Interview with Duo Ad Libitum (Leonardo De Marchi and Giacomo Costantini) (September 2009)

How did your love and interest for the guitar start?

Leonardo De Marchi: By chance. I wanted to learn the arrangements of Beatles songs and I enroll myself in a didactic course where they teached you the basic, harmony, plectrum … My teacher played classical guitar also and so I fell in love quickly with this instrument!

Giacomo Costantini: It’s a little bit difficult to sum up. When I was two years old, I got as a gift a guitar toy. I didn’t know how to use it and consequently I broke it shortly after. A few years later I received an Eko guitar, which I learned to play a few songs on. Then, at the end of elementary school, I decided to enter in the secondary school in the Conservatory.
How was your Duo Ad libitum born?
Duo: Even here, the most beautiful things ever created are always by chance! The idea was born while we were going to a guitar competition. We were in our room and started to play to improvise a few songs together (“recostructing” without the sheets parts of Friday night in St. Francisco, the legendary disc by Paco De Lucia, John Mc Laughlin and Al di Meola). We enjoyed this joke-like-experience and decided to play together the classical repertoire too.

What is your favourite repertoire as soloists and as a duo?
L: I particularly like the composers who wrote for Andres Segovia, especially Manuel Maria Ponce and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. I’m addicted to MCT because of the variety of expressive situations evoked by his music, by the grace of his Sonata to the visionarie “Caprichos de Goya”. Recently I started discovering the contemporary music for guitar: I hope it will be, in the future, a distinctive section of my repertoire.
G: The repertoire that I like most is from Hispanic-American area, including the most distinctive folkloric roots. I like to play a lot musics by Tarrega, Barrios and the composers of the Spanish ‘900 (Turina, Falla and the transcripts by Granados and Albeniz). DUO: Our projects as a duo “suffer” our personal tastes. Currently we have addressed – it must be said, with much pleasure – our activities towards the XIX century classical repertory (Carulli and Giuliani in particular). We also love the repertoire of Pierre Petit (a french composer who wrote two pieces for two guitars, “Toccata” and “Tarantella”) and Castelnuovo-Tedesco.

Your favourite composers?

L: Among the composers who have not written for guitar, I love listening to many composers of the first half century of XIX century, both classical and romantic, the most famous (Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann) as well as the less famous (Field, Hummel …). I’m very interested about the cultural area between the late XVIII century and early decades of XIX, not only about music but also philosophical and literary. Recently I also fell in love with (and became addicted to) Mahler and Shostakovich.

G: I appreciate particularly the composers of the late romanticism (Čajkovskij, Dvorak, but also Chopin and Liszt) and I have a passion (I got it at home and from my father, in particular) for the Opera’s world. Therefore I have a particular interest for other authors like Rossini, Verdi and Puccini.

Leonardo, you have done some masterclass with guitarists like Arturo Tallini, Carlo Marchione, Elena Papandreou and Oscar Ghiglia, what memories and experiences have you had with these musicians?

These were experiences that have impacted a lot on my musical education: they share a great attention to the sense of cohesion and of consequence in the interpretation of music, which comes from the deep understanding of the musical language of the pieces and of the “world” they come from. Each teacher I worked with has a specific experience in a field of the repertoire of the guitar and so I received many elements that enriched my imagination. Furthermore, every teacher had something special that impressed me and should be a target for every musician: among the remarkable things I noticed, I remember the deep stylistic awareness of Arturo Tallini and Elena Casoli, the incredibile musical richness and imagination by Oscar Ghiglia, the technique of Giulio Tampalini, the ability to give a deep message and entertain the audience and of Paolo Pugliese and Claudio Maccari.

But I also have to say that the influence I can’t refuse is my “great” masters’ (Giuseppe Pepicelli and Florindo Baldissera) one. Without the precious help and the useful hints they give me, I wouldn’t challenge myself to improve my skills.

Which guitars do you play?

L: I play a guitar made by Mirko Migliorini and Roberto Pozzi in 2008 and a replica of Panormo made by Fabio Zontini in 2007, recreated with philological criteria (e.g. gut and 430 hz-pitched strings). G: I play a Michele Della Giustina guitar, made in 1998, and a Gioacchino Giussani’s one, made in 1995.

How is your experience about the Conservatorio Benedetto Marcello?

DUO: It is undoubtedly a rich experience. We met people who have given us a lot both from musical than human point of view. We are particularly thankful for our “solo-skills” to Florindo Baldissera and Giuseppe Pepicelli, while for chamber music a very important role has been played by our teacher Luisa Messinis.

Outside the classical music do you listen to other music genres?

We both listen to Italian music (Giacomo is an expert in this field!). Also in our musical tastes you can find flamenco, bossa-nova, jazz (every sub-genre, such as Dixieland, ragtime but also acid jazz, jazz-fusion and so on).

How do you the crisis in the record market, with the transition from digital cd to mp3 downloads and all this new scenario?

Technological advances which you refer have certainly increased the flexibility and accessibility of music, but not everything that goes in this direction is welcome. For example, the constant marketing hammering of the media and the “hit single” tyranny bring the public to ask more and more easy songs (for example, the final success of the famous singer) and ask with less frequency different musics that show a less immediate interest. Are we really sure that all of this represents a success? Back to the classical repertoire, we believe that in many cases the “compression” in MP3 shows a detriment of the definition and the quality of sound. Is this a price that we absolutely want to pay?

What was your best concert?

The concert in duo that has graced us more, not because of attendance or importance of the event but for the quality of the musical message that we have succeeded in passing, was in November 2007 in Castello di Godego, near Treviso. We experienced a very intense relationship of mutual exchange between the audience and us.

What are your next projects?

In the short term, we expect to be able to play live the entire corpus of Serenate op. 96 by Carulli. However, we wont’ “lose of sight” the nineteenth century repertoire, but we’d rather play the repertoire of the twentieth century, not only original (Castelnuovo-Tedesco is on top of the list of our priorities and our preferences), but also our own transcriptions from piano (Granados and Albeniz).

Thank you very much!