Interview with Alessandro Blanco and Nicola Mogavero, Heptachord
Welcome to Neuguitars, why the choice of the Heptachord name for your duo?
N.M. Thank you for the hospitality. The idea for the name of our duo was born thinking of us as a single instrument, one that in ancient times some people might define as “Eptacordo” where the sax is joining the six strings of the guitar and it’s the seventh chord.
How did start the idea for your cd Heptachord and why the choice of Almendra Music?
N.M. Our EP was born from the desire to crystallize a specific moment of our duo. After years of work we chose two authors that contained the most complex challenges that we have faced in recent years, the original music (few actually) and the music written especially for us by living authors. Almendra Music is the right container for our musical reality, because of the strong focus on new , young and sometimes cross-over musicians like us. We share this cultural cradle with other groups and soloists such interesting Alessio Pianelli, Giovanni Di Giandomenico, the duo Blanco Sinacori, the Troja-Cicero duo and many others. The staff of Almendra is also a continuous flow of suggestions and ideas of musical productions; we have to thank them, for example, for the attention given to Dimitri Nicolau.
Alessandro Blanco, when did you start to play guitar and why?
A.B. When I was six years old I began studying piano. Being not very satisfied, at eight years old I chose the guitar in the way I think it’s happened to many: captured by its sound and the image of a musician who embraces his instrument.
With that guitar do you play and have you played?
A.B. Chamber music has become my main activity, working hard in acoustically ‘extreme’ situations for a classical guitarist, so I opted for a “Antonino Scandurra” with which I am always well (among other things it’s his very first specimen with the 640 tuning … alas, they are tiny). As a soloist and with the Duo Blanco Sinacori, I use one of the “Vincent Candela” twin (the second was entrusted to my other colleague, the guitarist Giuseppe Sinacori). In the past I have had a De Miranda but it is a past love.
And you Nicola Mogavero, when did you start to play the saxophone?
N.M. I began studying saxophone at the age of nine, I was minute and the saxophone seemed difficult and heavy, but the one with the soprano saxophone was love at first sight, from 11 April 1993 we never left.
What studies have you done and what is your musical background?
A.B. I think the more you make music and the more you can be able to define what experiences have affected you, your education especially. The basic guitar basics I was taught in Trapani from Alessi teacher but equally in those formative years was the copious choral activities matured into an undisputed beauty repertoire (choral masterpieces by Mozart, Rossini, Beethoven, Orff, Ramires). The management of the melody, the music breath, were to me clear elements thanks to this path. Mentors of my remaining guitar and musical development were the guitarist Giovanni Puddu and violist Antonello Farulli. The latter was my teacher of chamber music international academy “Incontri col Maestro” in Imola, my last experience as a student.
Secure utility was also my adolescence spent with rock music, prog and jazz path (the latter) that I still try to look into.
N.M. My musical background is very broad. I studied classical and contemporary saxophone in Italy with Giuseppe Palma and Ignazio Calderone to continue in France under the guidance of Jean-Louis Delage and Christian Wirth. From this French experience was born and has strengthened my international background and my relationships with all other teachers who I met on my way, last in order of time the extraordinary Claude Delangle.
A few years ago I completed my course of study also in Composition under the guidance of Marco Betta. My musical opening is 360 ° and has touched many banks: classical, rock, jazz, folk, contemporary, ska, chamber music, symphonic.
How did you choose the passage Grottapinta Op. 200 by Dimitri Nicolau? I confess I don’t know this composer …
N.M. The choice of Dimitri’s passage was born from my prior knowledge. I faced the pages of this wonderful score several years ago in one of my first and fleeting experience in duo with guitarist Dario Mandracchia (now Professeur de Guitare at the Conservatoire de Musique et d’Art Dramatique G.Litaize in Paris). I was amazed by the sound of this song, but especially to hit me was the great skill with which the author treated the two instruments. It’s music that recalls Greek and Roman images, but with a complete and solid knowledge of instrumental techniques. I got to play other pieces by Nicolau and all have confirmed that we were right to set his music under a nice magnifying glass with Almendra Music’s team (we were thinking about a monographic work …).
