Posts Tagged ‘ronald farren-price’

The Bagni di Lucca Art Festival has brought into our wee beautiful town some of the most amazing international talent that it has seen for many years.  Bagni di Lucca is known for its many famous personages.  It is known for all the incredible writers and musicians and visual artists that have come here through history, seduced by its unspoilt beauty, resting and walking in the deep greens and aquas of the verdant mountains rolling over each other, mystical visions of villages perching on the hilly spines,  torrents racing coldly through ravines and crevices emerging into still ponds where children play, leaping onwards and down into the river Lima, through the great devil’s bridge of Ponte di Maddalena and into the Serchio before reaching Lucca.

The Bagni di Lucca Art Festival has brought together today’s wonderful artists.  A couple of weeks ago we had two concerts in consecutive nights in the old casino in Ponte a Serraglio.  Both concerts blew us away.  The first concert was by Ronald Farren-Price playing piano.

Ronald Farren-Price at the Bagni di Lucca Casino
Ronald Farren-Price at the Bagni di Lucca Casino

Ronald Farren-Price, a virtuoso and one of Australia’s foremost concert pianists, now retired from concert life at eighty something, is an inspiration of daunting precocity.  An artist of meticulous self discipline, he has practiced every day for 78 years and sometimes on programs he will never play professionally.

“When students ask me why I’m working on a big program that I may never even perform, I say that I am working on it for the next world, and that nothing in life is lost. Eventually everything has a meaning.”

Ronald Farren-Price and Jaqueline Varela interpreting into Italian
Ronald Farren-Price and Jaqueline Varela interpreting into Italian

He himself believes in the interpretation of the music rather than the technical brilliance of the performance.  He believes in memorising his pieces in preparation before a performance for the inner ear and the mind so that that the only thing he has to do when performing is to interpret the knowledge.

“I always tell my students to strive for something that is beautiful rather than something only brilliant. Brilliance alone can lead to something blatant in no time if one is not careful.”

Ronald Farren-Price
Ronald Farren-Price

His body, bent permanently in its accustomed posture at the piano, reminded me of what it was to be a great artist, a vocation of intense pursuit, undistracted by the frills of life and desires for luxury, just the wish for all needs met.  This night he arrived in the old casino where Liszt played over a hundred years ago at its opening ceremonies, the beautiful old chandeliers glistening in the gilt age marked mirrors, the piano raised on a stage, the chairs fanning out around it, people eager in their seats.  Gentle gentle his hands barely lifted off the keys as he opened his performance with Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. So tender his face, his eyes softly closed like a child’s, as though he was just feeling the music as it left the tips of his fingers, so exquisitely almost silent those opening notes that broke away the day and placed our minds in open readiness.  It was a truly amazing performance.  It was the performance of a master. It was an hour and a half of music laced with passion and tenderness, a meditation so perfectly controlled, yet so ‘felt’, so perfectly in harmony with the essence of every note.  I rave, but I loved it.  So did we all.  We clapped so hard we ached.DSC01116

DSC01117I am inspired for my own life as an artist.  Ronald Farren-Price gave us everything that night.  I am inspired by a man who, though frail and vulnerable in his advancing age, has not allowed frailty and a hurting body to interfere with his spiritual connection to his creativity.  His will to control the extremities of body to allow himself to ‘speak’ was really something to be seen and heard.

Chandeliers in old casino, Bagni di Lucca
Chandeliers in old casino, Bagni di Lucca

He was always revered, being one of those children with incredible talent that eventually took his studies to London and New York, feted and lauded wherever he went and here today. Most of his professional life has been cocooned in the Music Faculty of the University of Melbourne with concert forays each year into some of the most amazing concert halls of the world. How incredibly lucky were we to have seen this, his last public performance.  He promises to return next year with a master class of gifted students who in turn will take the stage to create another night for the soul to remember.

A magical night
A magical night
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Bagni di Lucca ~ Ponte a Serraglio
Bagni di Lucca ~ Ponte a Serraglio

On a late summer’s day last year, under a pergola dripping in wisteria and overlooking splendid vistas, a thought was born to a philanthropist and his friends, to have an art festival in Ponte a Serraglio.  For years we had all been coming here, and every year another one or two shops would close down.  It seemed unbelievably sad that such a beautiful and elegant town with such a salubrious history should disappear, becoming shabbier over the years and less and less inviting to visit.

Artists walking in the mountains above Bagni di Lucca
Artists walking in the mountains above Bagni di Lucca

As with all intrinsically beautiful places, artists are already attracted to this town with its gracious old buildings and surrounding mountains and walks up to the ancient spas.  An artist group got together on the bridge, taking over two shops some years ago, Artisti Uniti, of around ten artists.  It was shortlived but quickly followed by the Borgo degli Artisti, whose initial group had a dream to create a hamlet of artists, inspired by Greenwich village in New York!   The Borgo degli Artisti took the initative to fix up the derelict garden of Villa Fiori, making it a gorgeous place to have a painting event in mid July, attracting nearly 100 artists for the day to paint all along the river and now they also have sagras on that day and other days throughout the year and have a little gallery on the bridge that displays their members’ works year around.

Borgo degli Artisti festival in the gardens of Villa Fiori
Borgo degli Artisti festival in the gardens of Villa Fiori

Since the Borgo degli Artisti started, La Rondine Gallery, an artist run space, showing international artists throughout the summer months has opened in two beautiful shops on one of the small piazzas. To add to the general feeling of excitement, a photography gallery directed by Kevan Halson is opening a few doors up from La Rondine and will feature the works of international photographers.

Exhibtion opening at La Rondine Gallery
Exhibtion opening at La Rondine Gallery

After our informal ideas meetings with our philanthropist friend who donated a substantial offering to the cause, the enormous job of putting together the Bagni di lucca Art Festival, was placed in Jaqueline’s hands.  Jaqueline is our daughter-in-law married to our eldest son, Jacob.  Her mother has a smile that would light the sun, while her father is a politician in Cape Verde, and we’ve decided upon this knowledge that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  She is extremely talented dealing with so many artists and cajoling so many people to donate their empty shops, encouraging everyone in the town to get out and work at cleaning them up.   The feeling of anticipation is palpable.  Already the festival, even in its first year, has legs that are running for success.  Of course she is greatly supported by Jake, and the two of them have become a wonderful team.

Jake and Jaqueline
Jake and Jaqueline

In generous collaboration, the Borgo degli Artisti are delighted to have the art Festival take place throughout the Villa Fiori gardens. Starting at the beginning of July, there will be a marble hand carving sculpture symposium with international sculptors; music performances; opera; acrobatics; dancing.  Plus, there are 7 or 8 empty shops that have been seconded and they will be artists’ studios/exhibition spaces/installations. These shops will rotate with artists over the entire summer, June through till September.  The scrumptious old casino will be transformed in the summer for a piano recital of Lizst by one of Australia’s foremost pianists, Ronald Farren-Price, also for an opera from London and an opera from Lucca as well as a performance by Italy’s Al Maranca. It’s a growing happening and already people on the other side of the world are booking to come over to be here, enticed by beauty and culture and delightful traditions.

Casino, Ponte a Serraglio
Casino, Ponte a Serraglio
Ronald Farren-Price
Ronald Farren-Price

The Bagni di Lucca Art Festival is the manifestation of many dreams in the little town to see it thrive once more. After all, its historical interest has always been through the amazing artists and personages who have visited this town in the summer.

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