Interview with Arnaldo Volani
Dear President, welcome to the Neuguitars blog. Reading your curriculum on the italian website of the Associazione Mozart Italia (http://www.mozartitalia.org/en/arnaldo-volani/) I was struck by the fact that you seem to combine love for music (a love that goes from jazz to Mozart), new technologies for building, communication, entrepreneurship, and computing. Your figure reminds me of some aspects of Adriano Olivetti’s figure … the Renaissance entrepreneur …you started with Jazz, in years when it was not easy to listen to these music in Italy …
Prior to jazz, at 16, my interest was learning music and piano but my parents always told me that “with music you do not eat”. So I realized I had to find a valid escamotage to convince my mother and my father, a blacksmith craftsmaker, to change their minds. Well, I went to my parish priest and asked if he needed an organist; The answer was positive. My mother, 100% catholic, adhered immediately and gave me the address of a Franciscan french composer who taught music.
So I started studying the piano, because Father Ottone Tonetti, this is the name of the friar, said that before playing the organ one must know the piano. After I was18 years old and for several years I played the organ of the church, accompanied by the parochial choir in the Sunday Mass and “morning” Gregorian Masses, as well as in many weddings.
Subsequently and in another context, I have formed with the friends the Quartetto Hidalgos, playing for years in the walks, ballrooms of Lake Garda and many other tourist places, and this is my love for Jazz music.
In February 1972 I founded the Jazz Club of Rovereto, where the Leno Dixiland Jazz Band was born, a big Big Band, and various other formations ranging from free jazz, offering in my region Trentino Alto Adige and Lombardy a show that included all the history of jazz. The official inauguration took place in 1972 with the violinist Joe Venuti known at the Capolinea in Milan. Then, I went on hiring many well-known Italian and American jazz musicians, with their groups, in the well-known jazz clubs in Rome, Turin and Milan, including the small town of Rovereto. I remember Jil Cuppini, Mario Rusca, Enrico Intra, Hugo Heredia, Giorgio Azzolini, Gianni Basso, Franco D ‘Andrea, Angel Pocho Gatti, Ornette Coleman, Tony Scott, Chet Baker, Sam Rivers, Keith Jarret, Lee Konitz and Johnny Griffin; The list may continue….
Of all the musicians who met who were the ones who “hit” you most?
It’s difficult to say which, talking about well known jazz players, have struck me more, having their different culture and characteristics; However, three were particularly impressed with me: Chet Baker, Sam Rivers and Keith Jarrett.
– Chet Baker for his geniality and fantasy who he knew was intimist, helped by his romantic voice that conveyed strong emotions.
– Sam Rivers for his particular multi-instrumentalist activity who knew how to keep the tradition while excelling in free jazz.
Keith Jarrett for the unique interpretation of his performances.
Then from 1976 you joined the Philharmonic of Rovereto … it was there that you met Luciano Berio…
Yes, I was the President of the Philharmonic Society of Rovereto that I learned about Luciano Berio and later his Centro “Tempo reale”, electronic music center, sound design, sound experimentation, culture, production and artistic training for new musicians into contemporary music.
Reading his books, seeing the program he had invented for RAI “C’è musica & musica“, I made my idea of a complex personality, but also extremely energetic, willing. You had the possibility to know him… who was Luciano Berio?
Luciano Berio, professionally, was a sure and determined person, he showed no doubts, in conversations he expressed himself with elegance and gentle tones. He was always looking for new ideas for entertainment, in particularly extended to experimentation. I remember when I telephoned him an idea of composition for the Campana della Pace di Rovereto. He immediately came to Rovereto with an American technician proposing “La Montagna che canta” (“The Mountain That Sings”, hypothesizing about fifteen choirs (in Trentino we have many mountain choruses) distributed on the Miravalle hill (Campana’s seat), electronically directed by him, positioned at his feet of the hill. A project that was inspired by the mayor of then, Pietro Monti (Regent also of the Fondazione Campana della Pace). Unfortunately, this was not the case for the high costs prevented by Berio himself and the American electronic technician.
How was born the idea of commissioning him the Sequence XI?
The idea of the XI Guitar Sequence was born at my home during a lunch with the artistic director of the Philharmonic Society, Master Mariano Andreolli and Eliot Fisk, an internationally renowned guitarist who had held a concert for the aforementioned Philharmonic the previous evening. Fisk was looking for an important composer who was interested in collaborating on the birth of a passage with two “minds”: Composer and Performer. Luciano Berio immediately thought about attending the same composer at the Zandonaian Weeks of Contemporary Music in Rovereto.
