Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Salzburger Zeitung - Busy Day, Busy Day, No Time to Make Desert

The second day of the Whitsun Festival (May 22) was going to be a busy one no matter how you looked at it – a morning concert at 1100, a late afternoon concert at 1830 and a movie at 2200. Plus we had to work getting ourselves watered and fed in between. Fortunately food is never a problem in Salzburg because of all else fails we simply settle into our table at the Sketch Bar at the Hotel Bristol bar and let Gunther, our favourite bartender look after us.
The lovely Grosser Saal of the Mozarteum - even with its slight air of faded gilt and velvet it remains a wonderful venue for concerts.

The two concerts were in the lovely Grosser Saal of the Mozarteum just around the corner from the hotel so a brief sun shower – yes it was actually sunny on Saturday – was not a problem. The Grosser Saal is surely one of the prettiest if not always the most comfortable of venues for concert going. Laurent has already commented on it but I am always surprised in Salzburg when the ushers don't check your tickets at the door – they are there to help you find your seat or for the elderly, and there seem to be more and more elderly people at these events, to assist you to it. But verifying your ticket – why that would suggest you would try and enter without one and they know that no one would be dishonest enough to do that!

Sonata da camera

The morning programme was a concert of sonatas for violin and a continuo of cello, lute and harpsichord featuring the renowned Italian violinist Giuliano Carmignola (left). I had never heard him and was not familiar with his work but a friend had mentioned that he was a performer who, in younger days, had taken many risks often with less than favourable results.

That was certainly not the case on Saturday morning, he played sonate by Porpora, Geminiani, and Scarlatti with finesse and a sense of baroque style that left no doubt as to why he is considered a master of music of the period. If he did let loose it was during the Fantasia from the Ayres for the Violin by Nicola Mattheis– a brilliant piece of solo playing. The later selections along with Emmanuele Barbella's Arlecchino Suite were the most interesting music of the morning and I've been investigating a few recordings of them. The Mattheis is a particularly interesting set of pieces written between 1676 and 1685 as a series of volumes and intended for both listening pleasure and as a way of teaching the Italian style of violin playing. It was often thought at his concerts that he was playing two violins at once - and that was the impression I had when listening to Carmignola played the Fantasia. I am still nonplussed at how it is done technically. It was a brilliant display of period violin playing.
Master of the Baroque violin Giuliano Carmignola with cellist Francesco Galligioni, harpsicordist Riccardo Doni and on the lute Ivano Zanenghi taking their bows.

Alte Salzburg is made up of a series of passageways that connect one main street to the other – often with an open courtyard breaking up or diverting the passageway. Most are lined with small shops selling some very high end items though there is the odd place that proudly displays the china cow dressed as Mozart with a clock on its haunches in its front window. Laurent wanted to buy one but I convinced him otherwise. As we wandered through one of those passages in search of lunch we happened upon a Sushi restaurnt – Sushi in Salzburg? Sounds like a movie title but why not? The people running it were actually Japanese, the fish was fresh and the rice of good quality – what more could you ask. Though as Laurent noted the Kirin Ichiban beer is now owned by Heiniken and made under license in Russia – ah the glories of globalization.

Piramo e Tisbe

Last year Fabio Bondi had pulled Nicola Fago's Il faraone sommerso out of his hat and revealed a small jewel of a music drama from an obscure composer (I am still waiting for a recording Mr Bondi??????) I had been hoping the same would occur this year when he gave us Johann Hasse's Piramo e Tisbe. Once again he was conducting his marvellous Europe Galente with two very bright stars of the operatic firmament: Vivica Genaux and Désirée Rantecore as the protagonists. As I remarked again later in the weekend, if a work has been left largely unperformed for 300 years there is often a very good reason.

Now I am will admit that I am basing my opinion on hearing only the first part as I left at the interval, not something I do either lightly or often. Before the performance indulgence was asked for Ms Genaux who was fighting a cold – though to be honest from what I heard no indulgence was necessary. I sympathized with her completely I was also fighting a cold, the hall was unbearably hot, I was feeling woozy (cough syrup and cold pills will do that) and had already almost strangled myself in an effort to control a coughing fit during the first act. It wasn't fair to the performers, the people around me or me for that matter. Perhaps the second part took wing but despite the obvious dedication that Biondi and his Ensemble put into it, unlike last year I didn't feel that spark that makes you question why a work has been neglected.
Vivica Genaux (Piramo), Désirée Rancatore (Tisbe), Fabio Bondi and Emanuele D'Aguanno (The Father)take their bows with members of Europa Galante at the end of Saturday evening's concert of the Hasse opera.

Napoli è una canzone

The movie was a real oddity and looked intriguing when it was announced as part of the programme. A classic of the Italian cinema Napoli è une canzone was a silent movie made in 1927 by Eugenio Perego and filmed in the streets of Napoli, the ocean around Capri and on the approaches to a smoking Mount Vesuvius.

The story is slight: an adorable Napoletana – she rescues kittens and releases dogs from the dog catcher's wagon - befriends the unhappy daughter of an American millionaire, falls in love with her friend's brother and goes with them to America. The brother, aside from being made up to look like the poor man's Rudolph Valentino, is a bit of a cad; brokenhearted and home sick she returns to her nonna, nonno and Napoli. But never fear the cad repents and everything ends in a gay tarantella. It all very silly but all very wonderful as it captures a world that has vanished in many ways but also in others has remained the same.

Of course the performances are stylized and, to our eyes, a bit over the top but it is hard not to be captured by the charm of leading lady Leda Gys. A great star of the Italian cinema she is a touch on the chubby side and has a fine sense of comic timing. Even after 80 years her lively eyes reach into the darkness and bring a smile and on one occasion a tear.

The movie has been restored though at several points reel damage is apparent and, as so often happens when different stock was used, film tint changes from reel to reel but it all adds to the charm of the film. As do the Italian title cards. I was rather pleased that I was able to read most of them but just as I was getting smug about my linguist prowess realized that they were written, as were all movie titles at the time no matter the language, to reach the broadest audience possible. And that they were displayed for sufficient time to allow someone who was educated (in small towns probably the village priest) to read them out for the less literate.

The greatest charm of the film was seeing Napoli as it was before the Second World War. Even with his primitive equipment Emilio Guattari captured wonderful scenes in small neighbourhoods, the Spanish Quarter, the Festival of San Geronimo, the waterfront, Capri, The Blue Grotto and particularly the scenes of Vesuvius smoldering and sending forth plumes of smoke as the actors cavorted in front of it.

When it was first presented in film houses back in 1927 there would have been at the least the local piano teacher plunking out a accompaniment to punctuate the action and at the most a small orchestra (in the finer cinemas of the day). At the Salzburg Keno – a strange building which I have passed more times than I can remember and never noticed – background sounds were provided by a team of “techno” composers. Their stated purpose was to provide a counterpoint to the action and in all probability they did – I sort of shut it out and when it became unbearable put my fingers in my ears. I can't say I thought it added anything to the film and was best ignored. Perhaps it would have been more interesting to have that local piano player at the keyboard guiding us through the action. Never the less it was a lovely way to spend the late evening – a look into the past with a connection to the present.

And the evening ended back at the Sketch Bar where Gunther whipped up a hot toddy to help knock the cold out of me.

08 giugno - San Medardo


Debra She Who Seeks said...

Sounds like a wonderful day (except for the cold, of course)!

Frank said...

Thank you Willym for the Whitsun report.