program dedicated to Franz Schubert, with his Fourth “Tragic” symphony and Chopin’s first piano concerto with Bulgarian pianist Ludmill Angelov, winner of international competitions and teacher at the Conservatory and University of Sofia. Joshua Zone conducts. Both concerts will be free admission for all residents of the province of Lucca thanks to the Fondazione Banca del Monte di Lucca. To book seats phone +39340 8106042 infoline 10 am -6 pm daily.

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Monday, July 13th at 9.30 pm in San Luca Palace Hotel’s Sala Catalani (via San Paolino), the “Alfredo Catalani” Friends of Music circle offers a listening guide to Lehar’s The Merry Widow. The listening guide, with free admission, will be with soprano Carla Giometti and accordionist Franco Bonsignori: the two artists will illustrate the plot and perform the most popular songs from the operetta.

Sunday 19th the Catalani Circle is also organizing a trip to Genoa’s “Carlo Felice” Theatre for a performance of The Merry Widow conducted by Felix Krieger and directed by Augusto Fornari with  the theatre’s orchestra and chorus. Information and bookings Tel:  347 9951581.


The Children’s Choir of the University of Cincinnati’s Conservatory of Music, conducted by Robyn Reeves Lana, will perform on Tuesday, July 7th at 9 pm in the Chiesa dei Servi. To welcome the young American singers will be the choirs of the Torre Del Lago Puccini Festival directed by Sara Matteucci. After Lucca, the Cincinnati Children’s Choir has been invited to represent the United States at Milan’s World Expo, and will be performing in the USA Pavilion under the American flag. The event is part of the “Sui Sentieri della musica (On the paths of Music)” festival organized by “Il Baluardo, Lucca’s vocal group of “The Bulwark” conducted by Elio Antichi. The concert is free.


Saturday, July 4th, in Camigliano parish church at 9.15 pm the first evening of Camigliano’s choral festival will be held. Guest choirs will be the “Polifonica – City of Viareggio,” which celebrates its twentieth anniversary under the masterly direction of Gianfranco Cosmi (a versatile artist who has devoted over fifty years to music, in particular to Lucca) and the “Il rifugio – città di Seregno” choir (see photo) from Lombardy, a group founded in 1966 that has won choral competitions for its interpretation of traditional and mountain folk songs.

Sunday, 5th July the “Il rifugio – città di Seregno” choir, on a visit to Lucca, will accompany Mass with some pieces at 10 am in the church of S. Maria Corteorlandini (S. Maria Nera). Saturday, 18th, in the garden of San Gennaro’s beautiful Villa Bove, as part of “Estate in Villa” sponsored by the City of Capannori, there’s an evening entitled “Poesie e Canti sotto le stelle (Poems and songs under the stars).” Narrator Lorenza Corsini, classical guitar Sergio Berti. The songs will be performed by Camigliano’s “Giacomo Puccini” choir, creating a pleasant blend of poetry and harmony in a splendid landscape.


From July 24 to August 2, in the splendid setting of the Cloister of St. Augustine and the Piazza del Duomo in Pietrasanta (LU), the “Pietrasanta in Concerto” international festival of chamber music returns, directed by Michael Guttman (see photo).The July 28th free concert will be at the Rocca in front of the Piazza Duomo with the Orchestra da Camera Fiorentina conducted by Giuseppe Lanzetta. The programme is available at and on Facebook and Twitter. In detail the programme is:

Friday, July 24th, “Jean-Yves Thibaudet, the French poet of the piano” with Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano; Basle Chamber Orchestra with Umberto Benedetti Michelangeli Jr., conductor. Saturday, July 25th “Paganini and Mendelssohn: Tribute to Italy” with the Chamber Orchestra of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino conducted by Michael Guttman (Lorenzo Gatto, violin). Sunday 26th “The devil’s trills” with the Moscow Soloists conducted by Yuri Bashmet (Leonard Schreiber, violin). Monday 27th “Two giants of the string quartet: Shostakovich and Beethoven” with the Debussy Quartet. Tuesday, 28th performances by the Orchestra da Camera Fiorentina, free admission. Wednesday 29th, “La voce di Vivaldi” with Dominique Corbiau, countertenor; Fabrice Holvoet, theorbo; Katsufumi Suetsugu, harpsichord and organ with the Moscow Soloists. Thursday 30th Denis Kozhukhin, piano – Yuri Bashmet, viola and conductor. Friday 31st Russian Evening with Boris Berezovsky, piano. Saturday, August 1st, “Sogno di una mezza estate (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)” with Salvatore Accardo.” Sunday, August 2nd, “the Labèque sisters: Four hands, two souls: an historic duo.”


The Honky Tonk Girlz are two girls, two musicians, two all-round artists. Only a guitar, Greta Merli, and a voice, Serena Suffredini, are enough to create a unique and addictive sound. The two have different experiences but manage to fuse them into one explosive mixture of loops, delay and electronic sounds while keeping voice and story at centre-stage. In fact, their style blends acoustic guitar, percussion and melodic line, with electronic sounds and rock. The two musicians, both music teachers, met and decided to develop original arrangements of historical and contemporary pieces for guitar and voice. The HTG have played in many Italian music scenes. After a long time dedicated to the instrumentation and arrangement of covers they have also researched song writing. This is how the four songs, part of the ten songs on the album titled “Metro” published in April 2015, were born.



