Lunch over, we decided to head for the magical gardens of Arcadia, a few miles down the road from the palace. Before we did, my companions thought we ought to visit the Faenza pottery museum housed in an outbuilding between the house and the main gate. A young woman working for the museum, with whom we were sharing the lunch bench, said it was well worth the time. In fact, she had been rather insistent. I guessed she may have had a hand in it. If had my doubts, I was grateful to her because she had explained how the glass xylophone on display on the first floor of the palace worked. The attendant in the room had no idea, nor could she name the subject of a small portrait hanging above it, a rather portly, bemedalled and self important looking fellow, probably a minor German prince . But back to the instrument.
As you probably know, the 19th century was a great time of exploration in musical instruments. Pianos appeared in all shapes, sizes and arrangements of keyboards and pedals. So, too, with everything else that could make a sound. The instrument in question is a series of about 30 glass discs, glass bowls, joined at the centre by an axle, and lying horizontally in a fine wooden case. At first sight you assume that you hit the plates with something. However, the woman explained that there is a pedal (though where it is seems to be in question) which rotates the discs and from which, with wetted fingers, the player produces a sound. …a sort of keyless piano. Fascinating, though I can understand why it never attained great popularity. I am sure you`ve tried something similar with wine glasses.
Regarding the Faenza museum, I’d been there before and you may have read my piece in an earlier blog. I remembered it as a dingy place. However, I agreed to tag along with my friends who were keen to see it. I was not expecting any surprises and none was in store. Sad to say, the unimpressive display is doubly disappointing because the museum’s web page makes it seem so interesting, a living workshop. I have rarely seen a less inspiring or uninformative exhibition. Actually, I am not too enthusiastic about the bloated, highly decorated, Faenza style which, for some reason, the Radziwill family imported from Italy for their potteries.
With that behind us we got into the car and began the search for Arcadia.