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News 2013 


Music@ Felcino Bianco's ninth season came very close to not happening. On the local front we were faced with anxiety as to funding support from all three local Comune with whom we worked in 2012. This was almost entirely due to the parlous state of Italy's national finances which came to mean that local government had no idea as to what money they would have to spend and therefore could not write budgets. It was to take an article of faith from them all as to how to support us. In turn we pared our expenses to the bone in the hope that they would still be able to help us with piano hire and local PR. Ultimately this was to prove positive and we would request to perform in the Castello Bufalini in San Giustino, in the Bibliotheca Comunale in Sansepolcro and in the Sala degli Ammassi in Citerna. In the event our offer to perform also in the Sanctuario di Santa Maria Petriolo in Fighille was gratefully accepted since that very weekend was the 100th anniversary of the founding of the church.

We had been confident of support from Moscow not least because of our successful collaboration over the past two years with Vladimir Spivakov's International Charity Foundation. This year Spivakov would send us two students and two other young talents would be funded privately. Thus we would have a pianist, two violists and a cellist from Moscow together with one of our regulars, Callum Hopkins, a young cellist now studying at Oxford University. Then chance intervened, in the shape of an introduction by a good friend to the artistic director of a musical group in Florence - AGIMUS Firenze. Luca Provenzani came to meet with us, listened to our proposals and offered us an attractive exchange, a strings prize-winner from his festival and competition Increscendo which took place in May 2013 in return for a concert which we would perform in Florence. Kanako Okubo turned out to be a first-rate young violinist studying in Perugia with an old friend Paolo Francheschini, professor at the Conservatorio in Perugia. With a view to having Kanako join the Masterclass for more than just one concert we spoke with Paolo. He was more than happy to recommend to Kanako that she spend as much time as she could with us and this she agreed to do. In addition, our "faithful" clarinettist from Manhattan would be joining us - Joseph Rosen.

This year's repertoire would be built around four major components, namely Mozart's Trio "Kegelstatt", von Weber's Clarinet quintet (which we performed last year but wanted to have a second go at), Cesar Franck's Piano Quintet and a piano performance by Dmitry Shishkin coming from Moscow. We had already agreed that Kanako would play Bach's Chaconne from the Partita No. 2 in E minor and Ysaye's Sonata Ballade No. 3 and so the plan was to invite the remaing guests to choose their own solo pieces with Dmitry Sh available to accompany them as needed. Gradually, in discussion with them Elvira was able to plan the first four concerts in some detail. I will not repeat the programme in its entirety since it can now be found in detail on the Masterclass of Music Citerna page of this website. What remained was the all-important Cafe de Boheme, very much one of our trade-mark events. We had decided to do a "British" event this year and given our liking for the literary, cultural and musical output of the late 19th- and early 20th-century we researched the poetry, history and the music of the Pre-Raphaelite era and the first World War. Elgar, Walton and Rebecca Clarke would form the core of our Finale concert. Michael would read and recite the historical items and the poetry, while Luisa and Luciano of La Civette restaurant in the walls of Citerna would create in consultation with Elvira suitable "gastronomia" to accompany the event - English beer could even be provided for the table!

The inaugural concert, performed in the courtyard of the Castello Bufalini proved testament to Elvira's planning. The Kegelstatt trio was admirably performed by Joseph, together with the highly talented Dmitry Plusnin, 23 year-old violist, and Dmitry Shishkin, 22 year-old pianist, both at the Moscow Conservatoire. Noemi Celestini, violinist whose family are local people, Kamila Bikkulova, violist and first-year Conservatoire, Callum Hopkins, cellist from Britain, Iskander Khannanov, cellist at the Moscow Central School of Music, Dmitry Plusnin and Kanako Okubo provided an excellent start with solo or accompanied pieces. This early evening concert was much appreciated and allowed us to enjoy local pizza picked up on the way home.

