The programme on this CD focuses on twentieth-century Italian music for the guitar. Its wide-ranging panorama encompasses works which, while maintaining tonality and forms of the past, mainly exalt the evocative power and a kind of enchanting magic of the six-stringed instrument. It is therefore a mythological guitar, which, by its character, tends to develop its idiomatical values and its sounds as if the instrument should turn itself into a dramatis persona, animated by a series of characters and tales. Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco was an eloquent and extremely cultivated master of this kind of poetics. Spellbound by the fascination of the guitar in 1932, he was enrolled by Andrés Segovia in the army of composers who were his allies; for his Spanish friend (and for other guitarists) he wrote pages imbued with affections, encompassing the festive gaiety and the biting irony, the joking fun and the funereal elegy. In particular, this recording aims at highlighting the last period of the composer’s activity, in which he made use of the guitar with the purpose of looking into himself with a benevolently bitter gaze (resuming his experience as an exile, and looking from above thanks to his penetrating knowledge of humankind); or else in order to stimulate the taste for an expressive and coloured interpretation in his guitar students.
The collection of the 24 Caprichos de Goya was composed in 1961 in Beverly Hills, in the Californian villa where the maestro took refuge after fleeing Fascist Italy in 1939. In his autobiography [Una vita di musica (Florence: Cadmo, 2005)] he did not linger on the motives behind this piece, and simply gave some informative details:
Only much later (indeed, precisely in this last year 1961), accomplishing my longtime promise to Segovia, I composed the 24 Caprichos de Goya, which is probably my most ambitious work for the guitar. It is too long to be performed entirely in a concert (it would require an entire programme); however, in order to encourage its performance, I divided it into four groups. Indeed, it can be entirely recorded on two disks (Segovia, full of enthusiasm, is promptly studying it). This series of pieces offered very important stylistic problems; since Goya really was an artist full of fantasy (frequently macabre or bizarre), who anticipated later times and was indeed very modern. On the other hand, his art was rooted in tradition and in the habits of the eighteenth century (though he frequently saw them as if through a deforming lens); and, most importantly, he was a pure-blood Spaniard! I had to take these elements into account, without letting myself be drawn to exceedingly contemporary “whims” and to the taste for parody. Therefore, this series (independently of the references to the subjects of the single drawings) is mainly based on dance-rhythms; they may come either from Spanish folklore (fandango, villancico, habanera, tango, jota, El Vito, zorzico) or from abroad, provided that they were accepted by the Spanish court (which was rather Francophile: minuet, gavotte, bourrée, rigaudon etc.).
The Caprichos are a series of eighty prints realized by Goya with four different engraving techniques, i.e. etching, aquatint, burin and drypoint. The collection was put up for sale to the Madrid customers on the last Ash Wednesday of the eighteenth century. Since the first reading, it is clear that Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s music represents a kind of identification between his own story and that of the great Spanish painter. Just as Goya had said regarding his Caprichos, the Florentine composer could have said about his own:
The artist was convinced that censorship of human errors and vicescan also be the object of painting [or of music], and has chosen as subjects for his work, from the multitude of extravagances and mistakes that are common in any civil society, the concerns and common lies, authorized by custom, ignorance or interest, those that he believes most apt to supply material for ridicule, and at the same time exercise the artist’s fantasy.
In particular, the first of the three Caprichos included in this programme, titled “Francisco Goya y Lucientes, pintor” is a kind of musical self-portrait which could be re-entitled as “Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, musician”, since it mirrors the composer’s two souls. Through the initial vocalise, he evokes his lineage’s ancestral Spanish roots, while with the fugato he introduces himself as a “doctor in music”.
“No hubo remedio” was commented and explained by Goya himself:
No hubo remedio. – Of course, she deserved it [the gallows], but if they think of mocking her, they are wasting time. It is impossible to make the unashamed blush.
In Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s vision, the Dies irae’s theme becomes the pivot of a series of macabre and grotesque variations, rather unusual in his oeuvre.