I phoned at Luciano Berio and his wife told me that he was abroad. Fisk left for America and I promised to alert him just as Luciano Berio had returned.
After a week I called Berio again. At first he did not seem enthusiastic as the instrument because he did not care about it at that moment; I insisted on making an appointment with Eliot Fisk willing to return to Italy and meet Berio at Radicondoli. Berio hearing this, he accepted, verbatim declaring in a letter sent to me: “Dear friend, his” Mida “(I called hin “King Mida “also in the official contract) is always late in answering friends. I thank you for your kind words and I want to confirm that everything is fine. Eliot Fisk (a great musician) will be here by me on January 16th and Sequence XI is halfway. A warm greeting. Luciano Berio – Radicondoli 17.12.1987 “
The Sequence or the “Cursed” (as Berio was called) was first performed in Rovereto on 20 April 1988 by Eliot Fisk, as it’s quoted in the notes accompanying the cd. What memories do you have about that event?
Exciting memories even before April ’88.
Eliot wrote me several letters of thanks for this work with Berio and updated me by telephone about any progress of the study and the tests related to the Sequence XI . Perhaps no one knows the fact that Fisk, after having shot the world by performing the “cursed” in about 60 concerts, has proposed to Berio to transcribe the Sequence XI for Guitar and Ensemble so to perform as many concerts in many nations.
Returning to the first performance of April 1988, the audience filled the Teatro Zandonai in Rovereto. 90 percent were musicians and students of Berio himself, people from all over Italy, particularly from the world of contemporary music. Among other things, the program included the execution of not only the Guitar Sequence but also the Sequence V for trombone performed by Michele Lomuto and Sequence VIII for violin played by Carlo Chiarappa, a “Homage” to Berio (Serenata for four keyboards, sequencer and musician Francesco Pisanu) and always by Luciano Berio 21 duets for two violins (F. Andrini – D. Brancaleoni – M. Bronzi – C. Bruciaferri – F. Cafaro – E. Casarza – M. Chisci – F. D’Orazio – A. Farolfi – G. Guide – A. Modesti – GP Peloso – R. Santi – A. Tampieri – P. Zanzani)
The evening ended at my home with a huge dinner, with about forty musicians, all Berio’s students, in addition to the 12 guests originally planned by Berio himself. I remember the presence of publisher Giulio Einaudi with his wife and son Ludovico, also a pupil of Luciano Berio.
Caroline Delume, in the book “Berio” by Enzo Restagno, defined Sequence XI as “an extremely diversified and repetitive passage; It consists of a very small number of elements that are repeatedly varied “(Berio, p.179). While Seth Josel, who recorded the track for Mode Records in a box dedicated to all Sequences, in my book “Visionary Guitars Chatting with Guitarist” said: ”The piece is organic much in the same way that Beethoven’s music is organic. I like to think of it as a spiral-like process. In my opinion, sorry for sounding pompous here, the work’s basic material simply does not justify a 15-minute composing-out of that material. That’s a highly subjective comment of course, but one that has been supported by some close friends of mine, composers of a high rank. My experience as both an audience member and performer has led me to believe that it’s extremely difficult to capture and hold an audience’s full attention during an airing of the work. This, in stark contrast to the way the trombone or viola Sequenzas. Regardless, it is a milestone indeed: that is, one of the most important composers of the 20th century composed a major work for the guitar. ” ( Visionary Guitars Chatting with Guitarist pag.130). What do you think?
The best thing is to say what the composer said:”With Guitar Sequence XI I was interested in developing a dialogue between the heavily idiomatic harmony linked to the arrangement of the instrument and a” different “harmony (the passport between the two distant harmonic territories is the fourth surplus range). In Sequence XI there are also two instrumental and gestural characters: one has roots in the tradition of the flamenco guitar and the other in the classical guitar (the link between the two “stories” was my desire to experiment with a instrument that I love very much) . The dialogue between the two harmonic dimensions on the one hand and between the technical and the gestural ones on the other is through processes of continuous exchange and transformation of specific characters and clearly recognizable figures. Sequence XI was written between 1987 and 1988 for Eliot Fisk. “
And then the great passion for Mozart …
Yes, for Mozart I think the case has had a remarkable influence. As a boy I had the opportunity to listen to the Ave Verum Corpus during a church celebration and since then the Genius of Salzburg has marked my life.
