The worlds and genres of accordion. Interview to Christian Riganelli

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RiganelliChristian Riganelli majored in classical accordion at the Conservatory “N. Piccinni “in Bari, under the guidance of Maestro M. Pitocco, continuing his studies at the Conservatory” G. B. Pergolesi “in Fermo, where he earned a degree in Music Education and Postgraduate Diploma level to address interpretation-composition with Maestro R. Centazzo.

He has performed at major international festivals in France, Germany, Denmark, England, Czech Republic, Brazil, Argentina and Japan.

He has worked with Vinicio Capossela, Riccardo Tesi and David Riondino.

He premiered “La funzione del centenario” by Roberto De Simone, sung to the meta-historical content and accordion solo, double male choir and band, during the 37th edition of “Settembre al Borgo” in the Cathedral of Casertavecchia.

He released the CD “Livin God”, a collection of readings poetry and songs inspired by sacred music, in collaboration with the Marche Region.

He has participated as a performer and composer in theater inspired by F. G. Lorca, D. Buzzati, L. Pirandello, G. Leopardi.

He has worked with the Piccolo Teatro of Milan in the Brecht-Sastre show “La storia della bambola abbandonata” and with the poet and writer David Rondoni in the recital of Dante ” L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle”.

He performed a duet with Gabriele Mirabassi music by A. Mehmari for accordion solo, solo clarinet and string orchestra, first run at the Hall of Jardel Filho in San Paulo, Brazil and the Italian Cultural Institute in Tokyo.

Performs numerous concerts as a soloist and in various chamber ensembles, offering repertoire ranging from classical to French varieté, from klezmer to songwriting.

He teaches accordion at the Civica Scuola di Musica “P. Soprani” in Castelfidardo and High School Musical “Rinaldini” of Ancona.

He is currently Director of the International Accordion Museum in Castelfidardo.

Director of the International Accordion Museum and professor at the Civica Scuola di Musica of Castelfidardo. Two prestigious positions in the city symbol and home of the instrument. What does this mean for you, more responsibility or simply an additional gratification?

The Civica Scuola di Musica “P. Soprani” of Castelfidardo made its seventh year and is a well-established musical reality considering the number and the results achieved by the students enrolled. From the very beginning I was asked to being a teacher of accordion. With a steady job in years, supported by a greatly predisposed reality to this instrument and the attention of the Artistic Director and the City, the accordion class can boast twenty-five young members, all from Castelfidardo, some of which have recently passed successful exams A and B certification at the Conservatory “G.B. Pergolesi” in Fermo. The enthusiasm of the kids and their passion for the accordion has allowed us in 2009 to form the Accordion Ensemble “P. Soprani”, an instrumental ensemble consists of only accordions. This training is covered by a few years of the scholarship “Mimmo Orlandoni,” which gives us the opportunity to invite a visiting professor at the school to organize masterclasses and concerts.

Since January, I was invited by the City Council to fill the role of Director of the Museum of the Accordion. A very prestigious job and responsibility that is for me an important task, but also a reward for my work as a performer and teacher of this “young” and wonderful instrument.

In few months of my direction I could see every day how much interest, passion and curiosity inspire the accordion in the world. So I think that one of my goals is to promote and keep alive that enthusiasm among young people, including musicians, and of course among the passionate professionals.

Your artistic formation is marked by a long series of experiments. You have taken the first steps with Maestro Picchio then with Massimiliano Pitocco. You have studied with Jacomucci, Rojac, Soave… just to remember the big names. Who more than any other has left an imprint in your playing?

During my artistic training, I had the good fortune to meet many teachers, accordionists, composers and specialists from other instruments. Each of them has left me something in terms of knowledge, research instruments and musical stimuli. Each teacher specializes in certain directories, shows precise musical inclinations. It is important to listen to different points of view, imitate them and challenge them, and then rework the skills aquisite to follow your beliefs.

