05 February 2009

The Mill in Ossolaro - part one

There is a small Italian village to the north of Cremona on the Lombardy plain, hidden during summer amongst fields of maize, except for the bell tower of the church. There are not many streets in the village. One to the north west, called Strada Comunale Paderno Ossolaro, leads to the larger village of Paderno Ponchielli.

Paderno Ponchielli was previously known as Paderno Fasolaro, but had a name change to reflect the contribution to music of its most famous inhabitant, Amilcare Ponchielli (1834-1886).

Ponchielli was a musical prodigy, who left Paderno at the age of nine to take up a scholarship at the Milan Conservatory.

A musical sense of place

As far as I am aware, no musically talented child came from Ossolaro, though the population has historically had great respect for talented musicians if the names of its streets are anything to go by. As well as the narrow road leading to Paderno, there are side streets in Ossolaro with names such as Largo Guarnieri, Via Monteverdi and Via Stradivari.

Guarnieri and Stradavari

You may be aware that Cremona, the nearest town to Ossolaro of any size, has a long tradition of making quality musical instruments, including violins and cellos. Two of the best luthiers (makers of stringed instruments) were Andrea Guarnieri (1626-1698), and Antonio Stradavari (1644-1737). If you like western classical music, then perhaps these names will be familiar to you.


Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643), who was born in Cremona, was at the forefront of musical development even before Guanieri and Stradavari. Monteverdi's innovative approach assisted the transition between the Renaissance style of music and the Baroque. Although he composed many madrigals and sacred works, he is especially remembered as the first composer of operas that are still performed today.

If you are wondering what any of this has to do with my ancestral journey, and your own, then you are welcome to follow this blog in the weeks ahead!


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I especially appreciate historical insights.