When I was a child, my parents – themselves both wonderful musicians – could not initially decide which instrument I should play. Funnily enough my father, who was a solo violinist, wanted me to become a pianist, while my mother– a pianist – tended towards the violin. I enjoyed playing both, until my mother finally got her way. I’ve never yet regretted this decision, except for one thing: as a violinist, I am unable to play the phenomenal, breathtaking piano music of Sergei Rachmaninov. To this day I am still envious, in the best sense, of pianists who perform this fantastic music. What’s more, Rachmaninov never composed a concerto for violin.
I have always found Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto, op. 18, and the story behind it, particularly touching. I find it hard to imagine that only a short time before composing this ingenious work, the Russian composer was suffering from severe depression and, following the advice of his relatives, was undergoing hypnotherapy with the neurologist Nikolai Dahl. During the hypnosis, the neurologist repeatedly said that Rachmaninov would “write a concerto of excellent quality”. And indeed, shortly after his therapy, Rachmaninov composed the famous Piano Concerto No. 2, which he dedicated to his doctor.
Out of love for Rachmaninov, I have decided to dedicate the musical fragments in this novel to him. In the end, this story is about the fate of several pianists. I would particularly like to thank my mother Yolanda here, who first made me familiar with Rachmaninov’s music; her interpretations of it will always be in my ears and in my heart.
As a result of my busy reading and concert tour schedule, “Roman Finale” was written in several countries: from my home in Tessin, to Arkansas in the USA, and Capetown in South Africa. There was one particularly intense week in Athens, for which I have my aunt Natalia (Talissimo) and uncle Alexis to thank for providing the perfect writing conditions.
In this story, I also chose to include some scenes from a time that is a little longer ago. The connection between Rome and Calabria arose from a tragically dramatic reason: the interminable presence of the mafia. The ritual of the Calabrian ’Ndrangheta, as described in the prologue, is based on real events, although I allowed myself the poetic licence of attaching it to Salvatore’s baptism.
I personally fell immediately in love with Calabria, its warm-hearted inhabitants and its attentive concert audiences, on my first trips to Cosenza, Reggio Calabria, Catanzaro, Locri and Gerace. And although this region is often particularly associated with the ’Ndrangheta, the culture and natural surroundings of Calabria have so much to offer.
My best memories are of exploring with my dear friend, Francesco Nicita, who showed me the most beautiful parts of his country during my travels. As far as local snacks and drinks go, I can only too heartily recommend muzzunata, granita calabrese di mandorle and polpette di melanzane (a sort of aubergine ball) to other Calabrian travellers!
And I’d like to mention one other special protagonist: Pioppo, the beautiful grey tabby three-legged tomcat that Federica looks after; in real life, I adopted him long-distance two years ago. I don’t need to say how happy it makes me to see him again looking healthy and cheerful whenever I visit Rome. Pioppo, and several other cats, live in the Colonia Felina di Torre Argentina, and are always happy to receive visitors and support.
To all the readers and booksellers who requested a second case for Commissaro Di Bernardo to solve: thank you from the bottom of my heart. After ‘Fatal Sonata’ I too felt as though I was meeting the Commissario and his team again as if they were old friends. In the interim, just as they would have done in real life, the characters have carried on with their lives, developed, show old and new quirks, and have come up with new ideas. It turns out, for example, that Roberto Del Pino has set up a new email adress for himself (email@example.com). For anyone who is curious, I can assure you that this email address exists, and who knows – maybe Roberto will take a look at his inbox to see if he’s got mail…:-)