It is very difficult to choose which compositions could represent the Guitar today, seen through the eyes of various Italian composers. An attempt, which I tried to follow, was to maintain a very high level of writing, and yet to present very different languages, schools and idiomatic characters. This is also the reason of the choice of the album title, “Free Guitar on Earth”, taking inspiration from Giovanni Sollima’s work, but also representing a boundless and limitless view, free from prejudices and open to new perspectives. I am very glad that many of these compositions are here presented in a first studio recording, with the consequent challenge of not having any previous recording as a comparison element, or as a testimony of the collaboration (often needed, specially for non-guitarist composers) between the composer and the performer. In the case of dedicated pieces I had this luck personally, to work in tight collaboration with their own “fathers”, and I must admit that this has been a very interesting type of work: bringing out an idea through the instrument, which has been thought by a non-guitarist composer, can force the performer to go beyond his previous limits; on the other hand, also guitarists-composers may write using a language which is far away from different performers’ technical peculiarities, and entering into their world of sounds may be quite challenging. Besides presenting works by the most eminent figures in the Italian musical world, I am really glad to have the chance to give voice to young talented composers, such as Edoardo Dadone, Andrea Noce, Marco Ramelli; and I am extremely thankful to other ones, such as the “rising star” Filippo Perocco, Cristiano Porqueddu, Alfredo Franco, Franco Cavallone, for writing their marvellous dedicated pieces which appear here. Composers who earned since longtime worldwise reputations, like Sciarrino, Ambrosini, Dall’Ongaro and – in the specific area of guitar music – Gilardino, do not need any introduction. However it is a remarkable evidence that all of them are here represented by works which retain the features of their compositional styles at their highest levels.
Note by Alberto Mesirca
I composed this Sonata in 2014 for Lukasz Kuropaczewski, the great Polish guitarist, for whom I always harbored much esteem and friendship. The title of this composition (Letters to Fryderyk) does not entail any attempt on my part at referring to, or echoing Chopin’s style and, even less so, at imitating it. It simply discloses my intention to express thoughts engendered by field trips to the places which marked his existence and to depict them by dint of music: Warsaw’s somewhat ashen beauty, the rather grave sternness of Valldemossa’s convent, the bright peacefulness of the Nohant-Vic residence, blended with childhood recollections of Želalowa Wola, Fryderyk’s native village. by Angelo Gilardino
Since the mid-70s (Tre studi sulla prospettiva, 1973-4) I chose the guitar as the instrument for reflecting on history (this could not have been possible with the piano, which was created comparatively late). The history of the guitar (preceded by the vihuela), instead, crosses several centuries. I started to reflect on history, on its forms, on the evolution of phrasing and sound production, following the model of the Tre studi: a love for antiquity, which should be made live (again), not with nostalgia, but in perspective. A backward look, with curiosity and affection, cast from today, with a conscience of the evolution of time, of technique and theory. Several works were composed in this way, including this Notturno (Tombeau per Jimi H.) composed in 1975, a memento-reflection on the death a few years earlier of the legendary American guitarist Jimi Hendrix. Conceived as a lament, in the style of the Renaissance tombeau. There are no direct quotes from Hendrix, although there are effects that recall rock or blues techniques. Instead, as in a passacaglia or ciaccona – a cyclical reappearance of some chords and a progressive, dramatic thickening of the sound flow until reaching a convulsive climax, metaphor of the end of this musician, as great as reserved and sensitive. by Claudio Ambrosini & Alberto Mesirca
Lubrico (written in the fall of 2018 upon an invitation by Alberto Mesirca) starts from the eponymous graphical work by artist Stefano Allisiardi: a series of ink drawings which increasingly clarify and define the features of a face whose filthy traits complete the adjective’s meaning. It does not stand only for the becoming matter, but also extends itself to the presumptive negative moral traits of the subject. Thus, I ventured into a difficult field in the guitar technique, finding two possible “obscene” traits in this instruments, i.e. the continuous gestures on a variable surface and the systematic recourse to idiomatic solutions, capable to intervene on the formal mechanisms previously designed. Thus, the instrument’s natural incinations are allowed to create their own path, either in parallel to or coincident with what I had created; possibly falling in the sin of gluttony. by Edoardo Dadone
