Postcard from Florence
The birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence is packed with culture, much of which has been enshrined in music. At the Medici Court the arts flourished, and the city has been an inspiration for many composers ever since. Tchaikovsky sketched the principal themes of his 'Souvenir de Florence' while staying here, and the four movements of his string sextet frame our musical walking tour.Read more…
Leonardo da Vinci had many strings to his bow, but is less well known as a composer. We also hear music by two Medicis, which leads us to highlights from Leoncavallo's verismo opera set in the Florentine Renaissance. We sample music by Florentine composers of the Baroque period, including Francesca Caccini's opera 'La liberazione di Ruggiero dall'isola d'Alcina'.
Florence was home to the great Italian poet Dante Alighieri whose tale of Francesca da Rimini in his 'Divine Comedy' inspired passionate operas by Rachmaninoff and Zandonai, as well as a terrific Tchaikovsky symphonic poem. The 'Divine Comedy' also brings us the comic figure of Gianni Schicchi, preserved in operatic form by Giacomo Puccini. In "O mio babbino caro", Schicchi's daughter Lauretta threatens to throw herself from the Ponte Vecchio into the Arno if her father won't help her lover's family.
On the Ponte Vecchio itself, there is a bust of Florentine sculptor and goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini, subject of an opera by Berlioz. Although the opera is set in Rome, the statue of Perseus (central to the plot) was actually cast in Florence, where it stands in the Piazza della Signoria.
Sandro Botticelli's The Birth of Venus and Primavera are highlights of any visit to the Uffizi Gallery, both represented in music by Respighi. Finally, we call in at Florence's historic Teatro della Pergola, where Donizetti's 'Rosmonda d'Inghilterra' and Verdi's 'Macbeth' were premiered. Verdi revised his opera many years later, so here we include music that suffered the chop before taking our leave with Tchaikovsky's 'Souvenir' finale.