With my characteristic good fortune, I arrived in Sarzana at the exact time of the 19th Festival of Music and Sounds. It’s an amazing event, unlike anything I’ve ever heard of.
We started off on Friday evening evening in the Town Hall (which is actually an 18th Century palazzo, subtly modified to house a completely modern bureaucracy) with speeches (Italians LOVE their speeches!). Now Italian civic speeches aren’t like Aussie ones; for a start, the Mayor (Cristina Ponzanelli) looks like a supermodel so it would be fine if her speech was boring, but her speech WAS interesting, articulate, humane – ranging with passion across hope, achievement, pride in the children and the elderly of the community, and the power of music to open our hearts and to enrich our lives.
The mayors of Sarzana and Lithgow. Now, which one would get my vote?
The opening performance was by a group of high-school students doing a dramatised version of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sounds of Silence”. VERY dramatised! Then an Art Historian led us, like the Hanover Pied Piper’s rats, on a walk through the town centre, stopping off in the atria (entrance halls) of about 6 of the town’s old palazzi in each of which there was a mini(15min)-recital. Kreisler’s Lieberslied, an Irish folk rock quartet, an Edith Piaf homage, blues guitar. These atria were all about 6m x 6m with high domed ceilings and marble or terrazzo floors – amazing acoustics and only room for an audience of 30 – 40, so there is a sense of real intimacy with the performers..
Yesterday there were more formal recitals, but still in these atria spaces. I went to two – the first a wonderful pianist named Giuseppe Santucci who played (as a philosophical duality) the Beethoven Appassionata sonata followed by some very dark and brooding piece of Liszt that I didn’t know (and still don’t) – all entirely from memory, with passion, power, and precision. He played on a beautiful baby Steinway (looked 1950s) and I was only 2m away from the piano. The experience was electrifying! Like the Liszt piece, he was a dark and brooding sort of guy, tall, slim, scraggy beard and bountiful hair jet black with unruly and defiant patches of grey.
My next experience was an ensemble of 8 women (Vaghi Concenti, which I guess translates as “Loose agreement”) singing a capella sacred works from Hildegard to Monteverdi to more modern. They were a bizarrely diverse bunch, both in appearance and vocal quality. They are clearly a community group and lacked the precision of professional singers, but good on them for their dedication, their bravery, and their great grace to present such beautiful work for us.
There is more today – 4 performances I would like to see if there are no overlaps with the 7 venues. The other thing to mention about this amazing, expansive, varied, and full festival is THAT IT IS ENTIRELY FREE. Three evenings of great and inspiring art as a natural part of the community life of this beautiful town, Sarzana.
But right now I am off to 10 o’clock Mass at the Parish Church of San Francesco. When in Rome …………
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As a resolution of something in yesterday’s post – I don’t care if old Vezzio is a vampire or bit weird in any way at all, for I can truly say that the steak I bought and cooked last night is EASILY the most perfect meat I have ever had in my life!