With these four short works, written in 1957, Morricone both enters into dialogue and separates himself from the Darmstadt serialism, attempting to go beyond it and to rediscover an almost “archaic” tradition for this instrument (in Sergio Miceli’s words), “purified” from the automatic and the superfluous that could (also historically) characterize a single passage. by DV
Silence as the “swarming of microscopic sounds” (Sciarrino) is mirrored in L’addio a Trachis II (harp original: 1980; guitar transcription by Maurizio Pisati: 1987). As in other works, Sciarrino employs soft dynamics for realizing complex timbral transformations; he focuses both on the problems of what is audible in nature and on differentiating the instrument’s timbral layers, which are harder to perceive rationally. by DV
Written in 2004 and dedicated to Arturo Tallini (and in memory of Goffredo Petrassi, who had written Nunc for guitar in 1971), this piece opens a gateway of references to Petrassi starting from its very title. The call of the past is thus very clear, in spite of a frenzied and agitated style, with recurring, obsessive returns of quick passages, interrupted by harmonics whose sweetness contrasts with the former ones. Dynamics are very clear and intense, with fortissimo and accents on every demisemiquaver of the scale, with irregular rhythms grouping the pitches always differently (in spite of the classical common time). These moments, prevailing in the piece, are juxtaposed to sweet and slow triplets; the constantly returning frenzy eventually surrenders to the quiet of slow soft sounds alternating with heavenly harmonics. by Alberto Mesirca
Minuta is my first solo guitar work, written for and dedicated to Alberto Mesirca, and commissioned by the International Guitar Festival Nordhorn. When I start writing a new piece, I need to get myself acquainted with the instruments’ qualities, to highlight their peculiar “voices”. By embracing this instrument I began a playful and even childish exploration. The guitar can be both visceral and capable to make leftovers of sound evaporate. Minuta, my little game, moves between these two poles. by Filippo Perocco
A simple and immediate piece, with an always recognizable style. The seeming return to a less sophisticated musical wolrd (as if inspired by Kurtag’s Jatekok) belies my will to downplay the exceedingly complex approach to contemporary music and to favour a gradual nearing to its many facets. By DV
The second book of Libro dei volti was composed in 2014 and dedicated to the Milanese guitarist Elena Casoli. This short suite (completing another of the same year, dedicate to Lucia D’Errico) comprises (as did the former) five very contrasting movements, each employing a particular guitar technique. These are used as a pretext for transcending them and for composing interesting musical lines; in the first tableau there are nervous and agitated scales, in the second a complex and lyrical polyphony, in the third a jazz-doublebass-rhythm (with étouffé sounds), in the fourth tambora-like deep repeated chords, and in the fourth a complex rhythmical pattern: among frequent changes and accents, it is reminescent of the complex structures of some progressive sections à la King Crimson. by Alberto Mesirca
With my twelve Preludi a getto d’inchiostro (2003) I had the ambition of designing a world. A postmodern world, where details of architectures of the past are observed along with jerks of the present, where references to classical forms are heard with a disenchanted myrth. I tried to paint this world by allowing myself very long working times, in order to distill the result in works shivering with synthesis. Had I been a computer, these Preludes would have been my printer: lots of work behind them, a single quick gesture for filling the sheet. by Nicola Campogrande
Marco De Biasi
This piece belongs in a cycle of six Hearth Songs on the relationship of man and nature. The title, Kcor, is “rock” read backwards; this verbal game alludes to the fact that the thematic material is the inversion of a fifth (the typical rock music “power chord”), i.e. a fourth. This interval’s nature and the title’s sound evoke a time long past, where the earth’s deep beat was directly connected to man’s heartbeat. Through an ever-changing tribal rhythm, music describes an atmosphere connected to a primitive and visceral relationship with a hostile and savage world, where men had to constantly struggle for their survival. by Marco De Biasi
