What do you think of when someone mentions Switzerland? Bankers?
Scenic beauty? Roger Federer? Skiing? Maybe all of those. However,
I guess you will not think of it as the most linguistically
and culturally diverse western European nation. Switzerland’s
diversity derives from its history, having existed as the world’s
oldest democracy for some seven hundred years. After internal
religious conflict, the Congress of Vienna guaranteed its independence
and neutrality in 1815. A new federal state of Cantons was formed
in 1848 with Bern as the capital. The Cantons reflect the country’s
cultural and linguistic diversity. Sharing borders with France,
Germany and Italy these are the appropriate languages of the
population who usually speak at least two along with English.
The diversity of the geographical locations also influences
the artistic and cultural milieu.
The contents of the DVD are concentrated in only two Chapters.
These are focused wholly on the Museo Vela at Lignornetto in
the Swiss-Italian canton of Ticino. The galleries have remarkable
collections of the works of the Vela family, the sculptors Vincenzo
(1820-1891), his elder brother Lorenzo (1812-1897), and his
son Spartaco. The principal part of the collection includes
the works in gesso, a soft material, of Vincenzo’s figures
later reworked in stone. The Museo Vela houses the largest such
exhibition in the world with some spectacular carvings such
as Christ’s head in a crown of thorns and a funerary monument
of an Angel and Child. Vincenzo’s works show his political
affiliations with a statue of Count Cavour, the father of Italian
independence and its first Prime Minister alongside Garibaldi
and Victor Emanuelle II. There is also his model of Napoleon
as he lies near to death. There are many views of the various
galleries and the exterior of the house. The film ends with
the sun setting over the surrounding countryside. Vicenzo rebuilt
the magnificent house between 1862 and 1865. In accordance with
the family’s wishes Spartaco bequeathed it and the contents
to the nation.
Chopin composed most of the music. It dates from the start of
his liaison with the French novelist George Sand. Of the Preludes
Opp. 28 and 45 those included here are the most recognisable.
Attempts are made to match the music to the tone of the sculptures
and paintings. Irina Zaritzkaya plays with a nice balance of
virtuosity and feel for the different moods. The recordings
are well balanced and tonally full. The Variations brillantes
accompany the opening Chapter, the music based on a melody from
an opera by Hérold and Halévy.
Robert J Farr
I see with pleasure that Robert J. Farr reviews the latest
of my Video disc release on the Naxos Musical Journey series
(SWITZERLAND) of which I am the scriptwriter and director. Many
years ago, I have created quite a few of those, in fact, the
product is my invention, it was I to be able to convince Klaus
Heymann to start such a product, in order to appetise more people
to classical music.
Robert Farr does not mention the cameraman’s and my own
name (seen in the credits). In reviews, generally, at least
film directors and script writers deserve that!