Francesco Furlanich graduated from the Conservatory of Trieste in 1989, winning in the meantime numerous national and international competitions. During his academic training has shown an unusual musical versatility: he studied piano, organ and composition and got his second diploma in bassoon, which allowed him to win the competition to enter the prestigious orchestra of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (main director Zubin Mehta) and to collaborate in several symphony orchestras and chamber music groups from all over Europe. He made many recordings in the studios of RAI and radio studios in Trieste and Koper (Slovenia), and has been invited to play with the opera houses and symphony orchestras throughout Italy (Rome Opera Orchestra, the Teatro Massimo of Palermo, the Orchestra of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, etc.). He has also been a guest performer at various international festivals including the Progetto Martha Argerich in Lugano in 2005 (Switzerland) and the Été Musical en Bergerac in Bordeaux (France). He has devoted many years to the study and research of Argentine music and, more recently, jazz.
Can you talk about your beginnings and what it means to be musically formed in a “border” city as Trieste?
I began studying the accordion when I was five years old with Roman Zajec and continued with her daughter, Eliana. I matched, later, the study of the bassoon, piano, organ and organ composition, and, in recent years, that of the bandoneon.
At the time, in the place where I lived was almost a duty to know how to play the accordion, because it was a very popular instrument; schools were full of students and you had to fight to get in, and the local folk music (not the Balkan music but Slovenian, very similar to the Austrian polkas and waltzes) and those of the nearby border were dominant.
When you live in a city where ethnicities mingle you do not notice that, everything looks natural. When you grow up, however, you realize that every little experience made in the cultural broth unknowingly formed you. Also and just the fact of attending friends of the Slovenian minority or a majority Italian, it change you within.
What is the difference between our perception of the accordion and that of countries with an important accordion tradition, like many areas of Eastern Europe?
What I can tell from the outside, since I’m not immersed in the culture of Italian accordionist, is known that a large, almost overwhelming, academic seriousness (eg students do not want to be contaminated with other genres) that is reflected in a general ignorance of the medium public, which leads back and reduces the accordion only to a folk object!
Abroad, this does not happen and it demonstrates by the great Russian, German or Scandinavian schools, to those in the Far East, where the study and practice of this instrument have a major consideration.
From your curriculum emerge different musical skills, which probably reflect a broad education and an equally wide passion for music. Can you talk about your experiences in the Orchestra of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino?
I play the bassoon in the orchestra of the Maggio from 17 years and have had the good fortune to be directed by the most talented directors of orchestra, including Muti, Abbado, Giulini, Mazel, Chailly, while our principal conductor is Zubin Mehta. Playing here is an unique experience; collaborate with the best Italian musicians, soloists accompany the best in the world and go on tour is priceless! There is a continued growth as an artist and you have to always be better, but this can also lead to neuroses and insecurities. But the greatest difficulty is doubling artistically play in an organism as the orchestra forces you to do your part perfectly and then to read it, forgetting at times the musical sense in favor of a maniacal execution of the part that was written for you. You are not request or to improvise or to interpret a song. While in other genres that I’m passionate about is almost the opposite. It is not easy to find a classical musician to improvise, as it is not easy to find a musician of other musical genres follow a part written in detail.
The most beautiful experience? Surely have played Turandot in the Forbidden City, that is in Beijing! The worst? Been on tour in Tokyo during the earthquake of 2011.
As an accordionist you feel inspired by any particular genre or instrumentalist?
Hard to say who has influenced me. I played from 40 years and from the moment I entered the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino I heard the greatest musicians in the world, and I think that everyone have a little inspired me. Classical music has always been my inspiration, as that popular, but in my formative journey I was passionate about different kinds of music, then the first tango, klezmer, jazz, swing and then back to the tango. I bought and studied a bandoneon Alfred & Arnold and I had the good fortune to delve into the different kinds of places with people, the only authentic way, in my opinion, in order to learn and understand the styles, otherwise than is just studying the texts.
Your experiences range from improvised Jewish music to tango, to chamber music. According to your experience, the audience appreciates the experimentation or occurs more easily to tradition?
I personally think that the experiments are very interesting and creative, for example with my group “The Klezmerata Fiorentina” (featuring Jewish music) we did a concert together with Arab musicians, with music of their tradition, with the outcome of a extraordinary mix! However, I believe that for the average listener to know what kind of music will perform a solo can be more comforting. I note the fact that the level of the audience is lowered, there is not a deep knowledge of music and therefore sufficient understanding of what the artists propose. What most excites the average listener is the percussive rhythm, one need only insert a battery and keep everyone happy… joke…; more and more music is being relegated to background music or social event where the important thing is to be there and to my personal experience, unfortunately, this is also true with classical music! Maybe it is also the fault of us musicians: going to try the amazing technique, we risk to forget the main way of music to thrill and amaze.
What are the projects you are working on at the moment?
Finally, the new CD of Klezmerata Fiorentina is coming out. The title is “18 Hidden Tales of a tzaddik” and has been release with a Spanish major record label, the Columna Musica, with which we will be distributed throughout the world and, given the time and given the economic difficulties of the record business, this is already a great success for us!
In the meantime, I’m going to carve another CD, but this time it’s a totally mine project, from the music to the arrangements, with my quartet Quartocolore. The ensemble consists of cello, clarinet, guitar and accordion, but according to the need of evocative songs will be also used other instruments played by the musicians themselves (clarinet , bass, bandoneon and double bass).
My songs are stories of music, such as paintings or life dreams. When I compose I do not adopt a specific style of music, but different styles, those most appropriate to describe the emotion or story that I feel to share. I draw inspiration from every musical genre: classical, ethnic, folk, pop, etc. My music could be considered Word Music, a genre in opposition to the traditional view divided into genres and independent traditions.
This article is available also in: Italian