Free life on Earth is a multi-movement work for flute and guitar, written in 2003 and published in 2007. Made of four tableaux, this Suite includes a single movement for solo guitar (the fifth), which stands against the others for its character, along with its instrumentation. While the other movements have a rhythmical style, where the guitar counteracts the flute with quick and irregular chords or complex arpeggios, here the six-stringed instrument returns to its most intimate traits. The harmonics and the fixed-position sextuplets, à la Villa Lobos, capture its deepest and most idiomatic resonances. by Alberto Mesirca
The Italian guitarist Alberto Mesirca was born in 1984. He completed his Bachelor and Master of Arts at the Conservatory of Castelfranco Veneto, in the class of the eminent teacher Gianfranco Volpato, before going on to study with Wolfgang Lendle at the Music Academy of Kassel in Germany. Alberto has a busy performing schedule, working with musicians such as Dimitri Ashkenazy, Vladimir Mendelssohn, Martin Rummel, Domenico Nordio, Marco De Santi, Andras Adorjan, Peter and Jonas Giger and Mirko Satto. He has also collaborated with the Enesco, Ardeo and Acies string quartets, Quartetto d’Archi di Venezia, and Ex Novo Ensemble. Recent seasons have been characterized by intensive periods of concerts performances, lectures and masterclasses around the world. These have taken him to the Guitar Foundation of America Convention, Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival (where he performed the national premiere of a composition of György Kurtàg, working closely with the composer), Stradivari Foundation, Oxford Chamber Music Festival, Silesian Guitar Autumn in Poland, Festival Classique in The Hague, Lessines ‘Sons intensifs’ Festival, ‘Semana Tarrega’ in Valencia, and Beethoven Festival in Melbourne. Other highlights include the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Teatro La Fenice in Venice, Teatro Regio in Parma, Auditori Nacional in Valencia, Kunsthalle Wien and the Italian Institutes of Culture in Paris, Oslo, Helsinki, Stockholm, Barcelona and San Francisco. Working with Marc Ribot, Alberto recorded the complete guitar works of the Haitian composer Frantz Casséus. Alberto was also responsible for the digitalization and creation of the Musical Archive of the Beyazit Library in Istanbul, Turkey in 2011. In collaboration with Hopkinson Smith and Franco Pavan, Alberto published the previously little-known compositions by Francesco Da Milano which appeared in the Castelfranco Veneto 1565 Lute Manuscript, which are now distributed by Orphee Editions. This re-discovery led Dusan Bogdanovic to write a composition for Alberto on a theme of Da Milano called “Tre Ricercari sulla Compagna”. In 2013 Mesirca gave the world première of a composition written for him by the Cuban composer, guitarist and music director, Leo Brouwer. Alberto has an extensive discography. In 2007 he won the International Guitar Convention in Alessandria’s ‘Golden Guitar’ for ‘Best Recording’ for his disc Ikonostas, winning the same award again in 2013 for his ‘British Guitar Music’ recording with cellist Martin Rummel. The prestigious organisation also judged Mesirca to be ‘Best Upcoming Artist’ in 2009. Alberto’s busy concert schedule in 2018 took him all over Europe, with appearances at the Kuhmo Festival (Finland), Stift Festival (Holland), Sonoro Festival (Romania), Osterkonzerte Dusseldorf (Germany), Ex Novo Festival in Venice (Italy) and Ikebana Festival in Oviedo (Spain). Some of the most recent highlights in Alberto’s engagement diary also include a performance at M.A.C. Milan as part of LaVerdi’s chamber music season, and concertos with the Kasseler Symphonie Orchester, Orchestra d’Archi “Giacomo Facco, musico veneto”, and Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto, directed by Marco Angius.
Angelo Gilardino was born in 1941 in Vercelli (North-West of Italy) where he later studied (guitar, violoncello and composition) in the local music schools. His concert career, which lasted from 1958 to 1981, had a great influence on the development of the guitar as an instrument in the ‘limelight’ in the twentieth century. Indeed, he gave premiere performances of hundreds of new compositions dedicated to him by composers from all over the world. In 1967 Edizioni Musicali Bèrben appointed him to supervise what has become the most important collection of music for guitar of the twentieth century and which bears his name.
In 1981 Gilardino retired from concert work to devote his time to composition, teaching and musicological research.
