The Pianist's Perfect Retreat

Villa Casa dei Mezzo is a perfect haven for any concert pianist looking for the perfect holiday retreat. Not only is the villa beautifully furnished, with idyllic views over the sea and surrounding olive groves, but it also boasts an amazing Bösendorfer 290 Grand Imperial piano.

Every year, the Villa hosts the Casa dei Mezzo Music Festival, uniting artists from all over Europe. The concert encompasses a wide range of music - from Baroque and Classical, to Contemporary, New Age and Traditional Cretan music. "The idea for a music festival at Casa dei Mezzo came to me during the building of the new Villa Casa dei Mezzo, when the courtyard started to take shape," says Gunnar Strømsholm, the founder and organiser of the festival. "We quickly discovered that the acoustics are incredible, and that the size and shape of the courtyard make it a perfect concert arena." The first festival, in June 2004, saw Øystein Sevåg premiere his composition 'Casa dei Mezzo', which he wrote as a dedication to the new villa. The next year Øystein returned with some friends, and since then the concert has gone from strength to strength. Lately, the festival has taken on a more classical flavour with the performance of its first opera, 'Madame Butterfly', but it will always feature some new compositions, and two concerts devoted solely to Greek music.

Naturally, a very special piano was needed for the Casa dei Mezzo Music Festival. Gunnar and the pianist Brian Stanborough were originally searching for a piano in Germany, but then Gunnar's local UK piano dealer called to say that he had found something exceptional. "Brian and I jumped straight onto a plane (I was in Crete picking olives and he was in France)," says Gunnar. "To our utter amazement we discovered this was Luciano Pavorotti's Bösendorfer 290 Imperial Grand piano, but it had been shoved into a corner and neglected for years. Brian played it for a few moments, and I think the words he used were 'amazing!' and 'unbelievable!' We were both convinced that we must have this Rolls Royce of an instrument."

After a full restoration in England, the piano was bought over to Crete by a driver and a minder on a specially constructed truck (it weighs 570 kilos and is 2.9m long, so moving it was no easy task). Gunnar has also had a special trolley designed and built to transfer the piano from the house to the courtyard for the festival. Since its installation at the villa it has already been played by a number of internationally known pianists.

Bösendorfer has been manufacturing pianos since the company was founded in 1828, and is renown for its exceptional craftsmanship (each piano takes over a year to build). The Bösendorfer Grand Imperial is the only concert grand in the world to have nine sub-bass notes, down to bottom C, giving it a full eight octave compass keyboard. This allows the accurate performance of compositions originally scored with lower notes - music by composers such as Bartók, Debussy, Ravel and Busoni. The Bösendorfer Grand Imperial of Casa dei Mezzo was built in 1973, and it is easy to see why the world-famous opera singer Pavorotti chose it as his principal recording and rehearsal piano in the UK. The piano has a very unique sound, making it an unforgettable delight to play. As Gunnar says: "There was no doubt in anyone's mind that this was what the festival needed."

Quotes are taken from The Casa dei Mezzo Music Festival website and an article by Sharon Kyrke-Smith

Casa dei Mezzo Music Concerts website