These last few days in Catania have been so full of fun, family, food and adventure I hardly know where to begin!
On wednesday, I was met from the bus by Jule and little Milo for a short walk and ride in a small lift to the 6th floor apartment where Henrike, Michel, Alma (aged 4) Milo (2 and a half?) and au pair, Jule live.
Such a great flat! 2 floors of ample living space, with a lovely area on the top floor in which Henrike works as a Physiotherapist and Reflex therapist and views to the majestic Etna as well as the roof tops of Catania; downstairs, a living area that does not feel like a flat at all unless you stray out onto the balconies and look DOWN!!
My reason for being here, to play and speak at an evening concert the next day for a group of cyclists and others in a private home, and to share the journey so far.
Her work finished, Henrike tried to lower the seat for my little legs on various bikes until we found one that fitted and off we went, rattling on the bumpy roads through the centre of Catania… at one point I was sure a little car was about to change places with Henrike’s left knee … until we arrived at the piano-flat and I had a gorgeous half hour or so test driving the piano and deciding that 2 sonatas rather than one would be much more fun!
Then it was all go to put together a CD with photos of some my trip so far and design the evening’s programme. This was to be the first time I have shown pictures, talked and played, so it was a good exercise to distil my thoughts!
The evening was a very intimate and rewarding time for me, starting with the beautiful Chopin prelude that my mother had played while I sat on her knee as an entranced 3 year old. Next came the prelude in C minor by Pachulski that she had given to me just before my 12th birthday and her early death from cancer. This was by way of describing the inspiration, love and loss that has so shaped and been such a transformative influence on my creativity in my early musical years.
Following this came a leap of nearly 40 years to my current inspiration and companion….and the compelling sense of compassion, service and spirituality that Beethoven and his music have brought into my life.
His sonata in A flat, opus 110.
This is just such an exhilarating piece to play and I was reminded of the first few radiant bars as they played themselves in my head on the day in July last year as I stood at the very northernmost tip of Denmark in dazzling sunshine and awash with gratitude for what then seemed such a huge bike ride!!! What a crashing triumph to end with, as he slowly surfaces from the desolation of the last aria into the thundering joyous finale.
I felt very professional as the projector beamed some of my photos onto the wall and really happy that I had just by chance included a beautiful portrait of Beethoven as a young man among them.
This was also a good moment for questions; how far, how heavy, why, for how long, where next…….etc ?
Lastly, the sonata in E, opus 109. For me, very much in the spirit of Beethoven’s quote ‘for surely in wood, rocks and trees lies the echo that man desires to hear’ with its dramatic moments in the melodious first movement. The crashing elements of the second movement and lastly the rich collection of variations, which escalate to such a clamour before the heavenly re-emergence of the opening theme, leaving us in repose.
A visit to the beautiful flanks of Etna, a walk on the coast, a bracing and unconventional morning swim in the little fishing harbour, an evening group bike ride around the romantic centre of Catania, conversations on food, eating it!, organic farming, carbon footprint, traditional ice cream in a bun, a brand new bra, and a fantastic exchange of our professional body-working skills…. just a few of the things we fitted in around the usual chaos of two gorgeous, strong minded children, who I enjoyed so much!
Henrike, Jule, Michel, children and so many others, you have made such an impact, along with ‘your’ Catania, and once again, I feel that I have some really special new friends.
For your enthusiasm, welcome and warmth, thank you from the bottom of my heart. It has been memorable and I wish I could have spent longer with you and shared more adventures!
Did you have a good time ski-ing on Etna yesterday? (Growl of envy!)
Here are some of the pictures over these happy few days.
And for all of you loyal followers, my first small video. thank you to Michel, senior camera man and discreet chauffeur! This is a live recording from the evening; my mother’s wonderful Chopin. His 1st prelude in C.