The cultural heart of Soller beats loud, consistently and strong. Music and art have always been synonymous with the Soller Valley and today a new generation are taking it forward. The three ladies it was my pleasure to talk to this week are passionate about music and bringing it to all in the Hidden Valley as many times a year as their busy concert schedules allow. The lynch pin of this group is the pianist Suzanne Bradbury, a child of Deya who made her move to the City of Soller in 2006. Suzanne tells of a Deya childhood of no cars, no electricity and an appreciation through the artistic works of her parents of nature and sea in all its creative forms. A musical prodigy whose talents were nurtured initially by a piano teacher in Soller and then on to a glittering training and career. Suzanne is originally from California but largely grew up in Deya. Her most important teachers were the Spanish pianist Jose Ortiga and later, Ludwig Hoffman (Munich). At twelve years old she played the D Major concerto of Hayden with orchestra and 2 years later gave a recital on television in New York. After studying in New York, Vienna and England she was invited to the Wilhelm Kempff course in Positano and was elected by him to participate in a film to celebrate his 80th birthday. Stefan Askenase became her most valuable musical mentor. While still at university Suzanne was awarded the prize for ‘Young Soloists’ organised by the Radio of Hess. From that moment on she has been contracted worldwide to perform and record. She was the founder of the famous Music Festival of Allenbach in Lake Constanstanze. Her life brought her home to Mallorca where she now lives when she is not travelling the globe with her music. In Majorca she has performed often in the Auditorium as soloist, with the Sinhoffer Quartet from Munich, with the cellist Mark Drobinsky and with the Balearic Symphony Orchestra.
Suzanne is one of the prominent faces of music in Soller and well known and supported by the Local Council and the people. They are delighted that she is a wonderful advocate for the music and the musicians of Soller. Suzanne teaches music, accompanies choirs, singers and plays the piano beautifully as a solo artist. For much of the year not a week goes by when Suzanne Bradbury’s name does not appear on a poster around Soller advertising a concert or performance. She is indeed a favourite daughter of the City and they don’t want her to go anywhere else. They grudgingly let her go to perform in the fine concert halls of Europe but they want her back here as the backbone of musical endeavour in Soller.
Suzanne’s energy for spotting like minded new comers to the area have brought her into friendships with two beautiful sopranos Waltraud Mucher and Fiona Stuart-Wilson who both live in the Soller Valley for a large part of the year and make a huge musical contribution. Waltraud has a love story to thank for bringing her here to Soller. She is Austrian and had a very successful career as a mezzo soprano Opera Singer with a long term commitment to Komische Opera Berlin and many other Opera houses in Germany and beyond. Her voice has taken her to worldwide venues and as a freelance opera and concert singer she has rung the changes in her voice. She is much in demand for her wide repertoire but that is being challenged right now because she has fallen in love with her husband and with Majorca -in that order. A whirlwind love story that knocked her off her feet and found her married within months of meeting him. At the time she didn’t know of his Hidden Valley connections. In fact at that time her knowledge of Majorca was extremely limited. Her husband told her of a finca he owned half way between Soller and Deya and they went to visit. She says that the word love just described everything – how she felt about her husband, her new home and Majorca. The beauty and the inspiration of the valley has been such that the times they now spend in Berlin are limited because they just want to be here. So we are blessed by their love because it brings the fine singing of Waltraud Mucher to our doorstep and the quality of the voices of the area is enhanced by hers.
Fiona Stuart-Wilson is like many who have put down roots in the Soller Valley. The seductive calling to a region of outstanding natural beauty combined with a deep underbelly of music and art were a heady combination for her and her partner. A visit to Deya allowing the mountains to enfold them did not prepare them for Soller and its Port. When they made the trip down the mountain they thought they had landed in Cannes and were in a chic French resort. Repeat visits and then the inevitable ‘wouldn’t it be nice to have a place here’ means that they have done just that and spend as much time as business interests will allow in Soller. Fiona is committed to music and her own history shows what a treasure we have amongst us and why she makes such a dynamic contribution. Fiona comes from London and now lives there and in Soller. She studied piano and singing at Trinity College of Music, and read music at Selwyn College, Cambridge. Whilst at Cambridge she was one of the few women to hold a choral scholarship, and studied singing with Anne Bartlett and Nigel Beavan.
Over the years she has established a varied career as a soloist and professional choral singer based in London but performing all over the UK. Her extensive repertoire of music from the renaissance to the present day has enabled her to accept a wide variety of solo and choral engagements. Contemporary music features strongly in her repertoire and she has had a number of works composed for her.As a soloist, she has performed widely with numerous choral societies and orchestras, and opera performances include roles in works by Handel, Purcell, Mozart, Rossini and Kurt Weill. Fiona continues to give song recitals in the UK and Majorca with programmes combining popular classics and rare gems. Recent engagements include concerts at the Deia International Music Festival and the Chorlton Festival, and duet recitals with the baritone Hugh Hillyard-Parker, soprano Kate Tomlin and the lovely fellow Solleric mezzo Waltraud Mucher.
These three friends are passionate about the future of music in Soller and are looking forward to the day that it gets its own Concert Hall. This has been long in the planning and there are current ideas of a quick conversion of a derelict cinema. In the meantime the beauty of the Museum of the Sea is used for their regular concerts. The Chapel in the grounds is used as the concert venue and this sits between the beauty of the Port of Soller on one side and the huge cliffs and the vast sea on the other. It is a magical location which unfortunately only seats around 200 people. Suzanne, Waltraud and Fiona performing together are often sold out and they would love a larger stage in the Soller Valley for their music.
This trio of ladies have ideas for the future which include new composers and collaboration with local Majorcan singers and musicians. They have a broad canvas on which they want to paint and they know that every year a new influx of settlers find the Soller Valley. A singer, a composer, an impresario – who knows who is arriving here next to add their stamp on the music of the Valley. That is for the future because right now we have three wonderful talents in our midst who are prepared to give so much to our experience of living here.
It has been a privilege to get to know three of the musicians of the valley a little better and I hope you have enjoyed this little snapshot into their lives. Come and visit us in Soller, attend a concert or two and see what I am talking about. I still pinch myself, after all these years, to believe I have landed in such a beautiful and artistically rich place on this planet.