How did start your collaboration with the Guitar Collection’s project of Stradivarius?
[LM] I started working with Stradivarius ten years ago, with the recording of the works by Dionisio Aguado. At the time Frederic Zigante, who was my teacher for many years and still is for me an indispensable point of reference, was starting the Guitar Collection with his Villa-Lobos’s recording. I had just won the first prize at the Guitar Foundation of America Competition, I had signed a contract with Naxos (with which I released a disc on Castelnuovo-Tedesco) and I had a master ready: Frederic decided that this would become the second volume the collection. A few years later, when Matthew and I took our first steps as a duo and carried a program of chamber music with the strings of the Trio di Parma, we proposed to Stradivarius to record the Quartets by De Fossa. And so, year after year, we strengthened this synergy, which continues to provide excellent results and still has four albums (besides the already mentioned de Aguado and De Fossar there are the record with the complete works of Piazzolla and the CD on Italian authors of the seventeenth century).
In your recordings you seem to prefer monographic cds, focusing on specific authors. Why this choice? Is this is a request from the record labels or is it a your exact professional choice?
[LM] I do not think there’s a reason only and precisely, but rather a combination of reasons. A monographic record (along with all the preparation work that is behind it) is above all a “dip” in the deepest depths of the work and life of one author: it means to retrace step by step a creative journey, understand what came later through the knowledge of what was before (and vice versa), coming into contact with a significant proportion of ideas, idiosyncrasies, passions of a person. There is also a consideration linked to the needs of the record label’s catalog: the monographic record is more identifiable, more easily classifiable and then – ultimately – more easily marketable. Finally it should be remembered that the record has an intrinsic value as an artistic and historical document, as a means of dissemination and knowledge about music, as a working instrument.
In your latest CD for the Stradivarius, “La Suave Melodia, you try out the trio of plucked instruments formula in the company of Massimo Lonardi, a solution rather unusual. Why this choice?
[MM] We are working on the baroque repertoire using vintage instruments from a lot of time (baroque guitar and theorbo) with Massimo Lonardi, who before being a teacher in the truest sense of this word is a precious and dear friend. Massimo guided us step by step to discover the ancient repertoire for plucked instruments, and had the idea to create a trio in which our two instruments (the theorbo Lorenzo and my baroque guitar) find a perfect counterpoint with his arciliuto. This combination, which is very versatile because all the three instruments are perfect for the continuous but are also used as a solo instrument, allows to play both the ‘600 and ‘700 original repertoire for plucked instruments and – it is the case of Andrea Falconieri’s record – music for all sorts of instruments.
I was genuinely impressed by the monography devoted to the music of Astor Piazzolla: why the choice of this artist, as your previous record releases were more oriented about the nineteenth-century romantic repertoire and how did start the collaboration with an artist like Per Arne Glorvigen ?
[MM] I have in the repertoire the Cinco piezas for solo guitar by the Argentine composer from a very long time, and the same can be said for the Tango Suite, which I have played for so many years with Giampaolo Bandini (first) and Lorenzo, and the Histoire du Tango, which I have long played with Ivan Rabaglia. The affinity and interest that I have always felt toward the music of Piazzolla have prompted me to create, five or six years ago, this project. When it was decided to include the Concerto for bandoneon and guitar I started searching for a bandoneonist. A mutual friend introduced me to Per Arne Glorvigen, a persone with incredible talent and charisma, which in Norway is considered a national celebrity. Per Arne has enthusiastically agreed to be part of the group of musicians, and so, after a series of concerts played together in the winter of 2004, we recorded the Tribute to Liege. Relations with him were very close, so that later than a few months ago we performed in Holland one of his works for bandoneon and guitar.
I noticed that the notes on the booklets with your CDs have been written directly by Lorenzo Micheli. I’ve always found them well written and full of interesting information, a signal of attention not only to the music but also to the writings of music, do you think to start even an editorial work in addition to the record one?
[LM] I’ve always felt the need to complement my strictly musical work with a historical and theoretical reflection to help me to bring order to my ideas and insights about music, I think it is a remnant of my classical university studies, as well to be the fruit of my insane passion for the written word. From many years I have worked with magazines such as “The Fronimo” and “Guitar Forum”, for which I wrote essays and articles about history and practice of literature, and at some point came to natural the decision to write the notes of the books.
As well as playing a significant activity as a performer, you are both teachers: Matteo Mela at the Conservatoire Populaire de Musique in Geneva and Lorenzo Micheli at the Musical Institute of Aosta. How do you manage to combine these two activities? Sometimes one gets the impression of a dichotomy between the two “careers”: that a performer is unable to be at the same time also a teacher …
[MM and LM] It is difficult to think about musical activity “all round” that can be independent by the teaching’s experience. After all teaching is one of the few chances we have for reflection (and self-criticism, in a constructive way) on our way to make music and all the questions, about techniques and interpretation, linked to it. And then we like to teach: the enthusiasm of the pupils may be contagious as a few other things.
[LM] Thanks for the compliment. The truth is that working on technique, which has been and continues to be magna pars of our daily study, it makes sense because it is a wholly functional expression and realization of a musical idea. At that point (being the idea that music is there, and that is clear and strong) theorbo or guitar, Frescobaldi or Piazzolla, alone or duo are the same thing – they are all traceable to the same system of gestures, breaths, intentions and tension that is music.
Outside of classical and classical guitar’s music, do you listen to other genres?
[LM] Oh yes, lots of different things, inside and outside the mainstream music. Wishing to give a negative definition, I would say that we like everything that the Italian radio – public and private – insists to never transmit …
How do you see the crisis in the music market, with the transition from digital downloading with mp3 and all this new scenario?
[LM] We think not say anything new if I say that the digital transmission of music contents over Internet has killed ancient and sacrosanct principle of intellectual property, this – despite the claims of those who salutes the death of copyright as complete and perfect act ofdemocratization of culture – will have increasingly serious consequences on the quality and the existence of recorded music. If an intellectual or an artist is stripped of the opportunity to live on what he produces, how does can he survive?
Please recommend us five records essential for you, to have always with you .. the classic five records for the desert island …
[LM] L’Orfeo by Monteverdi, Vivaldi’s L’Estro Armonico, all Schubert, the “Prophets” and “Naviganti” by Castelnuovo-Tedesco and … “As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls” by Pat Metheny. Matteo instead is used to have his iPod fully packed with records: he could never choose just five – he would die at old age before he could select them
The blog is read also by graduates and students, what advice would you like to give to those who, after years of study, decided to start a career as a musician?
[MM] to broaden their horizons, without ever closing within its borders, and to seek confrontation with other musicians, with other teachers, with fellow students. To make a lot of music together, to learn to feel and to look for what sometimes we fail to perceive in music. To read – lots of music, but not only – and to learn foreign languages (how much is important for a music career the knowledge of two or more foreign languages!). And, of course, never give up their own artistic journey, unique and unrepeatable, even outside of the known and habitual patterns.