A Musical Journey - Italy: A Musical visit to the lagoons and islands of Venice
Chapter 1: Lagoons
Chapter 2: Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. Torcello.
Chapters 3 and 6: Lagoon and Torcello
Chapter 4: Burano
Chapter 5: Murano
The music accompaniment is Vivaldi’s L’Estro Armonico, Op. 3 Nos. 1, 2, 4, 7, 8 and 10
Capella Istropolitana/Josef Kopelman from Naxos CD 8.550160
No recording dates or venues given
DVD Director, G Gachot
Cameraman H.T. Aschwanden
Audio Format, DTS 5.1. Dolby Digital 5.1. PCM Stereo 2.0
Video Format, NTSC. Colour. Aspect ratio 4:3
NAXOS DVD 2.110306 [57.02]

Of all the tourist traps I have managed to visit, from China’s Great Wall to Paris via Granada, Rome, Florence and many other venues, Venice is the one that really blew me away. As one of the great Italian city-states of the medieval period it could be said to vie with Florence as a major centre of art and culture in the Renaissance with affluent families supporting the arts as well as wars. Now capital of the Veneto region, it is located at the very head of the Adriatic 4 km from the mainland of Italy to which it is joined by a causeway. It comprises more than one hundred small islands traversed by canals, there is no road traffic. Between the city and the Adriatic are the lagoons, expanses of water sheltered from the open sea by sandbanks and by the longer island of the Lido, the beach resort of the city. The lagoons are divided into Laguna Viva and Laguna Morta, alive and dead, the latter only underwater during spring high tides.
In the Venice lagoons are found several of the major islands included in this musical journey. The start is in the city itself with views of the Grand Canal at dusk and then seen as a boat looks back at the mighty Campanile of St. Marks. On the island of San Michele is the earliest Renaissance church of Venice, dating from the 15th century. This is the cemetery island where the city buried their dead. For some time demand has exceeded supply of space, and bones are removed. Despite this, elegant marble and colourful floral tributes abound with the sight of snow on the ground to remind the viewer that it is cold around here in winter (CH.1). The booklet reminds us that among the more permanent of the graves are those of the great Russian impresario Sergei Diaghilev, the composer Igor Stravinsky and the American poet Ezra Pound.
The music throughout this journey is taken from Vivaldi’s set of twelve concertos known as L'Estro Armonico, first published in 1711. Himself a violinist of ability, his music receives due string sonority and grace of phrasing by the instrumentalists of Capella Istropolitana under Josef Kopelman. There are serious attempts to match changes of tempi in the various movements to change of venue.
After the cemetery island the journey continues to the still canal waters of Torcello and the Cathedral Santa Maria Assunta (CH.2). Its elegant interior houses a timeless mosaic of Madonna and Child and also an extensive Last Judgement, both from the late twelfth century but having received restoration. The early twelfth century Church of Santa Fosca is only interesting as regards its octagonal shape
The island of Burano (CH.4), the home of the composer Galuppi, has a certain timelessness too, with its visually dated shops, colourful fishing boats and lace-making. However it is the visit to the glass-making factory on Murano, for which the island is famous, that will draw the eye and the stirrings of covetousness (CH.5). To see the production of such things of beauty and intricacy is a delight; to be able to afford to buy one, or even a few of them to adorn one's home would be pleasant indeed.
The journey concludes (CH.6) with a return to Venice itself, past the Arsenal (built 1104) and a brief view of the Academia Bridge and the backwater canals and warehouses. Venice is now a city of industry as well as Grand Palaces such as that of Francesco Da Mosta whose series of programmes for the BBC is now available on DVD (BBCDVD2145). The programmes may lack music, but make up for it in informed narrative and superb photography. The latter is normally a strength of this series but, made in winter as indicated by the snow scenes and leafless trees, a little too much depends on the atmosphere of half-light and that of the lagoon directional buoys.
Robert J Farr

There is more to Venice than St. Marks, as a trip to some of the islands will confirm, particularly in the case of Murano and its glass-making.