During the period during which I was president of the Rovereto Philharmonic, Honorary Chairman Maestro Silvio Deflorian had hung a photo of the Temple of Harmony of the Garden of Rovereto in a closet of the Philharmonic Hall. This photo tasted my curiosity for which I wanted to go back to its origins. I found in the municipal library a booklet released on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and I discovered in that context the Leopold Mozart letter dated 7 January 1770 describing his wife’s great success by Wolfgang in his first Italian concert In Rovereto (which took place in Christmas 1769).
From that moment Mozart has accompanied my everyday life. In 1988 I founded the Festival W. A. Mozart to honor his work and his memory, calling in my capacity as artistic director the mythical Maestro Sandor Vegh and his Camerata Salzburg. On January 12, 1991, I formed the Associazione Mozart Italia (AMI) given the great demand of Italian Mozartians to operate and organize all year round concerts in the name of Wolfi. Since 1991, after gaining the approval of the Stiftung Mozarteum in Salzburg, I have created 40 Mozartian branches on Italian territory and 5 abroad: 1 in St. Petersburg, 3 in Japan: Tokyo, Hokkaido and Osaka and 1 recently constituted Sofia in Bulgaria, all in charge of the AI of Rovereto. We are also part of the Mozarteum Network, which has 120 Mozartian associations in the world.
How have you seen your cultural promoter activity changing over the years?
I mention some important aspects to framing the environment I live in.
Rovereto is a town that, like all Trentino Alto Adige, fell under Hapsburg rule. For a long time it was called “the Athens of Trentino” for its cultural peculiarity. It is thought that in 1752 the Empress of Austria Maria Teresa formed in Rovereto the “Accademia degli Agiati” (agiati in the sense of thinking people) that included musicians, musicologists, philosophers, historians, linguists and all those who excelled in humanity, culture and science.
Paride Lodron, prince of bishop of Salzburg, born in Castelnuovo di Noarna, near Rovereto, invited the Trentino people to the Rupertino College and offered them free university studies! Paride Lodron has built the Salzburg Cathedral and the university, saving Austria from the Thirty Years War. The Lodron family in Salzburg commissioned Mozart 4 compositions; The concert for 3 pianos and orchestra KV 242, 2 entertainment: Kv 247 and 287 including a Kv 248 march. The Theater of Rovereto, now Zandonai Theater, was built entirely with the contribution of the nobles of the city.
That being said, and with my more than forty-year experience as a cultural operator, I can say that the best period, from an economic point of view and a cultural fervor, is articulated from the seventies and eighties of the last century until 2006. In that period our Association, but generally all the cultural subjects in the area received funding from regional, provincial and municipal institutions for performances, concerts, conferences, musical competitions, etc. Even private sponsors were generous in this regard. Unfortunately, both public funding and private sponsors have been greatly reduced given the ongoing crisis. The favorable situation of the first period allowed agreements with major international soloists and orchestras at sustainable costs. For a decade now, it is no longer possible to make artistic engagements of this magnitude. In the ’80s and’ 90s we could have personalities such as Luciano Berio, Salvatore Accardo, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Sviatoslav Richter, Sandor Vegh, Lazar Berman and orchestras such as Santa Cecilia, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra and many more. Today, it’s virtually impossible to have names at this level, given the crisis that grieves many nations and it’s well known that when it comes to “shrinking the bag of the bag”, culture is the first to pay!
How do you think the use of new technologies and the web as a new content distribution channel for cultural commodieties have changed our way of perceiving and using culture?
The use of new web technologies, applications and social networks today enables knowledge and immediate exchange of content, from audio and video files to programs, and so on. Which I find extremely positive. My personal memory in the prehistory of these technologies, with the fax I used to engage artists through affiliated agencies, with the exchange of programs and scores. Impossible to send audio or video files; for all this was used to send out traditional mail by sending long-playings. Today, communication takes place in real time. A live concert can be streamed with a huge international audience. Only one aspect remains unattainable online: the beauty of listening to a live concert .. like a scene of the “crime”!
I ask you one last question: in your opinion, if Mozart would have met Coltrane … what concert would we have been able to enjoy?
An absolutely extraordinary concert, thrilling! Mozart would still win for improvisations both in classical and jazz mode. Already in his time, the Emperor of Austria Joseph II organized a “duel” between Mozart and Neapolitan Muzio Clementi, a good improviser, but he missed the challenge….