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Preservation of historical recordings of Italian guitarists from the first half of the 20th century

1. Presentation and objectives

This project aims to create a review of historical records of Italian guitarists (as soloists,  in  any chamber music, up to first recordings of guitar and orchestra). This survey combines the primary need to preserve a heritage that would otherwise be lost, the intent to preserve the artistic and cultural, or simply documentary value of these sources. This is the first initiative of the kind in this instrumental music ambit.

2. Background and scope of the search

The first recordings in Italy date back to the dawn of Gramophone technology, as well as for other European countries. The American Gaisberg Frederick William (1873 - 1951) of the Gramophone Company, worked closely with to E. Berliner in Washington, recorded made mandolinists and guitarists, in Naples, during June 1900. This news is told his book of memoirs, Music Goes Round: an Autobiography (New York, MacMillian, 1942).

Among the first recordings of guitar it is found to be used as a means of supporting, and primarily in duo with singer(s) or mandolin(s) to various  ensembles with or without voice. Besides these, guitar sounds can be heard in many recordings of plectrum Orchestras and Estudiantinas. These ensembles have an ancient tradition in Italy: inside the some of the best guitarists of the time get their musical education. The development of recording in studios also comes contemporary with the development of radio, which had so much spread during the last century.

Collecting information, it is therefore necessary to differentiate between various genres and ensambles, dividing the recordings in

a. solo guitar (the first 'solo' records begin to appear only during the Twenties);
b. voice with guitar accompaniment;
c. guitar duo, trio, etc.;
d. chamber music with guitar, from duo (mostly mandolin and guitar) up to sextet, with or without voices;
e. guitar and orchestra, namely the rarest recordings.

Specifically, the main names of guitar players under investigation are:

A. (Toto) Amici, A. Giannelli, P. Taraffo, F. Galimberti, M. Maccaferri, I. Meschi, L. Zedda, G. Ferri, G. Vicari, P. Reina, R. Beccuti, M. Biagi, M. Orsi, L. Mozzani, R. Giuseppini, R. Cabassi, G. Pagano, M. Schenone, A. Del Corso, D. Meschini, G. Giulietti, R. Rossini, E. Padovani, S. Stegani, M. Gangi.

3. Research

These sound recordings give us the chance to get  a glimpse into historical guitar interpretations of each era and several interpreters, and through them we can undertake a comparative analysis with their contemporary recordings made by other guitarists in the four continents. For these reasons this project is the natural complement to the theme of the guitar in Italy in the first half of last century.

 A survey of surviving sound documents related to historical recordings  in the form of a precise list -- chronologically and analytically ordered -- appears today as a really hard task to accomplish. Dating sound recordings in all their various formats is often a very difficult or impossible task. In early recordings of 1920s it is sometimes hard to identify even the name of the guitarist accompanist. Sometimes you can date back a record by the direct vision of the old record catalogs (these are also quite rare) of several labels. More then two dozens of labels cover the whole period. In many cases we can establish only a decade and the type of recordings (acoustic or electric, mono or stereophonic).

We take into consideration all surviving sound recordings of which can now be found a copy on any media stored, such as 78/45/33 RPMs and various types of tapes. If they have been reversed onto CD/DVD, we try to go back to sources, namely the location/collection which currently store them. In some cases we find public places (sound library, music schools or state archives -- ICBSA for Italy), but more often private archives.

There are also some unreleased recordings amateur recordings that were not sold and bootlegs, of significant and high historical/artistic value, related both to private as well as public performances. These comprise laso early live recordings.

We try to trace recordings up to now unknown, of which there is only written evidence, on record catalogs, trade magazines and books.

An example of the latter is the Dictionary of the Italian guitarists and makers, published in Bologna in 1937. In the authors’ initial intents there was also the one  to list all Italian guitar recordings up to time. This project, due perhaps to the considerable difficulty in obtaining information, was partially abandoned.

4. Project Planning

Basic document on the subject of research is currently given by the contents of contribution records and recordings of Italian guitarists edited by M. Bazzotti and G. Idone, that can be found in the volume “Romolo Ferrari e la chitarra in Italia nella prima metà del Novecento” (Romolo Ferrari and guitar in the first half of the twentieth century in Italy, Modena, Mucchi, 2009). The project, now underway, is being enriched by new acquisitions that were presented both at the XXII Congress 2009 and the records exhibition held during teh last 2010 XXIII Congress in Modena. The updates of the surveys will be published on this site ( in the section on research contributions.
The publication of research papers are supported by the implementation, constantly updated with any new acquisitions, a digital archive of records maintained by the Project coordinators. In the next phase of the project we will publish a CD anthology with a selection of the most significant Italian guitar recordings.

5. Referrals and resources

The contact persons and coordinators of the project are Marco Bazzotti and Giuseppe Idone. Both collectors, they have acquired considerable experience in the field of guitar history, which led them to work together in the survey included in the beforementioned book. Several Italian and foreign scholars in recent months have provided significant contributions to our research in progress. Their precious collaboration, made explicit in the published study, highlights the truest sense of research.
Following that, who can cooperate to this project is urged to please contact us.


Scientific Committee of Chitarra in Italiay [ ]

Marco Bazzotti e Giuseppe Idone [ ]