On October 31st, the Vancouver audience will have a chance to hear and see the great Italian master of classical guitar Carlo Marchione. As a VCGS tradition, we are publishing a short interview on our website. We sincerely thank Carlo for taking the time to answer our questions. Welcome, Carlo! We are honoured to have you perform here in Vancouver. Could you talk a bit about your upcoming concert program?
Among others, I will present three pieces which are possibly even unknown amongst guitarists. First, the Vassiliev which is unpublished and dedicated to me, it’s a wonderful elaboration of themes from the second piano concerto by Scriabin. I’ve played it for a year and people are restlessly enthusiastic about it. It’s a complex but easy to comprehend musical language that has lots of expressivity. I chose these pieces because….well, it’s like saying, why did you choose that menu for a date with a girl? You try to do something well and pick something that you think will work well, it’s a sort of ‘soul mate’ feeling. I also really want to play pieces that are unjustly unknown because they don't yet belong to the grand ‘tradition’ of the guitar repertoire. It was always the point with this programme to play these pieces and through doing so inspire friends, students, and colleagues to play these composers which they hadn’t heard of previously. The rest of the programme will be the Luis Zea’s Lyrical Variations, which is an enormously expressive and powerful piece. It reminds me of the mood of the Mompou variations on a theme by Chopin for piano. Also I will play Ferdinand Rebay’s Sonata in A minor, an amazingly unknown composer who wrote over 600 works for and with guitar which have been discovered and published through the admirable work of Gonzalo Noqué from Eudora Music. I will also perform Fantasia Elegiaque Op. 59 by Sor, one of the greatest works ever.
Is there a difference between what you choose to present on stage and what you would play for your own enjoyment?
No difference. When I play on stage I actually play better than just for myself. The only pieces I don't perform on stage are some strange transcriptions I sometimes do for myself or for knowledge of the piece.
Does your close circle of friends mostly include musicians?
Not necessarily, but unavoidably the majority are. We have a job in music and we love to talk about our job. My best friends are basically my students here in Maastricht.
How do you memorize your repertoire?
Well, at least the musical area of my brain is still quite fit: I can memorize pieces quite fast even if I can’t remember what to wear in the morning.
I had very good harmony and analysis teachers, so I can memorize a piece for a performance just by reading through it: it is easier for me to memorize the music by harmonic analysis, not the finger positions.
Do you have any tips for students to improve focus and efficiency in learning pieces?
In my early youth, I was constantly motivated by a friend to read scores and play for him. I was sight reading like a maniac. This connected with my natural gift and allowed me to learn new music quite fast. So my suggestion is: read as much music as you can now, and it’s better if it isn't guitar music.
Are you content with being a touring performing artist and a teacher? Is this what you wanted to be?
I think for many it could be a heavy load, but for me it’s just a question of organization, knowing where you have to be at what time. I try not to travel too much around student’s exams and student concerts in order to help them. I think the two activities are strongly complimentary and mutually enriching.
Do you have interests that are not guitar related?
I love soccer, and a passion of mine is to go to Vienna and spend money at the Muzikverein listening to concerts. And besides, it’s funny but as a musician you are still busy with music in your free time. It’s a paid hobby, so in my free time I love to learn about music, read books about music etc. Obviously I’m a social animal so I like to spend a nice evening in the local pub as well. But not every evening. (laughs)
If you enjoy reading, who are your literary favourites and do you think music influences your choices in literature or vice versa?
I love textbooks which are interdisciplinary. For instance, I’m just finishing a book about the relationship between the music of Mompou and the architecture of Gaudi: the sense of colour in both. I like all kinds of books though; I try to unify what has been separated by modern culture on the unity of arts, within my reading. I also love science fiction.
If you had to choose one other profession, what would it be?
Let me think… that’s an interesting question. I don't know which profession specifically, but it would be one that allows me to help people in some way – something like a doctor or a vet, or a therapist… But I’m also very easily involved in emotional situations, so perhaps a musician is best for my character; as a doctor I’d get too involved. Being a musician is like being a priest: you don't do it for money. When I see how easily some friends of mine earn money, I think that is not my thing. I wouldn’t know how to spend my money! I would be depressed. My thing is to simply make music…or theatre or some other kind of an artistic profession.
Which do you prefer: solo performance, chamber group, guitar ensemble, or solo with orchestra?
To tell you the truth, after many years of experience I prefer to play solo for one simple reason. Besides many wonderful colleagues and orchestras which I had the honour to play with, I have also had the misfortune to work in some nasty situations, with not quite professionally prepared orchestras etc. Thus I prefer just to be responsible for what I do and to be the owner of my own mistakes.
What is your main energy source when you are on stage? How do you get into the ‘zone’?
I think it’s the same energy a warrior has when he goes to war, but in another field. Personally I have no rituals, no specific way to enter ‘the zone’. Often, I’m indifferent until one minute before going on stage and then only I sink into ‘the black hole’ (Carlo’s version of ‘the zone’). Sometimes it happens days in advance, which makes private life interesting. I can't find a pattern in my concert activity; sometimes I arrive three minutes in advance and play better than when arriving three days in advance. I think it has a lot to do with what the Spanish call el duende: the positive demon that inspires you. It also often depends on your partner or good news or bad news – there is really no pattern, and sometimes you just feel indifferent without any clear reason. The strongest motivation to perform well is to be worthy of the composers.
What do you think are the most important things to teach about classical guitar, the great truths, so to say?
I don't see it as a collection of great truths but rather as a dynamic process with a multitude of variable elements in it: personality, shape of hands, etc. Obviously, I could say that technique is important, but the technique without giving meaning to it is pointless. This is a tricky question, because it’s all about the process: having a good harmony and analysis teacher, going to concerts, reading lots about music. For example, it is important to stay informed about what’s been happening in the past 20 years in the field of interpretation of old music, etc. Listening to good music and bad music, just to know the difference; find a nice girl, getting dumped – all this makes you a human not just a biological object. Technique then becomes more than just an exercise but a medium to express this accumulated amount of humanity.
We ask all of our visiting artists about their favourite tour memories. What are some of yours?
Surely the tour in Russia in 1997. However, there are many others: 99.9% of the festivals I go to have a gorgeous atmosphere. I’m very happy with the guitar world – I can never feel the sense of competition or antagonism which seems to plague other fields.
How do you take care of your nails?
Well, I don’t chew them! As I kid I played without nails for the first three years, and finally my mother understood the problem and decided to start feeding me (laughs). That’s where my love for Fernando Sor comes from: childhood experience of playing without nails. I think nail care is very personal. In my case, I have very fragile nails, so every time I practice I put protective lacquer on them to avoid scratches and chips the nail that may and do compromise tone. Otherwise, I’m lucky because I’m left handed, so many things which could be dangerous for the nails for me are not.
If there something else you would like our readers to learn about yourself or about the guitar, please speak freely!
I would really like to thank my friend Peter Powell, for giving me the possibility to come to Canada for the first time. Here in Europe, Canada is a kind of Utopia. It seems that everything in this country is great: there are no criminals in the streets at night, the health system is so good that the Americans cross the border to see it. I’m a fan of John Locke’s book Utopia, so I’d like to see the country where things seem to work.
Carlo Marchione website: www.carlo-marchione.com