You may wonder – what is the link between Venice and 19th century French music? Of course, French musicians and composers have always been passionate about Venice, but today this extraordinary city also hosts the "Centre for French Romantic Music," in the newly-restored Palazzetto Bru Zane.
The palazzetto is owned and run by The Bru Foundation, which has been involved for a few years in the sectors of research, environment and social work. Amongst other things, the centre organises concerts in Venice, in its fine hall and the world over, through international partnerships. Right from the beginning, it's been quite an adventure.
Michèle Roche, the Secretary General at the "Fondation Bru," explained: "One day I was sent to Venice to find a palazzo. I visited marvellous places: 5,000, 3,000, 1,500 square metres, and then one day I stumbled upon Abbondio Stazio's little cherubim. And then Ricci's frescos: in all we found 4, 5, 6, 7 frescos. Coming to Venice to work here was marvellous – it wasn't like being at work at all!" The centre's main aim is to resurrect long-forgotten scores and musicians of the Romantic movement.
Laurent Martin shares this ambition. This famous pianist has an extensive repertoire of both well-known and somewhat obscure composers. He told us: "The main characteristics of Romantic music… it's a very emotional music, very sensitive. The Romantic movement went to excess; it was imagination and sensitivity taken to the extreme – it's all about strong emotions! In our modern society, which is a bit anonymous and cold, I think there's a place for this rich, emotional music." Presenting a programme of unknown pieces or composers can be a risk, but can also be a winning choice, as the Centre's Scientific Director explains. Alexandre Dratwicki, the Scientific Director at the "Palazzetto Bru Zane," explained: "When we decided to devote a whole festival to "Romantic" piano pieces, our first priority was not to frighten the public. But we were a bit scary because the festival included quite a few works by completely forgotten composers. But the concerts we thought would be most popular attracted the fewest people, and the things we thought would be frightening sold out and we had to turn people away from the door. I believe that if you want to forge your own 'trade mark' – this is my personal opinion here – well you have to rediscover things and frighten people."
Julie Friez, second violin of the Satie Quartet, has faith in all the arts. She said: "Art has an important role to play, it's not just a pleasure, I think that it has meaning; and it should help us to live better lives. You don't need to be an artist. I think that going to a concert, a museum, or the cinema, allows us to see life in a different way, a way which is to my mind, richer and more interesting than without all that." The music you hear throughout this edition of Musica is the First and Second movement of the Piano Quintet in E-flat Minor, Op. 1 by Alexis de Castillon (1838-1873), performed by pianist Laurent Martin and the 'Quatuor Satie'.