Interview with Duo Claudio Maccari and Paolo Pugliese by Andrea Aguzzi

The first question is a must: How did start your love and interest for the guitar?

Claudio. It started when I was five years old: My Dad loved to strum his guitar durino the goliardic evenings spent with his friends. So, in my house or in a tavern in front of it (I grew up in a small town in Piemonte near Turin) between a plate of mushrooms and a good glass of barbera, people met toghter to sing and play folk songs with the most diverse instruments of various kinds (I recall, in addition to guitars, accordions, mandolins, clarinets and Kazoo). The music and the guitar, were so common at home. After the first chords learned in the family, it will be the photographer of my town, the only “musician” able to read music, the task of teaching me the basics … Carulli.
Paolo. Actarus (the pilot of Goldrake – a japanise cartoon very popoular in Italy) played the guitar. Since all the girls were fascinated (from guitar), it seemed to me a great idea becoming a guitarist (not Goldrake). That is why I started playing. I think.

You are universally regarded as one of the best guitar duo in the world: how did this collaboration start and what it means to play in a duo? What kind of Alchemies do you create in a so close relationship?

We are of the 70s, we met in ’89 and since then we never stopped playing together. Without rhetoric, the binder is friendship, and with this one you can do everything. And above all it’s much better to travel in two then alone.

In your recordings it seems to me that you prefer to favor monographic records, focusing on specific authors, why this choice? It’s a specific demand of your majors or a career’s option?
Both. It’s a personal choice for study purposes: to record even one piece of an author it is better to known most of his work (possibly the entire work) rifining the study with readings on the life and poetry of the composer. Being and interpreter it’s a meticulous work and it must be constructed with elbow grease and with the infamous holy patience. In addition, the Brilliant Classics, a Dutch record company for which we made the latest CDs, explicitly requires the recording of complete works. Finally monographic records are more marketable.
I have been sincerely impressed by your latest records dedicated to Rossiniane by Mauro Giuliani for the recording’s qualità, for your artistic talent and for the huge work: three compact discs and all of this during a difficult moment for the recording industry . How was born such a recording? How much time was needed for the incision? How is your relationship with a record company like Brilliant?
The relationship with the Brilliant Classics is excellent, prompt and precise, the President is a young musician – and maybe for this reason – he knows very well the problems faced by artists with whom he collaborates. The box to which you refer is the second recorded for Brilliant, having registered in 2006 the complete works for two guitars by Mauro Giuliani with 3 CDs. The Dutch house had previously published, in 2005, a double CD with the 3 concertos for guitar and orchestra and opus 65 and 102 for guitar and string quartet by Giuliani, printed in 2003 and attached to a special edition of Italian magazine Amadeus . For Rossiniane we recorded in a seventeenth-century church near Varese, for a total of two days for each record (not counting the hours spent waiting for the passage of airplaines from the nearby Malpensa, to pray the builders of nearby construction site to stop as soon as possible to disassemble the roof of a house and the hour or little more to convince the farmer to cut the lawn in front of the church the next day). The study of the pieces lasted a few months. The recording is part of a wider project in collaboration with Brilliant and provides for the registration of the entire corpus of works by Mauro Giuliani that nobody, not even us, knows if and when will be completed. Brilliant policy is to sell at low cost allowing the realization of similar works (see the complete works for Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin …)

I have read in the notes of your last work that in addition to vintage guitars you played also reproductions made by luthier Fabio Zontini, why this choice and what do you think about his instruments?
Indeed we used the copy of Panormo made by Zontini in the double CD just recorded (the complete works for guitar duo by Sor and Coste). Fabio is an attentive and a very good luthier, excellent in making reproductions of vintage guitars. Thanks to our and Giorgio Ferraris’s exhortation he began to make low price but well-made copies, with the intention of allowing anyone to buy a guitar from the XIX century. In recent years the price of the original instruments, especially from famous luthiers, has risen dramatically and it is clear that not everyone can afford to buy a Guadagnini at 15 thousand euros or like. Rare – although you can still find – are the original guitars with a nice sound and little cost, we must always be careful and rely at least to the advice of an expert to avoid large or small frauds. The difference between a classical guitar “modern” and a vintage one is essentially on the completely different type of sound. Guitars made by Fabio are very close to this type of sound and are cheap: here are the reasons why we decided to play them. From our side, being alos proprietary odf some instrumets, we have the enormous good fortune to work with Giovanni Accornero, today, as far as I know, the largest collector of plucked instruments in the world.
What does improvisation mean for your music research? Do you think it’s possibile to talk about improvisation for classical music or we have to turn to other repertories like jazz, contemporary music, etc.? Or maybe as part of contemporary music is preferable to talk about random improvisation?
Is there another question? In XIX century, improvisation was part of the baggage of every virtuoso worthy of this name. Hummel and Moscheles, to mention two names from the circle of Giuliani, had scaled the Mount Olympus of the virtuous thanks to their improvisations during the Academies of the time. In our “classic” world – maybe a little tight definition, today – this art has been lost for some times, for historical reasons that would be worthwhile to investigate thoroughly. Clara Schumann was usual at the end of her performances, asking to the audience to suggest her topics on which working out her own variations, like today we can hear in concerts, for example, by Stefano Bollani and many organists. She wasn’t certainly the only one to do this. It would be important to continue such practices, charming and gripping on the public. For now, we have studied and we are implementing a further aspect of improvisation, the “art of ornamentation and embellishment”, ownership of the virtuous singers, as well as of circumspect composers at those times. With the exception of a few percent, the vast majority of compositions for guitar of the classical period, by its nature requires the use of embellishments, flowering and variations of course performed with taste and style of the period and author. It’s necessari to know very well the “classic style” to master this art, for us it represents the most creative and funniest part of all.

