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XXVI Guitar Convention

XXVI Guitar Convention, Sanremo, Teatro dell'Opera del Casinò, October 19 2013

On Saturday, 19 October 2013, the 26th Guitar Convention was held in the prestigious Teatro dell’Opera del Casinò. The refined context of this celebrated Ligurian theatre, with its elegant Art Deco lines, was host to a large audience coming from all parts of Italy and abroad. It was truly a sumptuous edition of the initiative that from now on, by the decision of the scientific committe and with the intention to honor the tradition begun by Romolo Ferrari, will be held in different cities around the nation each year. The 26th Convention was made possible thanks to the precious and instrumental collaboration of Giorgio Revelli, president of the Centro Culturale Tabiese which sponsored the event, a recognised authority for the promotion of culture in the Ligurian, national and European territories.

In continuation with the prior editions, an exhibit was held for the Convention to remember eminent guitarists from the past. In particular, in this Ligurian edition, homage was paid to two important masters active in the Genoa guitar scene who at the same time had become protagonists of a recognised artistic path that extended well beyond the local confines: Pasquale Taraffo (1887-1937) and Carlo Palladino (1910-1995). Both were animated by an extraordinary ability to communicate that was best expressed through concertising and teaching, as we can recognise in the personal careers of each guitarist: each taking different paths, but holding a common point of view. The presentation of the exhibit was made possible thanks to the proactive collaboration of Franco Ghisalberti, who has done a good amount of research over the years on Taraffo, and of Piara Palladino, who carefully and caringly conserves the musical archive belonging to her father.

Supplementing the proposed content in this day of musical studies, packets were given out to the participants with various materials to provide a more in-depth analysis of the day’s topics, including two significant items offered for free: the cd published by the Brilliant Classics label Albini musica ciclica, with music by Giovanni Albini, kindly offered the the composer himself, and the pamphlet, Pasquale Taraffo the ‘Paganini of the guitar’,  printed just for this occasion by Franco Ghisalberti.

The day opened with the acknowledgements of the president of the Centro Culturale Tabiese Giorgio Revelli. Then it was Simona Boni’s turn, the curator of the convention, who presented the upcoming speakers and performers. After having reminded the audience of the Guitar Convention’s research goals, Boni announced the beginning of a qualified project of document conservation that credits the great efforts by Chitarra in Italia in recent years: it would be the creation of a guitar archive of national importance, activated thanks to the good will of the prestigious Biblioteca Estense Universitaria  of Modena. Before commencing the Convention, the curator had informed that for unexpected reasons, Raffaele Carpino, Pino Briasco and Eli Tagore, whose presence was foreseen in the program, would be unable to attend. Unable to substitute their talk in such a brief time, a different topic would be presented by Marco Bazzotti on the guitar magazines of the first half of the 1900s.

The convention thus began as usual, from the guitar’s origins to present day, with the contribution entitled, “Del sonar all’impronta.”  Divagazione improvvisate su musiche di Gaspar Sanz, Santiago de Murcia e Anonimi, by Ugo Nastrucci. It was an engaging demonstration of the practice of improvising on the baroque guitar, preceded by an interesting reflection that placed attention on the practice of that time, an expression at the same time of great vitality and elusiveness. The interpretation-performance that is absolutely faithful and complying to the written page is actually an idea derived from the “romantic criteria,” which is not applicable in antique music: as a consequence, the interpretations of the period preceding Romanticism that do not complete the score with the use of embellishments and contributions to the written score by the performer, are to be considered not only incomplete, but in certain cases improper.

In the next talk, Luigi Attademo presented the results of his performance research on the guitar music of Paganini, placing it in the wider context of 19th century instrumental technique. Of particular interest was the analysis of some technical details of Paganini’s writing, differing from the idiomatic writing of the instrument of the same period (for example, some slurs or portamenti in the violinistic writing).  Then, some considerations on the guitar model used by Paganini were developed, also thanks to some additional visual aids. At the conclusion of the talk, Attademo performed some of the well-known music by Paganini (Romanza from the Grande Sonata in A major, the Sonata n.23, Ghiribizzi 37 and 38) on a magnificent Guadagnini guitar from 1851, also played by the concert performer in his recent recording of the complete works by Paganini..

Still dealing with works of the 19th century, the musical intervention by Sara Gianfelici recalled two great masters of our time through thier fundamental contributions in teaching: Ruggero Chiesa (whose 20th anniversary of his death is remembered this year) and Carlo Ghersi. In particular, we owe Ruggero Chiesa a great impulse in the rediscovery and publication of modern editions of important pieces from the 19th century repertoire, which he transmitted to generations of students together with a disciplined musicological approach and an unforgettable artistic and human lesson. With these words, Sara intended to remember the profound legacy of his teachers: “A teacher is such because he continues to teach us even when when we no longer study with him for a good number of years.” In their memory, he dedicated two splendid interpretations: The Introduction and Variations on the Aria “O Cara Armonia” from the Magic Flute by W.A. Mozart op.9 by Fernando Sor and the Rossiniana n.2 op.120 by Mauro Giuliani.

