Dante’s 750th

October 2, 2015 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Classical Music, DANTE | 1 Comment |

(Elder Hall, Adelaide University, 30/9/15)


The Dante Society of SA gave a most agreeable concert to mark the 750th birthday of the Great Florentine, Dante Alighieri (1265-1321).  Professor Diana Glenn gave two readings from The Divine Comedy – first from Paradiso, Canto XXIII, where Beatrice and Dante gaze up at the infinite sunbeams of redeemed souls, and Dante swoons (as he was wont to do).


Then Mekhla Kumar (above) performed Liszt’s Sposalizio, inspired by Raphael’s The Marriage of the Virgin.


Konstantin Shamray (below) played Liszt’s Dante Sonata with its slightly cartoonish swerve between the hell and heaven, with its different (hellish and celestial) keys – a difficult piece, beautifully performed.


Professor Glenn’s second reading was Inferno, Canto V, where Francesco and Paulo, fated to whirl in an eternal tornedo of the damned, tell Dante their sad story of forbidden passion and Dante faints again (natch).  This Canto contains one of poetry’s keenest lines; with due respect to the Robin Kirkpatrick translation, cited in the excellent programme notes by Vincent Plush, P prefers this from the John Ciardi version:

‘And she: “The double grief of a lost bliss

is to recall its happy hour in pain.’

Paulo & Francesca by Charles Edward Halle

Paulo & Francesca by Charles Edward Halle

Ms Kumar and Mr Shamray returned for two inspired ‘four-handers’ – Francesca da Rimini, a longish ‘symphonic fantasy’ after Dante’s tale of Francesca and Paulo (a product of Tchaikovsky staying at Bayreuth to see The Ring, during which stay he also read the Divine Comedy –  a busy holiday).  This long and winding piece has some nice but tricky moments and the double act of the two pianists was dazzling.  And as an encore, together they did a lovely quiet coda – Schumann, based on Purgatorio, approaching the island of Purgatory and beginning to ascend its terraces.

All in all, a sweet gift that Dante Alighieri would have appreciated.  Grazie mille, Dante Society!

Dante meditating the episode of Francesca and Paolo (Joseph Noel Paton, 1852)

Dante meditating the episode of Francesca and Paolo (Joseph Noel Paton, 1852)

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