Official Release: 15 October 2021
“Lignea Phoenix” means “Wooden Phoenix”. This is a definition that effectively captures the fate of an instrument such as the guitar which, over the centuries, has died and resurrected over its ashes, each time assuming a different shape, always renewing its expressive language.
“One needs a myth”. Thus wrote Cesare Pavese in his Feria d’agosto, underpinning the absolute value of childhood in human life. The myth of the phoenix, a mysterious and fantastic bird, capable of being continually reborn out of its ashes, is certainly one of the most attractive, mutable and durable myths in human history. Unsurprisingly, then, it is precisely the phoenix, turned into a precious chiseled wooden sculpture, that embraces with its luminous complexion the ten stars (ten, not eleven as in firmament) constituting the musical constellation of this album.
Myth contributes by imparting firmness and continuity to rebirth, to the joyful transmutation of appearance, to the many possible reconfigurations dictated by the passing of the musical languages and by the unexpected seduction of new technologies. This happens jointly with the resurfacing of remote layers, of distant landscapes, sedimented within Western music history, and led by hand, here, by a versatile and “mythical” instrument, such as no other can be in our epoch, suffocated by music.
The guitar’s six strings, as if representing the lines of an imaginary hexagram (so it was in the ancient tablatures) enclose within a narrow aural space an infinite palette of timbral resources. These are all the more valuable precisely because they are constrained within such a thin container, even though this was amplified in time thanks to the introduction of electric wires and electronic strings.
However, the guitar is always itself. It is the silentious and monologuing instrument par excellence; the instrument capable of dancing en pointe and of inviting to dance. It can distil, to the sensitive ear, the single sound within fatally multiple gestures (chords, arpeggios, clusters), or even break the ‘beautiful sound’ by forcing the euphonic limit proper to it, with extreme, tactile, noise-music solutions ranging from the glass-like immobility of the hyper-high harmonics to the wide percussive palette, to the acid timbres of sounds extracted from around the bridge.
The guitar (thinking loudly, singing and accompanying, hanging from the teenagers’ necks or being the faithful companion of car parking attendants) manages to master new languages, aiming at reaching new experimental boundaries. Indeed, it allows itself to be enchanted by the encounter with the other, by the unexpected fascination of the continuous sounds, reverberated, distorted, alienated by electric apps or by the use of microphones, by the recording and remodulation in real time – briefly, by the use of Live Electronics. Yet it aims at holding its own, sometimes working as a control machine, capable of generating things other than itself.
And this is the unending story narrated by Luca Margoni, the interpreter, performer and composer, the solitary creator of this imaginary circumnavigation. It is a sign of his affectionate and friendly gratitude to Tortora, Petrarca, Renna and Gilardino who dedicated their works to him. It also signifies his fundamental, lasting, loving devotion towards his instrument.
The florilegium of the works offered to the listeners belongs to the last four decades in the history of Italian art music, ranging from the Eighties of the twentieth century to the first two decades of the third millennium. However, the highest merit of this chronological range is found in the variety and vastity characterizing the experiences of each of the composers whose works are collected. These include being performers, software engineers, conductors, teachers, musicologists in a broad sense, composers; this adds the value of a witness which only the uniqueness of individual lives can mount within the forms of time.
The programmatic title of the remotest work in this album is almost an oxymoron: Sospese line affioranti (“suspended surfacing lines”) by Daniela Tortora (1958). The title aptly synthesizes the survival of semi-serial elements, re-emerging in the music of the Eighties. Actually, the lines evoked in the title, surfacing and losing themselves in more or less virtual polyphonic garlands, are nothing but the projection on paper of the live body, of the actual aural matter of the guitar, of the history and image of this ancient-modern instrument, fused together and eventually reconciled.
The guitar gesture used by Giorgio Scardino (1967), inspired by painting, is energetic and modern. His triptych is dedicated to Vassilij Kandinskij, and is titled Point, Ligne et Surface. It represents the seduction of the moving image, of the very lively metamorphosis of puncta expanding themselves into lines, and later dilating themselves into surfaces. This translates into a mirror-like agogic, increasingly slower, and ranging from the “Brillante” (Point) to the “Cullato” (Ligne) to the “Espressivo” (Surface). This is capable, each time, to elaborate an idea through idiomatic gestures, perfectly suited for the guitar.
The mood entrusted by Enrico Renna (1951) to his 5 Bagattelle is of the affective, nostalgic and sentimental kind. The pieces are entitled Notte, Vita moderna, Elegia. In memoria di Giovanni De Falco, Sterminator Vesevo and Tremulo è il rimembrare (the two latter titles are both excerpted from the works of Giacomo Leopardi). These pieces are five lyrical sketches, representing as many moods; it is “poetic music” in the most authentic meaning of the word. It forces the grammatical meaning of things and uses the instrument as a means for visiting hidden zones of conscience, other perimeters, far from the surface and from the clamor of the serial grids, far from the scratchy and rambling gestures, even if sometimes evoked by who knows.
The naked guitar of Angelo Gilardino (1941), a true apostle of contemporary guitar, has a noble poetic motive, i.e. the extremely well known line of a poem by Leopardi (Leopardi once more!), giving both title and meaning to Dolce e chiara è la notte.
