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Italian Sunshine: Themes and variations

9 May 2018: Forum Theatre, Malvern Theatres

  • Gioachino Rossini – Overture, ‘Italian Girl in Algiers’
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Piano Concerto no21 in C major, K467
  • Felix Mendelssohn – Symphony no4 ‘Italian’ in A major, op90

Sitting down to write this on the first steadfastly sunny day of Spring, just over a month ago, the blue sky seen through my window – punctuated with only the occasional faint ellipsis of cloud – proved too much of a temptation: and I ventured outside, leaving my labour behind. There, I soon discovered that Winter was still making itself all too present: with its icy winds nibbling at my face and fingers, and the sodden turf beneath my feet oozing with the evidence of March’s heavy downpours. The sap was rising, though (even if the mercury wasn’t): the hellebores, daffodils and hyacinths were in full flower; our oak tree laden with buds; the jackdaws cautiously collecting its discarded twigs to reinforce their distant nests; the blackbirds, robins and finches singing heartily. The only music which came to my mind, though, was Vaughan Williams’ Sinfonia antartica.

Back at my desk, I heard the central heating – the thermostat having been tickled by those brumal breezes – clear its lungs, and creak into action (like myself) once more. What was needed, of course – to truly fulfil the new season’s potential (and to thaw out my nose) – was such warmth. Not artificially generated though; but that which naturally coexists with the azure above and below the Mediterranean horizon; that which is embedded in that region’s winds – the zephyr, sirocco, and fittingly-styled maestro – that which bursts forth from tonight’s balmy programme!

Thus we have a concert not only of “sunshine” (Italian, certainly; but with a gentle touch of the Viennese, by way of Sweden) – but also wit (combined with subtle feminism); beauty (paired with virtuosity); and radiant joy (contrasted with brief stateliness). Oh, and youth! (Although how many concerts have you been to where Mozart is the senior composer – at the grand old age of twenty-nine?!)

As Mendelssohn (twenty-four, when tonight’s symphony was first performed) once wrote:

This is Italy! And now has begun what I have always thought… to be the supreme joy in life. And I am loving it. Today was so rich that now, in the evening, I must collect myself a little….

Even if the weather outside is frightful, I guarantee you will leave the theatre fully prepared for its onslaught: with a smile on your face; a tune (or two) on your lips; and warm sunlight in your heart.

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