“Dear teacher, I would like to start Duport, this volume is now almost over …” He looked at me with his calm and good eyes and replied: “Let me see which are the three studies missing …” I gave him the book and he flipped it through to the end. Then he said to me, “Angelo, not yet: this of Hindemith must be done absolutely.” Then I went home and, although I did not understand why I had to do it, I studied it. Years later, maybe forty years after that lesson, we had a proposal from Rai (the italian national television channel) to play a quartet of Hindemith and when we got the part and flicked through it to start studying it … I did not want to believe it! … I went to take out Stutschewsky’s old book to compare it and it was just him! Fourth time of the quartet, a time where the cello has an important solo part: it develops a beautiful theme, which gives the piece a rhythmic and lively, almost rhapsodic character .. Beautiful indeed ? Also incredible! I studied Hindemith when I was so young, and the quartet still was not in my thoughts … I studied Hindemith when I was so young, and the quartet still was not in my thoughts … I’ve always found it a strange coincidence!
When M ° Pais retired, I passed into the class of Maestro Adriano Vendramelli, and there everything changed. He was a rather gruff man, diametrically opposed to my previous teacher, and with a completely different teaching method … Initially it was very hard for me: I had to change a lot of things in my way of playing and, finding myself studying Popper and Servais, it was very complicated. Then, slowly, I got used to it, I understood its methodology and I adapted. He helped me a lot in many things: sonority, agility, vibrato, awareness, technical development. And with him I finished my studies. He was also the first cello in the theater, and with him I had my first, and unique, experiences in the orchestra. At the time I was in the seventh year and, for me, playing in the orchestra of La Fenice was a dream. Thanks to him I was able to live, even if for short periods, the environment of the theater, of the opera. I remember Falstaff, Traviata, Maria di Rudenz, Trovatore, but also symphonic and contemporary music concerts: fundamental experiences for a young student. My teacher accompanied me along this path, helping me, advising, suggesting, and this was very important, because I had his guidance not only at school, but also in the professional environment.
But my most important teacher was certainly Paul Szabò, a Hungarian, cellist of the famous Vegh quartet. At the time, we are talking about the years 80/81, I was not yet graduated, but I had already started the activity with my quartet and, although we were young, we already had concerts and we studied a lot. Almost by chance, we had enrolled in a quartet course in Assisi, with Sandor Vegh. He was a legendary figure in chamber music, but at the time we did not even know him. Our first lesson was like a bomb … a new world opened up before us, and we were impressed and fascinated. It was incredible! From that moment on we started to follow him and I developed the idea of studying the cello with someone who was on this line. So when the name of Szabò came out, I flung myself from him.
I remember our first meeting. He lived in Locarno. I had asked for a lesson and had let him hear the prelude of Bach’s First Suite. When the execution was over, he said to me: “It’s not bad … I see we have similarities” (and I was enthusiastic about these words) “Well, let’s get started!”
From that moment it’s been nine years!!! Beautiful years and hard work, years in which I changed my way of playing, but also my philosophy of life … I changed everything: I studied all the repertoire with him and … studied again many compositions (for example, Popper’s studies). Szabò has shaped me, during the study, making me discover a different way of playing. I was attracted to it, like a bee from a rose. I absolutely wanted to play like him, but this was not easy at all, because he was an incredible musician, with first rate technical and musical qualities. He had a sound, a bow, an exceptional vibrato, which I found only in great performers. He fascinated me when he said: “Casals told me ‘do it this way'”, or when he talked about Bartok, Kodaly, his Hungary, or the great musicians he played with, like Rudolf Serkin or Artur Grumiaux. Or when he was telling me about that concert in Tokyo, or the recording of Schubert’s quintet with Casals and Prades …
[to be continued ⇒]