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“John W. Duarte and Angelo Gilardino”

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By September 1971 Angelo was addressing letters to Dear John and in January 1973 to Dear Jack, the name Duarte used in his early days. New publications were constantly being mentioned and the volume of letters, sometimes three, four or five pages of close- type, was probably at its height in the 1970s.

They were writing two letters a week, on two different topics. One topic would concern guitarists of the day; their performances, their characters and their working relationships with agents, radio stations and concert agents. The other topic would concern music; fingering, editing, suggestions of small changes to scores, dedications (sometimes Angelo seemed especially vexed about this subject), news about other composers and their new compositions or their suggestions for works to be published by Bèrben.

When Angelo received Duarte's score of Suite Piemontese Op.46 in October 1970 he said, 'Today, it has been one of the most beautiful and important days of my life. See, I never waited for a work of my series so anxiously as for Suite Piemontese... you have made an exceptional thing.'


Angelo appreciated Duarte's innate feel for the melodies of his homeland, as well as the harmonisations and development of these melodies. It was to be a work which Angelo played many times and also recorded on one of Bèrben's first LPs.

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Vercelli (Italy) 17 Septembre 1969.

"Dear Mr Duarte, your address was given to me by Mrs Clara Castelnuovo-Tedesco, when I met her in Florence, during her recent visit in Italy."

Thus began a friendship which lasted 35 years - a mutual bond enhanced by a correspondence numbering 100s of letters. The correspondence covered a vast range of topics, not just music. Initially, of course, Angelo was concerned about securing the publication of Duarte's works for Edizioni Musicali Bèrben.

Duarte sent him a list of his unpublished works (quite incomplete, as it turns out) and Angelo suggested publishing all of them, even ones dating back to the 1940s (some now published by UT Orpheus Edizioni).

The end of the 1960s marked a new life for Duarte. He had just given up full-time employment, as an industrial chemist, and had taken on a newspaper/tobacconist shop to provide some income, while he evolved into being a full-time guitar composer, teacher and writer. In the four years that the family owned the shop, Duarte wrote 20 original works and embarked on his historic transcription of Robert Dowland's A Varietie of Lute-Lessons.

Angelo and Bèrben were involved in the publication of many of these pieces. Their famous Red Series became a by-word for new guitar music, which was copied, but not always equalled, by several other music publishers.

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Unfortunately, we don't have many of Duarte's letters to Angelo, which were destroyed in a fire in Angelo's flat. Angelo commented to me that, 'Jack and I, we had no blackmail, but we were very free and open in our judgements' and this certainly shines through the free flow of Angelo's letters. Because of the subjects that Angelo and Duarte wrote about I promised Angelo that I wouldn't release his letters for publication. Their correspondence over many years reflected a long and deep respect and friendship.


© Christopher Duarte, August 2023

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