Take one of the most picturesque borghi (little towns) in our part of the world, invite eight highly-talented young violoncellists, three world-class violoncellists to teach them and a brilliant pianist to accompany them on a six-day summer ‘cello course and the result (quite apart from the added experience gained by all concerned), is a wonderful concert for locals and not-so locals given, yesterday evening, in Tereglio’s beautiful church (which among other treasures boasts a magnificent crucifix by the thirteenth-century artist Berlinghieri, an outstanding coffered ceiling, and warm acoustics so suitable for the gorgeous glow of the violoncelli being played).
The teachers were Raphael Wallfisch, Sebastian Comberti and Selma Gokcen (who also taught the Alexander technique on the course), the pianist was Jennie-Helen Mosten and the students came from Europe and the Far East including Norway, Finland, the UK and Japan.
The course itself consisted of the following items:
• Mainstream Concerto Repertoire (RW)
• Bach Suites – a modern approach to historical awareness (SC)
• Italian Sonatas
• Cello Ensemble (duos, trios and quartets)
• Alexander technique – an introduction, and individual lessons (SG)
• Approaches to auditions
The concert showed what the students had garnered from these areas on their course to perfection. The items played included a fiendishly difficult Haydn concerto, Bach suites, a Boccherini duo sonata, and Piazzolla. In the absence of a programme I can’t remember all the names of the pieces but they aptly displayed the versatility of each student to a stratospheric level. Here is part of that Boccherini, an almost local boy as he was born in Lucca not thirty miles away.
And here’s one of those Bach cello suite preludes played by Selma Gokcen:
There was a particular emphasis on period interpretation on the course and this was evident in the ornamentation and bow technique the students brought to their pieces. It was also interesting to see how many students had adopted Wallfisch’s longer ‘cello tail-pin and how many had not.
Raphael Wallfisch and Sebastian Comberti entertained both themselves and us immensely by playing a delicious serenade by Alfredo Piatti one of the greatest cello virtuosos in the nineteenth century and a favourite of the Empress of India herself.
Another fun item was when Comberti began what seemed to be a Bach prelude and Wallfisch came in with the Swan from Saint-Saens Carnival of the animals – an ingenious quotlibet combination, even better than Gounod’s Ave Maria meditation (or massacre, if you prefer) on another Bach prelude.
The evening concluded with some wonderfully sonorous pieces where all celli played together in a golden light stirring the warmest emotions.
As Comberti pointed out, no less than five preludes were played that memorable evening – surely a harbinger of more courses to come to Tereglio. He need not have worried about the cake a local lady left them – it was certainly not a poisoned one but an assurance that the whole event was welcomed by the villagers and a clear invitation to return next year.
I have previously said that many ideas for courses have been brought to our area by idealistic and enthusiastic ”stranieri”. Most of them are never realised but those that are can bring new life and joy to this region. I am convinced that the violoncello summer school is one of these and look very much forwards to next year’s concert in Tereglio. In a scooter journey to the borgo, where I was drenched in the first storm we’ve had for weeks, the evening concluded with sunshine and great hope for the future.