People always say, “Oh, it must so beautiful performing in the Dolomites.” Yes, it’s a beautiful setting for Sounds of the Dolomites, our music festival, obviously, but the real point is that the sound is totally different in the mountains. You see, the acoustic in concert halls is something that comes back to your ears; you hear the sounds of the violin, piano, whatever, plus the acoustics; a dialogue. But in our open-air Dolomites concerts, there’s no acoustic. It’s a purer sound. It’s a challenge for musicians to respond to (on top of the challenge of carrying their instruments for hours, even days, to these remote locations), but I find I go deeper and deeper into the music to search for my cello among the other instruments.
Also, at over 2,000m, your ears are more closed from the pressure, so this affects what you hear. I’ve played recordings from the mountaintop concerts back home and it sounded completely different to what I’d heard up there. So beautiful, so resonant. In fact, one memory that stands out for me in the festival’s 25 years was when this old lady arrived late, and I explained we’d already finished playing. She said, “Oh, but I’ve walked for two hours to get here and I’m blind.” She told me it was her dream to listen to classical music in the mountains. In that moment, I understood we were doing things right: we’d managed to create not a touristic event, or even just a scenic one, but a truly artistic experience.
Cellist Mario Brunello is co-curator of Sounds of the Dolomites, Italy, until 15 September