A conversation with Solenne Païdassi
I’m still coming down from the summer– Schoenberg, Shostakovich, “The Jury,” everything and everyone who turned up
After traveling through Belgium, Holland, Germany, and Switzerland, we finally crossed the Alps into Italy, where one encounters a very specific type of achingly-beautiful.
It is not like there aren’t many breathtakingly beautiful spots on earth but the relationship of man to nature feels different in Italy from other places. Thousand-year-old hill towns give the impression they sprang up organically from the soil – closer to the insect towers of Africa than modern cities of steel and glass. It isn't always clear where man starts and nature ends.
We slid down through the Alps into Italy for lunch in Bergamo, and then to Cremona for another recital. Eliana performed at the Accademia Cremonensis, the violin making school in Cremona, home to Stradivarius and Guarneri Del Gesu, the greatest violin makers of all time. After the concert we were given a personal tour of the workshops by its charismatic director, Giovanni Colonna.
The next day we drove to Milan where Eliana gave a lecture on life as a young musician, followed by a recital for artist management majors at Bocconi University.
A concert in Rome was cancelled last minute so we broke up the trip down to Naples with lunch in San Gimignano, the famous medieval city of towers.
As we worked our way south for the last concert (Eliana and I also taught a chamber music master class for local students), we stopped overnight in the breathtaking ancient town of Civita di Bagnoregio, perched precariously on a small mountain.
At last we found ourselves in Naples, a city which gives new meaning to the word “chaos." Naples feels like an immense hive: Vespas fly through crowds, locals are everywhere moving industriously, cars park on the sidewalk every which way, and there are huge crowds out late at night partying and eating. For all the unemployment and desperation in Southern Italy, the city has an infectious energy and is teeming with life. And the food ain’t so bad, either.
Eliana’s concerts completed, we had a leisurely drive up to Rome. En route we visited the Abbey of Monte Cassino, rebuilt after being destroyed in the Battle of Cassino in 1944 (75,000 casualties). Despite a family history of military service – my father (Army), both uncles (Army and Air Force), and grandfathers (US Army Air Force and Chinese Army Medical Corps in WWII) –, I’d never been to a military cemetery before. Seeing thousands of graves of young men was deeply sobering and incredibly sad.
With a morning flight home, we stayed close to Fiumicino airport in Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s medieval summer residence.
A record of the journey would be incomplete without mentioning our intrepid pianist, Simon Lane, who travelled separately from England on his motorcycle.
After 1,800 miles of driving and two months away (including other traveling before the European tour), it was time to come home.
David Yang, Artistic Director