The etching titled “Sueño de la mentira y inconstancia” does not belong in the collection of Goya’s Caprichos; through its symbology, it lets the painter’s frustration and bitterness emerge. He had fallen prey to these feelings due to the deceiving behaviour of his lover, the Duchess of Alba. The fact that Castelnuovo-Tedesco decided to include this print among his own Caprichos signifies that he recognized a special affinity between Goya’s character and a voluble and deceitful figure he knew well. (It is out of the question, however, that this could be a female lover, whom the composer never had; probably, it was a male friend).
The Appunti were the last, unfinished composition by Castelnuovo-Tedesco. The maestro wrote them in 1968 upon a commission by guitarist Ruggero Chiesa, for pedagogical purposes; however, he maintained at the forefront the aspects regarding expression, singing, dynamics, and the instrument’s timbral resources.
This magnificent Studio da concerto was the only composition by Giorgio Federico Ghedini for the guitar. Written in 1959, it maintains an avowedly tonal structure, while drawing itself away from tonality’s gravitational pull. In its three sections (A, B, A1 – the latter being an ornamented reprise of A), it goes from the archaizing lyricism of the first part to a restless dancing pitter-patter, reminiscent of primeval rites, in the central part. Nunc is the second and last composition for solo guitar by Goffredo Petrassi. Its title and character might be mirrored by the beginning of Burnt Norton, the first of T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets:
Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
The perception of the present (“Nunc”) does not imply the capability of solving its enigma; that which is observed is perforce unredeemable, undecipherable, fluctuating beyond the boundaries of self-awareness. In order to catch its pulse, to record its secrete cipher within another enigma – that of sound – Petrassi decided to entrust himself to the guitar, as he declared in an interview he gave to Ruggero Chiesa in 1973:
I deem it to be a mysterious instrument, whence a mystery is issued which can be communicated to very few people.
The negation of a time flowing like a ribbon, horizontally; the mixture of fragments of memories (such as a motif by Verdi, from Otello, which Petrassi would also cite in Ala for flute; and another vaguer motif from Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht) and of seemingly unrelated elements; the overcoming of “rational” connections of cause and effect, antecedent and following, a kind of discontinuity without any dramatic chasms: this all forms the psychological substratum and the musical essence of this piece, whose medium-like fascination cannot be either analyzed or described. As Eugenio Montale said about a famous poem he had written, “I had been its medium rather than its author”.
Bruno Bettinelli was the paradigmatic figure of somebody whose authoritativeness was unanimously recognized by the entire Italian musical world, but who, at the same time, was mild-mannered and solitary. He was one of the greatest teachers of composition in the twentieth century. His music distinguishes itself for the very high degree of its artisanal mastery and for its expressivity; while leaving room for the dialectics of contrasts, it does never push itself to the zones inflamed by drama, but rather observes the aural phenomena in the light of a serenely detached intellect. He approached the guitar in 1970, and wrote for this instrument both solo and chamber music works of faultless beauty. The Cinque Preludi (1971) are his second work for the guitar. Perhaps the correspondence of their title with that of a very popular collection by Heitor Villa-Lobos (Cinq Préludes) is not coincidental. However, Bettinelli’s style (different from that of the Brazilian master) eschews all attempts to magnify and dramatize the guitar’s sound. Instead, he turns it like a probe inside the realm of meditation; even in the most animated stages, he uses it allusively, always implying something which remains unsaid. As in the case of Petrassi’s guitar, also that by Bettinelli continuously brushes the threshold of mystery, without ever trespassing it.
Tenebrae factae sunt (1973) is one of the few guitar works written by Angelo Gilardino during the period of his activism as a concert performer, before dedicating himself full-time to composition. The title refers to the noche obscura described by St John of the Cross, i.e. the bewilderment of the souls who, willing to escape worldliness, are not yet being reached by the light of revelation. This anguishing moment finds a series of representations in the first four movements of the suite (lyrical, dramatic, sensual, hallucinatory), giving rise to the bittersweet climate of the postlude, bringing a ray of hope. The compositional style is grounded on ancient modalism.
