Venice: Behind the Scenes at the Conservatory and St. Mark’s

Venice was the perfect trip for music history awesomeness.
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On our trip to Venice on the 20th, we first went to the Scuola Grande de San Rocco to see the elaborate series of paintings that decorate the rooms. We then went to the Foundazione Ugo e Olga Levi to see part of their collection of manuscripts, some of which were composed for St. Mark’s Cathedral.

We were fortunate to have the music director at St. Mark’s, Maestro Marco Gemmani, with us during our trip. At the Levy Foundation he explained aspects of their manuscript collection to us. He also works at the Conservatory of Venice, which is in one of the largest of the palaces of the nobility in Venice. We then were treated to an impromptu visit to the storage rooms of the archive and were able to see some manuscripts individually as well as see the shelves of books themselves, which let us see all the variety of different types of sources they had.

Two of the most exciting manuscripts that we saw were a Vivaldi autograph score and a group of part books from Pio Ospedale della Pietà, the conservatory for girls where Vivaldi worked! One, stamped Anna Maria, was filled with the soloist part of concertos for violins that represent some of the most challenging parts Vivaldi wrote, in addition to works by other composers, often with notes following the titles of works stating that many of the concertos were dedicated to Anna Maria.

M. Gemmani then took us on a private tour of St. Mark’s, explaining aspects both of the architecture of the cathedral as well as the aspects of the cathedral that make it such a unique space in which to perform music, ranging from the marble and mosaics to the way the humidity of Venice changes how sounds move through the air. We were lucky enough to get to go upstairs to the choir loft, which gave us an amazing view of the cathedral!

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We learned more about the history of the organs and choirs at the church while we were in the loft. Famous composers like Claudio Monteverdi and others who directed music at the cathedral had stood there, which made the experience even more amazing- we were standing where Monteverdi once stood again!

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He also pointed out the buildings in which Monteverdi had his rooms during his time working in Venice.

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We even got to take a ride in a boat to cross one of the canals on our way back to the station!

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An absolutely amazing day.

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