The Trasimeno Music Festival
An Appreciation by Bill Crane, Festival Devotee
Such real things! On a lakeshore in the middle of Italy!
Music, night after night, that so often makes me feel I have finally heard familiar pieces for the first time. Music new to me that makes me wonder why it took me so long finally to hear it. Solos, collaborations, big ensembles – all giving their all to delight us.
That ineffable Italian welcome. The countryside. The lake. Olive trees everywhere. Wonderful Umbrian meals, new friendships so easily made, a growing appreciation of that old cliché, la dolce vita.
In the center of it all: a world-renowned pianist and peerless artist who so suddenly and naturally and easily has become a real friend to each and every festival-goer. Angela Hewitt, whose recordings and live performances have thrilled us for years, now genuinely and intimately receiving 200 friends into her exceptional Italian world and giving us the precious gift of almost unbearably beautiful music in equally enthralling and seductive settings.
Angela herself, playing stunning programs, alone and with others, six of the seven nights of the festival. More than wondering, “How does she do it?” I find myself reflecting, “How can she be so remarkably generous with her art?” Long after many memories fade, I know that I will still have those from certain Festival concerts when the audience, transfixed, seemed to breathe as one, rapt in stunned silence for a moment before bursting into thunderous applause.
We sit one evening in our main concert hall, the 14th Century Castle of the Knights of Malta in Magione. Sight and sound combine into an enrapturing unity as we look up to the star-filled sky from the courtyard of the castle. Bach, Respighi, and Messiaen float up and up into that sky, and take our music-filled hearts with them.
In the Basilica of Saint Peter in Perugia, a great orchestra tunes up to make Mozart dance more magically than ever. Masterpieces of painting by Perugino, Michelangelo and Raphael hang steps away from our seats. In the apse, the “Door of Paradise” looks out to Assisi, not so far away, and to five departments of Italy’s beautiful, expansive lands, looking today still so much like they did to those long-ago painters.
The tiny, horseshoe-shaped, 18th Century theatre in Trevi has us all in compact loggia or in the orchestra seats of the main floor, intimately close to the performers. We ache for this close, personal music to go on and on. In the church of St. Francis nearby, a string quartet reverberates inside its ancient stones. A distinguished actor declaims Petrarch, Eliot, and Wilfred Owen. I know I must go home and read more of them.
In the Great Hall of the University of Perugia, in the midst of the Faculty of Agriculture, great writers have told us of music in their own lives and works, and invited us to bring music even more closely into our own daily routines. I rush afterward to find more of all their books.
And the meals! Gastronomes, poets and travel-guide writers all expound endlessly about the wonders of the Italian way of eating. At Trasimeno, all that is amply fulfilled. Umbrian gastronomic pride brings forth regional dishes of real distinction, served and enjoyed in the company of congenial friends, all looking forward to the astounding music to follow.
It is probably a good thing that the gala dinners happen only three nights in the week! (Were we in the 13th Century cloister for cinghiale on Wednesday? Was the fritto misto on Monday on the terrace at the lakeside castle where Puccini used to orchestrate his scores? Can I get Montefalco wines at my shop back home?)
Perhaps eight or ten times in my life, a musical performance has stopped me short in my tracks, told me that I had to change my life. At least half of those occasions have been at the Trasimeno Music Festival. To name just three: Angela’s debut of Bach’s Art of Fugue and Susan Bullock’s rendition of Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder, both in the castle in Magione, and Mozart’s 21st Piano Concerto in the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, surrounded by all those Giotto frescoes,
This, then, is the real thing – the most wonderful week of music that overwhelms, that makes one rejoice – such great art, shared with such good people. Italy beckons always. The Trasimeno Music Festival makes it the best of the best of the best.
You must come! I hope to see you there.
Bill Crane, Portland OR, February 2018
In celebration of our 2012 return to Trasimeno, I would like to share a poem I wrote after an earlier visit with the Friends of Spivey Hall, Atlanta. The nights in the courtyard of the Castle of the Knights of Malta were unforgettable in themselves, but as a writer I’ve always wanted to get a little something down in words.
The Greek poets and philosophers believed music to be a local expression of the harmony of the universe and sometimes even said that it was the god of love who had created that universe and its harmony to begin with. For me, of course, poetry wants to be right in there with the music.
Jasmine in starry bloom, an occasional twitter from birds among the vines, Angela and all her music friends all caught up in the music of the moment: no wonder time stopped.
Don Russ, Atlanta
THE MUSIC FESTIVALCastello dei Cavalieri di Malta, MagioneThe night itself is music among these stones, a timeless labyrinthback through other nights. No surprisethe stars come outin the twinklings of a jasmine vine,or from among these peaceful leafy wallsa drowsy chirp or two of love'sold perfumed song.Or we as one -- as somehowone across our rows of numbered seats --become love's body strummed,its summers dreamed,some endless loveliness of summernow begun.
