“Le Grand Feu”, by Léonor de Récondo: the little Venetian violinist

The writer and violinist Léonor de Récondo, in Vincennes (Val-de-Marne), in June 2023.

Shortlisted for the “Le Monde” Literary Prize

“Le Grand Feu”, by Léonor de Récondo, Gret, 224 p., €19.50, digital €14.

An accomplished musician and talented writer, Léonor de Récondo fires up her two pions in her tenth book, The Great Fire, a beautiful novel. In Venice, in the XVIIIe century, the Pietà, a charity establishment, welcomed little orphans and, like a conservatory, offered them the best music teachers. From all over Europe, people came to listen to the singing of the choir of young girls dressed in white, hidden behind ornate gates. We believed, we said then, to hear “the voice of the angels”.

In the Venice that had been struck by the plague, “We loved each other before we died “. The novel begins with a birth on May 31, 1699. Francesca and Giacomo Tagianotte, cloth merchants, lost three of their children, stillborn. Francesca is sure that Ilaria, the sixth, whom she has just given birth to, will live, sing, and that her voice will precede them in paradise. That’s why she insists on getting him a place at the Pietà, thanks to his cousin Bianca, who is the guardian.

Thus begins Ilaria’s apprenticeship novel which, in brief chapters, retraces sixteen years of life. What will she do?, wonders Bianca. In this city where, away from the carnival, “we hear the silence and the night”, young girls only left the Pietà to marry or join a convent. But Ilaria discovered music thanks to the new “master of the violin”Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741), nicknamed “Red Priest”. He arrived in 1703 at the Pietà, whose glory he ensured. Ilaria is then too small to learn singing. He encourages her, by presenting her with a small violin, to let her hear her “golden voice” by this tool.

Power of a simple sound

A virtuoso violinist, Léonor de Récondo first devoted herself to baroque music, participating in the best ensembles, and creating one, L’Yriade. That before starting a career as a novelist with The Grace of the White Cypress (The Weather, 2010). Evoking Ilaria’s introduction to the violin, she therefore appeals to her own experience, emotional and sensory: “The first violin lesson is the beginning of a new life, without anyone knowing it. » Before being able to “giving flesh to the music”Ilaria had to learn the rigor that Giulietta transmits to each of her little students. “Devotion and Respect”, she repeats. But, at 13, first concert: “Beams of music that come together and ignite. » Power of a simple sound. Vibration that never goes away.

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