Musica Marin, Artistic Director Ruth Kahn Shares Her Recent Experience at the InterHarmony Festival in Arcidosso, Italy.

Musica Marin Interharmony Festival

I recently had the pleasure of participating in the InterHarmony Festival in Arcidosso, Italy. I began my journey in Rome and traveled by train to Florence, where I spent the night and the next day enjoying the great city of Michaelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, Dante Alighieri, and the Familia de Medicis. I was then taken by bus to my real destination, the early medieval 9th century town of Arcidosso for the InterHarmony Festival.

This town is a commune in the province of Grosseto in the Tuscany region, about 62 miles south of Florence. Once I arrived, I was transported into a very different world, a world of simple pleasures, happy, hospitable people, gracious hosts, and ebullient talent from across the world. My accommodations were in a quaint villa in town; “Lo Locanda del Prete” with other InterHarmony performers.

Our hosts were Carlo and Pascal. Their villa was extremely peaceful, yet full of a feeling of shared fellowship and comradery among the guests. Carlo owned the villa and ran the restaurant in the villa. The other performers and I shared great meals there every night. I met many tremendously talented musicians during my stay, some of which became quite good friends during the festival.

We had amazing performances in the Teatro degli Unanimi near the castle in town. I performed “Il Tramonto” by Ottorino Respighi among others. I also taught viola classes and coached many very gifted students. I was one of three members of the viola faculty at the festival. My fellow Viola faculty members were Basil Vendryes , Principal Violist for The Colorado Symphony Orchestra and Sang-Jin Kim from Korea, who brought with him some amazing young viola students.

The two weeks I spent together playing with the other performers, teaching, eating and enjoying great Italian cuisine, site-seeing, and making new friends went by quickly and soon it was time to move on to the next part of my trip.

Leaving the quaintness of little Arcidosso, I traveled by bus, train and plane eventually landing in Zurich, Switzerland.

In Zurich, I met my friend and colleague Marco Vassali, an Italian German baritone singer who made his US debut with Musica Marin last January in San Francisco. Marco continues to perform all over Europe.
I spent two days with Marco and his family on the shore of Lake Constance. The lake is vast, bordering three countries with wide, beautiful skies above and harboring three islands in its body of water.
Marco’s family are absolutely the salt of the earth type of people. They were so wonderful and the most welcoming people, opening their home and life. I didn’t want to leave, but felt the planned tour of the three great music cities of Central-Eastern Europe; Prague, Vienna, and Budapest would bring my trip full circle.

Prague, city of the Prague Castle, The Charles Bridge, Old Town Square, The Jewish Quarter, and so much more…and the home of so much great music was my first stop. The food was fabulous and the people were warm, kind and generous. The city has a musical history that goes back centuries, and it enthralled me to be there. I enjoyed an amazing production of Don Giovanna by W. A. Mozart I at the Prague Estates Theater Opera. Knowing that this was the city of Antonin Dvorak, Bedrich Smetana, and writer Franz Kafka, in addition to Mozart’s home for a time, was invigorating.

The next city I visited was Vienna. I took a train from Prague and proceeded to the “City of Dreams”. Vienna was so very different from Prague, elegant, long beautiful boulevards with horse-drawn carriages and gorgeous buildings everywhere. It is Austria’s primary city, with a population of about 1.8 million, nearly one-third the Austrian population. I visited art museums, the Opera House, and took pictures all along of the art, buildings, and especially the statue of Mozart that stands in the Burggarten in the city’s center. Grandeur meets the street in this town; street performers abound with fun and startling surprises at almost every turn, elegant cafes, delectable food, and yet so different from Prague.

After two days in Vienna, I left for the eastern-most city I would visit, Budapest. What an absolutely foreign feel to either of the prior two cities. Once I stepped off the train, the feel of true Eastern Europe hit me, the language, the streets, the architecture, and yet the people were so incredibly nice and helpful I felt right as ease.

Budapest is the city of Franz Liszt, of Bela Bartok, Erno Dohnanyi, Zoltan Kodaly, and the opera composer Ferenc Erkel. The city exudes so much culture and is another Danube River city. You could spend a month exploring all the festivals, composers’ and performers’ residences now turned museums. I enjoyed the Franz Lizst Academy of Music, The Hungarian State Opera and Orchestra, and the Hungarian National Philharmonic. I decided to absorb the city organically through its amazing spas and world-class food. My heritage is Hungarian on my father’s side and the beauty and vastness of the city’s vistas, parks, and palaces touched me. I knew I did not have enough time to do it all, so I did what I could, and took a great picture of the Statue of Franz Liszt that lies just outside the Inner City.

Two days later, I was on a plane flying back over Hungary, Austria, and back to Zurich. I spent a brief time in Switzerland before I boarded my flight back to the USA.
I thought throughout my trip how music has transformed not only my life, but how many millions of people in Europe and worldwide, have been transformed by the music produced in this amazing part of the world.

The silences that go along with the ecstatic notes that invigorate the human soul, the natural surroundings and the simple people that inspired the composers to compose their great art and deliver it to the world. The mutual feeling between artists and their desire to bring to life the notes on the page, and pass on that passion, and how that passion lives on in the people of the places, the buildings, the soil of the ground of the cities I visited lives on in a very vibrant, tangible way today. It will stay with me for years to come. I shall travel again, when and where, who knows, but this trip is part of me and will forever be part of who I am, and shall be with me always.

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