Sześć Strun Świata (Six Strings of the World): CARLO MARCHIONE
Germans have Bach
With Carlo Marchione – about performances, master classes and Poland – talks Michał Lazar.
Michał Lazar: Are you tired after the yesterday’s concert? It was an intense experience – for public, but I suppose also for yourself.
Carlo Marchione: Honestly, concerts never get me tired. Just the opposite – I get a lot of energy from them.
We can only envy you – also for the full audience.
Indeed, it happens rarely that a solo guitarist has so many people in the audience. Maybe only on guitar festivals, which host 50-100 participants.
So you didn’t expect that so many people will come to the venue?
Before coming to Cracow I had in my mind that there were many people waiting for my concert two years ago, when it got cancelled because of my accident. It would be a lie then, if I said that I did not expect big interest about the concert. But when I entered the stage and saw that even the standing places were all taken, I was really positively surprised. That’s why I encouraged children to sit on the sides of the stage – to make more space for everyone.
Did the youngest audience disturb you? On some concerts it’s clear that artists get irritated by their behaviour.
I am rather forgiving – I have two children myself and I know how difficult it is to control them. Anyway, in my opinion it is great that so many young people came to this kind of concert. Although sometimes someone was a bit disturbing, I could really feel that the audience – together with me – was focused.
How do you think, what is the source of your popularity in our country?
For sure there is influence of great polish students which I had – Marcin Dylla, Tomasz Kandulski, Aleksander Wilgos. But probably more important is that I just play here very often. More concerts I have only in Germany and my homeland – Italy.
Is it important for you how many people comes to the concert?
Of course, I’m glad when the hall is full – the concert organizer will not lose money and I see that there guitar is popular. But for me as a performer, it does not matter so much if there are four people in the audience, or as much as yesterday. I always do my best. After all, thanks to the audience I have my job and I can earn for living – it’s a great motivation.
Is it also a motivation for you to present a less known repertoire?
Yes. Program which I played yesterday consists mostly of the unknown pieces, even among guitarists – maybe except Fantaisie Élégiaque op.59 by Fernando Sor. Before the concert I imagined that I tell to audience: ‘Listen, other guitarists don’t want to play those great pieces so I will show you that it’s a mistake!’.
So do you deliberately choose repertoire which nobody else plays?
On the on hand yes. I have a feeling that it is unfair that some great compositions from XVIII or XIX century are not played at all, although they are not worse than the other, more famous pieces. On the other hand though, I would not play something what was badly written. And I know a lot of music from that period that is just poor… No wonder why nobody plays it.
How about the contemporary music? Aren’t you afraid that the audience will not understand it?
I think that generally guitarists should change their approach to this topic. Some think that if they play something difficult to understand, the audience will run away. There’s nothing more wrong! It’s enough to say few words of explanation before playing the piece. The public is not stupid, they just need a bit of help, preparation for listening more demanding compositions. I used to remain silent during my concerts, but I changed my approach. Now, when I am about to play for example Two Etudes by André Jolivet – which are rather shocking for an average – I say before: ’don’t worry if you don’t like the piece – it was written to create other impressions’. And it works!
I believe that as musicians we have an educational role and it doesn’t only mean teaching good behaviour during concerts. We should just show something new to audience I can understand that some performers have their favourite pieces which they like to repeat, but do you imagine a theatre which every season plays the same things?
I have an impression that guitarists are afraid to experiment with the repertoire because of the competitions – the participants think that to win a competition you need to follow some kind of convention.
Indeed – there’s a group of, let’s say, basic pieces that are repeated ad nauseam. It is very rare that as a member of jury I would hear something what I didn’t know before...
Should we avoid the competitions then?
No, the competitions are very important, it’s the best way to promote yourself. I don’t stop my students from participating and I always tell them to ‘go for the victory’. Otherwise it would be waste of money. Then better to go for master classes or just travel somewhere – you can learn more like that.
