Robert J Farr
, September 2011
What do you think of when someone mentions Switzerland? Bankers? Scenic beauty? Roger Federer? Skiing? Maybe all of those. However, I guess you will not think of it as the most linguistically and culturally diverse western European nation. Switzerland’s diversity derives from its history, having existed as the world’s oldest democracy for some seven hundred years. After internal religious conflict, the Congress of Vienna guaranteed its independence and neutrality in 1815. A new federal state of Cantons was formed in 1848 with Bern as the capital. The Cantons reflect the country’s cultural and linguistic diversity. Sharing borders with France, Germany and Italy these are the appropriate languages of the population who usually speak at least two along with English. The diversity of the geographical locations also influences the artistic and cultural milieu.
The contents of the DVD are concentrated in only two Chapters. These are focused wholly on the Museo Vela at Lignornetto in the Swiss-Italian canton of Ticino. The galleries have remarkable collections of the works of the Vela family, the sculptors Vincenzo (1820–1891), his elder brother Lorenzo (1812–1897), and his son Spartaco. The principal part of the collection includes the works in gesso, a soft material, of Vincenzo’s figures later reworked in stone. The Museo Vela houses the largest such exhibition in the world with some spectacular carvings such as Christ’s head in a crown of thorns and a funerary monument of an Angel and Child. Vincenzo’s works show his political affiliations with a statue of Count Cavour, the father of Italian independence and its first Prime Minister alongside Garibaldi and Victor Emanuelle II. There is also his model of Napoleon as he lies near to death. There are many views of the various galleries and the exterior of the house. The film ends with the sun setting over the surrounding countryside. Vicenzo rebuilt the magnificent house between 1862 and 1865. In accordance with the family’s wishes Spartaco bequeathed it and the contents to the nation.
Chopin composed most of the music. It dates from the start of his liaison with the French novelist George Sand. Of the Preludes Opp. 28 and 45 those included here are the most recognisable. Attempts are made to match the music to the tone of the sculptures and paintings. Irina Zaritzkaya plays with a nice balance of virtuosity and feel for the different moods. The recordings are well balanced and tonally full. The Variations brillantes accompany the opening Chapter, the music based on a melody from an opera by Hérold and Halévy.