The idea underlying this Da Vinci Classics album is to gather together a collection of pieces which have been significant in the performing artist’s life. These include pieces which have been dedicated to him, pieces he premiered, or pieces he found – as we will see in the forthcoming pages. In Colone’s own words, they represent “a corpus of works which are close to me”.
The soloist has always been deeply interested in contemporary and modern music, realizing many premieres and recordings of works by important composers such as Gilardino or Pärt; his artistic perspective is therefore conditioned by his predilection for today’s music.
Moreover, in the performer’s words, “I have searched in a non-programmatic fashion; rather, in a disordered, chaotic and causal way. So I found different styles and languages”. Indeed, this CD gathers works whose language, form and cultural attitude toward modernity are almost antithetical. There are works inspired by early music, as in the case of Metamorfosi su un tema di John Dowland, alluding to the great lutenist of the English Renaissance, or the short Toccata in the style of Leopold Weiss, a German Baroque lutenist.
By way of contrast, the language of Franco Cavallone is entirely his own. This guitarist and composer is being held in high consideration by many performers. His compositional idiom resists all simplistic classifications, and refers to an entire musical world with which he feels some kind of affinity. His style encompasses jazz or descriptive music, but goes beyond them both with an absolutely personal intention. His sonatina in three movements, Cerveteri, was written for Colone who actually lives in the city of Cerveteri.
This album also includes works by Angelo Gilardino, defined by Colone as the “guiding light of contemporary guitar music”. His language is reminiscent of the modal style, but his perspective is strongly idiomatic, “built on the guitar, on the idea and the effects created by its resonances and on its aural world”, in Colone’s words. Gilardino’s Angelus is inspired by the Gospel episode of the Annunciation, referring to the three moments of the narrative. The main “characters” are the Angel and the Virgin Mary, in dialogue with each other as the young girl is told that she will become the Mother of Christ.
Gilardino’s compositional school is represented by Kevin Swierkosz-Lenart, a psychiatrist-cum-composer whose works are highly appreciated by many of today’s guitarists. Colone has been among the first dedicatees of his works, two of which are recorded here. The influence of Gilardino is discernible, in a kind of symbiosis with his mentor; however, there is no direct imitation, but rather a personal reinterpretation. Both works have literary references: Jeux d’enfants alludes to a poem by Eugenio Montale, Giochi di bambini; the composer wished to evoke the dreamy and lyrical spirit pervading the poem. The shorter work, In memoriam Cesare Pavese, alludes to Pavese’s novel La casa in collina, set in the dramatic days of Italy’s struggle for liberation from the Nazi-Fascist domination during the last years of World War II. Colone, in fact, is deeply involved in the anti-Fascist movement, and commissioned this work to celebrate September 8th, the anniversary of the armistice which decreed the fall of the Fascist regime. This piece therefore celebrates anti-Fascism through music and literature.
Another fascinating piece is Fantasia ricercata by Alessandro Annunziata, a Roman composer who has written extensively for a variety of ensembles and whose works are published by RAICom. As Colone tells us, Annunziata’s first works for the guitar (after a Concerto for guitar, flute and strings which has not yet been premiered) were inspired by his friendship with Colone himself. Among these works, a particularly notable example is a Concertino for guitar and wind orchestra, after the model of Janáček’s similar composition for the piano. Colone considers this Fantasia ricercata as “one of the most important works written for the guitar in the last 15-20 years, not just for its form and style, but rather for its capability to aurally represent this instrument”. Colone premiered the Fantasia ricercata on the occasion of a “Festa della Musica”, a celebration of music taking place on June 21st, and in the fascinating setting of the Italian National Library. In Colone’s opinion, “I think that the guitar resonates in a novel dimension through rhetorical movements. Thanks to the composer’s ideas, the guitar finds new sounds”.
There is also a piece, Extended moment, by Alessio Elia, a composer Colone met in 2004, and who currently lives and works in Budapest. The work recorded here is entirely built on the guitar’s harmonics; it is “truly experimental”, in Colone’s words, “It is almost ‘theoretical’ inasmuch as it pushes the boundaries of performance to their extreme, entering into an entirely experimental field”.
However, the story behind the last piece in this album is the most touching, inspirational and worth telling. I will report it in the performer’s words. “A few years ago, I wanted to refurbish my kitchen, so I brought some old pieces of furniture to a second-hand shop. As I was exiting the shop, I saw a box with slips of handwritten sheets of music. There were four or five of these boxes, with numerous pocket scores of the most important masterpieces of the musical literature, from Bach’s Art of Fugue to Webern’s works. There were also personal items, and notebooks with study and research materials; it was clear that the previous owner should have been an important music scholar or composer. In particular, I was impressed by the manuscripts: they were not cursory drafts, but rather painstakingly correct scores, almost geometrically written in black ink; they looked like prints, but they were beautifully handwritten. I asked the shop owner if I could take something, and he replied that I could take it all, since he was inclined to throw away those boxes”. Colone took them to his place, and found, among many other things, the manuscript of the piece recorded here. The composer was Walter Olmo, who had been a professor of Composition at the Conservatory of Frosinone, but also a manager of musical events, and a thoughtful musician who liked to experiment and create. He belonged in the stream of the Darmstadt-inspired avantgarde. “Among the scores”, in Colone’s words, “there were graphic analyses of important masterpieces, written on metres and metres of graph paper; these included studies of Berg’s Lulu, Haydn’s Concertos and much more”. Colone also found some pieces for guitar; he tried them and was immediately fascinated by them, finding reminiscences of Schönberg’s Klavierstücke op. 11 for the piano.
