Giovanni Gnocchi needs no introduction. During the quarantine period, his busy life stopped for a moment and Giovanni wants and has time to answer my questions.
Do you think that being born in Cremona, the home of luthiers, has somehow influenced your choice of playing the cello? Do you remember when you first saw and heard a cello?
It certainly influenced my choice of cello! Thanks to a German friend: Reiner Hertel, a German biologist, my father’s partner in the Ghislieri College of Pavia, and then a professor at the University of Freiburg, took his violinist son, Wolfgang, to Cremona to look for an instrument to buy, and I first listened to the sound of the violin, a beautiful instrument by Bissolotti that had fascinated me and completely kidnapped me! The warmth of the sound, the magic that was caused by the rubbing of the hair on the strings, the depth of the vibration and the ability to immediately tune in to the depth of our emotion and really “talking to us”, as I had never heard, marked me for always! Then my events within the Cremona music school were a little complicated, certainly not rosy or happy from the beginning. It was then a reality just born and at the beginning, and therefore also very provincial and in some ways a school for amateurs. I think I was put in the cello class a little to fill a half-empty class when the violin ones were full, and strangely I didn’t give up like all my companions, but maybe even then my perseverance, loyalty to a task came out, or simply if you prefer, the hardness of my head … Then I also had the good fortune to meet a couple of people who certainly helped me not to feel like an “alien”, and maybe they really changed my life then: the luthier Marcello Villa, who is also an excellent violinist, with whom, since I was 12 and he was 24, I spent several afternoons in the shop talking about music, listening to recordings and who made me know a lot, about the history of music, the repertoire, and with whom I certainly shared the great passion for listening, research and discovery, and the violinist Andrea Rognoni, a few years older than me, who is now the soloist and shoulder of the second in Fabio Biondi’s Europa Galante, and who as a young man was very seriously determined to be a professional musician (which he is doing very well, playing precisely as well as with Biondi, with Zefiro, Ottavio Dantone and the Accademia Bizantina, the Collegium of Gent with Herreweghe, and in his fantastic AleaEnsemble!), even if such a choice, in Cremona between the 80s and 90s, seemed absurd and a huge gamble, almost crazy, unfortunately. So, especially thanks to them, in the beginning, I managed to survive and hold on! Then, certainly, the opportunity to listen to the lessons of Rocco Filippini in Cremona, as well as those of Accardo, Giuranna, and Petracchi, who clearly had the merit of being able to attract the best young instrumentalists in circulation at that time, contributed substantially, thanks to which I discovered, listening to the lessons, another repertoire, and I learned some musical and instrumental principles. I remember very well the lessons and concerts with the young Marco Decimo, Relja Lukic, Simonide Braconi, Francesco Fiore, Alfredo Persichilli, Federico Guglielmo, Massimo Quarta, Sonig Tchakerian, Marco Rizzi, Sergey Krylov! I think I spent whole afternoons sitting in those classrooms diving, into sharing music and discovering a world that I already felt was mine. In retrospect, Simonide (Braconi) confessed to me that they said to each other: “Who is that boy who stays here all day?”. Of the cello sound listened to as a child, however, I have some memories that are not perfectly defined, but I remember a Triplo by Beethoven with Accardo, Filippini and Maria Tipo and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, which Accardo often invited to the Cremona Festival, and then a concert by Paul Tortelier in Cremona, where he presented and played his Mon Cirque! My parents have always been very passionate about music (they told me I was born on the notes of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater!) And I was lucky enough to be able to go to concerts since I was a child. In particular, my mom loves opera (Mozart and Carmen his favorites!) while my father has always had a great culture of the German instrumental repertoire. For example, it took me, around the age of 12, to hear the Takacs Quartet playing Webern and the Quartet op. 132 by Beethoven and I remember that I was a little bit upset in hearing that these instrumentalists “quarreled” or had real “musical quarrels” on stage, but then I was very intrigued, so much so that, in the early days of my second media, there was not a morning that I didn’t listen to a bit of the Op. 132 before going to school!