To conclude the morning, Fabrizio Giudice paid homage to the virtuoso Pasquale Taraffo, highlighting the principle aspects of his artistic personality through the last direct testimony provided by Anselmo Bersano and the admirable demonstration offered by his numerous recordings. Pasquale Taraffo had actually recorded for the biggest recording labels of his time and it’s for this reason that he can be considered a pioneer of guitar discography. Unfortunately, only recordings of his compositions for guitar have survived; he never wrote down his own music. Fabrizio Giudice proposed, on a harp-guitar from 1898 built by the Genovese Oreste Candi, the performance of some of this music, accurately transcribed from listening to the old 78 records: Prospero, the Sinfonia from Norma by Bellini, the Fantasia by Viñas.

At the termination of the morning session, the presenters riunited on the stage of the Teatro dell’Opera del Casinò for the group photo taken by Stefano di Luca. Lunch followed, served in the refined halls of the Casinò adjoining the theater: this way, the presenters could dialogue with everyone. The convention would then promptly resume in early afternoon.

The second session of the Convention opened with 20th century topics, with a contribution by Davide Ficco on the composer Bruno Bettinelli on the 100th anniversary of his birth. After having illustrated the ensemble works with guitar by Bettinelli, his original musical language was highlighted, which distinguishes itself both from the many generically atonal compositions that characterise part of 20th century music, and also from aleatory music or more general postwebernian music that hardly fits any category. Bettinelli’s style surely appears atonal and serial, but is stylistically entirely personal and most of all characterised by a great coherence of language. So, the possibility to listen to the legacy of the ensemble works with guitar by Bettinelli was welcomed by the audience with great interest, made possible by the participation of the soprano Oxana Mochenets (for the Due Liriche from 1977), Diego Milanese (for the Divertimento a due for two guitars from 1982) and  Paola Dusio (in Musica a due for flute and guitar from the same year).

Moving along in an analysis of modern composition languages, the Apeiron Quartet (comprising Michele Ambrosi, Vlatko Bocevski, Vjekoslav Cmobori and Raffaele Pisano) performed works by three contemporary composers dedicated to the particular formation of the guitar quartet, a formation that requires a specific compositional reflection both in its development and in the arrangement of the instrumental writing. In an interpretation rich in tone colours and intense expression, the audience was able to appreciate El lenguaje de las estrellas (2007) by José Antonio Chic, Impresije rijke Xingu (2012) dedicated to the Apeiron Quartet by the young and promising Croatian composer Ivan Šuran (present in the audience), and finally the brilliant Tarentelle (1991) by François Laurent.

After these performances, an interesting talk was given by Giovanni Albini discussing the theme: Composing for the 21st century guitar: approaches, problems and possibilities. Albini tackled an efficient critical summary of the problems and possibilities of composing for the guitar today, illustrating examples taken from the scores by different authors. In the various experiences of compositional investigation, very different paths appear, that range from a typically idiomatic writing to an “anti-guitaristic” virtuosity intent on creating new sounds, from the use of non-standard tunings to the use of resources offered by the most recent technologies.

To follow was a talk prepared by Marco Bazzotti who for some time has dedicated himself to the studies of twentieth century Italian guitar music. Bazzotti was able to very effectively describe, also with the projection of rare images and photographs, the Italian musical scene in the first half of the twentieth century. He particularly referred to the vital role of magazines such as La Chitarra and L’Arte Chitarristica which revealed themselves to be of great importance in the diffusion of not only content, projects and ideas, but also in the publishing and dissemination of new music.

 The conclusion of the Convention was left to Federico Briasco, who covered the artistic career and life story of his father, Pino Briasco, unfortunately unable to attend that day. From the affectionate and personal account by Federico, we learned of the fundamental milestones in his father’s career, marked by a continuous search and complete dedication to the art of the guitar: from the first lessons received thanks to the important encounter with Carlo Palladino, to the performances of the Genovese caruggi to the recognition gained at guitar festivals, from the first complete recording of the quartets for guitar and strings by Paganini to the important bureaucratic battle to add the chair of guitar to the Italian conservatories. This story joins the present-day, the deepness of a special relationship that has been transmitted from one generation to the next in sharing the same pure love for the guitar, as Federico himself wanted to convey to us, reading a significant phrase by his father, “We must continue making news about this splendid instrument  to which both my son and I have given everything, and that has given everything back to us: the guitar.”

And while Federico Briasco concluded his statement leaving the guitar to speak for itself with the performance of a few well-known pieces from the repertoire, we had no choice but, even in the greatness and mightiness of the sumptuous Teatro del Casinò, to find ourselves in an atmosphere that had become in an instant more heartfelt and touched. We would like to attribute these words of the Briascos, father and son, the sense of a larger family of which we all feel part: only this way, in this common love for our instrument, will we, too, affirm that the guitar, to which we have given everything, has given everything back to us.



L. Marazzi, Il XXVI Convegno Chitarristico

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