I had always wanted to visit Italy since learning a bit of Italian in primary school, living next to an Italian Australian family, watching the film Much Ado About Nothing (the Kenneth Branagh version is set in Tuscany) tasting Italian food and feeling desperately Anglo. This summer I was invited to play chamber music in Tuscany by a violinist I’m very inspired by, and then by a great cellist friend to join Streicherakademie Bozen (Bolzano) for a summer tour in that region. It was ridiculous.
In Tuscany I was part of a troupe of musicians led by Simone Bernardini at Festival Opera Barga, in its 50th year, which presents concerts in two beautiful places – Bagnone and Barga. We were about 5 days in each place, and spent the days eating, laughing, eating, swimming and rehearsing German Romantic music (some very well-known pieces which I played for the first time, by Brahms, Mendelssohn and Schumann). I made my debut as an oboist, and met many wonderful musicians who became my great friends.
After our last concert in Barga, I packed up my things and headed north via 4 trains, a cable car and a tram, finally ending up in a little town outside Bolzano called Lengmoos. Here I rehearsed with Streicherakademie Bozen, a great chamber orchestra started in 1987 by Georg Egger. Bolzano had a different feel from Tuscany, with alpine mountains, a German dialect and a structured rehearsal schedule, but was still wonderful, friendly, and an idyllic setting for a birthday, too, spent with more new friends, and old ones – Mendelssohn, Schumann, Nino Rota and Paganini.