Thomas Wikman
Verona 1716 Bonatti console
(click photos to enlarge)

Of Verona, Mozart, and gypsies

December 2005

Happy Holidays!  In the bleak midwinter here, my mind drifts back to summer 2005 in sunny Italy.

In the middle of a six-week tour of Germany, Denmark and Italy, I arrived in the Veneto to play two recitals on the amazingly large series "Via Claudia Augusta."  I was thrilled and honored to be on the same series as Najim Hakim, Wayne Marshall, Thierry Escaich, Heinz Wunderlich (age 86 and still going strong!), Franz Hauk and many other great organists.

The first of the two concerts was in Vicenza (a gorgeous city), at the 9th-century church of San Giorgio.  It had a beautiful 1991 organ by Gustavo Zanin.  While in Vicenza, I had one free day as the organ was being tuned.  I hoped to take the train to Verona (the site of my second recital), and practice on the organ at San Tommaso Cantuariense, a 1716 Bonatti.

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One of the most famous of Italian organs, this Bonatti is the instrument on which Mozart made his debut in Verona (he carved his initials on the bottom of the case).  These old organs are wonderful, but are of hardly standard layout, and one needs to familiarize oneself with each of them.

So we called Verona, only to find out that the church had been occupied by a band of 50 Gypsies!  It seems that they had been removed from a campsite where they had been staying, and had taken "sanctuary" in San Tommaso.  It was all over the newspapers and TV.  Nobody had any idea how long the gypsies would remain, blocking not only my recital but also many church services and weddings.  More >>

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Verona 1716 Bonatti Organ
Verona 1716 Bonatti console