About this Recording
2.110253 - MUSICAL JOURNEY (A) - ITALY: Verona and Romeo and Juliet, Florence, Naples (NTSC)
English 

A Musical Tour of Italy
With music by Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky

 

CHAPTER 1

Verona: Ponte Pietra • Ponte Scaligero • River AdigeHouse and Tomb of Juliet • Giusti Gardens • Piazza delle ErbePiazza dei Signori • Church of San Zeno Maggiore • Castel San ZenoCastel San Pietro • Arena • Borghetto di Valeggio sul Mincio

Verona is inextricably associated with the tragedy of the lovers Romeo and Juliet. A restored 13th century house, formerly an inn, is now known as the Casa di Giulietta (House of Juliet). Elsewhere in the town is a 14th century tomb, known as Juliet’s tomb. The centre of a Roman colony from 89 BC, Verona flourished over the centuries. From 1260 until 1387 it was dominated by the Scaliger family, their symbol a ladder (scala), and there are various signs of their importance. The Scaligers were displaced by the Visconti, but in 1405 Verona acquired the protection of Venice. The River Adige curves its way through the city, crossed by a number of bridges, including the Ponte Pietra, destroyed in 1945 but later reconstructed with the surviving Roman and medieval material. The Ponte Scaligero crosses the Adige from the Castelvecchio to the Arsenale on the opposite bank. The Piazza delle Erbe, surrounded by historic buildings, is now used for a market and is on the site of the ancient Roman forum, while the Piazza dei Signori, with the Palazzo del Capitano and its crenellated tower, was the centre of the administration of the medieval city. The streets are lined with houses, their walls painted with various scenes and designs, in traditional style. Among important Roman remains, of which there are many, is the Arena, the third in size of surviving Roman amphitheatres, outdone only by the amphitheatre at Capua and the Colosseum in Rome. The famous hillside Giusti Gardens and Palazzo Giusti provide a view of the city. The Church of San Zeno Maggiore was completed in about 1225, with the apse rebuilt in the following century. There is a brick campanile, built between 1045 and 1149 and a tower allegedly from the time of King Pepin, whose palace was here in the 9th century. The circular window of the façade of the church represents the wheel of fortune and there are reliefs on either side of the doorway, with 11th century doors bearing bronze reliefs representing biblical scenes. The village of Valeggio, on the River Mincio, lies a few miles to the south-west of Verona.

Music

Tchaikovsky: Fantasy Overture, Romeo and Juliet

The Fantasy Overture, Romeo and Juliet was written in 1869 at the suggestion of Balakirev, self-appointed leader of the Russian nationalist composers. Tchaikovsky does not follow the order of Shakespeare’s narrative, but, in a sonata-form movement, introduces the solemnity of Friar Laurence, a theme suggesting the enmity of the feuding houses of Montague and Capulet and a sensuous love theme for Romeo and Juliet, material duly developed and returning in recapitulation.

CHAPTER 2

Florence: Villa Demidoff, Pratolino • Giambologna: L’AppeninoView from Bellosguardo • Uffizi • Palazzo VecchioIl supplizio di Savonarola • Palazzo Pitti • Torrigiani GardenPiazzale Michelangelo

Florence owed its commercial prosperity to the River Arno, that divides the city, and to trade in wool and silk. In the 15th century it began its major period of ascendancy under the rule of the Medici, wealthy merchants and then bankers. Pratolino was the site of one of the favourite Medici villas, with gardens that include figures by Ammannati and Giambologna, notably the massive figure of Appenine. Early maps of the area include those painted by Stefano Bonsignori, while today Bellosguardo, with its villas, offers a fine view of the city. Prominent buildings include the Duomo, with its Brunelleschi dome, and the adjacent bell-tower by Giotto. The Palazzo Uffizi, started by Vasari in 1560, was erected in response to a commission from Cosimo I dei Medici, whose art collection forms the basis of the display of the Uffizi Gallery. The rival Palazzo Pitti, built by another rich merchant, has a notable art gallery containing works collected first under the Medici Grand Dukes of Tuscany in the 17th century. The largely 14th century Palazzo Vecchio, the present town hall, was at one time the Medici residence, before the Grand Dukes moved to the Palazzo Pitti. In 1494 the reforming zealot Savonarola took charge of the city, while Piero dei Medici was forced into exile. Prior of San Marco, he preached repentance from the worldliness that he perceived around him and endeavoured to establish in Florence a system of government similar to the republican government of Venice. His fanaticism led to his death, when he was burned at the stake, an event now commemorated in a compensatory plaque. The Ponte Vecchio, reconstructed in 1345, was at one time the only bridge over the Arno. On the bridge are traditional jeweller’s shops. The Palazzo Torrigiani was acquired from the original family by Leopold I of Lorraine, who established a natural history museum there in the 17th century. The Piazzale Michelangelo, on a hillside above the city, provides a panoramic view of Florence. Music

Tchaikovsky: Souvenir de Florence, Op. 70 – I. Allegro con spirito

Conceived as a sextet, the six-part Souvenir de Florence was written in 1890 and revised two years later. It marks the culmination of Tchaikovsky’s contribution to chamber music, couched here in solidly classical structures. The first of the four movements is in rondo form.