Liner notes by Angelo Gilardino
Andrea Ferrario: After finishing his studies at the Como Conservatory of Music in the class of Francesco Diodovich, was awarded a scholarship to study in the guitar class of Lorenzo Micheli at the Istituto Musicale Pareggiato of Aosta. Here he earned his biennial degree (comparable to a U.S. master’s degree) summa cum laude, with highest marks, and an honorary mention. In the following two years he continued his studies with Micheli, earning his Artist Diploma. He has also studied with Giulio Tampalini, Matteo Mela, Angelo Gilardino, Frédéric Zigante, Edoardo Catemario, Andrew Zohn, and Jeffrey McFadden. In 2018 he obtained with full marks the II level Master in Parma Conservatory, course that allowed him to study with some of the most important musicians in the world (Oscar Ghiglia, Massimo Felici, Zoran Dukic and Giampaolo Bandini among others). Winner of the first prize at the G. Rospigliosi International Competition and at the European Music Competition fo Moncalieri, he received other important acknowledgements from the Riviera Etrusca (first prize ex aequo), Piove di Sacco, Città di Lissone, Atella Classica, Luigi Nono, and the Selezione Internazionale della Valle d'Ossola competitions as well. Also selected to participate in the final stages of the Biasini International Guitar Competition, in 2016 he performed at the Conservatory of San Francisco. He has held numerous concerts for important institutions, including the Teatro Manzoni of Pistoia, the Festival Mediterraneo della Chitarra of Cervo, the Festival Marlèn of Naples, the Associazione Carducci of Como, the Festival Chitarristico Internazionale of Menaggio, the Paganini Festival in Parma and the Rassegne chitarristiche of Malcantone. He was invited as a soloist by several orchestras (Valle d'Aosta Symphony Orchestra, Ars Cantus Orchestra, Parma Conservatory Orchestra) performing the concert of H. Villa-Lobos, the Concierto d'Aranjuez by J. Rodrigo and the Serenade by M. Arnold. For a few years, he has been part of a well-received duo with pianist Elena Napoleone, with whom he is committed to the discovery and appreciation of original works for this formation. With this line-up he won the first prize at the IMKA Chamber Music Competition in Sarajevo in 2017 and still carries on a profitable artistic activity: in 2015 they published the Sonatas in C for guitar and piano by Ferdinand Rebay revised for duo for the Canadian publisher Les Productions D'Oz, in 2018 was released their debut album for Dot Guitar and they performed in numerous concerts for important seasons (Jeudi du Conservatoire, ClassicA Torgnon, Concerti del Tempietto in Rome and Museo del Novecento in Milan). He plays a guitar made by luthier Fabio Schmidt.
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.
Bruno Bettinelli (b Milan, 4 June 1913; b Milan, November 2004). Italian composer. He graduated in piano at the Milan Conservatory in 1931, and in choral singing, conducting and composition, studying with G.C. Paribeni and Bossi, in 1937. In 1941 he won the Accademia di S Cecilia prize in Rome and in 1955 the Busoni prize in Trieste. He began to teach theory in 1938 and harmony in 1941 at the Milan Conservatory, and he was professor of composition there from 1957 to 1979. His students included Corghi, Abbado, Chailly, Gentilucci, Muti and Pollini. He has been a member of the Accademia di S Cecilia, Rome.
His earlier music (e.g. 2 invenzioni and the symphonies nos.2 and 3) owes much of the discipline of its rhythmically clear contrapuntal lines to the neo-classical approach of Hindemith. After the subsequent harmonic and timbral experimentation of the Sinfonia breve and the Second Concerto for Orchestra, he abandoned tonality for atonal chromaticism (e.g. in Musica), and a reconsideration of Webernian principles, as in Episodi, Varianti, Studio and the symphonies nos.5–7. His exploration of avant-garde elements led him to the use of electronics, for example in Count Down; but works such as Sono una creatura, Quadruplum and Contrasti demonstrate the emphasis he has continued to place on constructive rigour and on communication with the listener.
Giorgio Federico Ghedini (b Cuneo, 11 July 1892; d Nervi, nr Genoa, 25 March 1965). Italian composer and teacher.
Goffredo Petrassi (b Zagarolo, nr Palestrina, 16 July 1904; d Rome, 3 march 2003). Italian composer. Along with Dallapiccola, he is the most significant Italian composer of the mid-20th century.
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (b Florence, 3 April 1895; d Beverly Hills, CA, 16 March 1968). Italian composer, pianist and writer on music.