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XXV Guitar Convention

XXV Guitar Convention, Modena, Palazzo Coccapani, October 27 2012

 On Saturday October 27, 2012, the XXV Guitar Convention was held in Modena, Italy. The event took place in the splendid halls of the Coccapani palace, headquarter of the National Academy of Sciences, Letters and Arts. The event offered a new and significant opportunity to rediscover and deepen various aspects of the art of the guitar, from the fascinating compositions of Santiago de Murcia to the  many-sided character of contemporary sonority. Lutherie was the centrepiece of the presentation of original instruments made by Antonio Stradivari (with his famous Sabionari model), Manuel Ramirez, Pietro Gallinotti.

The conference also hosted an exhibit dedicated to a unique artist, Italo Meschi, the poet-singer from Lucca, who distinguished himself as a harp-guitar virtuoso. Meschi  was acclaimed in many  concerts held in Europe’s great cities as well as in America, from New York to San Francisco. Numerous accounts remain of his travels and of his life as a musician and singer and of his peace activism. Marco Bazzotti, curator of the exhibition, gathered this  rare and unpublished biographical documentation, made available for this occasion by Tista and Innocenzo Meschi, respectively Italo’s cousin and nephew. 

As customary, the organizers of the Convention distributed among the participants an information package on the event’s topics. This year’s package, however, held two special gifts. The first was a CD of Gilardino’s 20 Studi Facili recently recorded by Cristiano Porqueddu for the Brilliant Classics label and kindly made available by the Associazione Musicare di Nuoro. The second gift consisted of a musical publication Sinfonica with a collection of studies of various composers with an enclosed CD recorded by Bruno Giuffredi on a Gallinotti guitar and made available by the same publisher.

The day began with a welcoming address by Professor Ferdinando Taddei, president of the Accademia Nazionale delle Scienze, Lettere e Arti. Convention curator Simona Boni then took the floor introducing the day’s events. She also read out a letter from the Mayor of the Municipality of Rovereto who, following a recommendation of the Committee of Chitarra in Italia has promised to restore the dilapidated tombstone over Maestro Luigi Mozzani’s grave.  

The convention began with a session entitled Santiago de Murcia: the guitar between the Old and the New World by Argentine guitarist and lutenist Evangelina Mascardi. Ms Mascardi presented a well-received program for baroque guitar, interpreting with exquisite sensitivity music by Santiago de Murcia, partly drawn from a recently rediscovered manuscript in Chile (Cifras Selectas de guitarra, 1722). These pieces (Passacalles de clarines por la D, Follias, Zarambeques, Marizapalos, Los Ymposibles, and Fandango) were strongly influenced by the circles frequented by the composer at the time.  Santiago de Murcia travelled extensively in Spain, Italy and the New World drawing from various cultural traditions new musical ideas, creating musical pieces of great beauty, combining classical musical  forms, contrapuntal structures, and African and Spanish dance rhythms.

Mascardi’s session was followed by a very exciting moment with the presentation of the Sabionari guitar (named after its first owner Giovanni Sabionari). The Sabionari is one of  five guitars built by Antonio Stradivari that have survived to our days, and the only playable. It is interesting to note  how this instrument’s most recent history takes us back to the tradition of Guitar Conventions. This same model was shown at the X Convention, held in Bologna in 1948. On that occasion, Andrés Segovia examined the instrument and signed his name at  the bottom of the sound hole. At a distance of 64 years from that X Convention, the precious instrument has been brought again to the attention of the guitar community. We owe our thanks to Virginia Villa, director of Stradivari Foundation of the city of Cremona where the model is being kept. Thank you also to Roberto Domenichini, the guitar’s current owner and to Fausto Cacciatori, curator of the restoration project and of the studies performed on the instrument.

In the following session, Stefano Toffolo presented the result of his studies on the guitar in Venetian history and art, from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century. He demonstrated the instrument’s recurrent presence in areas seemingly far apart, such as music publishing, instrument making, and visual arts. Thanks to a considerable array of images, Stefano Toffolo showed us how the three contexts under analysis reflect the trends of their times. In particular, seventeenth century music publishing (born in the previous century right in Venice) did not fail to disclose a widespread and growing passion for the guitar, very much present in the cultural and social life of the time. Noteworthy frescoes and paintings also confirm this trend, as well as the art of instrument-making; that right in the city of canals has experienced a refined development.

Next, Walter Zanetti provided an in-depth look at the guitar of the eighteen hundreds. He followed the usual chronological path through the centuries with reference to particular sound research, composition,  and construction carried out by Francisco Tárrega and Antonio de Torres Jurado. Zanetti dedicated his program entirely to Tárrega’s music. He offered an admirable interpretation on two important instruments: a copy of the Torres model guitar ‘Leona 1856’ made by luthier Paul Coriani, and a Manuel Ramirez 1903 guitar, kindly made available by the same luthier. The composer and the luthier perform complementary work, as shown by the decision to perform this music on the guitar. The work of the luthier contributes to the composer’s expressivity. Both have shaped the features of our modern instrument.