And Trittico di Vulcano by Melo Mafali? I don’t think there is a lot of music literature for a saxophone and guitar duo …
A.B. Even from the time of the conservatory I had the great fortune to live the experience of a close relationship between composer and performer. The ‘bet’ to make music with Mogavero took us first to test the sound and the possibilities of the duo playing transcriptions and then moveing on in search of composers interested in the project. Melo Mafali is perhaps the composer who we involved more. Born in Messina like me, with Melo I found immediately a strong friendship that led to the first draft of one of the three days of the “Trittico di Vulcano” and then with four other works dedicated to us.
The “Trittico di Vulcano” is the brainchild of the Mediterranean tale, three episodes (related to the Messina island archipelago “Egadi”), alluding to places and images that actually exist on the island. The titles reveal the scenarios. I believe, however, that the songs are definitely tasted better played on-site experience, one of the reasons why I consider Melo Mafali a skilled composer.
N.M. As for literature for saxophone and guitar there is so much material in our archives but, in fact, I think there is more than we think, because there are other similar groups to our which in turn stimulated minor composers to write new music (I can think of for example saxophonist Seville Alfonso Padilla).
Can you recommend us your five favourite records, you always have with you … the classic five discs for the desert island …
A.B. Impossible to determine which are the favorite but I can carry the first things that rained to mind: “Debussy / Ravel, Strings Quartet” of the Italian Quartet; “Beethoven: Symphonies” Karajan / Philharmonia Orchestra; “Martha Argerich – Debut Recital”; “Live in Japan” – Deep Purple; “Trilogy” – Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
N.M. I also believe that it is impossible to limit the selection to 5 discs, but I try: “Silencium – Sogn of the spirit” of John Harle; “Saxophone concertos” Eugene Rousseau; “The planets” G.Holst of the Berliner Philharmoniker from S.Rattle; “The best of all possible worlds” of the Statute; “Under the sign of the sun” by Claude Delangle.
If you listen to a different interpretation of a song you have already played or you want to play, do you consider your listening or do you prefer to proceed in complete independence?
A.B. My observations on those preliminary listen to a recording are these: if the example is negative (imagine the possibility of an interpretation too detached from the score), it will not surely be imitated; if the sample is positive, for sure it would not be fruitful (or dignified, perhaps) bring back the idea of another in a interpretation, especially if that idea has already been published.
One of my favorite aspects of making music written today is the opportunity to play for the first time the musical material. I consider it a great privilege.
N.M. I agree with Alessandro about the huge possibilities that you have with the new music, fertile ground for fielding our own musical ideas and sensitivity. In particular I suffer especially the idea of listening linked to something to be played in the future or even already done by me (for example I never listen back to my records), so it’s hard that I try to find examples of interpretation in other executions.
I sometimes feel that in our time the music’s history flow with no particular interest in its chronological course, in our disco-music library before and after, the past and the future become interchangeable elements, could this be the risk for an interpreter and a composer of a uniform vision? A music “globalization”?
N.M. In fact in my library there is a great mix of genres and eras and perhaps the assumption is founded. On the other hand, as a performer, I have in me very precise chronological, stylistic and ages ideas that requires me a very rigid approach to the music of other eras compared to mine, with clear distinctions of reading and interpretation.
Certainly the market makes us run the risk of creating a big globalized and globalizing cauldron in which I hope I do not end in (or not to be already inside).
What are your next projects? What are you working on?
N.M. In our future projects there are two basic ideas, the first, in fact newborn, as I anticipated before, which is a monographic work of Dimitri Nicolau that is based on the large amount of repertoire and its wonderful taste for composition. it is not excluded that there might be a Heptachord and friends.
The second idea is that of a more contemporary work and more alive than winks to electronics and, above all, contains pages of music “our” and Heptachord.