Paolo Picchio was my first teacher and thanks to him I discovered the accordion, and a large inner motivation in the study of this instrument, as I was always encouraged to attend various courses and to enroll in master classes with leading professors in Italy and abroad. Before the Diploma in accordion, I had the chance to delve into the original repertoire with Maestro Pitocco and I later obtained a Postgraduate Diploma level, in interpretation-composition, with Maestro Centazzo.

Both, with their professionalism, they constituted an important step in my path accordionist and have contributed to my decision to become a teacher of accordion. For this I have a diploma in Teaching of Music, studying pedagogy, analysis and composition with big names in education, all with very good teachers whom I’m still in contact.

I therefore believe that my way of playing is the result of the learning experiences received, but above all of the meeting with musicians, artists and professionals of the accordion that gave me the opportunity to come up with the part of me that considers music a universal language and a fundamental component of human life.

Castelfidardo, the Mecca of the accordion… Living every day problems and the expectations placed in the hands of all players working to export “excellence accordion” in the world, according to your authoritative opinion, and on the basis that in terms of quality accordions have reached a very high standard, where do we have to take action to improve the brand?

Last year the town of Castelfidardo celebrated the 150th anniversary of the birth of the first accordion industry. An important goal that spurred all workers in the sector to a careful analysis and a study on the health of the instrument. The number of accordions made in Castelfidardo in a year is estimated today at around 16,000 units, a value that differs from the six-digit numbers of the early fifties. However, it is important to emphasize that the quality of instruments produced today is significantly improved. Today you can hear an accordion play along with a Steynway grand piano or duet with a Stradivarius, and this means that instruments produced in Castelfidardo deserve a place in every theater in the world! Thanks to this technical progress, I feel I can say that for thirty years now the instrument accordion is having, from the point of view of art, a dizzying escalation. Indeed, it is present in almost all genres of music and in various bands of television variety shows. It is in great demand in theater performances and in contemporary music ensemble experimenting with new sounds. As accordionists we have the great task to enhance it, working to reinforce the idea that the accordion is, as I said, a young, versatile and attractive instrument for young people of all nationalities and culture.

Young people and Castelfidardo… Do children and teenagers feel the importance of the environment in which they live? What is their vocation? Is the accordion still a goal to be pursued ois just something inherited from the past and dominated by new trends in music?

All young people who live in Castelfidardo have studied the history of their city and the very important role that accordion industry has played in the economic and social development of the country. Many of them have had a family member who worked or still works in the industry and some have even had the opportunity to approach the study of the instrument. A few years ago I made a project aimed at the fourth grade of elementary schools in Castelfidardo. It was organized as collective lessons of the instrument, with the aim of stimulating and engaging young people to the study of music, and especially the accordion. About sixty children every year experienced a first approach to the accordion and, through the exploration of the instrument and the establishment of the first note they played pop music, folk music, house music, and so on. Many of them are still my students and I’m working to make music in the first place and then the accordion become a vocation for life, not just a wonderful hobby. The complexity of the current situation seems difficult to think of music as a passion that can get a job and a daily commitment, but I am convinced that, thanks to the opening of the new high school musical, the young people have an opportunity to choose music as a very interesting and socially recognized job.

I’m Professor of Accordion at the Liceo Musicale “Rinaldini” in Ancona, where you can receive a musical education that prepares young people for the future of academia.

I have always maintained that the “first teacher” has the great responsibility of shaping and inspire enthusiasm of the student who approaches an instrument. What is the approach of Christian Riganelli with “young apprentice”?

The initial approach to the instrument is crucial. The presentation of the accordion should be fun and challenging. It starts from the exploration of the instrument, noises and effects that we can get establishing physical contact with it. The sounds and noises produced can be a sound to improvise a text and maybe set it to music. After the phase of play, you go to the first notes that allow us to perform simple songs, songs of experience of different type of music and then find out what are the tastes and aptitudes of the student. Personally I do not preclude any kind of music and listening very carefully to the requests made by the children themselves, with regard to the tastes and the melody to play.

