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“A lesson with Angelo


To these three luthiers, already famous throughout Italy and well established in the course of their lives, we joined a fourth, Lorenzo Bellafontana, famous for his violins but little known as a guitar maker, at least outside his native Liguria. The discovery I made of two 1936 guitars built in Genoa, one by Bellafontana, a copy of Julia Gomez Ramirez, and one by Giuseppe Lecchi, a copy of the Manuel Ramirez/Santos Hernandez of Segovia, a discovery of which I had immediately informed him, prompted us with enthusiasm to fervently occupy ourselves with the guitar movement in Genoa in the 1930s, analyzing the instruments from an organological point of view as far as I was concerned, investigating Gilardino instead the contextual musical world and the biographies of the authors.

Angelo wanted to include at the last two other luthiers he had rediscovered: the bass from Como Mario Pabè, and the Ancona/Roman Rodolfo Paralupi, authors whose constructive path I did not, however, I had have few opportunities to test some of their guitars.


It was the year 2013, I was in my laboratory when I received a phone call from Angelo Gilardino:  “Mario, I found the title for our book: “il legno che canta”, and he didn't add anything else. 

I immediately agreed: it would have been difficult to find a better one. It was a perfect title and represented the best synthesis of the work done together. In fact, a few months earlier he had asked me if I would like to write a book with him on some Italian luthiers who were the first to experiment with the Spanish model and, of course, I was enthusiastic about this proposal. I had previously become passionate about the work of Pietro Gallinotti and I had in mind to take care of other luthiers of his same generation, I think he wanted to involve me because he knew my interest in studying and promoting the historical lutherie of the Italian twentieth century.

We decided to limit our study to luthiers born before 1920, therefore Gallinotti - whom we agreed in considering among the most important, together with Luigi Mozzani and Nicola De Bonis. And why not Vincenzo too? First, because it was born after 1920, but above all to highlight another important characteristic of these manufacturers: we wanted to indicate the pioneering qualities, the disposition to experiment even at the cost of following barren roads or dead ends rather than developing a a project to be faithfully followed or to follow a consolidated tradition.


I have beautiful memories of our meetings. While I was working on the texts, Angelo happened to come to see me in my cave-workshop, a cave with difficult access since you had to go down and then climb up very uncomfortable and irregular steps.

I could hear her beautiful voice screaming. "Mariooo!" And, looking out, I saw him leap out of the car driven by his son Alessandro with the enthusiasm of a teenager. He threw himself on the tuff steps to reach me and he didn't want anyone offered him help because he wanted to do it alone. Did you see!? , this time too I made it, he exclaimed, satisfied!

If it happened that I had some of the instruments of Bellafontana or Gallinotti in the laboratory to try, then it was a joy! There was a lot to talk about sound quality, the sound of Garcia, Sanfeliu, Mozzani and De Bonis....and Gilardino had different and incisive words to describe the qualities and differences of each of these manufacturers.


Curious about the constructive elements of the guitar not only from a theoretical point of view, he was delighted to hear the sound response of a still raw soundboard while hitting it with the knuckles of the fingers, excited to discover how the sound propagated and how it decayed. Just that "wood that sings" that had come to mind as the title of the book.

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