The Battle of Pietramelara
One of the most outlandish experiences in my life as a musician occurred last summer. I had been playing recitals in Germany and Denmark, and on August 15 flew to Naples where I was joined by my wife, Andrea. We were able to take a sort of "working vacation" there, as I was to play once in Naples and twice in the outlying area.
Thus we ensconced ourselves in a hotel (a converted 17th-century palace) on the Piazza Ges?Nuovo, one of my favorite squares in Italy. The center of the square is dominated by a "guglia," a very tall column, elaborately carved. Two huge churches face each other across the piazza: the Ges?Nuovo, a Baroque masterpiece with every square inch of the walls and arched ceiling completely covered with art; and Santa Chiara, a very spare 14th-century Provençal Gothic basilica, filled with Medieval tombs, where I was to play.
We were able to stay on the piazza for two weeks, and I practiced every day at Santa Chiara -- a real thrill. With its endless acoustics and 150-foot-high ceiling, it's the kind of place that makes you want to play slow Bach chorale preludes.
As it was Ferragosto, everyone was on vacation, and we could wander around the uncrowded historic center visiting the numerous large churches and museums filled with paintings and sculpture. By our lights, Naples has the best food in Italy, and we enjoyed many beautiful evenings.
We had no idea what awaited us. More >>