A Naxos Musical Journey – Switzerland - Visiting the Museo Vela at Ligornetto
to music by Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Variations brillantes, op. 12 (1833)
Preludes Op 28 nos. 1 to 24 and Prelude in C sharp minor Op. 45 (1838-39)
Irina Zaritzkaya (piano)
dts surround sound
NAXOS DVD 2.110538 [58:35]
The Naxos ‘Musical Journeys’ DVDs have in my experience been a somewhat mixed bag. The visuals for some have been ravishing; others have disappointed greatly. This new DVD, labelled ‘Switzerland’ could at a first cursory glance be quite misleading. You have to look a bit closer at the smaller type below the big ‘SWITZERLAND’ to discover that this DVD will not present you with lots of lovely pictures of the Swiss mountains, Alpine meadows and towns with ‘cuckoo-clock’ shops. Instead we have a programme devoted entirely to the Museo Vela at Ligornetto.
The Museo Vela is located in the Swiss-Italian canton of Ticino. On visiting the Museum’s web presence one discovers that it is located at the foot of Monte San Giorgio (a UNESCO World Heritage site) just 500 metres from the Italian border. It was conceived by the realist sculptor Vincenzo Vela from Ticino (1820-91) at the height of his career. Sculptures by Vincenzo and some by his elder brother Lorenzo (1812-97) are displayed. In addition to monumental plaster casts, the museum also includes nineteenth-century Lombard and Piedmontese paintings and hundreds of autograph drawings plus one of the earliest private collections of photographs in Switzerland. The sculptures are worked in gesso (gypsum). Many are quite enchanting: a little girl with a pet monkey and another girl giving a titbit to her dog, for instance, then there are impressive tableaux like that of workmen carrying a worker killed in the construction of the St Gothard railway. We are reminded of the era in which the sculptors worked when we see heroes of the Italian Unification – Count Cavour, Garibaldi and King Vittorio Emanuele II. The faces are all wonderfully expressive and the skill in rendering of veins, muscles and fabric folds consistently impresses.
The programme is divided into two unequal chapters. The first, and much shorter chapter, takes us through the grounds of the Museum lingering over dappled-sunlit streams and trees, the gate opening invitingly to summon us in; all to Chopin’s Variations Brilliantes). It has suitably rippling arpeggios plus a theme from Halévy’s opera, Ludovic. The much longer Chapter II is devoted to the exhibits inside the museum. The 24 Preludes plus that famous one in C sharp minor are chosen adroitly to fit the moods of the sculptures; melancholy for a death scene and lighter more sprightly material as appropriate.
All the piano music is played by creditably by Irina Zaritzkaya. It can be heard on Naxos 8.550225.
Not a majestic tourist tour of Switzerland but a commendable exploration of some remarkable art that deserves greater general recognition.
Ian Lace

see also review by Robert J Farr

Not a majestic tourist tour of Switzerland but a commendable exploration of some remarkable art that deserves greater general recognition.