TODAY sees the opening of the 38th Bath International Festival. Most of the events will take place in Bath itself but there will be quite a spillover into Wells and Bristol.;
The theine of this year's festival is f Italy. and Russia. Being ekplored is the relationship between the West and Russia as seen through the influence of the Italians on Russian music.
The heyday of such influence was from 1730 to the midnineteenth century. During that period all but two of the Maestri di Cappella at the Court of St Petersburg were Italians.
The beginning of this century, moreover, saw significant Russian influence on the West. Its chief agency was the genius of Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes. Diaghilev discovered the young Stravinsky and, by commissioning such sensational ballets as Petrushka and The Rite of Spring, changed the whole face of twentieth century music.
When I was visiting Bath earlier this month, the coming festival was the talk of the city. One of the most notable events will be occurring, on Wednesday of next week, within the beautiful confines of Bath Abbey.
This will be the second performance in this country an organ recital — by Jenifer Bate of Messiaen's Livre de Saint Sacrement. As may be remembered, the first British performance of this work was given last year by Jenifer Bate in Westminster Cathedral and was a great success. Livre du Saint Sacrement is Messiaen's most recent work. It is a vast celebraton of his beliefs and of his musical preoccupations.
The Abbey is an ideal venue for such a recital. Spiritually speaking it holds the soul of Bath. Swinburne said of it, "only love and lovely remembrance here have place."
MENTION of Diaghilev brings to mind the brilliant French impressionist composer, Maurice Ravel who died fifty year ago this year. The arrival of the Ballets Russes in Paris reacted explosively on the ordered and cultured life of the hitherto somewhat quiet and stoical Ravel.
The Russian troupe's sensational debut in 1908 with Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov took Paris by storm. Ravel and