We are welcomed, at the end of this enchanted circumnavigation, by an encircling and satiated night. It alludes, once more, to the solitary, melancholic and – in fact – nocturnal nature of this instrument, which is perfectly at ease in the archaicizing soliloquy, modal or polymodal as might be the case.
The Attese by Paolo Rotili (1959) are epiphanies of the instrumental voice, in an intimate and engrossed sense. This new version was elaborated for the present recording: one should observe the note brought by the accord and “suspended with freedom following the resonances”, the passageworks thrown like gushes of wind on the strings, the sad and gulped trills in diminuendo in the low range, the chains of lost and extremely sweet harmonics, the glissandos without a goal, and the irregular combinations of complementary sounds. “Il catalogo è questo”, this is the palette; the gestures, observed at the microscope, are paced as distant and distinct steps of a discourse referring to something other than itself. They await (attendere), indeed, the live electronic elaboration of sound in real time, also through the unexpected movement in space.
Isomorphic Dance by Stefano Petrarca (1954) is perhaps the piece most completely tailor-made on the performer’s interpretive features. It entirely entrusts to the player the disinhibited management of the aural matter, the cutting and burning sound of the electric guitar, suspended between writing, improvisation and elaboration through live electronics.
The cards’ chronological order is messed up, and the useless, ordered, and even didactic suite of the different states of aggregation of the guitar’s matter is emptied of meaning by the surprising appearance of the works by Luca Margoni (1959). They punctuate the album’s overall plot by recurring to electronics in an increasingly invasive and corrosive fashion. Perforce, then, they correspondingly dilute the guitar’s timbral connotation on an itinerary ranging from sound to the abstract management of sounds: In Voce Omen Stat is a hidden acronym (IVOS) of the dedicatee, for electric guitar and live electronics. It is automatized through a Digital Audio Workstation in which were inserted audio and virtually orchestrated fragments, as well as automatized (i.e. in tempo) effects elaborating the electric guitar itself in real time. In GB#01 the electric guitar is both elaborated (with delay and overdrive) and employed, with a MIDI converter, in order to control an FM synthesizer. Finally, in Mister C the electric guitar vanishes from the aural horizon, and is employed as a mere MIDI instrument, i.e. as a source of generating frequencies for the algorithmic processes articulating the entire work.
In the slightly decentralized heart of this unusual manufact we find the mise en abyme of the entire project, and it could not be otherwise: this is the awaited-for locus, where all chronometric temporality is suspended. Lines, nothing but lines, as aggregations of timeless and weightless points, capable of running after each other, intertwining without an aim, without a direction of the gaze capable of adding sense, value and expression to what offers itself as a mere contemplative act. To cite Fedele d’Amico, it is an “abstract space, where the musician’s ear bends itself for grasping the metaphysical flowering of pure sound”. The Otto Variazioni by Aldo Clementi (1925-2011) are one of the many gems belonging in the so-called diatonic period of the Catania-born composer. Led by a theme, mirroring itself backwards at the work’s ending, they occupy the brief overall three pages with self-generating ligature encompassing two, three and four sounds. The chronometric ambitus is changeable, and entrusted to the performer’s interior tactus; the player must abandon all emotional impulses and all rhetoric and discursive processes. What does matter is the mechanism, even though the machine is made of live flesh and breathing.
It is fatally necessary, therefore, to evoke the fully philosophical tripartition of the ancient musical wisdom, i.e. that of the Ars Musica recreated in the Middle Ages, in the image and likeness of the Classical concept and idea of a number-sound conceived as the motor and intelligibility ratio of all human and superhuman (mundanae) things. This helps not only to the understanding of the last compositional season of Clementi (starting from the piano piece entitled, not by chance, B.A.C.H., of 1970), here masterfully interpreted in the transparent performance of the Otto variazioni (musica mundana, in its proper meaning, i.e. music of the heavenly spheres).
It also helps to understand the destination – not at all connected with science fiction – of all other pieces recorded here, channelled to the front, updated to the recent centuries, of musica humana (music and poetry as if constituting a single thing) and instrumentalis (for various instruments, in a wide-ranging meaning), as Boethius would have put it.
Liner Notes © Daniela Tortora
Luca Margoni: Born in Paris in 1959 to a family of Italian intellectuals and artists, he gradually took to guitar from adolescence.
Friends, LPs and concerts have been his first teachers.
He then started his regular studies with Pier Luigi Corona, Claudio Capodieci, Stefano Cardi and José Tomás.
Deeply passionate about improvisation in all its aspects, during the 80s he studied Jazz Guitar with Umberto Fiorentino and Jazz Harmony and Arrangement with Bruno Tommaso.
His musical activity as a soloist and even more as an interpreter of chamber music, combined with a strong curiosity towards experimentation and a passion for computer science, have led him over the years to use the computer as a real musical partner.
He has therefore dedicated himself to a systematic study of the Electronic Music, both in its IT aspects, under the guidance of Stefano Petrarca, and in its compositional aspects, with Giorgio Nottoli.
All this has led him to define a path in which the guitar repertoire, above all from the twentieth century, Electronic Music and improvisation are conveyed.
He lives and works in Rome, where he settled from the age of five.
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.