About this Recording
2.110275 - MUSICAL JOURNEY (A) - ITALY: A Musical Tour of Siena, Pisa and Nervi (NTSC)
English 

A Musical Tour of Italy
With music by Ludwig van Beethoven

 

CHAPTER 1

Siena

The city of Siena in Tuscany had its origin as a colony founded by the Emperor Augustus. By the twelfth century it had become a republic, a rival to Florence, and in the following centuries endured various changes of fortune in the wars and disputes of the time. The cathedral is of particular artistic interest. Founded in 1196 and completed in 1215, it remains one of the earliest of the great Gothic churches of the region. Characteristic is the façade, with its polychrome marble and sculptures, much of this to the design of Giovanni Pisano. Most characteristic are the bands of black and white marble of the Campanile, which are also found in the walls and columns inside the building. The floors are decorated with a variety of designs and the nave has above it a hexagonal dome, decorated in the fifteenth century with gilded statues. There is a sixteenth-century rose window.

Narrow streets in Siena offer sudden vistas and lead down to the Campo, the main square of the city, with its varied buildings and palaces and to the south-east the Palazzo Publico. Built between 1297 and 1310, this has an arcade at the stone-built lower level, with an upper section of brick built in 1681. By the side of the Palazzo Publico is the remarkable Torre del Mangia, a brick tower some 102 metres (337 feet) high, built between 1338 and 1348.

The surrounding countryside of gently sloping hills is covered with vineyards.

Music Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op.15 – I. Allegro con brio

Born in Bonn in 1770, the son and grandson of court musicians employed by the Archbishop- Elector of Cologne, Ludwig van Beethoven was sent by his patron to Vienna, where he settled finally in 1792. Lessons with Haydn proved seemingly ineffective, but there was much else to learn in Vienna, while the introductions he brought with him ensured the support of import members of the nobility and of the imperial family in what seemed likely to be a brilliant career as a virtuoso pianist and composer. By 1800, however, Beethoven had become aware of the onset of incurable deafness, an affliction that did much to direct his attention to composition rather than performance. Here he made remarkable changes to the forms of music he had inherited from the tradition of Haydn and Mozart, enlarging traditional structures and alarming some contemporaries by his innovations, which offered a challenge that later generations found it hard to meet. By the time of his death in 1827 he had won an unassailable international reputation as a composer, while at home his marked eccentricities of behaviour and disrespect for convention were born with remarkable forbearance by his patrons.

Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.1 in C major, Op. 15, was completed in 1795 and intended for the composer’s own use. A revised version was published in 1801 with a dedication to Barbara von Keglevich, who that year had married Prince Odescalchi and moved to Pressburg (the modern Bratislava). Scored for an orchestra that includes clarinets, trumpets and drums, in addition to the usual strings, it opens with a sparkling first movement, in classical form. The introductory orchestral exposition is followed by the entry of the soloist and a sonata-form movement, with a central development and a recapitulation that includes a cadenza for the soloist.

CHAPTER 2

Siena

The buildings and streets of Siena taken on another aspect by night, The outline of the city is seen and the streets and exterior of buildings.

Music Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op.15 – II. Larghetto

The slow movement of the concerto is an A flat major Larghetto, in which Beethoven, as a soloist, could have demonstrated the singing tone that he was well known to have been able to conjure from the piano keyboard.

CHAPTER 3

Pisa

Pisa too was a Roman colony, established in the second century BC. It held a position of importance in maritime trade, a rival to both Venice and Genoa, and in wars against the Saracens. A city of considerable interest, it is widely known, for better or worse, for its famous leaning tower. The campanile, built by the east end of the cathedral, has eight storeys, consisting of a blind arcade, six open galleries and a bell-tower, this last added in 1350. The tower was started in 1173, built on alluvial soil that soon caused subsidence. Attempts were made to correct the tilt of the tower, but without complete success. The campanile is 16 metres (52 feet) in diameter and its higher side is 56.5 metres (186½ feet in height). The leaning tower forms a group with the cathedral, built between 1063 and 1118 and 1261 and 1272, a fine example of Romanesque architecture. The bronze doors, with their figures, are of special interest. Nearby stands the circular Baptistery, built between 1153 and 1265, to a design by Dioti Salvi. There are later Gothic additions to the structure from the fourteenth century.

Music Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op.15 – III. Rondo: Allegro scherzando

Beethoven’s pupil Ferdinand Ries regarded Beethoven’s own performance of the final Rondo as freakish, although others have recently attempted to follow Beethoven’s private suggestion that notes should be added to the recurrent principal theme to impart further brilliance to it.

CHAPTER 4

Nervi: Villa Luxoro

Nervi is now part of Genoa and is popular as a resort. The gardens of private villas have been joined to provide the Parco Municipale, while the Villa Luxoro, otherwise known as the Museo Giannettino Luxoro, is noted both for its gardens and setting and for its collections of clocks, figures and exhibition of decorative art. Its collection of clocks dating from the second half of the seventeenth century is particularly notable. Nervi is remembered, too, for its connection with Garibaldi, since it was near here that he set out in 1860 for Sicily at the start of a campaign that was eventually to unify Italy.

Music Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Sonata in F minor, Op. 2, No. 1 – I. Allegro

Beethoven left 32 numbered piano sonatas, reflecting the changes, over the years, of his own compositional style and in the manufacture of the newly developing pianoforte. The first of these is the Sonata in F minor, Op. 2, No. 1, part of a set of three such works, published in 1796 and dedicated to Haydn. The first movement is very much in the style of the latter, with an ascending rocket of a principal theme, to which a subsidiary theme provides the necessary contrast of mood and key, both subsequently developed, to return in final recapitulation.

CHAPTER 5

Nervi: Villa Luxoro

The Villa Luxoro was completed in 1903 to the design of Pietro Luxoro and was his home and that of his brothers, until the death of Matteo Luxoro, the last of the family, who left the villa to the city of Genoa. The villa is set in gardens overlooking the sea.

Music Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Sonata in F minor, Op. 2, No. 1 – II. Adagio

The second movement calls for that singing style of piano playing for which Beethoven himself was well known, as the principal theme is elaborated and embellished.

CHAPTER 6

Nervi: Villa Luxoro

Among the collections of the Villa Luxoro, a reflection of the tastes of the brothers Pietro, Giuseppe and Matteo Luxoro, and of their father, are various figurines, including horses and ceramic figures, including a nativity scene, and examples of fine furniture, set in rooms that themselves illustrate the history of Italian interior design.

Music Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Sonata in F minor, Op. 2, No. 1 – III. Menuetto: Allegretto

The Minuet of the sonata, with its major-key contrasting Trio, has more of the light-hearted scherzo about it than of the traditional dance, a tendency that was continued by Beethoven and other composers.

CHAPTER 7

Nervi: Villa Luxoro

A final view of the Villa Luxoro shows the gardens and the sea, with the villa itself, and a final glimpse of figurines from the collections held in the villa.

Music Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Sonata in F minor, Op. 2, No. 1 – IV. Prestissimo

The last movement of the sonata gives a hint of what is to follow as the composer develops his own individual musical language.

Keith Anderson

Recordings

Piano Concerto No. 1. Stefan Vladar, piano, Capella Istropolitana conducted by Barry Wordsworth [Naxos 8.550190]
Piano Sonata, Op. 2, No. 1. Jenő Jandó [Naxos 8.550150]


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