When William Walton died, and the world lost one of the greatest composers of the 20th century, Lady Walton chose to remain in Ischia and fulfil her husband's greatest wish: to help talented young musicians. She started by organizing an annual choral masterclass, during which budding professionals, chosen by the most rigorous selection, received three weeks training of their voices and stage presence from a staff of specialists. The age of these talented youngsters ranged from 7 to 25 years, and the courses were completely funded by the Fondazione. After that, a programme of chamber music concerts which still runs today was launched, in collaboration with prestigious schools of music.
The last great achievement, chronologically, has been the Greek Theatre, inaugurated in 2006 for the 80th birthday of Lady Walton. The first of the Festivals of Youth Orchestras took place in 2007. At its inauguration that giant of the podium Sir Neville Marriner, and ten budding orchestras received enthusiastic acclaim from both audience and critics, so much so that La Mortella earned the name as the “Salzburg of the Mediterranean for Youth Orchestras”. The programmes, of course, included some of the most beautiful music of William Walton.
This new event aims to offer numerous Italian and foreign youth orchestras the opportunity to perform before an appreciative and knowledgeable audience, like that which for years has followed the chamber music concerts organized by the ‘Fondazione William Walton e La Mortella’. Italy in fact offers few occasions for young musicians to perform publicly as the usual circuits tend to favour known professionals who are a greater attraction, and there are very few events interested in playing a role in the discovery of new talent.
The Festival therefore intends to fill a gap, and brings together a keenly attentive and interested audience and young musicians of enormous artistic and technical potential.
The Festival also offers young performers the opportunity to live out a particularly important and formative experience, by allowing them to play on the stage of such a fascinating and evocative venue as the Greek Theatre in the gardens at La Mortella. The Gardens are filled with the spirit of the composer William Walton who lived and worked here, and the musicians, composers and concert performers who have visited all agree that they are sources of inspiration and intense artistic emotions.
The Festival also aims to be a place for young musicians to meet and exchange views, to advance their education and development as professionals, as artists and as citizens, through understanding and debate: contact with the worlds and experiences of others’ lives is always an impetus for growth and comprehension. For the young performers, this event provides their first contact with the Mediterranean world, the environment and the history of this island, and the immense archaeological and cultural heritage of Campania. Bearing in mind that the majority of the youth orchestras come from northern Europe and the United States, we can but imagine the impact, and the fascination, that the climate and landscape of Ischia must exert on young orchestral musicians accustomed to the long winters and mists of the North.
The Festival therefore also plays a part in the promotion of the island and as a tourist attraction, drawing cultured, informed and highly specialized visitors, and aiding the development of sustainable tourism.