Living with art and music in a windmill

The restored mill as an exhibition and concert space.
The restored mill as an exhibition and concert space. / J.R.
  • Cornelia Lenzin, professional pianist and owner of El Molino de Cajiz

Cornelia Lenzin, is a professional pianist and piano teacher from Basel in Switzerland. After many years of holidaying in Malaga province and inheriting some money, she decided to buy property in the Axarquía and have more of a permanent base here.

At first, Cornelia, 48, says it was "just an idea for fun". But as she was shown around a number of different types of houses "by very enthusiastic estate agents", she confesses she got sucked in and then eventually started "taking it more seriously" and eventually decided that she wanted something "old and rustic".

Cornelia didn't really know what she was after initially and far from her thoughts was the idea of buying and converting an old, extremely run-down, flour mill in the tiny village of Cajiz, which belongs to Vélez-Málaga. However, in 2014 she found herself buying El Molino de Cajiz (the Cajiz windmill) and it became a project that would bring her closer to Spanish culture as well as allow her to continue with her profession and explore other aspects of the arts.

Of a population of around 820 people, Cajiz has a relatively low number of foreign residents. Cornelia admits that she created a lot of interest when she moved into the property, not only because locals saw that someone was working on the building, but also because she was foreign. "I know a lot of the locals now and they love sharing with me their memories of the working mill," she says.

Although Cornelia says that it has been quite difficult to get information on the history of the mill, she believes it was in operation until the 60s: "Some of the older generation remember it and they also remember coming to buy their bread here as the house served as a bakery."

Cornelia actually bought the property from an English person who had had the mill's roof redone. However, when the pianist bought it, it was in a bad state of repair and other parts of the roof needed restoring. She enlisted the help of an English builder, who in turn contracted a number of locals to help with the project. "That was nice," says Cornelia. "I think it really helped that the people who were helping to restore a building had it close to their hearts. They were familiar with and it helped me get to know my neighbours right from the beginning."

Cornelia Lenzin.

Cornelia Lenzin. / J.R.

Now El Molino de Cajiz, which sits on Calle Molino in the village, has been converted into a concert and exhibition space, along with Cornelia's home and a small annex which she rents out to tourists and friends. "I suddenly had the idea for the concert room in the mill and thought that it would be the perfect place for my piano too," says the pianist. "The idea for the exhibition space came later," she adds, explaining that art, other than music, runs in the family: "My sister and aunt are both very artistic but I am not."

Since work on the mill was completed, two concerts have been given in the space; a piano recital by Cornelia, which she says was really successful with lots of people coming "just hearing about it through word of mouth." A later concert was given by British guitarist, Keith James, who will be returning to play at the mill in April.

The walls of the mill are currently being used to exhibit work by German artist Merle Kumschier and Cornelia's creative sister designed a mosaic which goes around one of the property's terraces. Cornelia is in touch with a number of artists in the Axarquía area and hopes to attract more exhibitors in the near future.

The former flour mill retains some of its original features, including the grindstone, which would have been pulled by a donkey.

At the moment Cornelia divides her time between Cajiz and Basel, where she still performs in concerts and orchestras, although she has stopped giving piano lessons. She says that over time she will probably spend more time in Spain, although doesn't plan to give up her life in Switzerland entirely. There are a lot of projects planned for the mill, though; not only more concerts and exhibitions but also giving music classes in collaboration with singer Simona Mango, who will be performing this evening as part of the 'Luna Llena' duo.