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“Angelo Gilardino, an appreciation and some memories”


In 1974, while I was studying abroad with John Duarte in England, he introduced me to Angelo Gilardino and very kindly arranged for me to attend Angelo’s summer workshop in Roasio Sant’Eusebio, Italy, on scholarship.

When I arrived and played for Angelo, he was greatly impressed with me, but refused to teach me. He said that I didn’t need him, but that I should rather just attend the classes and perform there.

I interpreted this to mean that, in order for him to teach me, he would have to start from the beginning and work up from there, which, of course, time would not allow in a workshop of just a week or so.


He felt that the way I was playing was working perfectly well for me, and that he shouldn’t interfere with it.

This was a kind of teaching wisdom, which was disappointing to me at the time, but I came to respect.

So instead, we developed a friendship that was more a friendship of equals than of teacher/student.

So instead, we developed a friendship that was more a friendship of equals than of teacher/student.

We shared many musical and technical observations and opinions, not to mention thoughts about people and the arts.

Until this time, I had never met anyone in the guitar world who shared with me an equally avid love of and respect for the other arts of literature and the visual arts. Needless to say, I ended up learning a lot, despite his refusal to teach to me, just by osmosis.

I was 20 years old, and Angelo was 32. I was just at the beginning of my career as a guitarist and barely beginning to be aware of my need to be a composer as well.


One solo guitar work by Angelo, Ocram, written just a year before I met him for his extraordinarily talented student, Marco de Santi, inspired great excitement in me.

This piece was one of the most dramatic and passionate works I’d ever heard for the guitar, and I had to play it. I performed it many times since then and finally recorded it only a few years ago.

I believe that Angelo regarded it somewhat as an immature work in his compositional output, however I felt that he poured his heart and soul into it, and it remains one of my favorite Gilardino works.

A few years later, in 1981, Angelo wrote the first 12 Studi di Virtuositá e di Trascendenza (48 more were to follow). He sent the score to me, and I was immediately enamored of these pieces and wrote a rave review about them for Soundboard magazine, a review which, I believe, helped to establish his reputation as a composer of significance in the guitar world.

Not only were they remarkable for their technical imagination of virtuosic possibilities and an example of a kind of obsessive trance-like approach, but they were also each inspired by other artists, either composers or visual artists or writers, and exhibited a profound richness of background and spiritual depth, which was virtually non-existent in the world of most guitar composers at the time. This was an extraordinary

introduction to a significant voice in the guitar world.


Angelo was riding a wave of success as a guitarist, and beginning to feel that his interest in that career was waning and that he rather felt his true calling to be that of a composer.

For Angelo, it was a time of vulnerability and revelation, and he found in me a kindred spirit with whom he could share many of his deepest inner feelings.

He confided about many things with me, but especially about one particular aspect of his life, which he kept secret for his entire life.

I imagine that only a handful of people ever knew about this side of him, and I will continue to keep what he shared with me in confidence.


Throughout all the years that I knew him, Angelo and I continued to correspond via letters, in the early years, and email later on.  Once in a while, we had the pleasure of inperson visits, which were always meaningful moments to be cherished. We would share our latest creations and thoughts and observations, always with mutual respect and affection for one another. Both correspondence and meetings with Angelo were always a great joy and often, a revelation – moments to be savored.

When he was 35 years old, shortly after I met him, he was thoroughly convinced that he had reached the exact halfway point in his life, that he would never live beyond the age of 70.

I was always quietly happy that he lived well beyond that and that he enjoyed a remarkably productive creative life and a reputation to match that continued to enliven and inspire him.

In the same way, Angelo continued to enliven and inspire me, as well as countless others in the guitar world.

With a remarkably prolific creative output, most of it for the guitar, Angelo’s works will take many, many years to sort out. It is to be expected that some, with the passage of time, may be considered great and others less great, but his inspiration will continue to soar its way into the souls of many for generations to come.

David Leisner

July 2023



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