Could you tell me about the impression of Tokyo International Guitar Competition?
The Hakuju Hall was impressive, very beautiful, big but nonetheless with a good acoustics, even for a small instrument as the classical guitar. I must say I didn’t expect it: usually such big halls are not so well suited for classical guitar, which tends to be an intimate instrument. It was really a pleasure being able to play in there. In addition, it felt like a concert, with a lot of people attending, for sure more than most of the competitions. The organization was very good and very kind: to be honest, I was expecting to find a more strict and severe atmosphere here in Japan, but I was surprised that after all it revealed to be a very relaxed environment, which is always a nice thing from the player’s side, especially during a competition! It was a pleasure to play in front of people such as Mr. Shin-Ichi Fukuda-san: I already met him before but I didn’t have the occasion to speak with him. This time we had the chance to chat a lot during the party after the final round and to drink some saké together as well!
I guess the jury was really honest: this is also testified by the fact that points were published after each round. In my opinion, this should be introduced in every competition. I was the one with the lower marks after the semifinals, but I knew that my best repertoire was yet to come and in fact I ended up getting better points and eventually winning the third prize. I was not happy with my playing (as it often happens to me) but it was great to win a prize anyway: I was just 1 point away from the second place and 3 from the first… So close!
What was your impression of the compulsory piece? (2nd Round / Passacaille, A.Tansman) (Final / Banka-Canto Funebre per Chitarra, H.Hara)
I really enjoyed playing the Passacaille by Tansman, I think it will stay in my repertoire for a while. It is a rarely played gem of our repertoire, perhaps because of its difficulty. It doesn’t seem to be concieved on the guitar indeed, it rather seems more an ‘absolute’ piece of music that happens to be written for guitar. This is a common thing 20th Century guitar repertoire: many pieces were written by non-guitarist composers. It was thought as a gift to Segovia (“l’unique” – the unique, as the composer writes in the dedication) and as an homage to the great
Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor for solo organ by Johann Sebastian Bach. Nonetheless, I think it fits my playing very well and it’s a nice companion to another piece of my concert programs, Nocturnal by Benjamin Britten, which ends with a Passacaglia as well.
As far as the piece by Hiroshi Hara is concerned, I liked its mixture between Japanese motifs and Western tonality and harmony, but frankly the cadenza in the middle sounded a bit like a mash-up, a ‘collage’ of different ideas. In fact, talking about it with Shin-Ichi Fukuda-san after the final round, he told us that originally it was composed for three guitars and it was conceived without cadenza: the latter was introduced in the piece when the solo version was made. I would be really interested in hearing the original version for three guitars.
May I have the name of luthier of your using guitar and the year of make? And could you tell me some characteristics of your instrument?
The luthier that built my guitar is called Leonardo De Gregorio, he comes from Rome, just like me. He is quite young and he makes very good guitars, using the double-top technique, although without nomex or carbon: he uses just wood instead. In my opinion, the sound is more natural, but still in a modern fashion. If you see the top under a strong light, you can see a system of wood slices that helps to hold together the two tops. The guitar is quite new (January 2017), but already opened its sound very much. It’s very powerful, so you don’t really need to push a lot in order to get a big sound, which I find to be a good thing in order to play in a more relaxed way. It is also very easy to play. I like his philosophy a lot.
Do you re-challenge in next year’s Tokyo International Guitar competition 2018?
I am quite sure about it. Japan is a really fertile country for classical guitar, there are lots of people loving it and its repertoire. I already found occasion to play here and I am looking forward to finding more and more in the next years!