Alfonso Alberti celebrations- The shadow of Dante in the magic garden of Ninfa

This is the third time that Alfonso Alberti has shared his searing intellectual curiosity and masterly playing with a public that had taken life into their hands ( with a little help from google maps ) to find the well hidden magic realm of Ninfa.

A mediaeval city that was the toll cross roads from one region to another to avoid the plague and other mishaps.It fell into ruin for a long and difficult conflict and remained in ruins around the saving lymph of constant water from the fast flowing river Ninfa.It took Lelia Caetani ,the last of the noble dynasty,to turn it into a fairy tale garden of pure magic.Much as Susana Walton had done many years later at La Mortella on Ischia.

Infact Sir William often used to stop over in Ninfa to compare notes!It took the American wives of the two composers to turn history into a fairy tale dream………a New World indeed.Sir William Walton is now well known and his home on Ischia has been transformed into a foundation to help young musicians delve deep into the mysterious world of music ‘far from the maddening crowd’.Sermoneta that overlooks Ninfa – it’s backyard you might say- has been doing that since Menuhin and Szigeti were invited by the Caetani/Howard family to use the castle and grounds to share their knowledge with the next generation.

Autobiography of the late Riccardo Cerocchi founder of the Campus Musicale in Latina

Something that continues to this day with the Campus Musicale created in the 70’s by an enlightened architect from Latina,Riccardo Cerocchi

Elisa Cerocchi with Alfonso Alberti

His daughter Elisa Cerocchi is valiantly keeping the flame ignited,with not a little help from Tiziana Cherubini and her sons.And it was they that had managed to fill the concert last night on a balmy Saturday night where the unenlightened had mostly spent a glorious summer day at the nearby seaside of Circeo.

Goffredo Petrassi embracing Mount Circeo in the garden of Ileana Ghione,who took the photo.

The first President of the Campus was the composer Goffredo Petrassi whose precious scores are now kept in the Campus archive.The new honorary president is another distinguished composer Luis de Pablo whose reduction of Ravel’s piano work Valses Nobles for string quartet will receive it’s world premiere,in it’s complete form,tonight in the Castle grounds of Sermoneta.

A fascinating journey devised by Alfonso Alberti for the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante Alighieri and the 150th of the birth of Roffredo Caetani.As Alfonso so eloquently explained many musicians have been inspired by the great poet not least Liszt,who often frequented Ninfa- where his piano is housed to this day.He would come to give lessons to his godson Roffredo Caetani (1871-1961) a gifted composers who’s works are housed in the Caetani Foundation archives.Liszt reflected on the ‘Divina Commedia’which inspired amongst other things his Dante Symphony and his fantasia quasi sonata ‘Après une lecture de Dante’.Works that confront passion ,damnation and salvation even though the later much underlined in crucial moments needs to be questioned and clarified!Liszt’s religious beliefs are certainly not necessarily always serene!Francesca da Rimini by Tchaikowsky in this elaboration by a pupil of Liszt, Karl Klindworth, there is no doubt that it was inspired by the 5th canto ,‘Inferno’ and amongst the numerous sinners emerge the lovers Paolo and Francesca.Verdi was added by Alfonso in his own piano reduction especially made for tonight’s concert.From Paradiso the 33rd canto with the ecstatic words of San Bernardo ‘Laudi alla Vergine Maria’ which in the original are scored for female voices and are from Verdi’s 4 Sacred Pieces.Ingenius too was how Alfonso had found in the Caetani archive a piece with the title :La commedia di un musicista,’Il viaggio immaginario’.He related it to the fact that the Pope Bonifacio VIII was a Caetani and was in Dante’s’Inferno’ and now ironically the last Caetani duke takes up the journey as he too becomes part of the story.As if not enough a Prelude by the elusive figure Alkan (one of his set of 25 !!) which Alfonso has always played as an encore here as it is well suited to this very particular atmosphere (no doubt tongue in cheek too )op 31 n.8 ‘Le chanson de la folle au bord de la mer’!

Some fine totally assured playing from this eclectic artist.The all intrusive I pad nowhere to be seen.This was an artist who had delved deep into the meaning not only of each individual piece but also the overall picture and had the music deep inside him ready to be shared with his very attentive audience.

Interesting family tree of the last of the Caetani’s.Showing Lelia,the daughter of Roffredo as the last of the Caetani’s married to the noble Hubert Howard they did not have children.

Roffredo Caetani does not seem to belong to any school as I was trying to place it as the music evolved in a magisterial performance of gripping intensity and conviction.Could it be that it is a music well crafted but from a craftsman with little to say.Food for thought and I will seek out the recordings that Roberto Prosseda,a local boy made good,has made here in Ninfa on Liszt’s own piano.Roberto Prosseda born in nearby Latina is very much a product of the great musicians invited every year to Sermoneta and was for a brief period artistic director with Fabrizio von Arx before both their distinguished careers took them to different parts of the globe.

The Liszt ‘Dante’ Sonata was given a very assured performance although professional care occasionally took over from the passionate funabulistic outbursts that Liszt demands in this piece written at the height of his fame as a virtuoso.The Dante Sonata was originally a small piece entitled Fragment after Dante, consisting of two thematically related movements , which Liszt composed in the late 1830s.He gave the first public performance in Vienna, during November 1839 but when he settled in Weimar in 1849, he revised the work along with others in the volume, and gave it its present title derived from Victor Hugo’s own work of the same name and it was published in 1856 as part of Années de pèlerinage.

The music box creating the atmosphere for ‘Paradiso’

There was indeed a beautiful stillness to the Verdi ‘Laudi alla Vergine Maria’ even incorporating a hand wound music box to create the atmosphere which was one of purity and serenity played with a disarming simplicity in his own elaboration.

The Francesca da Rimini was a tour de force of memory and transcendental piano playing.I found it hard to follow the musical line which I put down to the transcription of Klindworth who was better known as a music publisher than pianist or composer.As Alfonso added ,with a twinkle in his eye, no doubt he had his eye on revenues from a transcription for piano of this popular overture!

A fascinating evening …Food for thought indeed whilst all those after the beach were stuffing themselves with food for their already overfull stomachs,the magnificent Pontine Festival had once again provided nutriment for the soul !Long may it prosper.


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