Archive for May, 2009

My Pilgrimage to Italy

I’m just back from two wonderful weeks in Italy. The art treasures were fabulous, the scenery magnificient, the food glorious and the people very friendly and helpful. Musical highlights included a recital by the illustrious Borodin Quartet and pianist Alexei Lubimov, in the gorgeously restored La Fenice opera house in Venice, and an electrifying reading of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, in the church of San Vidal in that same city. I paid homage to Igor Stravinsky by visiting his grave on San Michele Island, in the lagoon of Venice. He chose to be buried there in order to be close to the resting place of his mentor, the legendary Russian ballet impresario, Sergey Diaghilev. San Michele consists only of a vast cemetery, surrounded by high walls of red brick. My biggest act of homage was to visit the island of Ischia in the Gulf of Naples. That’s where the English composer Sir William Walton lived for the final 30 years of his life. He and his Argentine wife, Susana, established a magnificent garden estate, the Giardini La Mortella, which continues to expand and flourish. Its beauty was simply breathtaking. Through my friend Tony Palmer, whose wonderful, award-winning documentary film about Walton had first interested me in visiting La Mortella, I had arranged to meet with Lady Walton. But when the time came, the 82-year-old was simply too tired to do so. But just making the journey to that lovely property, and visiting the rock where Sir William’s ashes are interred, was satisfaction enough for me!