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KEVIN
SWIERKOSZ-LENART

“Memory of Angelo

Kevin Lenart
Angelo bambino.jpg

I heard it pronounced for the first time by Luigi Biscaldi, who came to Rome a substitute teacher during my second year of the course, following the untimely death of my first teacher. It was Maestro Biscaldi himself who suggested that I enroll in the summer courses in Châtillon, which would have given me the opportunity to compare myself with highly trained teachers with whom I have maintained a good friendship over the years (Piera Dadomo, Vincenzo Torricella, Gian Luca Barbero) and to know him, the Master of Masters, Angelo Gilardino. I remember that, arriving in the hotel, I saw him immediately: he was teaching in the large hall, blessed with splendid lighting, which it was immediately in front of the entrance. I immediately perceived, even as a kid as I was,  his magnetism, the aura of exceptionality that characterized him and at the same time the almost obsessive desire about dodging his own character, about unmasking the awkward affectation that inevitably he aroused in the first approaches (“Victor Hugo said that Victor Hugo did not exist, there was a madman wandering around Paris convinced he was Victor Hugo").

I had brought him a volume in which a story of mine had been published, but I dared not give it to him. It was Luigi Biscaldi who made mediator of the gift, later telling me that the Master had greatly appreciated my way of writing. For the whole week I didn't dare to have lessons with him, I only took courage the last one day, making him listen to a piece by Giuliani. Gilardino asked me what I thought of that music, he explained to me how that way of composing was the son of a rationalist optimism typical of his time, but he gave me almost no musical advice. “To be honest, I don't think that you will be a concert guitarist. You will do something else, it can be seen from the way you write. If you really keep a musical path, you will rather be a guitarist-philosopher, a composer like Dusan Bogdanovic”.

Kevin Lenart: Variazioni sul Testament d'Amelia

From that first time at his house, the visits were made

regular, soon facilitated by my transfer to Switzerland and the consequent rapprochement.

Friendship embodied did not exclude books or music, but finally included excursions into

landscapes that he loved most, the initiation to the Panissa Vercelli, the raids among luthiers moved by shared passion for guitar collecting, and still the discussions on his paintings of the Piedmontese masters, the films seen together. Above all, I got to hear the story of his life, moved by faith in meaning and fidelity to beauty.

A miraculous life, in which a little boy from the countryside of Asigliano, accustomed to wandering around the fields naked to get close to the herons, he had had the discipline to give himself a complete humanistic education, becoming a musician capable of inspiring several generations, of moving easily between philology, historiography, musicology, composition and instrumental practice, managing in the meantime to skilfully discuss the various topics, including psychiatry (I will never forget when I told him about my passion for the phenomenological current, and he calmly replied that he knew it, having read Binswanger's "Three forms of failed existence" at the age of fifteen). This new attendance soon opened up to composition lessons, which he taught me from 2017 until a few weeks before his disappearance. He described his approach to that type of teaching comparing it to the practice of a craft workshop, where you learn by doing, and the result is the only goal. The only necessary starting notions, in his opinion, consisted in the mastery of harmony, which he took for granted, and in some reflections on the formal basis of musical discourse (incident, sentence, period, theme, development, most common forms).

Once the reconnaissance of these basic elements was clear, the work began. The Maestro said of himself, and it was true, that he maintained a certain tact and a delicate discretion in all areas of interpersonal relationships, including in this sphere also his activity as a guitar teacher.

Angelo con il figlio Alessandro

I personally saw him last time for his eightieth birthday, on the occasion of the wonderful party that the municipality of Asigliano had organized for the important anniversary.

 

I gave him a painting by Ravello, one of our favorite painter. He had kindly procured a complete work of Freud, which I had not been able to get sent to Switzerland, and didn't want the money. "It's my gift to you, I can give you a gift too, can't I?"

That gift, the last exchange between us, represents for me the ultimate nature of the meaning of our friendship.