The second year of the “Giancarlo Bigazzi Prize”, the famous composer of popular songs (see photo) and Oscar for the soundtrack of the movie “Mediterranean”, will be held this year in Lucca on 4th and 5th July, at the Auditorium del Suffragio of Lucca’s “L. Boccherini Music institute.” The contest selections will take place on Saturday 4th, behind closed doors in the presence of only the candidate and the jury. The finale, open to the public, will be held on Sunday, July 5.

The winner will be awarded a plaque and an internship of six days at the Mogol CE, including board, accommodation, photo book and recording of the winning song at CET’s studio. Second and third places will be awarded a plaque, certificate of participation, including radio recording and online distribution.


The “Made in Italy, 3×1”, exhibition of the Scompiglio Cultural association, which takes place at the Vorno Estate, ends in July under the artistic direction of Antonio Caggiano. Saturday, July 4th, starting at 6 pm, there’s “Ars Ludi Concert-Portrait”, a meeting coordinated by Mario Gamba with Alvin Curran, Antonio Caggiano, Rodolfo Rossi and Gianluca Ruggeri. At 7.30 pm there’s a concert with Alvin Curran (keyboards and electronics), Antonio Caggiano, Rodolfo Rossi, Gianluca Ruggeri (percussion) with music by Steve Reich, Luigi Ceccarelli, Giorgio Battistelli and Alvin Curran. Tickets € 12, reduced € 7. Info:


In July, enrolment is open for the OPEN GOLD masterclass promoted by the “L. Boccherini” Institute of Music with internationally renowned artists.

This is the programme for 2015: Flute with Paolo Taballione (5-8 September), singing with Laura Niculescu (7-10 September), Cello with Raphael Wallfisch (8-11 September), Viola and Chamber Music with Demetrio Comuzzi (9- 14 September) and piano with Wojciech Świtała (10-12 September).

Apart from music courses, on September 5th to 8th and 9th to 14th September the Alexander Technique will be held with Riccardo Parrucci while from 10th to 27th September there will be an orchestral training with Giovanni Bria and GianPaolo Mazzoli. Information: or at the “Boccherini” Institute tel: + 39 0583 464104; email:


The Scuola di Musica Sinfonia promotes a musical summer campus for children aged 6 to 12. The courses, which are held from Monday to Friday from 8 am to 3 pm, provide instrumental, choral, preparatory, English, and musical theatre workshops with weekly time off  to explore the city of Lucca, in a musical journey that will deepen the figure of some of the most famous composers. This is the course calendar: Beethoven week (6-10 July), Verdi week (13-17 July), Mascagni Week (July 20 to 24) and Bizet week (27-31 July). Info: School Symphony, via Nazario Sauro n. 527; tel. 0583 312052 or

We’re Going Where The Sea is Blue

Today is such a tempestuous day: thunder is following on immediately after lightning so the flashes are hitting very closely indeed. It’s a risk even to type these words on the computer as several friends’ techy stuff has been damaged by these phenomena – how awful to loose one’s data and, especially, one’s photographs!

Freezing rain is now turning into sleet and perhaps snow – definitely not a day to wander out!

It is, however, a day to reminisce about past summers and happy times spent at the seaside.  One of my favourite places is Tellaro which I first visited in the August of 2006. It’s wonderful to find such a relatively unspoilt fishing village in an otherwise touristy area.

The arcades by Tellaro’s rocky beach are still used by fishermen

The village’s little church is delightful and is so near the sea that it almost seems to float on the waves.

Anyone who has followed the lives of those two great literary brits, Lawrence and Shelley will recognize the place as the one they stayed at. Tellaro’s street signs remind one of these facts.

But it’s, of course, not just these two that fell in love with Tellaro and nearby Fiascherino: one of Italy’s greatest modern writers, Mario Soldati, stayed here and painters were and remain legion.

Tellaro is also listed as one of the “borghi più belli d’Italia” (the loveliest villages in Italy). Our own Mediavalle-Garfagnana area contains three of these “borghi più belli”. They are Coreglia Antelminelli, Barga and Castiglione di Garfagnana.

This is the complete list for Tuscany. The ones with asterisks are the ones we visited (Montemerano, Suvereto, Porto Ercole just last year).

For a full list of these specially appointed places there is a web site at

Of course, such lists are a trifle subjective but if one is pressed for time there’s absolutely no reason to doubt that these are some of the prettiest places in Tuscany, if not in Italy.

Looking at photographs of the past is both delightful and painful. Sometimes more painful, clearly, when loved persons and animals are no longer with us.

However, on this meteorologically utterly miserable day there can be no greater delight than to gaze on pictures showing blue seas and sunny days and realise that new joys can still arrive if we have the patience to wait for them. Perhaps this summer we’ll add a few more “borghi più belli d’Italia” on our list!