Solo guitar music: Antonio Rugolo Interview

Diana Castelnuovo-Tedesco / News /
Antonio Rugolo Guitarist Interview

For his latest recording project, award-winning Italian guitarist Antonio Rugolo explores all of the works that Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco wrote for solo guitar during his Italian years. Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco: The Complete Italian Solo Guitar Music (Brilliant Classics) was born from Antonio’s desire to return to the Florentine composer’s scores, starting not from the classic editions revised by Andrés Segovia and published by Ricordi and Schott, but from the more recent manuscript-based editions published by Bèrben and Ricordi under the supervision of Angelo Gilardino and Luigi Biscaldi. In the liner notes, the guitarist explains that his intention was to highlight all the ideas Castelnuovo-Tedesco put forth in his guitar scores, with particular attention to the Sonata (Omaggio a Boccherini), the Capriccio Diabolico, and the TarantellaAntonio kindly agreed to tell us more about his experiences studying and recording this music. 

Interview with Antonio Rugolo by Diana Castelnuovo-Tedesco – May 2023

What was your objective for this project? What were you hoping to achieve?

Every new project arises from different needs. This recording originated from the artistic desire to play this wonderful music to which I have been emotionally connected for a long time.  For years I performed Capriccio Diabolico (in Segovia’s edition) in concerts and at competitions. However, after the manuscripts of Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s works came to light in 2001 and Gilardino subsequently published his editions based on them, I very much wanted to explore what these works were like originally, before Segovia’s interventions. From the start I realized that this work would take a long time, but that it would be rewarding. I also realized that, with this journey, I would be able to contribute to a deeper understanding of these pillars of the guitar repertoire.

What are the differences between the editions of Mario’s guitar music with Segovia’s revisions and the more recent editions based on MCT’s manuscripts (published by Bèrben and Ricordi under the supervision of Gilardino and Biscaldi)?

The editions are very different, but they are all useful if one wishes to really study this repertoire in depth.  It’s well known that for various reasons, Segovia made changes to the pieces that sought to respect the composer’s  wishes but that often resolved the intricate contrapuntal textures or the author’s overly rich and complex harmonies with instrumental solutions that were very effective but that ended up sacrificing some musical elements. In Gilardino’s editions, almost all of these elements are restored, starting with bars that were missing or had been completely changed, resulting in a series of minor harmonic/contrapuntal differences. The musical result [of the manuscript edition] is definitely richer, but in some crucial places, it becomes much more difficult to play. 

Tell us a bit about your work process to prepare for this recording.

It was really a long process to prepare for this recording. For the Sonata (Omaggio a Boccherini), I worked for an entire year to find the instrumental solutions, the fingerings and the right articulations to be able to play each phrase so it sounded right. After this first phase of study, I played the work in concerts and then recorded it. For the Capriccio Diabolico the process was a simpler endeavor because I recorded it immediately after a concert tour in China during which I had performed it many times. Here too, in my recording I restored the missing bars, and I also analyzed the musical elements that Segovia had modified in his edition. The two Variations [Variations à travers les siècles, op. 71 and Variations sur un petit air populaire, op. 95] were recorded about two years later, which allowed more time for me to prepare, because they were pieces I had never studied before. It was a fascinating and worthwhile journey because the music is so beautiful.

While you were studying and performing  these works, what emotions did you feel? What particularly stood out for you?

What stood out for me is Mario’s incredible way of handling the guitar: he is able to make the guitar sing and weep as few composers have succeeded in doing with our difficult and, at times, unforgiving instrument…the emotions I felt were profound and heartfelt, because in every moment I spent with this music I found a part of me, of my soul and of the way I love music. I will never stop thanking the composer for this gift!

What aspect of this project did you like the most? 

I loved how, after many hours of study and sacrifice, I was able to find instrumental solutions in certain places that even I didn’t expect, solutions that could shed new light on this music, in spite of how difficult they might be.

What impression do you want to give the listener?

This recording represents who I am as a person and as a musician so it would be lovely to know what impression it will have on those who will listen to it. I only hope that they will enjoy it and that the composer himself likes it, too, if he can hear me from above….

Segovia’s editions of Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s music are still considered the standard for performances by many musicians and continue to be the version often taught to guitar students. Do you hope that this CD can help bring about a reconsideration of the manuscript edition as well?

Certainly. I am convinced that it’s absolutely necessary to consider exploring this music with greater awareness; some of my students are now studying these pieces with impressive results. Especially for the Sonata, I think that we must consider the manuscript edition, which, with the necessary adjustments, becomes easy to understand in all its components. I am thinking of the many contrapuntal textures that have been interrupted, how in the beginning the first and second themes intersect perfectly, or the expressive power of the jumps in octaves, the fifth and sixth of the fourth movement reduced to a simple arpeggio in D major…There are so many moments that, in my opinion, if they are truly understood, can lead a mature performer to have no doubts. Some day, I would really like to have the opportunity to publish my extensive notes for this project, so that young musicians can have an in-depth guide. 

If there is anything else you would like to add, please do so!

I would like to thank you, Diana, for your support and for the opportunity to talk about my work on the Maestro’s site. It’s a great honor. Thank you! 

Thank you, Antonio, for your passion for my grandfather’s music and for the expressive power and perfect balance that we hear in your recording, especially in the Sonata, the Capriccio Diabolico and the Tarantella.