Since 1982 he has published an extensive collection of his own compositions: Studi di virtuosità e di trascendenza, which John W. Duarte hailed as “milestones in the new repertoire of the classical guitar”, Sonatas, Variations, four concertos for solo guitar and guitar groups, seventeen concertos with orchestra and fifteen works of chamber music. His works are frequently performed and recorded.
His contribution to teaching began with the Liceo Musicale “G.B. Viotti” in Vercelli where he taught from 1965 to 1981 followed by an appointment as professor at the “Antonio Vivaldi” Conservatory in Alessandria from 1981 to 2004. From 1984 to 2003 he held post-graduate courses at the “Lorenzo Perosi” Accademia Superiore Internazionale di Musica in Biella.
He has also held 200 courses, seminars and master classes in various European countries at the invitation of universities, academies, conservatories, music associations and festivals.
As a musicologist he has made a considerable contribution to the guitar repertoire of the first half of the twentieth century with the discovery and publication of important works which were either unknown or considered as lost, such as Ottorino Respighi’s Variazioni per chitarra, the Sonata para guitarra by Antonio José and a large corpus of guitar works written for Andrés Segovia by Spanish, French and British composers during the Twenties and the Thirties. Since 2002 he has edited the publication of these works (32 volumes) in The Andrés Segovia Archive, published by Edizioni Musicali Bèrben. He also reconstructed the concerto for guitar and orchestra by the Russian composer Boris Asafiev, published by Editions Orphée, and he orchestrated the Hommage à Manuel de Falla by the Polish-French composer Alexandre Tansman, left unfinished by its author. The rescue of these works and their subsequent publication has given new substance to the historical repertoire of the twentieth century. Besides, he created new settings for Guitar and Orchestra of famous items of the repertoire for solo guitar.
In 1997 he was appointed as artistic director of the “Andrés Segovia” Foundation of Linares, Spain, a charge which he left at the end of 2005.
In 1998 he was awarded the “Marengo Music” prize of the Conservatory of Alessandria. The Italian Guitar Congress awarded him the prize “Golden Guitar” three times (1997, 1998, 2000), respectively for his compositions, his teaching and his musicological research. In 2009, he was an inductee of the “Artistic Achievement Award – Hall of Fame” of the Guitar Foundation of America. In 2011 the Guitar Festival of Córdoba (Spain) entitled to him the “Jornadas de Estudio” with dedicating concerts and lectures to his works. In 2018, he received career awards from Rome Expo Guitars and from Conservatorio di Musica “Luigi Cherubini” in Florence.
He has written and published biographies of Andrés Segovia and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and two books dealing with the principles of guitar technique. He has published a handbook for the benefit of those composers wishing to write for the guitar but who are not familiar with the intricacies of this instrument. He has also published a handbook of guitar history, a volume entitled La chitarra and a considerable number of essays and articles.
Ennio Morricone: (b Rome, 10 Nov 1928). Italian composer. A favourite pupil of Petrassi, he also deputized secretly for his trumpeter father in a light music orchestra. He thus developed two distinct sides to his musical personality: one of these led him to embrace serialism (e.g. in Distanze and Musica per 11 violini, 1958) and the experimental work of the improvisation group Nuova Consonanza (from 1965); the other gained him a leading role, principally as an arranger, in all types of mass-media popular music, including songs for radio, radio and television plays, and the first successful television variety shows. In the early days of the record industry his innovative contribution played a decisive part in the success of the first Italian singer-songwriters (‘cantautori’), including Gianni Morandi and Gino Paoli.
