Interview with Alberto Mesirca
When did you start playing guitar and why? What did you study and what is your musical background? With that guitar do you play and have you played with?
I started playing when I was eight years old, an age relatively late compared to other classical musicians I know and with whom I work. Although my family were not musicians, at home we breathed music because my grandfather was an amateur pianist (doctor by profession, but writer winner of the Campiello) and a historian of art that belonged to Padua’s circle of artists and intellectuals. My father has always been a fan of jazz. I was fascinated by the sound of the guitar, produced by the fingers and not by an intermediate tool as it can be a bow. Through a mutual friend I started studying with a local teacher, and then I continued at the Conservatory of Castelfranco with Gianfranco Volpato, and the Music Academy of Kassel with Wolfgang Lendle, and I took part in various master classes with several musicians (Barrueco, Diaz, Pierri, Vieaux etc. .).
I play with a beautiful guitar by Giuseppe Guagliardo, Sicilian luthier, and an American Gilbert.
How did started the idea for the CD dedicated to Claudio Ambrosini?
A talk for the first time about Ambrosini with the great master of Vercelli Angelo Gilardino, who admires him very much as a composer. I contacted Ambrosini a few years ago, and I was surprised to discover that he had written a lot of music for guitar, himself was an amateur guitarist and liutist, and that most of his compositions for guitar had remained unexecuted for a long time. Some of them had not yet been brought to the fair copy, but the thickness of these works, perfectly idiomatic for the guitar and the fact of having the possibility to play for the first time works that deserved much attention led me to decide to dedicate a record entirely to his music, which actually is the result of three years of work, of constant study and refinement closely with Ambrosini.
Personally I was very surprised by the amount of new compositions that this cd has unveiled, why Ambrosini kept them for himself for so long?
I believe that many of the compositions for guitar were thinkes as studies, as a formal research and / or instrumental timbre, which originally did not include a public execution. But then picking up the material (and discarding the work that had remained in the draft’s form) Ambrosini himself was convinced of the contrary. We must also say that for a few years in the guitar world there’s been a big misunderstanding of his music, very much based on perspective and compositional continuity with the tradition, indispensable, pointing forward and is steeped in modernity. His music for guitar was mistaken for nostalgic, aimed at a past that is no longer there, whereas in his view tradition should be only a starting point (I think it is paradoxical as this lack of understanding has come against a composer who is actually in the field of chamber and symphonic has always been considered as avant-garde). So the challenge of our new project has been to try to give the correct light to the works. If one thinks that some of the compositions on the cd were written in the seventies, and that because of compositional structure and research in tone are absolutely modern, I think that the effort will pay off from their rediscovery.
You also recorded a Frantz Casseus music disc, how did start the idea of recording his music? How did start your collaboration with Marc Ribot?
This project was born with the intention of giving light to a little-known repertoire. Through a mutual friend, the producer of the Metropole Orchestra in Amsterdam Gert-Jan Blom, I became aware of the fact that Marc Ribot had just discovered, inside a record’s case, a sketch book and complete compositions by Casseus, his first guitar teacher. Ribot had no time to examine or affect the music, so I have offered myself and, with its regular monitoring, we have prepared a recording and along the issue for Chanterelle-Zimmermann. Marc is an extraordinary musician, as well as a humble and generous person, as only the greats can be.
And the CD with the music of British composers, British Guitar Music?
I played for years in my repertoire Britten’s Nocturnal and passages by Berkeley and Dowland, so I imagined it would be interesting a work focused on British music. I think that a recording project with an homogeneous basic idea has more strength then a recital with authors who have no connection with each other. So I started my research and I joined to composers like Whettam and Fripp, who I believe is one of the greatest musical geniuses of this century and the past.
Tell me about the song Perpetual Motion by Robert Fripp… I ddin’t know you were a fan of the King Crimson’s leader…
My history about Fripp starts from the Workcenter by Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards, a friends’ theater group in Pontedera, where I met a leader of Turkish theater, Gülsen Gürses, who had told me that in Vienna, where she lives, there was a Guitar Circle made by Fripp’s students. I met them when members of the California Guitar Trio, with whom I became friends (especially with Bert Lams, former classical guitarist, Britten’s lover) arrived there for a masterclass. They advised me to go and meet Fripp in Sant Cugat, a monastery near Barcelona, where he lectured. This meeting was decisive for my life as a musician. Fripp himself gave me the part of this fragment from Fracture and the beautiful Suite no.1, taken from an album of Giles, Giles & Fripp.
And the composer Graham Whettam? I didn’t know his music ...
Whettam was an extraordinary composer, similar to Berkeley. He was not a guitarist, but a symphonic composer. He had a huge success as a young man, however, because of his far-left politics ideas was banned from radios and billboards of the major musical seasons. He wrote a very nice duo for guitar and cello and a massive Partita for solo guitar.
But in addition to contemporary music you have always shown a great interest in Renaissance music, right? In particular, Scarlatti ….
True! I love renaissance (in Castelfranco we have a 1565 lute manuscript with incredible works , from Milan to Bakfark, until the works for three lutes by Pacalono) and Baroque, from Scarlatti to Sanz.
Romina Basso and I have recorded and performed togheter Jose Marin’s wonderful music (for mezzo-soprano and guitar) and Sephardic songs (starting from the very first song of Hispanic religious theme with not – Latin text, “Sad estaba el rey David” by Alonso Mudarra) in an album entitled “Voces de Sefarad”.
I’m also curious about your work at the Musical Archive of the Beyazit Library in Istanbul, Turkey … what did you do?
Thanks to Gülsen Gürses I was part in a project supported by the European Union called “The Library production of memory” which included the participation of artists from different fields, such as music, dance, photography; the work had to be structured in two Turkish soil research trips, urban Istanbul, and one country in Cappadocia, to find material, recordings, interviews, and then two presentations in the same places of work or rework the research. Unfortunately for economic reasons the project has stopped at its first phase, however this has allowed me to meet Volkan Gulcek, director of the National Library of Istanbul, who told me that there had been a legacy of 500 78’s vinyls, yet to sort and catalog, which included Ottoman classical music, religious and traditional. For months I digitized and catalog in the archive all the compositions!
Talking about about records, what are your favourite five records, to always have with you … the classic five discs for the desert island …
The choice is really hard! So I can recommend five albums that have excited me personally or changed over the years:
Debussy-Michelangeli: Images – Children’s corner
Miles Davis: Bitches Brew
King Crimson: Islands
The complete recordings Julian Bream
Jimi Hendrix: Are You Experienced?
What are your next projects? What are you working on?
Now I’m preparing some solo concerts with Italian repertoire, then in trio with Marcelo Nisinman and Winfried Holzenkamp, and the Concierto del Sur by Ponce, which for me is the most beautiful score for our instrument. Marc Ribot is giving me some explanations about The Book of Heads by John Zorn, I’d like to play it – affect along with the Book of Faces by Carlo Boccadoro. I’m working on Sanz with the baroque guitar and a duo with the fantastic Romina Basso; a project with the legendary Ivano Zanenghi and another with Italian contemporary authors.