Piano solo – 25 minutes
Grand Tour is a musical diary of time I spent living in Venice. For centuries the Grand Tour was a rite of passage for budding young aristocrats. Privileged offspring of wealthy European families ventured south for months at a time, paying homage to the decaying relics of antiquity. For many the trip ended in Venice, a place of decadence and exotic splendor. While far removed from its past opulence, vestiges of the Grand Tour linger, bringing millions of tourists a year to Venice’s well-worn landmarks. Today the old idea of travel as self-realization remains, but now resides within the disneyfied marketplace of modern tourism. Romantic visions of antiquity clash with gigantic cruise ships and swarming tour groups as a constant assault of vendors, products, and services target the wayward traveler at every turn. Nonetheless, as a bookish, romantically inclined introvert, I clung to my Byron and sought out that old sense of poetic melancholy as I wandered the labyrinthine Venetian streets.
Grand Tour lives in this conflicted space, somewhere between the Fantasy-class Cruise liner towering over St. Mark’s Square and the anonymous 15th century wood-carving – perfect and splendid – tucked away in an obscure church. Cast in seven movements, the piece roughly outlines what at the time was a typical day: becoming hopelessly lost after a morning walk; weaving my way through the always busy Strada Nuova; a frenetic visit to some beautiful old palace overrun by tour groups; the daily spectacle of massive cruise ships leaving the narrow harbor as throngs of travelers lean over rails, zealously snapping photos and frantically waving arms; an evening stroll, people watching and gelato; a sunset drink on the lagoon; and finally, the nocturnal walk home through dark and narrow streets, at last quiet and empty.
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Grand Tour was commissioned by Karl Larson and a consortium of pianists including Stacey Barelos, Erika Dohi, Monika Haar, Mabel Kwan, Charlie Magnone, Jeff Manchur, and Paola Saavidou
premiered 10.17.14 at the Victoria House Concerts series, Quincy, MA by Karl Larson