Interview with Marco Del Greco (October 2014)

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Interview with Marco Del Greco

When did you start playing the guitar and why? What did you study and what’s your musical background? With what guitar do you play and have you played in the past?

I started playing guitar when I was seven years thanks to an afternoon course held by Roberto Armillotta in my primary school at Castel Gandolfo in Rome. The setting was once the classic one (after overcoming the problem of the size of my first guitar thanks to the passage after a few months to a ¾!). Next to the traditional repertoire, Sor, Carulli, Tárrega, I remember with great happiness the habit of playing together, as a duo or in small guitar’s ensembles, as well as incursions into South American music and popular music.
After four years, in the sixth grade, I went to study at Conservatory “Santa Cecilia” in Rome in Carlo Carfagna’s class; at the time there were only two chairs of guitar and in the face of more than thirty requests were available for admissions only two places: I can say, without fear of being argumentative, which unfortunately today at the conservatories things have changed and a lot. Here too, the chamber music and contemporary were daily bread. I still remember a class essay with “Alias” by Petrassi.

There has also been a time in my teenage years where I really loved jazz and practiced with some diligence. I still have a beautiful late 50’s Gretsch, now unfortunately I rarely play it.

The instruments with which currentlyI play are a Gabriele Lodi spruce in 2009, a Mario Rosazza Ferraris cedar of 2011, a Sakurai Kohno of 2010 and Santos Hernandez 1942, one of the last, with maple back and sides. In the past I played Ramirez III instruments, Bernabe, Contreras son Piretti, Cow.

After graduating from the Santa Cecilia’s Conservatory in Rome you have been admitted to the Musik Akademie Basel, what was your experience at this prestigious institution?

The best experience of my life as a student. An example of how they should be all Academies and Conservatories of Music: structure highly efficient, open daily until 22, including Sundays, study soundproof classrooms, rich and updated library, two concert halls, top-notch faculty and students from around the world. Lessons with Stephan Schmidt were basilar in my growth and musical awareness.

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You have won several international competitions but I think the most important award was the first prize at the Tokyo International Guitar Competition in 2010, which was that experience? I know that in 2011 you also did a long tour in Japan .. how was it to play in the country of the Rising Sun? Was on those occasions that you met Toshio Hosokawa?

The Tokyo International Competition, now in its 57th edition, I think is one of the longest running guitar competitions in the world and among the most prestigious, perhaps the only one where you have to pass a narrow pre-selection. Among the many pieces of obligation there is always a piece by Bach and a Japanese contemporary composer. Another peculiarity is that the scores of the individual Commissioners are made public at the end of each test, a practice that in my opinion, for clarity and honesty, should be adopted by all international competitions. My victory came after a fourth prize in 2009.
In Japan I played in extraordinary concert halls, even with capacity of 600 persons without amplification: the most beautiful sound that a guitarist can imagine. There is great respect for those who make music and it’s amazing the preparation not only technical but above all music that I found in young guitarists. There is also a large number of “amateurs”, and not practitioners, that make the concerts are always followed. In addition, Japan is the country of the most important guitar’s collectors and I had the good fortune to be able to play here and compare instruments by Torres, Manuel Ramirez, Santos Hernandez, Domingo Esteso, Hauser (ex Bream, perhaps the most beautiful guitar I’ve ever played in my life), Bouchet …
But it was not on this occasion that I met Hosokawa for the first time, but in Berlin, invited by him (after a simple exchange of email) to the representation of his “Matsukaze” opera at the Staatsoper.

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The idea of your latest CD “Takemistu Hosokawa Works for Solo Guitar” comes from these Japanese experiences? How did the opportunity to produce it with NEOS?

This album is for me a declaration of love for Japan.
The “casus” is born the day after the victory of the competition: among the various awards there was a substantial voucher to spend at a famous and well-stocked music store in Tokyo. There I bought in 2010 all the music on the disc then it’s over. I then spent a few years studying and being keen increasingly to Japanese culture in general, a passion which is then led to a real love.
As for the label, I have personally met at a concert of the Quartet Diotima the director of NEOS, Wulf Weinmann, who, after listening to a little preview of the project, immediately expressed interest. The generous support of the BBVA Foundation was then crucial and allowed me to work at the disc with the necessary calm. This among other things is the first solo guitar album of NEOS, very active label in the field of twentieth-century and contemporary music.
Strange that an Italian guitarist affect a music by Japanese authors with a German label disc sponsored by a Spanish foundation, no?