What I am as a man, not just as a musician, I owe to him. Even the gift that, naively, I thought of offering him that day, it was a gesture that I had been able to conceive thanks to the art education that he himself had guided and supervised over the years.

Once I told him that we had had an authentic relationship because, borrowing Lacan's words, we were given what we had not had: a healthy relationship between father and son.

With the usual calm I He answered:

"You really nailed it."

Although this is an ambitious requirement, I cannot consign an evocation to my words of my relationship with Angelo Gilardino without first attempting an operation of a grandeur and almost childish ingenuity: trying to define his relationship with reality. To say that he was a man of faith would be an understatement, because his feeling for the world was not religious.

He had not simply trust that things were not just as they appeared, that this earthly transit of about eighty years, exactly eighty in his case, did not exhaust the experience of reality tout court: he had rather an immediate perception of all this, as of unshakable evidence.

He kept his childhood memories too vivid to accept any reductionism, and of the child he had

always retained the deep ability to perceive the mystery, to feel rushed here by a somewhere else. If one must ascribe this attitude to some form of faith, one can perhaps say that he had faith in the meaning, and that the artistic form was for him the most faithful tangible discovery of that almost elusive sense of reality.

So I want to try, in short, to outline what it is was the meaning of our meeting and our friendship. I approached the guitar as a child, I was 11, to be subsequently admitted to the Conservatory, in Santa Cecilia, at the age of 14. Due to a strange phonetic cabala, my first Maestro was called Gilardi, while the first Giraldi was the concert artist I was able to hear live. The completeness of that name, Gilardino, it almost seemed to call me.

Dusan Bogdanovic

Years later, when I published my first composition while studying with Gilardino himself and with Bogdanovic, I told myself that that prophecy had been one of the countless proofs of his exceptionality that I had been able to collect during a long friendship. During the same lesson, he spoke to me at length about Bulgakov's "The Master and Margarita", insinuating in me the curiosity to read the novel.

Back in Rome, I devoured the book and wrote him an email with my impressions, my thanks, and request for other advice. He replied suggesting that I read Landolfi. That year, the year of my fifth gymnasium, I skipped about two months of school making various excuses, and read in nine months about eighty books recommended by him. One every three days, on average. My view of the world has formed in that year. We continued to correspond without ever seeing each other again, until he came to Rome for a masterclass.

I was twenty-four years old, I was approaching the Conservatory diploma and the medical degree. He wasn't in the least interested in giving me lessons, even though he knew that I brought his Sonata del Guadalquivir at the final exam.

He was interested in me staying with Alessandro, his son, for to see if our friendship was ready to finally step out of the ether of music and literature to incarnate. We spent some time together, that day my long friendship with Alessandro began, and finally the Maestro invited me to go to his house in Vercelli to fine-tune the repertoire that I would have brought to the exam.

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In fact, he had never sharply corrected me when he had heard me play. But, on the composition, no. There it was essential not to put filters and speak without half measures. His greatest care, when he judged that a piece was good, was reserved for the form: suitably dose the registers, do not unnecessarily dilute the musical discourse in a jumble of redundant pitches.

If a piece was useless, he branded it a corpse and invited not to waste time. On the composition he reached the apex of his authenticity, of his parrhesia as his friend Sergio Givone said commemorating him, and if on the one hand he loved to mock a particularly naive melody (“You could title it exotically: “Eine grosse puttanaten”!) he was also able to say, to me as well as to other students, “This section is wonderful, I envy you, I wish I had written it."

In recent years our relationship has seen a progressive reversal of roles, as happens to completely successful parenting relationships. He had been my Master, friend, mentor, I was on some occasions his doctor and his support in countless practical matters that inevitably add annoyances to the disease.

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Alessandro Gilardino Nicodemi: paesaggio
Alessandro Gilardino Nicodemi
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Photo: ANDREA CHERCHI
 

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