Notes in the autumn wind

Notes in the autumn wind

As much a part of a Florentine autumn as fresh olive oil and darkening light upon the Arno is the fall music season. Henry James wrote that the commencement of fall concerts in Florence is a reminder ‘in fine of the cosmopolite and watering-place character to which the

Thu 13 Oct 2011 12:00 AM

As much a part of a Florentine autumn as fresh olive oil and darkening light upon the Arno is the fall music season. Henry James wrote that the commencement of fall concerts in Florence is a reminder ‘in fine of the cosmopolite and watering-place character to which the city of the Medici long ago began to bend her antique temper.’ The program for this fall, representing an array of cultures and styles, shows that music still plays a key role in blowing a fresh artistic wind through this city.


For almost 100 years, Amici della Musica has presented a series of fall-winter chamber music concerts of the highest international level at Teatro della Pergola. The schedule this year includes a new series entitled Armonie Barocche, which begins October 15 with the Venice Baroque Orchestra performing a combination of Handel and Vivaldi arias. Mezzo-soprano Romina Basso will accompany the group, and her rich, plangent voice promises to evoke the depth necessary for these plaintive pieces. 


The next day, the European Baroque Orchestra will give a string-centered performance. Accompanied by solo violinist Enrico Onofrio, the orchestra will play Biber’s La Battalia and part of Vivaldi’s L’Estro Armonico, a series of pieces written for one, two, and four violins. Then, on October 22, in a departure from the traditional chamber music norm at the Pergola, director Ottavio Dantone of the Accademia Bizantina will perform Bach and Corelli cantatas on the organ. Armonie Barocche finishes on Sunday October 23, with a performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.


Three other traditional mini-series will continue to be part of the Teatro della Pergola‘s fall repertoire: Il Pianoforte, L’Arte del Canto, and Il Mondo del Quartetto. As part of L’Arte del Canto, British pianist Paul Lewis, who stunned the audience with his solo performance of Schubert lieder at the Pergola last winter, returns to accompany tenor Mark Padmore in Schubert’s Die Schone Mullerin. To perform this cycle well requires a delicate chemistry between singer and pianist. The piano must not serve as merely an accompaniment, but must be as sensitively rendered and emotionally expressive as the voice. Die Schone Mullerin tells of a young journeyman who wanders through the countryside and falls in love with the beautiful miller’s daughter who he sees by a millstream. At the end, the wanderer, suffering from unrequited love, drowns himself in the stream where he first saw the young woman. The poems are a choice example of German Romanticism, and in the music, the piano assumes the personality of the mill wheel and stream, which are a source of both deep anguish and profound love and joy for the singer.  It will be interesting to see how Lewis and Padmore work together to render the poetry of this tragic song cycle, which, on October 30, will surely be a highlight of the Pergola’s fall performances.


For opera lovers, the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino will begin its fall season at Teatro Communale in a slightly offbeat fashion, with Czech composer Leo Janacek’s Vec Makropoulous, based on Karel Capek’s 1922 philosophical play. Following this, in November, will be a run of Italian classics, Puccini’s La Boheme and Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. This year the opera house is paying special attention to the work of Italian masters in honor of the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy. Under the solid direction of Zubin Mehta, these performances should be of consistent quality. 


MaggioDanza is taking an interesting direction this fall, presenting a series of dance performances called Serata Lizst. The dancers will move to the music of Franz Liszt, reinterpreted and filtered electronically with the inspiration of the novel The Rebels by Hungarian writer Sándor Márai. The novel tells the story of four young men living in a remote provincial resort in Hungary, in the moment between their high school graduation and being sent to war. It is a tale of adolescence and mortality, and the choreography promises to represent this tender moment, heightened by the specter of death and war. The music of Liszt will evoke the spirit of Hungary, and the modern interpretation of the songs seems worth investigating.  Performances will be held at Teatro Goldoni on October 14, 15, 16, and 19. 


The spirit of musical experimentation and innovation is palpable elsewhere in Florence, thanks to organizations such as Musicus Concentus, who stage performances of jazz and contemporary music in a cloister inside the complex of the Brancaccio Chapel. On November 11, Indian-American jazz pianist Vijay Iyer will perform there as part of the company’s Piano Hour series. Iyer is one of the most prominent jazz pianists worldwide. The Jazz Journalists’ Association Jazz Awards named him the musician of the year in 2010, and the New York Times named his album Historicity the best jazz album of 2009. His appearance promises to invigorate and influence the local jazz scene. On preceding Fridays-October 28 and November 4-Piano Hour will feature Italian jazz masters such as Simone Graziano and Enrico Pieranunzi.  By juxtaposing the Italian musicians with Iyer, a dialogue is established between the Tuscan scene and the international scene, and, through the concerts’ location in the beautiful cloister, between the ancient and modern artistic lives of Florence.


Just as you reach for a warm slice of castagnaccio in November, or take a stroll to view the moody, deeply toned autumnal sunset from San Miniato or Piazzale Michelangelo, remember to enjoy the musical traditions of a Florentine autumn, and allow the diverse selection of performances to polish your sensibilities and soften the advent of the cold. It will be interesting to see how the promising 2011 lineup unfolds, look out for more commentary in upcoming issues. 



AMICI DELLA MUSICA, tel. 055/609012






MUSICUS CONCENTUS, tel. 055/287347




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