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Hosokawa considers you one of his favorite guitarists, in particular he praised not only your interpretation of his Serenade but also your way of playing Takemitsu, I ask that person is the Master? I recently read the excellent book “Lotus” written about him by Luciana Galliano and I was impressed .. is he really the heir of Takemitsu?

I do not think there’s any doubt! Hosokawa is an extraordinary person and his estimate fills me with joy. In Italy is still not very known in the guitar, but in the contemporary music world is one of the most successful ever composers, with commissions and performances from the most important musical institutions, orchestras, theaters and ensembles. I hope that the beautiful book edited by Galliano and a small part of my work contribute to let him better known in our country.
Between the two composers there has not been a real direct teaching relationship, as you might imagine: always calls himself self-taught, Takemitsu has never had cadets and has never taught regularly in universities or academies. Hosokawa instead studied in Germany for ten years, first in Berlin with Isang Yun then in Freiburg with Klaus Huber.
Despite this, the relationship between Takemitsu and Hosokawa was very tight, they were even neighbors in the mountains and in Karuizawa, curious about guitar, Hosokawa told me that he was present in 1974 at “Folios”‘s first performance, first piece for solo guitar by Takemitsu! Hosokawa himself defines Takemitsu as his musical mentor, although the style of the two is very different, specifically in the way of treating the guitar.

What does improvisation in your music research? You can go back to talking of improvisation in a repertoire so encoded as the classic or you’re forced to leave and turn to other repertoires, jazz, contemporary, etc?

The classical music of the past has always had an improvisational component crystallized in the forms of the imagination or touched or left to the taste of the interpreter Baroque ornamentation in practice of basso continuo, in the concert of the classical period cadences. Let’s not forget that Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, to mention a few to say the least illustrious, were all greatest improvisers. Sometimes, when I study, I launch into improvisations “in the manner of” fundamental to test knowledge of a style and the composer of a musical vocabulary: Giuliani for example is a great author to make the first steps in this direction.

How does your music methodology is influence from the community of people (musicians or not) you work with? Change your approach in relation to the one who directly or indirectly receive from them? If you listen to a different interpretation of a song you already played and you want to perform keep account of this listening or do you prefer to proceed in complete independence?

I always tried to surround myself with curious people, and creative lives. The environment in which we live and work influences us and it’s fundamental. The problem may arise from the fact that often we can not choose our colleagues, especially in schools or in conservatories, but I must admit that from this I have always been very lucky point of view.

During the initial study of a piece does not ever listen to other interpretations, I prefer rather deepen my knowledge about the composer in general, perhaps listening to the extra guitar production.

A question a bit ‘provocative about music in general, not just contemporary or avant-garde. Frank Zappa in his autobiography he wrote: “If John Cage, for example, say” Now put a contact microphone on my throat, then I drink carrot juice and this will be my composition “here is that his gargling would be qualified as a COMPOSITION, because it applied a frame, declaring it as such. “Take it or leave it, now I want this to be music.” It’s really good this statement to define a genre, just say this is classical music, this is modern and it’s done? It still makes sense to speak of “genre”?

As for the music of today, if you do not have the means to understand or criticize, it is easy to fall into indifference justificationist the “frame” and is difficult to understand when in fact there really is nothing. For me it may make sense to talk about what is music and what not, but define the genre to which it belongs is merely a convenience to music history manual.

There five discs essential tips for you, always have with you .. the classic five discs for the desert island ..?
Hoping to have room for the boxes:
Beethoven 9 symphonies, Furtwängler
Schubert: Symphony # 8, Brahms: Symphony No. 4, Wagner: Tristan und Isolde, Act III Scene 3, Wiener Philharmoniker / Staatskapelle Dresden, Carlos Kleiber
Schubert: Lieder, Fischer-Dieskau / Moore
20th Century Guitar, Julian Bream
Schubert: Impromptus op.90 and op.142, Alfred Brendel

What are your five essential scores?
Hoping to also bring musical scores:
Bach: Goldberg Variations
Beethoven: Symphony no. 3
Schubert: String Quintet D. 956
Wagner: Tristan und Isolde
Takemitsu: To the Edge of Dream

The blog is also read by young students and graduates, what advice would you give to those who, after years of study, decided to start a musical career?

Courage, passion and perseverance.

Who would you like to play and who would you like to play? What are you working?

I have in mind and in the yard at least another three discs, one of chamber collaborations with high profile music, but I do not feel to anticipate anything for good luck. I’m preparing my second tour in the East for the next spring, which will touch, as well as Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong also; I’m also working on a publication on the correspondence of Castelnuovo-Tedesco, my transcription of the Sonata “Arpeggione” by Schubert and the next edition of the Rome Guitar Festival in autumn 2015.

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