The morning ended with a musical performance by Bruno Giuffredi dedicated to the  guitars of Pietro Gallinotti, with a careful selection of works by different authors; from Bach to Villa-Lobos, all aimed at revealing the true character of the single instruments. The performance was preceded by an interesting presentation by luthier Fabio Zontini, who explained some aspects of Pietro Gallinotti’s building techniques. Gallinotti’s encounter with a guitar created by Julian Gomez Ramirez convinced him that the future of the six strings would lie in ‘Spanish style instruments’ and not on Gaetano Guadagnini’s outdated models. Gallinotti’s genius lies in the fact that he did not just produce mere copies, but models developed through original construction projects. These instruments were admirable for their rich timbre and sound, as shown by Bruno Giuffredi’s performance on some excellent models: three guitars built between 1933 and 1957 (the n. 5, dedicated to Peter Volpini), as well as the first guitar built in cedar wood in 1952. The cedar guitar received a first award in the guitar-making competition held in Turin in 1952, on the occasion of the XIV Guitar Convention. At the end of the event, the Convention presented a guitar by Fabio Zontini, inspired on the 1952 cedar wood instrument. This is a testimony to the longevity of   Gallinotti’s influence on the Italian liuthery tradition.

At the end of the morning, the maestros gathered in the Hall of Mirrors for a group portrait by photographer Marco Cavina. After lunch - served in the Palace Halls and as always a welcome occasion for pleasant conversations and an annual opportunity to see each other - the guests attended the screening in the conference room of the documentary film A misura d’uomo directed by Luigi Coppola and focused on the experience of professional luthier Fabio Zontini and of his encounters with guitarists Bruno Giuffredi and Max Manfredi.

The early afternoon session featured ‘Un hombre no puede colgar el alma’. The human adventure of Alirio Díaz, by Stefano Picciano, dedicated to the illustrious Venezuelan guitarist. Picciano perfected his own guitar studies with Maestro Díaz. Meeting Diaz evoked such a profound interest in him that he decided to narrate his rich personal and artistic life story in a recently published book. It starts from the guitarist’s peasant origins and the  difficult years of his youth. It moves on to his early influences (a total immersion in popular culture),  to his meeting with Segovia, his concert successes and academic teaching. The constant passion for beauty has allowed Díaz to overcome the mutual exclusivity between folk and cultured, therefore creating a superior artistic ideal, reflecting his natural generosity and availability. The speaker offered a special opportunity for a glimpse on a personality of deep artistic sensitivity.

Elena Casoli’s musical selection, with the participation of flutist Lorenzo Missaglia, generated great interest among the audience. The duo presented the Namasté project focusing on research around the works of the XX century repertoire that arose from the encounter of Eastern and Western cultures. The West has often been fascinated by the traditions of the East: an example is the two beautiful - unfortunately little known pieces - by Terry Riley taken from the cycle Cantos Desiertos (Francesco en Paraiso and Quijote, the latter consisting of a series of variations based on an Indian melody). Conversely, in the Eastern context, some composers have chosen to adopt Western musical themes, such as some important themes by Toru Takemitsu’s Toward the Sea, from whom we have heard The Night and Cape Cod. We are dealing with a cultural bridge of recent musical history, a bridge  that enriches both the Eastern as well as the Western tradition  with new creative ideas.

Reflecting on contemporary music, we should realize how often the study of this repertoire arrives too late in the formation of a guitarist. In this regard, Vincenzo Saldarelli’s presentation sought to emphasize the need to make students aware of new musical developments. Students should be allowed to acquire the necessary knowledge to understand the contents, techniques and writings (often different from the traditional one), as well as  problems of interpretation. Saldarelli went on to highlight numerous musical examples for use in this hoped-for renewal in teaching techniques. He then performed two works chosen to exemplify the technical/interpretative values of this kind of repertoire: Left and Soft - quattro divertimenti brevi per chitarra by Giovanni Indulti, composed in 1983, and Elegia mediterranea (2003) by Saldarelli himself.

Always within  the topic of education within the contemporary repertoire, one finds  the theme raised by Cristiano Porqueddu.  Back at the XXIII Convention, Porqueddu presented the work of guitarist Angelo Gilardino. This XV Convention sees him in a concert role with a wide range of pieces by Gilardino, a native of Vercelli, performed with impeccable touch and great sensitivity. Porqueddu regards the 60 Studi di Virtusità e Trascendenza as the first work in which Gilardino expresses his poetic conception of the instrument. Nevertheless, it is certainly a very complex and difficult work in terms of performance and interpretation. Several premises led to the composition of the 20 Studi Facili. These pages are intended for guitarists who wish to approach twentieth century music. They allow the guitarist to gradually explore contemporary guitar technique and the study of dynamics and timbre, without renouncing to flexible language, symmetry and freshness of communication; even more so, allowing these three elements to find a place in a concert program.

 Aldo Minella was given the honor of delivering the closing remarks for this XXV Guitar Convention.  Minella’s personal artistic story is emotionally linked to this city of Modena. It is in Modena where he marked his guitar debut. In 1955, he obtained his first level Diploma in the competition organized within the XVII Guitar Convention. In this twenty-fifth anniversary of the death of Andrés Segovia, Minella vividly recalled the memory of his Maestro, the excitement of his lectures and the artistic ferment that reigned during that period of time: «from those courses began a splendid renaissance of the guitar, whose effects are still being felt today through successive generations of students. The education I received from Segovia in one decade has been a fundamental part in my musical formation. Segovia’s teaching did not consist of analytical lessons; it was rather an all-inclusive and always profound musical experience. It felt like being in the presence of a great performer in a great concert that leaves you fulfilled. Musical research and research of poetry in music are the main legacy that I have left. This is what I try to convey to my students by showing them, by example and on the guitar itself, the means to carry out this research».

It is within this constant search, musical and poetical in the deepest sense of the word, that perhaps the most precious idea of the Segovia’s legacy lies. An idea that is still very powerful to this day and that we hope will be handed down to future generations. An idea bequeathed  together with all the works, the research and artistic values,  promoted by those among us who dedicate themselves with sincere devotion to our instrument.



S. Mastrogregori, Il XXV Convegno Chitarristico

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