After many minor cinematic collaborations, Morricone achieved wider recognition with Sergio Leone’s series of four Westerns, beginning with Per un pugno di dollari (1964). There followed important collaborations with directors such as Bernardo Bertolucci (from 1964), Pier Paolo Pasolini (from 1966) and Elio Petri (from 1968), and particularly successful films with Paolo and Vittorio Taviani (Allonsanfàn, 1974; Il prato, 1979), Valerio Zurlini (Il deserto dei tartari, 1976), Roland Joffe (The Mission, 1986) and Brian De Palma (Casualties of War, 1989). Despite inevitable self-repetitions over a total of more than 400 film scores, his work provides many examples of a highly original fusion of classical and popular idioms: this is noticeable already, albeit in somewhat crude form, in Leone’s series of Westerns, where the music for the opening titles juxtaposes three distinct types of music: a synthetic folk idiom, using the jew’s harp, acoustic guitar and harmonica to accompany human whistling; a contemporary, urban rock sound, featuring the electric guitar; and an unabashedly sentimental choral-orchestral style. With Giù la testa (1971) Morricone entered an experimental phase in which he developed a technique based on melodic, rhythmic or harmonic ‘modules’ (usually of 4, 8 or 16 beats in length), each differently characterized and often featuring a particular instrument. These are juxtaposed and combined to create very different stylistic atmospheres. The most impressive application of the modular technique is found in The Mission, where the single modules, more extended and clearly defined than before, interact dialectically, assuming very clear symbolic functions.
Morricone’s non-film works form a large and increasingly widely performed part of his output. Many of them use his technique of ‘micro-cells’, a pseudo-serial approach often incorporating modal and tonal allusions, which, with its extreme reduction of compositional materials, has much in common with his film-music techniques. His most fruitful season of concert-music composition began with the Second Concerto for flute, cello and orchestra (1985, from which the Cadenza for flute and tape of 1988 is derived) and continued with Riflessi (1989–90), three pieces for cello which represent perhaps the highpoint of his chamber music output, attaining a high degree of lyrical tension.
Morricone is an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and a Commendatore dell’Ordine ‘Al Merito della Repubblica Italiana’. Among other honours, he has received four Academy Award nominations, a Grammy and a Leone d’oro. In 2000 he was awarded the Laurea Honoris Causa by the University of Cagliari. Between 1991 and 1996 he taught film music (sharing a post with Sergio Miceli) at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana, Siena.
Giovanni Sollima was born in Palermo in 1962 into a family of musicians. He studied in Palermo, Salzburg and Stuttgart, and, still a teenager, embarked on a brilliant international career of cellist, collaborating with Claudio Abbado, Martha Argerich, Jorg Demus and Giuseppe Sinopoli.
Alongside the soloist carrer, his creative curiosity led him to explore new frontiers in the field of Composition: his unmistakable style is characterized by contaminations between different genres: minimalism, rock, electronic and ethnic music from all over the Mediterranean area, with echoes of ancient and baroque music, on the basis of a thorough classical training.
His music has been played by classical performers such as Yo-Yo Ma, Riccardo Muti, Antonio Pappano, Daniele Gatti, Gidon Kremer with the Kremerata Baltica, Ivan Fischer, Mischa Maisky, Viktoria Mullova, Yuri Bashmet with the Moscow Soloists, Sol Gabetta, Katia and Marielle Labeque, Ruggero Raimondi, Mario Brunello, Bruno Canino, La Scala Philharmonic Orchestra, the Santa Cecilia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Il Giardino Armonico, the Accademia Bizantina, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Amsterdam Sinfonietta, the Budapest Festival Orchestra, the Berliner Philharmoniker String Quintet, the Berliner Konzerthausorchester, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, the Manchester Camerata, the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and the pop stars Patti Smith, Larry Coryell, Mauro Pagani, Stefano Bollani, Elisa (protagonist of his opera Ellis Island).
For cinema and television he composed for Peter Greenaway (The Tulse Luper Suitcases and Nightwatching), John Turturro (Evidence for a Sicilian Tragedy), Carlos Saura (La Jota), Marco Tullio Giordana (One Hundred Steps and The Best Youth), Lasse Gjertsen (Daydream). For the theater he wrote and performed music for directors such as Robert Wilson, Alessandro Baricco, Peter Stein. In 2006 Peter Greenaway chose his music for the large installation staged in Amsterdam in the fourth centenary of Rembrandt. In the dance field he collaborated with many great choreographers, such as Karole Armitage, Bebe Miller and Carolyn Carlson who, at the Venice Biennale, made him play on stage, among the dancers, using his scenic charisma.