Stimulate, interest and tickle them the pleasure of making music with the accordion is my main goal. At a later stage, I will address those who demonstrate more motivation, talent and spirit of sacrifice to an academic career.

Let’s talk about your extra teaching experiences… From classic to varieté, from klezmer to sacred music: getting involved in all of these horizons is a requirement due to the varying demands of the market, your own predisposition or attitude devoted to testing new musical horizons?

I must admit that as a young man I was drawn to different kinds of music. I tried to imagine what role could have the accordion in different sound and unconventional musical contexts. Almost all of the projects that I am presenting at this time are focused on accordion and, in particular, on my music performed in duo, trio, as a soloist with orchestra, with spoken voices and also with a Sand Artist, who creates animations on the sand to comment my compositions.

The space I prefer is certainly that of the ensemble, accordion and other instruments in which the sound of my instrument can experience new musical horizons, new arrangements and directories, without betraying the cultural context to which it belongs.

About new repertoire, for some years I’m invited to perform in many international contexts, in the performance of the song “Strambotti on the seasons of Vivaldi”, a composition by pianist and Brazilian composer André Mehmari, written for the clarinet soloist Gabriele Mirabassi, accordion solo and string orchestra. A song in three parts where the dialogue of the soloists is intertwined with that of a transverse arches of genres, ranging from baroque to contemporary music, up to the traditional Brazilian music.

In recent years, my passion for theater led me to “get involved” working with a production of “Piccolo Teatro” in Milan and participating in the recital stage with great artists such as David Riondino and Sergio Rubini.

Put it on the “politics”… Having a man as mayor, Mirco Soprani, who married the “cause accordion”, a mayor who, as a journalist, has contributed enormously in Boccosi management, promotion of the instrument and its artists through the pages of this magazine… Is his “shadow”, in your dual role as a teacher at the local school and director of the museum, an incentive or an “obstacle”?

As a teacher in the state school “P. Soprani” and Director of the International Accordion Museum in Castelfidardo I’m grateful to the Mayor and to all those who are interested and committed to the accordion and its enhancement.

As accordionist I do not mind the “political” but music and I think it is essential to grasp every incentive to produce, use and distribute quality music in all contexts, especially in Castelfidardo, in which the sensitivity and love of the accordion are always essential elements of the local culture.

Among the many characters you see walking the streets of Castelfidardo, which one you remember with more affection? Is there an artist who has influenced you in a special way?

Every important meeting leaves an indelible mark in our lives. In the past I had the good fortune to perform with great artists and people who belong to the musical history of our country. On the occasion of the International Prize of the Accordion I have known and worked with Franco De Gemini (harmonica by Ennio Morricone), Vinicio Capossela, Gabriele Mirabassi, Riccardo Tesi, and it was definitely an unforgettable experience.

Future projects?

Is going to be released a record as a duo with saxophonist Massimo Mazzoni, Director of the Conservatory of Fermo and musician of international renown. After experimenting with various repertoires, our attention is focused on songs from popular klezmer tradition. From here came the idea to bring a few composers to write original music for saxophone and accordion, with elemements and characteristic structures of this kind. For this reason the album combines traditional and popular songs, moments of contemporary music, themes treated in a contrapuntal style jazz songs, some of which are enhanced by the collaboration of the clarinet by Gabriele Mirabassi and bass by Gabriele Pesavento.

I also continue my theater work with the work of George Felicetti, actor and author of ” Fissò Armonikòs”, a show that tells the history of the accordion, its skilled musicians and artist-craftsmen who built this instrument. After the success at the Festival of Storytelling in Arzo, Switzerland, we will replicate in various theaters of the Marche.

Autore: Daniele Cestellini

Daniele Cestellini ha scritto 752 articoli.

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