Strings attached?

As I write this, there is an AMATI,  yes… a REAL life 400 year old Amati playing the gorgeous Allegro by Fiocco just feet beneath me and it’s distracting me senseless! Just as I thought my mega project of violins, bows, cases and all things musical for a teenager was over… there is even more to salivate. And the dream goes on.
Back on track….  The trials and tribulations of a gorky, thirteen year old with an achy jaw (braces just tightened) trying so ferociously hard to make similar tones to that  Italian ‘piece of wood’. An unexpected treat for me… though probably not so for Rebecca, putting up with Nat’s much lesser Cremonese version.
Now playing the hauntingly romantic Salut D’Amour by Elgar. Yummy.
It all started a fortnight ago, with a leisurely drive to Cheltenham to attend the Junior concert at the new Performing Arts Centre. The showpiece being the rather nice shiny brand new Fazioli Concert Grand donated by a very generous parent (anonymous, of course). There I was a proud parent sitting quietly in the new CLC regulation, terribly comfy and squeak-less green seat. The purpose built auditorium was very nice with even nicer acoustics.
The girls came on one at a time playing and singing their well rehearsed solos, with confidence and pomp. Nat came on stage. My heart beating, I fumbled with the monopod and my little credit card camera. I pressed the record button. Wow, the Fazioli – Pietro del Rhee – Otto A Hoyer combination just blew me. The sound was just amazing. Goose bumps and then… I started to tremble. The piece was just divine. With life, there is always a spanner thrown in the works. I had forgotten I was holding onto the monopod…. the camera was shaking… Nat had been a blur pretty much all the way through. The more I tried, the more I shook. Then it all ended… one beautiful piece, a moving green blob with the mighty Faz in the background. The music survived, but I guess, I now need a hovercraft moving at the right frequency to view the mp4.
ProCorda week next. Nat was packed off to the Violinist Intro course to the Viola. Thinking it would be a great idea, two fold:
  1. to give her exposure to a new instrument, and
  2. for me to get on with my work.
After a hard day at Prosecco, tasting almost 100 bottles of fizz, I came home to find a rather wobbly Nat at the end of a mobile. She had been given the Bach Brandenburg no.6 Viola de Gamba (2) part and had to sight read ‘a tempo’ in the alto clef that very evening!  If that wasn’t enough, 2 quintets and a Telemann Fantasia were put into her sticky hands. Concert was on the Sunday!
By 11pm, all was sorted, phone calls and emails flying, the staff were fantastic.
The concert was sensational. Musicians were a cut above and played beautifully, remembering that scores were dished out only days before. The staff were all just amazingly professional. A great day out and getting up at 6am on a sunday coupled with the 3.5 hour journey home was well worth it!  Best of all, Nat was accepted into the Junior chamber section for violin. Great kid, proud parents.

Cremona City of Violins

One of my favourite places on Earth. Bright and early I got myself to Milan’s Centrale armed with €11 for the return ticket and before getting on to the train, direction Mantova, punching my ticket in the yellow box at the platform. If lucky, the train is the ‘fast’ direct to Cremona, if not – get ready to jump out at Codogno and run. There is usually a local chugger waiting, with the added adrenalin filled Italian game of “find the train”. This time, signed posted platform one, a great relief till I realised it was a long way away (almost to Cremona!!!).

cremona-1.jpg Headed for the Consorzio with L walking pass the statue of Stradivari in the main square. As ever, a friendly face to greet us. Organised a viewing and trial of a Baroque violin with one of the world’s best known baroque luthiers, Eduardo Gore for the afternoon. Directions were drawn on a bit of paper and we left to visit Pietro Del Rhee another great luthier. Tried a few fab bows on Rhee’s newly made Guarneri Del Gesu styled violin and we left to view the collection. L spent €5 and a good 30 minutes, gorking at the squillions of liras worth of string instruments including Stradivaris, Amatis, Guarneris and, and, and.. sadly no performance that day. If lucky (and I have been) the curator, Prof Musconi will pull out the Stradivari “Il Cremonese” and play a private recital if a group is available (for €1.50 each). This can be organised through Patti Kaden. Time permitting, she can organise a short lecture with a luthier on violin making and if there are any concerts, the Teatro Ponchielli is definitely worth the treat.

Lunch with Patti was at our usual Pizzeria Duomo run by 5 generations of pizza makers. NIcola the propietor is a character.

The Duomo is worth a visit and the remains of Santa Omobono, the patron saint of Cremona, lies in the crypt. Don’t leave Cremona without a jar of Mostarda di Cremona, a mustardy syrupy concoction of glacé fruit eaten with cheese and meats, especially the Bollito Misto.