A Guitar Feast for Saint Cecilia

There has been an ongoing programme of music under the title “Incontri Musicali a Teatro I luoghi Del Bello e Della cultura” (see https://www.facebook.com/borgoamozzanomusica) centrered at Borgo a Mozzano, with some exceptional programmes and some brilliant artistes. I have already publicised this series in my monthly post updates on music in Lucca at this blog site.


Unfortunately, I have been largely unable to attend most of the events but there had to be an exception. A concert on Saint Cecilia’s day, which was last Sunday, has to be attended by any music lover worth their salt.

The recital consisted of classic and contemporary guitar music. This was the programme.

The evening opened with a delicate rendering of Granados’s evocative Spanish dance no 2, “The Oriental” in an arrangement for guitar duo.  How sad that Granados lost his life aged 49 when his liner (he was returning from New York where he’d attended the première of his opera based on Goya’s paintings) was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat in WWI.


We then plunged into full contemporaneity with Bombardelli’s exciting guitar duet clash entitled “danze interrotte” (interrupted dances). There were lyrical moments too in this almost surrealistic dialogue between the two instruments. One of the performers introduced the piece with a note from the composer. Indeed, several of the authors of the contemporary pieces were present that evening and this added a certain frisson to what we were hearing.

It also gave the audience an idea, not only of what the composer was aiming at in the music but also whether the author was pleased with its execution. (As the old Punch cartoon put it: Q. “What do you think of the pianist’s execution?” A. “I’m in favour of it.”) Fortunately, the composers present were jubilant with the way their pieces were played by the brilliant performers.

Girolamo Deraco is the best known of the contemporary composers represented. Perhaps, you may not have heard/heard of him? Born in Cittanova, Calabria, in 1976 he graduated in 2008 with the highest grade, with honours, special mention, and scholarship at Lucca’s Istituto Superiore di Studi Musicali Boccherini, the only composer since 1848, when the Instituto Boccherini was founded, to have achieved this accolade. Deraco has since attended courses and seminars with international masters including: Andriessen, Corghi, Bonifacio, Solbiati, De Pablo, Bacalov, Fedele, Liberto, Scannavini, and Gooch

A strong sense of theatre has induced Deraco to compose operas including one called “Il Linchetto” (the name for a local wood elf who loves to play practical jokes on the inhabitants in our part of the world – e.g. making them loose things like keys or not getting the car to start or burning the Sunday roast etc. etc. There are antidotes to him which I’ll describe in a later post, if ever you’ve become one of his victims). Other operas include Checkinaggio, Lacrime di Coccodrillo, (crocodile tears), and children’s operas (Little Puppets’ Symphony, Peppe Pezzi, La Fattoria degli Animali Cantanti (singing animals’ farm – not McDonald’s I trust).

Since October 2009 Deraco has been the composer in residence of Kuhn’s Accademia of Montegral, Lucca – a place we love to attend for its special Easter and Christmas concerts. (See my post at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/easter-morning-on-the-mountain-of-the-holy-grail/).  Deraco is also the Artistic Director of the Orchestra Giovanile di fiati. (National Youth Wind Orchestra).

I think we’ll be hearing a lot more from and about Deraco in the years to come, even in the UK! Certainly I found his piece “Nell’ombra del ritardo”. (In the shadow of lateness) the most convincing of the contemporary pieces with its superb knowledge of guitar harmonics and sonorities.

The Leo Brouwer arrangement of two Beatles songs was mesmerising and perhaps the most challenging piece of the first half of the concert. It’s so weird to think that it was once considered sacrilegious to mention Beatles’ songs in the same breath as those of Schubert!

The two guitarists were joined by a third in the second part of the concert which included a delightful piece by Gragnani. Again, if you don’t know who Gragnani was don’t worry. I didn’t either but managed to find out these facts about him. Filippo Gragnani (1768 –1820), composer and guitarist, was born in Livorno, in a family of notable luthiers and musicians. He first studied the violin and then the guitar becoming a true virtuoso on both instruments (like Paganini, in fact. Could they have met?).

Gragnani eventually settled in Paris and became a friend and pupil of another great guitar virtuoso who surely you must have heard of, Ferdinando Carulli…

Gragnani died in Livorno in 1820 and is buried in the church of St Martino di Salviano.

My favourite item of part two was a sensuous account of Debussy’s prelude “Des pas sur la neige.” I could almost imagine stepping outside the lovely arcaded conservatory of the seventeenth century Palazzo Santini, in which the concert took place, into thick snow. Indeed, it was getting colder all the time, although the Brazilian dance encore warmed us up considerably.

The Lydian guitar trio, consisting of Giacomo Brunini, Dario Atzori and Nicola Fenzi, with the superb cooperation of Maestro Antonio Rondina are to be congratulated in giving us a truly memorable Saint Cecilia’s day concert in which both the classical and contemporary repertoire of the guitar was fully displayed. It was, indeed, a concert more worthy of the setting of London’s I.C.A (and certainly of a BBC lunchtime concert from the Wigmore hall- if they had the boldness to put on such an exploratory concert) than that of a remote corner of a Tuscan province. Such, however, is the innate musicality of this part of the world that anything is possible!

Incidentally, if there are any guitarists around here who would like to brush up on their technique then there are invitations to join the appropriate class at Borgo di Mozzano’s own music school. See their web page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Scuola-Civica-di-Musica-MSalotti-di-Borgo-a-Mozzano/283857698298922





One thought on “A Guitar Feast for Saint Cecilia

  1. Well finally it has become clear as to who causes these mishaps in our lives this Linchetto wood elf plays mean tricks on people though not nice at all! Thanks for educating us as ever seems must have been a truly good unusual concert.

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