Alfredo Bernardini and Theresia’s hidden gems

By Emilia Campagna

August 19, 2021

Theresia is ready for a new chamber music program: on Sunday 22nd and Monday 23rd August, two concerts will take place in Geneva as part of the Festival Concerts d’été à St-Germain’.

Musicians involved are Saaya Ikenoya and Léna Ruisz (violin), Irina Fartat and Elena Gelmi (viola), Sophia Witmer and Anne-Linde Visser (cello), Samuel Casale (flute), Antonello Cola (oboe) and Vicente Beltrán (bassoon): they are going to prepare the musical project under the supervision of two amazing tutors, Chiara Banchini and Alfredo Bernardini.

We talked to Alfredo Bernardini and asked him to tell us something about the musical program:

“In line with the artistic mission of Theresia, this project focuses on missed gems, music composed at the end of the XVIII century and then forgotten. I am talking about true jewels that fell into oblivion but deserve to be rediscovered. These pieces of music will be performed by a group of chamber musicians, strings and woodwinds, like a miniature orchestra.”

Let’s talk about the program in detail:

“The program includes five pieces: one for strings, one for woodwinds and three for mixed woodwinds and strings. Boccherini’s sextet in F major for strings is a very profound piece: Boccherini was an excellent cello player, who moved from Lucca, in Italy, to Madrid, where he was a very appreciated composer. Giuseppe Cambini was an illustrious migrant too, who worked successfully in Paris: Theresia will perform his woodwind Trio in D major.

Michael Haydn’s Divertimento for oboe, bassoon, and string trio is like a little symphony, in four movements and rich in humorous ideas. Michael Haydn is the youngest brother of the more famous Franz Joseph: he was very appreciated by Mozart, that got inspiration from some of his works, especially by a Symphony in C that Theresia performed some years ago.

Another piece in the program is the flute quartet by Johann Christian Bach, another musician that influenced the young Mozart and that, oddly enough, was born the very same year as Michael Haydn. Theresia will perform the C major Quartet for flute and string trio: this was a very popular ensemble, that took over the baroque trio sonata.

Last but not least, the C major sextet by Christian Cannabich involves flute, oboe, bassoon, and the string trio: Cannabich was one of the conductors of the celebrated Mannheim orchestra, that Charles Burney called ‘an army of generals’. It was made of the finest musicians of their time. In Cannabich scores, one can’t but be amazed by the richness and the accurateness of all the dynamic markings, meaning that he used to work with extremely thorough performers.”

You will be tutor together with Chiara Banchini: how are you going to work?

“First, I want to say that I am very happy to work with Chiara Banchini: I’m sure I will learn a lot of things in the first place! And as for the working method, at the beginning of the residency, we are going to give some space to the young musicians of Theresia, so that they can rehearse by themselves and take responsibility for their choice: on our part, we will have the chance to observe their working method and give them some pieces of advice on how to play together, on technical problems and the interpretation. Obviously, I will focus more on the woodwinds and Chiara on the strings. Two of the ensembles can work at the same time, so we will occasionally split up to work with one or the other group.”

This will be the first project of Theresia you are involved in after the health emergency: how did you deal with the lockdown?

“I can say I did quite fine during the first lockdown: it was a totally unprecedented situation for everybody, and I found myself with so much time for studying new pieces. The second lock-down, though, was really hard, because it seemed like we didn’t know when it would end. And, especially for ancient music performers, who are mainly freelancer professionals, the lack of concerts began to be a huge problem and a source of unbearable uncertainty.”

During the lockdown, many musicians tried to keep in touch with their audience through streaming performances: what do you think about it?

“Streaming was a valid surrogate both of live performance and teaching: there was a high risk of losing motivation, and, as it often happens in moments of deep crisis, many persons found alternative ways of doing things. It cannot replace live performance though we need an audience to perform because audience itself is an essential part of the creative and emotional process.”

Which were your feelings when you started to live-perform again? 

“It was intense, both performing and being part of an audience: some days ago I saw a performance of Haendel’s Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno, and I was moved to tears. Also, I am particularly happy for the young participants of Theresia’s residency in Geneve: they will have once again the chance to make music together and in front of an audience, giving rise to a moment of beauty together.”

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About Emilia Campagna

Journalist and musician, Emilia is a blogger for Theresia