Gwendolyn Toth

Gwendolyn Toth is the director of the New York City-based early music ensemble, ARTEK, and a soloist on early keyboards (organ, harpsichord, fortepiano). She is married to harpsichordist Dongsok Shin, and they have three children.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

There is No Rain in Rome

After four weeks of cold/cool weather and nearly unremitting rain (we did have one nice day, the day of our Hungarian concert in Kapolcs) we finally have arrived in Rome on August 1, where it is a) hot and b) definitely not rainy. We have lots of clean clothes in our suitcases for 85 degree weather! Now we finally can wear them.
Rome is like New York: summer is a time when they work on the metro system, so a good deal of the metro system is not working. Buses are the only answer. We stayed in a hotel northwest of the city, the Grand Hotel Fleming (we thought, quite nice until they extorted a 3 euro per person per day fee in cash only at departure - grrrr...). There is a bus from there direct to the Vatican. From there, more buses to other locales. And a lot of walking.
My concert is Sunday, August 7, so we had some time for R & R, sightseeing, whatever. Places we visited: Sistine Chapel (is it heretic to say I liked the Botticelli best?); catacombs (3 hour bus ride each way...a bit excessive, but the catacombs themselves were totally worth the trip); Villa Borghese (why didn't anyone ever explain to me that Bernini statues in person are magnificent?), Museum of Musical instruments (some great instruments in what has to be the worst musical instrument museum I've ever visited - almost complete lack of information on the instruments displayed; haphazard locations; museum docents - two little old ladies - who couldn't tell me anything about the unmarked instruments or in fact anything about any instrument in the museum; they referred me to a catalog which doesn't seem to actually exist other than a small brochure. Nevertheless, with the aid of my daughter who would deliberately distract them, I managed to snap a few surreptitious pictures of some interesting keyboards - below.

On Saturday, I rehearsed for my concert at the church. Typical Italian clergy situation: "You can rehearse any time after 2 pm." Arrive at 4 pm. No! Not possible! Confessions!!! Go away! O-K. Well, I had the keys, so I went away & returned after the church closed, and spent 2 hours on a lovely small instrument in a tiny charming church - Santa Barbara dei Librari - tucked away in a corner not far from the Largo di Torre Argentina piazza (site of four Roman temple ruins and home to at least 30 cats). I had a wonderful tenor, Vincenzo di Betta, to sing the chant for the Merulo mass, who sang several early Italian motets as well. Vincenzo was fitting in rehearsals and the concert with me in between his regular commitments as cantor of another church and singing Verdi at the open-air opera at the Baths of Caraculla. (Having seen Aida at this location in my first trip to Rome in 1972, I felt no need for a reprise!) Now, here in America try to imagine a tenor who sings Verdi opera with the Metropolitan opera, say, also singing motets of Monteverdi! No! Not possible!!!
The concert went very well, and below is a short video of one piece. We had fun afterwards with my friend Giuseppe Schinaia, who made all the excellent concert arrangements (eating, of course, at his favortie restaurant - "I cannot trust that any others are good!" - where have we heard that before?).

No comments:

Post a Comment