The definition of a perimeter of coherence for a recording or concert programme is rightly given special attention by performers. From the didactic choice of recording the opera omnia of an author, to that of identifying a formal, rather than a historical or poetic connection, the choices are innumerable and a priori unquestionable. However, I would like to emphasise how the idea pursued by Andrea Corongiu, in this his second volume dedicated to guitar sonatas of Mediterranean inspiration, has an intrinsic strength: the selection of the pieces proposed moves at the same time from formal and poetic criteria, ensuring that coherence and heterogeneity that are a sure reason for the listener’s interest. This second part of Corongiu’s research moves on from what was left undone in the first volume of 2019: if there, in fact, Angelo Gilardino’s Sonata del Guadalquivir closed the programme, offering the listener an innovative exploration of Mediterranean themes, here the first part of the recital is entirely dedicated to the composer from Asigliano, who passed away at the beginning of 2022, and to two composers who have taken up some elements of his invaluable human and artistic legacy in a different and personal way: Cristiano Porqueddu and Kevin Swierkosz-Lenart.
The disc opens with Angelo Gilardino’s (1941-2022) Sonata Mediterranea, composed in 2004 as a refreshing return to the sonata form, the immediately preceding example of which was in Gilardino’s catalogue in 1986. The piece is in three movements, and was created in homage to Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. The first movement, entitled ‘Cypresses’, is in fact conceived as a homage to the Florentine composer. The composition departs slightly from the style of the gilardinian sonata, characterised by a clear change of tactus between the two themes and by the frequent introduction of triplets in a second lyrical theme, to differentiate it markedly from the rhythmic character of the first: here we have rather a dactylic continuum that opens the piece and runs through it transversally, giving way transiently to a second theme characterised by a flat flow of semiquavers, within the same time frame. With regard to the title, it seems appropriate to quote Gilardino’s own words: I cipress “The cypresses evoked in my title are not cemetery trees. In the Etruscan tradition, the cypress celebrated life, and under its shadow festivals and dances joyfully took place. Above all, I thought of a picture which Castelnuovo-Tedesco had at home. It was a work by Giovanni Colacicchi (1900-1992), a friend of Mario. It was a serene picture, suggesting a profound and meditative atmosphere, a view of Pian dei Giullari, a village on the hills surrounding Florence.” The two remaining movements are of Neapolitan inspiration, a recurring theme in Gilardino’s poetics. The second, ‘Ninna nanna’ (Lullaby), refers to a fragment by the poet Salvatore Di Giacomo (‘Ma sulitario e lento/more ‘o mutivo antico;/ se fa ‘cchiù cupo o vico/ dint’all’oscurità” “But lonely and slow/ the ancient motif dies/ the alley grows darker/ in the darkness”), the contrast between the ancient motif and the theme of darkness is rendered musically by the progressive perturbation of a simple motif of semiquavers, in the context of an “Adagio incantato”. The work concludes with a tumultuous Rondo, dedicated to the painter Giuseppe Casciaro, in which an ‘Allegro rutilante’ refrain embeds some suggestions derived from the previous two movements.
Cristiano Porqueddu (1975) is a guitarist whose activity as a performer is characterised by absolute intellectual freedom and a voracious spirit of research. To this incessant exploration of the repertoire, far from any established path, he associates the singular ability to record vast quantities of quality music in an extremely short time, so that he has to his credit more than twenty record releases that give the public new works, often in their first performance. In the context of this activity, Gilardino’s music undoubtedly constitutes a preponderant part of Porqueddu’s research, who has consecrated to the Piedmontese Maestro the effort of a complete recording still in progress. To this assiduous artistic and human acquaintance, Porqueddu’s compositional activity must also be traced without fear. Although he has undertaken an entirely personal research, he does not reject the influence of one of his most important Masters. The Sonata no. 3 “Il rito del fuoco”, from 2019, is part of a larger project dedicated to Sardinia, the composer’s homeland and source of inspiration for a series of new original works that he himself commissioned in 2019 from composers of the calibre of Brouwer, Bogdanovic and Gilardino himself, among others, contributing then himself in the dual role of performer and author. Conceived in cyclic form, the work draws its inspiration from the ritual performed in Sardinia on the night of 16 January in honour of Saint Anthony Abbot. For Porqueddu, the popular element has an inverse character to that of folklore: if the latter is synonymous with particularism, the composer is instead in search of the archaic and therefore universal roots of the procession to which it refers. Thus the opening theme of the piece, a slow melancholy, takes the form almost of a nostalgic contemplation of the elements evoked. It is a melody charged with yearning for a lost past, and the key to transforming a land as unique and special as Sardinia into a place of universals, following the same procedure implemented by Deledda in literature and Biasi in painting. In accordance with the cyclic form, this contemplative theme constitutes both the development motif of the first movement and the basis for the profound lyrical speculation of the second, finally supporting the episodes that alternate with the impetuous refrain of the final Rondo.
