The second edition of the Varignana Music Festival has just closed to great public acclaim: 10 concerts over 9 days. There were recitals, ‘conversational-concerts’, and carte blanche performances – real portraits of the artists who from 10th to 18th July made the Palazzo di Varignana Resort & SPA and its 20-hectare park just outside Bologna a truly special venue.
Conceived and directed by Fondazione Musica Insieme Director, Bruno Borsari, the Festival brought to the Varignana stage major figures on the classical music scene. People like Mario Brunello, Alexander Romanovsky, Ezio Bosso, Christine Walewska and Itamar Golan. The impressive line-up and excellent musical programme has made the Varignana Music Festival the only international show of its kind in the metropolitan area of Bologna.
Mario Brunello was given carte blanche with four music-filled events held in the first days of the Festival – from 10th to 12th July. Recently back from a long tour of China and Japan with the Accademia Santa Cecilia conducted by Antonio Pappano, Mario Brunello, the first Italian to win Moscow’s “Čajkovskij” award, has performed with conductors of the calibre of Gergiev, Temirkanov, Jurowski and Abbado. For ten years he has also thrown himself into a series of alternative projects with people like Marco Paolini, Uri Caine, Paolo Fresu, Stefano Benni and Moni Ovadia. This same curiosity and delight in ‘contamination’ led him to open the Festival with Alexander Romanovsky, a partnership expressly formed for the inaugural concert, which regaled the audience with the heart-rending notes of Lekeu and Rachmaninov. The following day Brunello performed in the beautiful setting of the Church of San Lorenzo di Varignana, an extraordinary example of early Romanesque architecture whose crypt dates back to the 9th century. There he gave one of his most inspired interpretations of Bach’s cello Suite No. 3. He was then joined by the strings of the Quartetto Lyskamm to perform Schubert’s masterpiece, the Cello Quintet. Brunello, who has captured the hearts of thousands – from the peaks of the Dolomites in northern Italy to his experimental centre “Antiruggine”, a renovated factory shed now a venue for meetings and concerts – concluded his portrait-of-an-artist marathon with two Sunday shows. The first, an original ‘conversational-concert’ with Gustavo Zagrebelsky, the Italian legal expert and former Chairman of Italy’s Constitutional Court, in a free flowing discussion of two ‘revered texts’: a Schubert sonata and the Italian Constitution. The second, a final recital before a packed house. The audience was enraptured by the powerful performance and enthralled by the conversation between Brunello and composer-pianist Ezio Bosso, author of well-know pieces and sound tracks for films like Io non ho paura and Il ragazzo invisibile by Italian director Salvatores. The concert also included a piece - Following (a bird) – composed especially for Varignana. Bosso invited the visibly moved audience to “learn to let go every now and again, and just go with the flow…”.
Another special guest for two Brahms-centred recitals on 13th and 17th July was German violinist Linus Roth, one of the most interesting musicians of his generation who performs with the likes of Gautier Capuçon, Jan Vogler and Kim Kashkashian. His first time on the Bologna stage, Linus Roth, played his Stradivari “Dancla” of 1703 accompanied by Itamar Golan, the pianist who for more than twenty years has been the acclaimed accompanist of soloists like Maisky, Mintz, Repin and Vengerov. Golan also appeared in a piano duet on 14th July with Japanese pianist Natsuko Inoue. The couple created a perfect musical salon atmosphere, playing unforgettable melodies like Schubert’s Fantasy and the popular rhythms of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances.
The renown enjoyed by the Varignana Music Festival was reconfirmed in this second edition by the presence of the internationally acclaimed pianist Alexander Romanovsky, winner of the 2001 “Busoni” Award and today performing with major orchestras like the Royal Philharmonic, Filarmonica del Teatro alla Scala, and recently with the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia conducted by Pappano and the Mariinskij Orchestra conducted by Gergiev. As well as performing with Mario Brunello, Romanovsky held a solo recital on 15th July,playing all time favourites by Beethoven and Chopin to a delighted audience. On 16th July his recital with American cellist Christine Walewska was sold out. Walewska is an extraordinary artist, admired by the greats of the 20th century. Arthur Rubinstein, for example, said of her: “She has the most sensuous tone I have ever heard on the cello… She is the only cellist who takes my breath away”. Their programme too was vibrant with emotion, ranging from Bach to the Argentinian dances of Piazzolla, Bragato and Bolognini, the great composer and player who decreed Walewska the only cellist authorized to execute his work. Accordingly, her performance was truly moving.
The last concert of the Festival, on 18th July, aptly brought together for a choral finale some of the protagonists of this 2015 edition. The musicians made up an ideal 19th century ‘Academy’, performing an anthology of masterpieces ranging from Bach and Pergolesi to Ravel and Chopin. The audience was treated to a series of self-portraits in music by Romanovsky, Walewska, Roth and Golan. A true musical feast and fitting conclusion to the festival, leaving the audience in expectation of the 3rd edition.