CHAPTER 3

Florence: Villa Bonciani • Tchaikovsky’s House • Villa Cora Madame von Meck’s House • Tchaikovsky’s House at Klin in Russia

In 1878 Tchaikovsky visited Florence twice, the first time in February, during a longer stay abroad after the fiasco of his marriage, and again in November. His benefactress, the rich widow Madame von Meck, whom he was never to meet, invited him, so that, still without meeting, they could be near each other, an arrangement to which Tchaikovsky agreed. While Madame von Meck stayed at the Villa Oppenheim, she had arranged accommodation for him at the Villa Bonciani, having everything he could need made ready for him and exchanging daily letters with him. It was only towards the end of his life that Tchaikowsky acquired a home for himself at Klin, in a region in which he had earlier rented houses. The house at Klin remains as a memorial to him. The Villa Cora in Florence is seen, with its richly decorated rooms.

Music

Tchaikovsky: Souvenir de Florence, Op. 70 – II. Adagio cantabile

Tchaikovsky had some difficulty in dealing with the form of the sextet, which also provides an effective addition to string orchestra repertoire. The slow movement is in ternary form, with a repeated outer section framing a central section.

CHAPTER 4

Florence by night

Florence is as impressive by night as by day, with its principal buildings illuminated, the great Duomo, Giotto’s Campanile, the Baptistery, the well-lit shops and streets.

Music

Tchaikovsky: Souvenir de Florence, Op. 70 – III. Allegretto moderato

The third movement of Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence is in song form, with a Trio section in contrast.

CHAPTER 5

Florence: Bar Vinaio • Fattoria La Gialle • Mercato Nuovo

The 16th century Mercato Nuovo is known locally as Il Porcellino, from the statue here of a boar, in bronze. The stalls sell goods of all kinds. Other characteristic wares can be seen at the Fattoria La Gialle and in the bars and cafés of the city.

Music

Tchaikovsky: Souvenir de Florence, Op. 70 – IV. Allegro vivace

The last movement of the Souvenir de Florence is in tripartite sonata form.

CHAPTER 6

Naples: Harbour • Vesuvius • Castel dell’Ovo • Serapeion (Pozzuoli)Villa Comunale Park • Galleria Umberto • Piazza del MunicipioMuseo Archeologico Nazionale • Castel Nuovo • Castel Sant’Elmo

Originally the site of a Greek settlement, dating from the 8th century BC, Naples itself, Neapolis (New City), was established in the 5th century. It has an important harbour, and looking across the Bay of Naples the volcano Vesuvius can be seen. At the mouth of the harbour is the 14th century Castel dell’Ovo, rebuilt in the 17th century and sited on a rocky island reached by a causeway. The nearby town of Pozzuoli, some seventeen miles to the west, was also a Greek settlement. Under the Romans, from the 4th century BC, it became important as a port for trade from Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean. Columns of the Serapeion are preserved near the sea, an ancient market, and the town boasts other important Roman remains. In Naples the park of the Villa Comunale was laid out in 1780, while the Piazza del Municipio also has gardens, with an equestrian statue of Victor Emmanuel II. The Archaeological Museum has a particularly rich collection of objects, with a number of ancient copies of sculptures from classical Greece. These include the massive Farnese Hercules and Farnese Bull, discovered in the Baths of Caracalla in Rome. The Castel Nuovo, on the south side of the Piazza del Municipio, dating from the 13th century, was originally the royal residence. An entrance arch was added in the mid-15th century. Above the older city is the district of Vomero and the 14th century Castel Sant’Elmo, with its great walls and underground passages cut out of the rock. The 19th century Galleria Umberto is an impressive shopping arcade.

Music

Tchaikovsky: Capriccio italien, Op. 45

Tchaikovsky’s Capriccio italien was started in Rome, where he spent the winter of 1879–1880 with his brother Modest and the latter’s young pupil Kolya. Originally intended as a suite on Italian folk-tunes, the work opens with a fanfare heard from a neighbouring barracks in Rome every morning. Four other Italian melodies are used, the last a Neapolitan tarantella known as Ciccuzza.


Keith Anderson

 

Recordings

Romeo and Juliet and Capriccio italien by Stephen Gunzenhauser conducting the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, from Naxos 8.550030 [deleted; recommended recording Naxos 8.555923 or 8.550500] • Souvenir de Florence by Philippe Entremont conducting the Vienna Chamber Orchestra, from Naxos 8.550404.


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