Intrigued, Colone sought more information about the composer, and eventually found him in a hospital in a remote area of Latium. He was recovering from an illness, and Colone met him, told him about the recovery of his possessions and showed him the scores and materials he had found. When Olmo left the hospital, Colone went to his place in a small village in the countryside; he brought the scores, but was told that he could keep whatever he wished. Thus Colone was presented with invaluable scores, including some bearing the performing marks by one of the most important Italian conductors of the twentieth century, who had been Olmo’s close friend.
In his youth, in fact, Olmo had belonged in a group of intellectuals and artists who worked on the crafting of new languages, namely the Situationist International. This movement was rather influent in the field of the visual arts, particularly in the Fifties; however, the cultural atmosphere of the time could be suffocating for such an experimental movement. Olmo had been among the movement’s founders; unfortunately, however, he was later forced to abandon the movement, and this trauma marked his artistic career and creativity very deeply.
The story of Colone’s friendship with Olmo continued for a few years, albeit intermittently, and was rekindled by Colone’s acquaintance with some of Olmo’s former pupils at the Conservatory. This encouraged Colone to realize a video recording of Olmo’s work, which was later broadcast on a social media channel; this performance attracted the attention of a Roman musician and artist who had known a journalist who, in turn, had authored a book on the Situationist Movement. They knew about Olmo but were not aware that he was still alive; they therefore wished to write a book about him, but, sadly, Olmo passed away shortly thereafter.
As Colone puts it, “For me, Olmo has been an important figure. I am very glad to have recorded this album; I really wanted to record some of his pieces. For me it was absurd that such a person should be forgotten”.
Thus the idea of Genealogia, of “genealogy”, was born. The title, as explained by Colone, refers to the various ramifications of what it means to be a contemporary musician in Italy today. “I was looking for the roots, for the origins of Italian modern music; it has many branches, intertwining with each other, but they all descend from the cultural heritage of our country, encompassing both the folk-like and the academic style”. Through this album it is possible to describe a “genetic” line and leitmotiv, a spontaneous growth of creativity from a common root, which does not strictly depend on national identity, but rather on an artistic inspiration.
Album Notes by Chiara Bertoglio
Angelo Colone: Interpreter of the most significant repertoire for guitar of the main Italian contemporary composers, soloist appreciated by the major international musical institutions, Angelo Colone graduated and perfected with Alirio and Senio Diaz, Bruno Battisti D’Amario, Angelo Gilardino.
Angelo has been Invited to play for cultural institutions such as the National Academy of Santa Cecilia, the House of Goethe in Rome, the Chigiana Academy of Siena, the Trame Sonore Festival in Mantua. Angelo has been performing since the end of the 1980s in Italian theatres and chambers in Rome, including the Teatro Eliseo, the Teatro Olimpico, the Auditorium Parco della Musica, the Regio theater of Parma, the Metropolitan Theater of Catania, the Magliabechiano Salone in the Uffizi and the Luca Giordano Room in Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Florence.
Abroad he was invited by international cultural institutions in China, Holland, Switzerland, Malta, Belgium.
He has frequently participated in radio broadcasts e.g. RAI, RAI Inter-national and Vatican Radio stations. Also he has participated as a guest in literary events on the occasion of the presentation of new literary works by authors such as Sergio Zavoli and Luis Sepùlveda.
During his concert career Angelo took part in original research projects recorded in significant CDs, including: "Sonetterra" with the Sestetto Moderno (1997), "Sintesi" (2002), "Angelo Angelo" (2004) containing the first absolute recording of the concert for guitar and orchestra Leçons de ténèbres, by Angelo Gilardino, "Goffredo Petrassi - Works for guitar" (2007), a monograph on Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco for the series "The Masters of the guitar" for the magazine Seicorde ( 2008) realised on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the disappearance of the Florentine composer and followed by a cycle of direct broadcasts curated by himself for Vatican Radio, ”Angelo Colone Plays Angelo Gilardino" (2012) and the most recent for Brilliant Classics “Federico Moreno Torroba, complete works for solo guitar”.
Alessio Elia. Described as a unicum in the compositional landscape of our times (Il Corriere Musicale) Elia is considered one of the most original composers of the new generation. He was guest composer and researcher at the Liszt Academy in Budapest, the University of Debrecen, the Zoltán Kodály Institute in Kecskemét and the Sacher Foundation in Basel. His music is regularly performed all over the world in the most important concert halls and festivals and broadcast by the most important radios and television channels. Some of his works employ the integration of different systems of tuning, a compositional concept that he called "polysystemism", presented in numerous conferences including the one at the Cité de la Musique in Paris in 2014. He received numerous awards, including the Diploma of Merit of the Chigiana Academy in Siena for the piece Luminescences in 2005, and the first prize for the orchestral piece Rejtett dimenziók (Hidden dimensions) in the UMZF 2013 international competition, in the edition dedicated to Ligeti with Péter Eötvös presiding over the jury. He received commissions most importantly from Radio Bartók (Trasparenze) written for the National Hungarian Radio Orchestra; Alter Ego ensemble (Altered memories) for a project with pieces commissioned to Eötvös, Hosokawa, Ablinger, Lukas Ligeti, Sáry and Skempton; Impronta ensemble (Traces from Nowhere) for the oggimusica Festival in Lugano; UMZE - the historic ensemble founded by Bartók (Ekpyrotic Suicide), and and I Solisti del Teatro alla Scala di Milano (Octet), piece released in CD by Warner Classics in 2018, with I Solisti della Scala conducted by Andrea Vitello and published by Universal Music Publishing - Editio Musica Budapest.
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.