HAPPENED TODAY - On July 28, 1741, the violinist and composer Antonio Vivaldi died in Vienna

Thomas Chigioni (2)

In fact, after studying at the Milan Conservatory, I am now following the courses of the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, which hosts students from all over the world. Of course, now the Italian school system is formally uniform to other European academies, but I have noticed many differences between Italy and Switzerland, especially in the teaching organization. One of the strengths of Italian Conservatories is, undoubtedly, the attention focused on the main subject, which leads students to have a high level of technical mastery of their instrument. In my opinion, a little more fragile is the link between the main subject and the complementary subjects, which in Italy often seem to compete with one another to be more important than the others, instead of trying to create interdisciplinary links. Perhaps because of this, these subjects rarely leave a significant trace of the student’s training path. In Basel, on the other hand, all subjects seem to me to be complementary to each other in the true sense of the word: they try to enrich you without stealing too much time and without losing sight of what your instrument is and what your aspirations are. The courses of harpsichord, basso continuo and song for example, in my case, in the weekly lesson plan, take up only half an hour. Another difference I noticed is the relationship with the teachers. While in Italy there is a certain distance between teacher and student, and a tendency to mythologize the teacher, in Switzerland the relationships are much more informal, and it seems quite normal to give the “you” even to that which gives you lesson a few weeks after directing the Berliner. In summary, in my opinion, in Switzerland at the center of the educational path there is the student and he alone (with merits and defects of this choice), while in Italy there is the system, to which the student must adapt.

In your relationship with the teachers who have followed you so far, what were your main difficulties? Which one, or which of your teacher (s) has most influenced your training?
Perhaps it would be more interesting to ask the teachers who followed me what their difficulties were with me … In my first years of study my motivation was fluctuating, and Marcella Moretti, who was my teacher before admission to the Conservatory, worked hard to make me study with perseverance and passion. I was very lucky in the Conservatory in Milan where, thanks to the loving care of Nicoletta Mainardi, with whom I have always had a wonderful personal relationship, I was always able to feel accompanied step by step in my every decision. It was she who supported my desire to study the viola da gamba by contacting Nanneke Schaap, the person who first opened my eyes to the indissoluble link between music and speech, and led me to discover some of the absolute masterpieces of Baroque: Membra Jesu Nostri by Buxtehude, and Bach’s Passions. When I realized that I wanted to seriously undertake the study of ancient music, Professor Mainardi suggested I study with Cinzia Barbagelata, Emilia Fadini, and especially Roberto Gini (absolute thickness musician, from whom I learned a deep respect toward the score and research of the true, or at least of what is closest to it) and finally Marco Testori, excellent teacher able to combine both the technical and the interpretative aspects, decisive in motivating me to the choice of specializing on the baroque cello and my guide for the admission to the Schola Cantorum of Basel. And now, for three years, I’ve been studying with Christophe Coin and Petr Skalka, two superlative cellists, who are poles apart as a teaching methodology, which allows me to get the best out of each of them. I have to do a special mention for Giorgio Paronuzzi, my basso continuo teacher at the Schola Cantorum, who encourages me to always go beyond my limits: he, too, certainly belongs to the masters I owe more to. So how do I owe so much to the teachers of related subjects that I follow in Basel (Florian Vogt, Johannes Menke, Kate Dineen, Markus Hunninger), and also figures that have not been properly my teachers, but from which I learned a lot: Andrea Marcon, Vaclav Luks, Marco Pace, Nicola Moneta … however the teacher who formed the most was my father, Francesco, with whom I learned the love of music to 360 °, and with whom I deepened the study of harmony and the history of music. If today I can aspire to live out of my passion and enjoy every note I play, it is thanks to him.

In the student teacher relationship, you learn more by listening to a theoretical explanation or by listening to the teacher playing?
I think that, in order to answer this question, it is always necessary to consider the student, his characteristics, his interests, his different reactions to different cognitive stimuli. For many years my relationship with teachers has been based more on verbal communication and on the discussion of the piece dealt with. With my current teacher, the teaching method is based almost exclusively on the teacher’s observation, and to a lesser extent on the conversation. Personally I think that a good compromise between the two opposites is the ideal: if one limits himself to playing the passage, the student will tend to mimic or imitate the master’s interpretation. On the other hand, if you limit yourself to a verbal explanation, the risk is not to be concrete enough and not to get the core of the discourse to the student.

[to be continued ⇒]