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2.110538 - MUSICAL JOURNEY (A) - SWITZERLAND: A Musical Visit to the Museo Vela at Ligornetto (NTSC)

A Musical Visit to the Museo Vela at Ligornetto, Switzerland
With music by Fryderyk Chopin



Ligornetto, Museo Vela
The villa that is now the Museo Vela was rebuilt by Vincenzo Vela between 1862 and 1865. The setting is spectacular, and the villa itself, housing the galleries, is surrounded by attractive grounds.

Music Chopin: Variations Brillantes, Op. 12
The Variations brillantes, Op. 12, were written in 1833, during Chopin’s earlier days in Paris. The work was dedicated to Chopin’s pupil Emma Horsford, and opens with an introduction, followed by the theme, “Je vends des scapulaires”, from the opera Ludovic by Hérold, completed after the latter’s death by Fromental Halévy. The first running variation of the gently rocking melody is followed by a scherzo, a change of key for a slow derivative of the original and a rapid lively final version of the theme.


Ligornetto, Museo Vela
The Museo Vela is devoted, in particular, to the work in gesso of the sculptor Vincenzo Vela (1820–1891), with some of the work of his elder brother Lorenzo (1812–1897), also a sculptor, and paintings by Vincenzo’s son Spartaco (1854–1895), so named after the famous symbolic statue by his father of Spartacus, a figure representing the Italian struggle for liberty in which Vincenzo Vela participated. The works seen include a funerary monument of an angel and child and a deathbed monument for Countess d’Adda. The theme of mourning is continued in Ecce Homo, the figure of Christ crowned with thorns and bound. Something of Vincenzo Vela’s social views are represented by workmen carrying a worker killed in the construction of the St Gothard railway. A girl with a pet monkey has the title Study Interrupted, as the child neglects the book that she holds. Two crowned figures represent Italy and Recognition (Italie et Reconnaissance). A seated figure represents Marchesa Viginia Busti, and a girl with a dog is for a statue of the Contessina d’Adda. Paintings by Spartaco Vela, who followed his father’s wishes by handing the collection over to the state in 1892, include a woman with a fan, a woman intent on her sewing and a woman with a cow. In one of the bedrooms of the villa are masks of Vincenzo and Spartaco and the cast of a hand and another painting shows the artist’s studio at work. Other domestic scenes include a bedroom and a study. Vincenzo’s political affiliations are shown in his statue of Count Cavour, Garibaldi and King Vittorio Emanuele II, and his
model of Napoleon as he lies near to death. Statues of men important in the history of Italy include the physicist Gabrio Piola. The tour of the gallery ends with a view of a frieze, under the dome at the centre of the building. Finally the sun sets over the surrounding countryside.

Music Chopin: Preludes, Op. 28 and Prelude, Op. 45
Prelude No. 1 in C major • Prelude No. 2 in A minor
Prelude No. 3 in G major • Prelude No. 4 in E minor
Prelude No. 5 in D major • Prelude No. 6 in B minor
Prelude No. 7 in A major • Prelude No. 8 in F sharp minor
Prelude No. 9 in E major • Prelude No. 10 in C sharp minor
Prelude No. 11 in B major • Prelude No. 12 in G sharp minor
Prelude No. 13 in F sharp major • Prelude No. 14 in E flat minor
Prelude No. 15 in D flat major • Prelude No. 16 in B flat minor
Prelude No. 17 in A flat major • Prelude No. 18 in F minor
Prelude No. 19 in E flat major • Prelude No. 20 in C minor
Prelude No. 21 in B flat major • Prelude No. 22 in G minor
Prelude No. 23 in F major • Prelude No. 24 in D minor
Prelude in C sharp minor, Op. 45

Fryderyk Chopin was born at Zelazowa Wola, near Warsaw, in 1810. His father, Nicolas Chopin, was French by birth, but had been taken to Poland in 1787, at the age of sixteen, working first as a clerk in a tobacco factory, before taking part in the Polish rising against the foreign domination of the country as an officer in the National Guard. After the failure of this attempt, he was able to earn his living as a French tutor in various private families, and in 1806 he married a poor relation of his then employer, Count Skarbek. Chopin was to inherit from his father a fierce sense of loyalty to Poland, a feeling that he fostered largely in self-imposed exile, since the greater part of his career was to be spent in Paris, where he settled in 1831. His attitude to Paris was at first ambivalent. As a provincial he found much to shock him, while, at the same time, there was much to impress him in the splendour of the city and in the diversity of music there. He was to create a special place for himself as a teacher to some of the most distinguished families and as a performer in more intimate social gatherings than the theatres and concert-halls where his cruder contemporary Franz Liszt could excel.

By 1837 Chopin had embarked on a liaison with the writer George Sand, Aurore Dupin, the estranged wife of Baron Dudevant, generally spending the summer at her country estate at Nohant. The winter of 1838 was spent with her in Mallorca, where an attempt to battle against a high wind seriously affected his lungs, already weakened by tuberculosis. Thereafter Chopin’s relationship with George Sand took a more conventional course, until the jealousies and rivalry of her two children led to a final quarrel in 1847. George Sand and Chopin were never to be reconciled, and he died in Paris in 1849, his health having deteriorated considerably during the course of a visit to England and Scotland the year before, when Paris was undergoing revolution.

The set of 24 Preludes, Op. 28, was completed during the winter Chopin spent with George Sand in Mallorca. The greater part of the work had been done before the couple, accompanied by George Sand’s two children, arrived in Palma at the beginning of November 1838. Chopin’s health suffered almost at once, with a severe attack of bronchitis, and an expensive and correct diagnosis of tuberculosis from local doctors forced the group to leave their Palma lodgings and seek refuge at the deserted monastery of Valldemosa, a romantic spot that appealed to the writer’s imagination, while providing relatively primitive living conditions, exacerbated by the increasing hostility of the local peasantry. As he recovered his strength, Chopin worked on the completion of the Preludes, helped, in the end, when he was able to negotiate the release of a new Pleyel piano from the Palma customs for a payment of duty that further depleted the dwindling financial resources of the couple.

The Preludes, completed in such difficult circumstances, form a complete work in their sequence of keys, following the circle of fifths, each major key paired with its relative minor in a general pattern of increased complexity at the heart of the set, where remoter keys are found. Chopin used the form on two other occasions, one, included here, the Prelude in C sharp minor written at Nohant in the summer of 1841 and published in the same year. The changing moods of the Preludes, some relatively short in length, are matched with the gesso figures and paintings from the Museo Vela. The minor keys often provide a suitable accompaniment to works of art depicting solemn occasions and death itself.

Keith Anderson

Recording (all works): Irina Zaritzkaya, piano [Naxos 8.550225]

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