Peeking into your website I have been impressed pthat you have received the compliments by “Slowhand” Eric Clapton for your CDs with the Concerts by Giuliani, how did it happen? How did he get in touch with you? How did he listen to your music?
Clapton took our records through a mutual friend. He sent us a fax of congratulating.

I had the feeling, listening to your music that … you can play anything: whatever the repertoire, the composer, the instrument which you are playing you always demonstrated a total control both technical and emotional, how important is working on technique to reach this level of “security”?
Thanks for the compliment, we get it with pleasure! The real technique is the art of translating sounds into expressions, let’s call them feelings. And this art or you have it or you haven’t it. If you find it, you have to cultivate and refine it constantly. You’re lucky, but you have quite a load to bear. Technique / mechanics is another kind of art, perhaps more for a craftsman then an artist: in short, without wishing to minimize it, it’s the possibility of coordinating your hands easly to get away from the instrument sounds of a certain beauty. Less or more anyone can learn to run his fingers over the strings with a good metronome velocity, someone with more and someone with less hours of study, although it is true that if, in a piece, you are not able to play a part of it after 5 minutes probably you’ll never be able to do it …. In short, scales and arpeggios are put into the account more or less to anyone.

I have found extremely fascinating the idea of a rigorous philological playing of a repertoire of over a century ago, interpreting that music with vintage instruments. How much can be different your way of playing in confront to the one of XIX century? Would you like to describe us the instruments you play, their history and how they came to you through time?
The question, in our opinion, is not “how to play at the time”, but how can we play appropriating the style and language of a particular era. How would Pinco Pallino play today armed with performance practice and, especially, would he still tell something to a modern audiences? Talking cheap, rather than “philological rigor” we prefer to talk about knowledge of “rules”, without which you can not play. One of the most curious, for instance, is the codification of the sign, particularly the hidden ones. One example among the myriad possibilities: a quarter note followed by a pause of an eighth, shall be played differently if the one who wrote it was Sor or Castelnuovo-Tedesco. We don’t know the history of our original instruments, we haven’t any news about their past and don’t know who could have played them. We are the owner of some guitars a Carlo Guadagnini from 1819 and a Gaetano Guadagnini from 1830, instruments in excellent condition purchased more or less 15 years ago by Accornero, and since then ever played. Just a curiosità: the cartouche of the Carlo Guadagnini 1819 indicates a date of birth, except that Charles, in that year, was already quietly passed away … In reality it was the son Gaetano who build the guitar, but being not yet famous, he still preferred to use the label of his father’s workshop where he worked.
Do you think it’s possible to use vintage instruments in different contexts from the original ones, such as contemporary music? It occurs to me as an example Elena Càsoli who plays with her Panormo 1848 music by Terry Riley.
Yes, we do.
Outside classical and classical guitar music do you listen to other genres?
Yes, a bit ‘of everything.

How do you see the crisis about discographic market, with the transition from digital to mp3’s download and all this new scenario?
Not only the discographic market is in crisis, but the crisis hit the music market in general. There are too many record productions, the market is completely saturated and the records are immediately out of print. Right now we think taht can survive labels such as Naxos or Brilliant often combining production quality at an extremely competitive price. Of course, the losers are the musicians. We are in a phase of irreversible transition, and I think nobody knows exactly where this will bring us. Moving to digital download (preferably legal) is certainly positive but the current audio quality is fairly low. We assume and hope that soon the audio and music players qualità will get better, adding a little more competition on the internet and the new scene is redrawn.

Please tell us five essential records, to have always with you .. the classic five discs for the desert island …
Mess in B minor by Bach, Mozart Requiem, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, a collection of Mina and one of Vasco Rossi. 14. What are your five favorite scores?
Those from the question above.

The Blog has recently opened a new section dedicated to young graduates, what kind of advice would you like to give to those who, after years of study, decided to start a career as a musician?

Undertake it only if you have very strong reasons; critically attend many courses and then choose one or more teachers, never remain students throughout all your lives; specialize yourself in a particular period, play a lot of chamber music.

With who would you like to play?

Any kind of musician.

Your next projects?

As we said, we have finished the recording of the second disc dedicated to opera omnia for two guitars by Fernando Sor and Napoleon Coste. The first CD was released last year and attached to the Seicorde’s magazine, with some works played in 2005, while the two CDs will be published by Brilliant and come out durino this year. Currently, we are intrigued by the figure of Anton Diabelli, and it is probably that in the coming months we will study his pieces (he wrote a lot of music) with the intention, if possible, to record the complete works for two guitars. In recent years, publishers of the Musica magazine – brothers Zecchini – are publishing a series of books devoted to musical instruments, written by career musicians who play these instruments: Gabriele Cassone signed the book on the trumpet, and so on Fabrizio Meloni for clarinet. We have been entrusted the writing of the book about guitar, a nice little book (it will be around 400 pages) with the history of this instrument from its origins to today, through literature, organology, technique, notation, the electric guitar, acoustic swing, Russian … with color photo, fine papers, etc.. In short, a nice job, of course, accepted with enthusiasm, thinking that to find a book of this nature we must go back at least to the Evans’s book in 1977. Again, however, we do not know if and when we will end it, but please don’t tell this detail to the editor!