The second concert performed the next evening allowed us to enjoy the excellent acoustics of San Petriolo as well as the undoubted contentment of our good friend and ally Mayor Giuliana Falaschi as well as priest Don Paolo on this important anniversary of the founding of the church. We began with a Bach first half, viola then cello and finishing with the great Chaconne from the Partita No. 2 played so well by Kanako. After the interval Dmitry P gave an excellent performance of the last three movements of Hindemith's Sonata No. 1, Op. 25 for solo viola leading into Carl Maria von Weber's Clarinet Quintet with Elvira and Kanako as 1st and 2nd violins, viola Dmitry P and cello Callum with Joseph again on clarinet. This second bite at the cherry allowed them to give a really good account of this challenging and exciting piece.

And so to our first performance in Florence and our first collaboration with AGIMUS Firenze. This entailed our driving from FB up the A1 autostrada round Florence to Firenze Nord complete with performers, instruments, music and music stands and recording equipment. Thank heaven Giulia from AGIMUS was there to guide us into this northern suburb and beautiful old church and gardens, San Michele in Castello, Firenze. Dress rehearsal done, we were ready. Franck's magnificent and dramatic Piano Quintet was to be the showpiece of this concert and a measure of how Elvira's planning of the preparation would be viewed. The young people simply did not put a foot wrong - the solo and accompanied pieces were outstanding and an excellent audience responded accordingly. And so to the Franck. This is a tremendous piece to perform in a completely new (to us) venue and hugely enjoyable when played well. What can I say - the audience stood to applaud and Luca Provenzani, himself an able cellist was delighted with what we had brought to his concert hall. The journey home was long and arduous in the dark, but Luca had provided something to eat and even by 2.00 in the morning we were still in good shape. A great evening!

The peultimate concert was given in the Palazzo Ducci dei Rossi, a splendid 16th century palace in Sansepolcro, now the Comunal Library. This concert was designed to give our guests the opportunity to demonstrate their virtuosity and their talents, and so they did. The first half was devoted to solo and accompanied pieces finishing with Dmitry Plusnin's accomplished performance of Hindemith's Sonata Fantasia Op. 11, No. 4. This left a delighted audience to enjoy Dmitry Shishkin's uninhibited second half performance of pieces that he had also been working on for this year's Feruccio Busoni competition in Bolzano scheduled in August. These two Dmitrys are truly a talent to watch for in the future.

We spoke earlier of our preparations for a "British" Finale, an evening of music, poetry, history and gastronomy in Citerna. Perhaps you might have thought after the preceding Italian, Russian and French themes in previous years, what would the British be doing in Italy 2013. I will tell you! Luisa and Luciano opened the evening with aperitivi and starters and we then invited the audience to hear the first part of the event: the first movement of Walton's concerto for Viola after Michael's biographical introduction; the introduction to the first movement of Rebecca Clarke's Piano Trio which touched on the effect that WW1 had on her and the recital of Wilfred Owen's "Anthem for Doomed Youth". The audience retired to enjoy "I Piatti" - the main courses, Coronation Chicken, Fish Pie and spicy Lamb Kebab. We had quite a job to get them back into the concert hall! Before desert and digestivi there followed a musical feast. Elgar, Elgar and more Elgar. First Elvira played Salut d'Amour, then in quartet Chanson de Matin, and again the quartet with Nimrod from Elgar's Enigma Variations. The history of the Enigma Variations was never divulged by Elgar but Nimrod was associated with his friend Jaeger (German for "hunter"). In describing the events of the times Michael harked back to the history of Josephus and the building of the Tower of Babel - the Hebrew word for "Confusion". On to The Dream of Gerontius and Newman's verse for the Angel's Farewell followed by a quartet arrangement of Elgar's piece. Dmitry P followed with a performance of Sursum Corda and Michael with "Adieu " by Dante Gabriel Rosetti continued to introduce the last night at the Proms - March No 1 from Pomp and Circumstance including "Land of Hope and Glory" - which the audience were informed that they were to sing. And they DID!!!

On this evening of 20th July 2013 the British Empire was alive and well in Citerna, Umbria in Italy. It was outstanding!


P.S. We saw from the Internet that Dmitry Shishkin had performed well during the early rounds of the Ferruccio Busoni Piano competition in August in Bolzano and had been selected for the final round of 6 performers. With great pleasure we noted that in the final he came 3rd equal with a Japanese competitor. A 1st prize was not awarded. Congratulations, Dmitry!

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