Kevin Swierkosz-Lenart (1988) is an Italian psychiatrist who combined his medical studies with a diploma in classical guitar, obtained in 2012 in Rome at the Conservatorio ‘S.Cecilia’. His meeting with Gilardino dates back to the first period of his musical studies: a regular correspondence was born from this, which developed over the years and centred on an ongoing confrontation concerning, above all, literature and the figurative arts. Starting in 2017, he took formal composition lessons from Angelo Gilardino and Dusan Bogdanovic for about four years, an experience that was quickly reflected in a corpus that now numbers several works for guitar, eight concertos for solo instrument and orhcestra, chamber music and a few examples of extra-guitar work. ‘Marina a Viareggio’, the piece presented here, is his first sonata for guitar, dating from 2019. Heavily influenced by the gilardinian styleme, the first movement is characterised by a decidedly rhythmic first theme, alternating with a decidedly different motif both in its slowed-down tactus and in the adoption of quite different rhythmic formulas. The development explores the possibilities implicit in the two themes within a lyrical context, and then leads to a reprise in which a modal alignment of the two ideas underpinning the piece is implemented: a contrivance taken from the classical tradition that is implemented here in a more recent language. In the second movement we find an idea based on the singing of semiquavers over chordal masses and a chant of quavers entrusted to the lower register, with a lulling and undulating character, in which the undertow is evoked. In the conclusion we find a movement still based on the sonata form in which the development closes in a play of infinite mirrors: in fact, at the opening we find an “Agitato” that represents a diminution of the first theme of the first movement, which immediately reappears, after a short lyrical section, as a rhythmic pattern for developing an idea taken from the second movement. The piece is inspired by the splendid painting by Telemaco Signorini entitled ‘Marina a Viareggio’, exhibited at the Ricci Oddi Gallery in Piacenza. The oneiric and nostalgic character of the painting makes it almost a photographic find from a mediumistic séance, an imaginative quality that finds a simply perfect correspondence in the guitar timbre.
To conclude the recital, Corongiu offers Sonata no. 2, “El Verbo” by Reginald Smith-Brindle (1917-2003), an English composer who has long been fascinated by Mediterranean, whether due to the fact that he established his ideal home in Florence, where he trained with masters of the calibre of Dallapiccola and Pizzetti, or due to his repeated frequentation of Garcìa Lorca, a true constant in his poetic world. The work presented here dates from 1976, the late phase of the composer who is now far removed from the serial explorations of the 1950s and adopts a language marked by great freedom. Il Verbo (The Word) is an evocative title, the bearer of centuries of Western tradition in which this word took on, in its primitive Greek formulation as logos, the meaning of reason, sense of reality, world, and ultimately identified in the Christian sphere with Christ himself. I like to follow a game of suggestions that, taking Florence and the Mediterranean as its starting point, leads us to the extraordinary figure of Montale: active in Florence between 1927 and 1948, a participant in a fertile intellectual coterie gathered around the Giubbe Rosse café where he met Dallapiccola. In the poem entitled Mediterraneo, we read: ‘As then today your presence I turn myself to stone,/ sea, but no longer/ I believe myself worthy/ of the solemn admonition/ of your breath. You told me first/ that the tiny ferment/ of my heart was but a moment/ of yours; that it was at the bottom/ your risky law: to be vast and different/ and at the same time fixed”. Here is condensed the inheritance of a way of seeing the world that finds within nature the place of the Word, an epiphany that Smith-Brindle describes in music through sound iterations articulated in quatrains of rebates, in which an oracular message seems to be hidden. With superb mastery, the composer condenses the construction of the three movements with singular coherence around these small cells, which truly seem like the Montalian ‘breath’ of the Mediterranean. Just as surprising is the coherence that Corongiu succeeds in restoring to the margins of such a heterogeneous itinerary.
Kevin Swierkosz-Lenart © 2022
Andrea Corongiu (1991), a musician devoted to the original repertoire for solo guitar, obtained a degree from the Conservatorio Superior de Música “Rafael Orozco” in Cordoba, Spain, where he studied in the class of Javier Riba. He attended the KASK Conservatorium of Ghent, in Belgium with Johann Fostier, participating in the Erasmus Program. Andrea attended lectures, master classes and courses of interpretation with Luigi Attademo, Angelo Gilardino and Rafael Aguirre, as well as composition courses with Francisco Quintero, Luis Moreno and others. As a soloist, he performed both original repertoire and monographic literature for solo guitar in several festivals and halls, in Italy, Spain and Belgium. He currently cooperates with the specialistic journal Quinte Parallele. The Rafael Orozco Conservatoire of Cordoba gave him a mention of honor for his distinguished results in the course Interpretation of classical guitar with a repertoire of twentieth-century composers, where he obtained the highest score. He won several competitions, among which the Mediterraneo International Competition (first prize), the Lucia Iurleo International Competition (first prize), the 25th Giulio Rospigliosi International Competition (second prize), Mirabello in musica competition (first prize) and Città di Barletta 29th Young Musicians International Competition (first prize).
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.
Reginald Smith Brindle(b Bamber Bridge, 5 Jan 1917). English composer and writer on music. His first professional training was in architecture, but this was cut short by war service, which took him to Africa and then to Italy. He won first prize in the Rome Army Arts Festival of 1946 with his Fantasia passacaglia. From 1946 to 1949, unable to find a place on a degree course in architecture, he studied music at the University College of North Wales, Bangor. He pursued his studies in composition in Italy, with Pizzetti at the Accademia di S Cecilia and with Dallapiccola, and felt drawn to the school of Florentine 12-note composers, which included such figures as Bartolozzi, Bussotti and Berio. He spent much of his time in that country during the following years, also working for Italian radio. He returned to Bangor to take up a university teaching appointment in 1967 and remained there until 1970, when he became professor of music at the University of Surrey, retiring in 1985.