As a soloist, or with different instrumental groups, he performed his compositions all over the world: the Carnegie Hall, the Merkin Hall and the Brooklyn Academy Music in New York, La Scala in Milan, the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Wigmore Hall in London, the Salle Gaveau in Paris, the Tchaikovsky Hall in Moscow, the Liszt Academy in Budapest, the Istanbul International Festival, the Tokyo Summer Festival, the Sydney Opera House, the Tanglewood Festival, the Santa Cecilia Auditorium in Rome, the Venice Biennale, the Ravenna Festival, the Konzerthaus in Berlin, the Kronberg Festival, the Kunstfest in Weimar, the Lockenhaus Festival, the Amsterdam Biennäle, the Piatigorsky Festival in Los Angeles, the opening of the Italian Pavilion at Expo 2010 in Shanghai with La Scala Orchestra, with tours in the UK, Holland, the U.S.A., Canada, Russia, Japan, China, Australia. Prestigious venues, as well as alternative ones, nearer to the younger audience, such as the Knitting Factory in New York, a real underground temple, when the Pulitzer Prize Justin Davidson describes him as “The Jimi Hendrix of the Cello”. Remarkable is the cello performance in the Sahara Desert and the one underwater in a sicilian’ gebbia (a tank for irrigation’ water).
In 2012 he had been the main creator and the artistic director of the explosive musical ensemble of the 100 Cellos, which in six years had performed with his “Itinerant Festival” in Rome, Milan, Budapest, Turin, Ravenna and Lucca.
The Municipality of Milan commissioned to Sollima the sound theme for Expo 2015, which inaugurated the new exhibition hall for the Pietà Rondanini by Michelangelo.
On June 2, 2017, for the Festa della Repubblica, he performed a concert at the Quirinale in front of the Presidents of the Republic and of the Chambers, and all the ambassadors from all over the world. Right now he is writing the music for the next movie by Anatoly Vasiliev.
Among the many cd, we remember Aquilarco for Point Music/Polygram (on invitation by Philip Glass), Works and When We Were Trees for Sony, Neapolitain Concertos and the Sonatas for Cello by Giovanni Battista Costanzi for Glossa Music, Caravaggio, 100 Cellos live at Teatro Valle and Aquilarco live in New York for Egea Music, Onyricon, Il Caravaggio rubato and A Clandestine Night in Rome for Decca.
Sollima plays a cello Francesco Ruggeri (Cremona, 1679). Moreover he uses in his creations western and eastern acoustic instruments and electrical and electronic tools, mixed with others of his own invention, such as the aquilarco, and others especially made for him, like the tenor violin present in the paintings of Caravaggio and an ice-cello that in the winter of 2007 he played at 3200 meters above sea level, in an igloo’ theater built in a glacier of the Dolomites.
Since 2010, he’s been teaching at the National Academy of Santa Cecilia, where he was awarded the title of Academician.
He publishes his works with Casa Musicale Sonzogno in Milan.
Salvatore Sciarrino (b Palermo, 4 April 1947). Italian composer. A precociously gifted child, he at first gravitated towards the visual arts: he displayed a talent for figurative painting by the age of four and by the age of ten was guiding himself towards ‘informal’ abstraction. But he found himself increasingly fascinated and challenged by music and so began experimenting with composition in 1959 under the guidance of Antonino Titone. Within three years he had achieved a first public performance at the 1962 Palermo New Music Week. A brief academic training under Turi Belfiore in 1964 provided the only interruption to this autodidactic progress, crowned by public performances in Rome (Quartetto II) and Palermo (Aka Aka to) in 1968. In 1969 he moved to Rome, where he continued to pursue his own path under the aegis of Franco Evangelisti whose course on electronic music at the Accademia di S Cecilia he attended. He quickly developed one of the most distinctive (and widely imitated) voices of his generation, making an obsessive, but impeccably calculated language from sound resources marginalized by previous generations such as string and wind harmonics and ancillary performance noises. At first these were deployed in baroque abundance – and to striking critical acclaim in his first theatre work, Amore e Psyche (1972). But during the 1970s, Sciarrino became increasingly concerned to pare down his resources to a characteristic play between sound and silence that has underpinned much of his subsequent work. This was explored extensively in the daring Un'immagine di Arpocrite (1974–9), a 45-minute adagio for piano, orchestra and chorus.