How wonderful it was to attend those two splendid performances in Gubbio and Magione. Your first festival was a triumph, and I hope it will continue to flourish. It was an incredible feat to pull off within a few months from idea to realization, and it was done with such polish.Jeffrey Blanchard, RomeThe Trasimeno Music Festival was absolutely brilliant. The music was first class. We sat in the open air courtyard of a medieval castle to hear world class performers. The dinners were either in the castle or on the open air balcony of a ducal palace overlooking a medieval town. The hotel in which we stayed was very good indeed. I can't speak too highly of the whole thing - not to mention the price which was more than reasonable.Peter Underwood, AustraliaCongratulations on a marvellous event. You were sensational and your colleagues were so appropriate . The programme choices were just right. I wanted it to go on and on.Ralph Marson, EnglandWe had a wonderful time in Magione and very much enjoyed the concert. The surroundings were certainly unusually favourable for an outdoor concert with remarkable acoustics for the public.Stephen Lumsden, LondonWhat a remarkable event! It was such a special combination of music, people and setting. I'm already looking forward to next year.Naomi Moskovic, LondonI don't know how many members of the audience really understand what a marathon it is to perform all that repertoire within a week - especially when one considers all the practical and financial management of the festival as well! Yet the memory I am left with is simply of the brilliant characterisation, beauty of sound, and the sensitivity of your playing. And that is how it should be.George Barbour, London (Written to Greencenter)I believe the first Festival Angela Hewitt hosted turned out to be quite successful and we want to give our congratulations on it. And your Package A to go with the Festival was superb and I also want to give our applause to your plan as well as to yourself as an administrator.I, representing all the members of our group from Japan, want to express our gratitude to Ms. Tina Toscano for her wonderful help extended to us during our stay in Perugia. I believe that her reliable performance made our stay much more enjoyable.Mr. Osamu Yoshikawa, Japan Congratulation! All of us believe that your first Trasimeno Music Festival created new mile stone of your life with every success providing happiness and pleasure to all of audience there. Six nights concerts clearly certified all of your aspects and talent as a solo pianist, a concerto pianist & conductor, an accompanist pianist, a chamber music pianist, the dedicated Bach spiritual pianist, an artistic director, a very best dresser pianist, a ballerina on a piano keyboard, a warm heart & thoughtful person to any event. It is an unforgettable night of your solo recital of the Goldberg Variations in the Palazzo Ducale of Gubbio. We, a party of six from Japan, are very proud ourselves to be there not only that we enjoyed your music but also that we found your important long-term friends and devoted staffs there far away from commercialism. We were happy to socialize with them.Kazunori Keith Shibuya, JapanThank you so much for creating the amazing Trasimeno Music Festival! I had a wonderful time - music that felt so powerfully personal, cameraderie among concert goers, truly gala dinners with new friends and the comfortable, exotic setting combined to make me feel part of the festival rather than an observer. I will never forget the feeling of sitting in the cool evening breeze, enjoying wonderful music playing just a few metres away; and being able to glance up at any time to the starry night sky. What an incredible luxury! The Trasimeno Festival was an amazing experience Angela so thanks and congratulations! It still seems impossible to have been in such a beautiful place; able to enjoy boat rides to the villages along the lakeshore, walk among the lines of olive trees or along forest ridges (even meeting a wild goat - it was huge!) and tour lovely hill towns with their casual scatterings of ancient neighborhoods, castles and churches. Possibilities for the daytime tours seemed endless - always more to explore - always more gelato! It all seems a unreal as I look back on it. Cathy Langill, OttawaWe frequently recall with renewed excitement, the continuous thrill of the first annual Trasimeno Music Festival. It was a week of travel, fine dining, socializing and fantastic music in a historic and romantic setting. We thank you for the perfect conditions and setting for such a festival as well as the opportuity to meet such fine people from across the world and to hear the marvelous music from such gifted musicians. Even the ambiance of the Magione Castle when the persistent crickets did not seem to bother the string quartet and the bats flying through the courtyard just added to the mystery. We shall return in 2006 and as often as possible. Ralph and Eileen Scandiffio, OttawaTo hear Angela perform in a concert hall is always wonderful but to hear her in the courtyard of a medieval castle under the stars is a transforming experience. The tour package included trips to delightful Umbrian hill cities and many gourmet meals. The festival was the highlight of our month-long European trip and we plan to attend the next one.Percy and Peggy Eastham, Canada The festival had many unforgettable moments: Being serenaded at dusk by the resident swallows as we entered the courtyard for the concert; their prompt silence when dark fell as if they were telling the audience that if we too kept quiet the program could begin. The magic of the Goldberg Variations presented to an empty space with the audience invisible to one another in the depths of the arcades; one of the blessings of threatening rain. The eclectic audience, from Canada, Britain and Japan all drawn to the festival by the love of Bach, their confidence in Angela's choice of repertory, and their belief that she would enlarge their insight into what she would play.Eleanor Ewing, Guelph, CanadaThe Castle of the Knights of Malta in Magione is the most magical and surprising setting for a unique opportunity to hear music at its very best. Angela Hewitt fills the spectacular candlelit space with the aura and authority it takes, both as a soloist and as a chamber musician along with her friends and fellow performers.A memorable night in Umbria....Pierre-André Podbielski, Milan