Monday, 14 March 2011

Charles Villiers Stanford: A Holiday Abroad and a Strange Meeting

On 1 September 1882 Stanford and his wife left England for a holiday in Switzerland. It was literally a washout. Stanford described it in his Pages from an Unwriten Diary:-

“After the 1882 [Birmingham] Festival we went to Monte Generoso, and had experience of the worst floods I have ever seen. After a long spell of doubtful weather, three thunderstorms met over our devoted hotel, and over most of the rest of the range of mountains to the North of Italy, and deluged the plains below. We got with difficulty to the station outside Verona, and made our entry into the town between two banks of mud standing three feet high on either side of the streets. The only bridge left was the old Roman structure. The buildings on each side were mostly like dolls' houses with the front taken off. Two or three fell into the Adige as I watched'.
However all was not lost – they progressed by rail from Verona to Padua and then on to Venice by road. Yet, as Stanford relates it was not plain sailing.

“Going on to Venice the next day, we were turned out at Padua and had to drive along an interminable road between two muddy lakes, which extended at least half-way to the sea-city, in a most rickety vehicle, drawn by a shying horse. Venice made up for the risky journey, and the floods to an unusual extent counteracted the perfumes at low tide. There was a pleasing uncertainty as to our exit; so many were the broken bridges, and so dangerous the sunken and (far from) permanent way on the railways. But we contrived to escape from an unduly long imprisonment by way of Trieste and Vienna. I saw one sight in Venice which alone repaid the journey: Charles Hallé [of orchestral fame] in a frock-coat and a white top hat reading the Daily Telegraph while seated in a gondola and floating under the Bridge of Sighs.”

So the holiday was a success after all.

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