I had the pleasure recently of re-visiting ‘La Serenissima’ – Venice – for the first time in many years. Staying in a wonderful bed and breakfast near the Rialto, it was difficult to avoid posters for the frequent (seemingly nightly) concerts of Vivaldi. And so, one evening, I found myself in La Chiesa de San Vidal listening to the Interpreti Veneziani.
It was not difficult to enjoy: a stunning Venetian church, some fine playing by a small group of vibrant string players, and an almost exclusively Vivaldi programme.
One of the things that struck me was just how full was the church. Presumably, this must be the case night after night. Of course, it would be possible to rail against this: the commercialisation of fine music, packaged to furnish the tourist industry. The conversation of two ladies in the row behind me after the final piece tended to suggest a different mindset to mine: ‘I rather enjoyed that – very good value for money, I thought’, ‘Yes: they played a lot of notes’.
Reflecting on the experience, I thought differently. Where else but Venice would you be able to perfom a concert of Vivaldi to a full house, not just as a one-off, but night after night, giorno dopo giorno? This points to some of music’s wonderful truths. In our globalised world, with our homogenous high streets and plagiarised television, music still offers individuality, and away from the synthesized sounds of commercial music, we are the inheritors of so many unique ways in which music has reflected societies and people through the centuries and across the world.
What could be more Venetian than Vivaldi? In this unique place, one of the best ways the tourist can escape the usual perspective of looking at other tourists looking at Venice, is to sit and listen to those sounds that were first heard in that city back in the first half of the 18th century. Those fresh, eager ritornelli, those excited rising sequences, those incisive chords on the harpsichord.
Whether it’s Vivaldi in Venice, or Tango in San Telmo, let us delight in the extraordinary kaleidoscope of unique musical styles – a kaleidoscope that merely reflects the myriad styles of society and types of people that we meet in life. Let us steer away from globalised homogeneity and encourage, through our music, diversity, authenticity and mutual respect and acceptance.