It sounds very cynically. I usually heard from teachers to focus on music…
I didn’t mean that you always have to win. Sometimes someone else is the winner – for example Ivo Pogorelich didn’t win any prize in Chopin Competition, but he got famous anyway. To be a winner, you need to show something special, so I really mean music! Apart from that, I mean also the attitude. Few years ago there was a team from Trynidad and Tobago playing in a Football World Championship. Everyone knew that they would not win, but they went there anyway and they did their best. If you go for a competition only to play the repertoire or to prove yourself.. it has no sense.
Almost every time when you come to Poland, you not only play a concert, but also give master classes. In your opinion, does it make sense to give lessons like that? Can you change attitude of the young musician in such a short time?
It’s interesting: you can attend classes for 10 years and not learn anything and then suddenly change your life during one lesson on master classes. It happened also to me – as a student I was on only four master classes and it changed completely my approach to music. On a first lesson, I started playing Preludium from III Partita by Jan Sebastian Bach. I played just few notes and I’ve heard ‘Wait, what are you doing? Start again and try to understand yourself and what you play’ For me everything was ok – tempo and notes were correct! I learned that appoggiatura – in every era – should be stronger than the solution. Then I started thinking that notes are not only he pitch and rhythm but also hidden meaning.
Is there something what student can to experience this kind of discovery during the lesson, or it’s rather a matter of fortune?
Hmm... let’s say that you go for lesson to Ricardo Gallén. As you probably know, some time ago he recorded all Bach’s lute works and he is one of few guitarists who are very well informed on baroque music performance. You can bring to him Prelude from BWV 995, just introduction, without Presto and he can give you eight lessons about it, and in that time he will tell you all advice which you need to work on Bach interpretations by yourself. But if you come to the lesson and you’ll play for example Tango en Skaï by Roland Dyens – you are wasting your time. Of course, that piece is not bad, but at best Gallen will tell you where to play louder and where softer. Tango en Skaï does not require so deep exploration as Bach’s works. There’s nothing general to say about it and if someone comes with this kind of piece, he should be prepared that he’ll go back home without a feeling of great change in his playing. In conclusion, the student should bring for master class a piece which allows some conversation about working on music in general.
In other words, your idea of master classes is giving tools, not only working on separate piece?
Exactly. I always say ‘treat me as a cow, and try to milk me of information’. Working on one piece can take even whole year, so I try to give practical advice which can be used later. Of course if they suit the student... and the teacher. Sometimes it happens that someone comes to me after the lessons and it turns out that his teacher called my advice stupid. Then I say ‘Ok, it’s your decision what to choose’. Work of a teacher is similar to work of a driving instructor – I teach how you can drive, but I do not necessarily drive exactly like you.
How about the technique? Do you say something about it during master classes?
If I see a problem, of course I say it. Usually there is some problematic place – then I advise an exercise especially for this fragment of piece. For example in Fandango by Joaquín Rodrigo, in the moment of culmination there’s a little scale-like passage. But practicing it as a normal scale does not make sense, because there are some very characteristic repeated notes.
For the end of the interview let’s come back to the topic of Poland. Do you remember when was your first visit?
In 1994 year, I played in Lublin – great festival and great city. Then I played in Tychy, Gliwice, Krynica-Zdrój, Zakopanem, Olsztyn... I visited almost all Poland.
What changed during those 20 years from your perspective?
For sure Poland seems now better maintained, there are not so many differences now between your country and the western part of Europe. I remember that when I came here first time, everyone was shy and distant from me. It was difficult to get in contact, even with young people. Now it’s totally different – possibility for travelling, but also festivals caused people to become more open. In the past our conversation – here in a café – would be beyond imagination.
Sometimes foreign musicians praise our food and beautiful women, Would you agree with that?
Food is really good – I even think that polish restaurants could become a real sensation in the world, the same as Mexican or Italian restaurants did. But about the women… in every country you can find beautiful girls. Spain or Ukraine, each country has it’s beauties.
Germans? Well... Germans have Bach.