With the rules of Covid and behind the plexiglass, Italy’s oldest conservatory plays
Before the pandemic, students at Italy’s oldest and largest music conservatory were always told to come “closer and closer” when playing together. “Because you need to get along,” said Cristina Frosini, director of the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory of Music in Milan. “Even at a distance of three feet, it is more difficult to play together.” In 213 years, the conservatory has trained talents including composer Giacomo Puccini and conductors Claudio Abbado, Riccardo Muti, Riccardo Chailly and Cecilia Bartoli. During the first months of total confinement, they could only take classes online.
When they returned to instrumental teaching in person a year ago, students had to adapt to both distancing and playing behind plexiglass, regardless of the instrument – flute, violin, piano. , drums. Frosini said the security measures were working: There were only five cases of COVID-19 among students playing together.
“The students were happy because it was the only way to make music and be together. Psychologically it was very important, ” said Frosini. But musically, it was difficult.
The fit was more difficult for orchestras or chamber music groups, when the plexiglass partitions and rules of distancing made it difficult to listen to other musicians.
“When you play together you have to be together, breathe together,” Frosini said.
And it wasn’t just the physical distancing that was difficult. It was also the absence of an audience.
“We made a recording during the time we were closed to the public, and it was very cold,” she said, despite the high standard of performance.
“I am a pianist and when you hear the audience in silence, that they listen to you, it gives you a load. It is also important to have the applause of the public, ”said Frosini.
The conservatory has organized two concerts this spring: one by the Verdi Jazz Orchestra in May and a Beethoven symphony in June. The two sold out and they added a second show for Beethoven’s performance.
“It was an important message. The audience wants to start listening to live music again, and the musicians finally have an audience, ” said Frosini.
The conservatory, named after Italy’s favorite opera composer, has a full-time symphony orchestra, as well as a jazz orchestra; students also study voice and popular rock. Graduates end up in some of the best orchestras in Europe, with 90% of alumni working full-time in music, whether playing, teaching, library, or management.
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