The Ensemble Locatelli, a group of soloists from the Schola Cantorum of Basel and the choir of the “Secco Suardo” high school in Bergamo have just concluded a beautiful performance in the original language of the “Dido and Eneas”. On the stage many young people, bound by the passion for ancient music. I take this opportunity to interview the cellist of the group, Thomas Chigioni, who this evening, at the harpsichord, has directed Purcell’s work. Thomas, still excited about the success of the performance, talks to me about his family: his grandfather, who at the age of 88 is still dedicated to singing, his father, graduated in piano, organ, composition and choir direction, a flautist sister, a brother and a sister violinists.
How much do you think the family environment in which you grew up has influenced your choice of studying music?
Music has always been a very important part of our domestic life. Since my early years, my father’s students, friends and other musicians have come and entered my house. My father, who in the early years of my life founded his first musical groups, was my teacher of all theoretical and complementary subjects. But I also remember when my grandfather organized bike tours for us nephews: we were often a small group of 3 or 4 bikes and the grandfather taught us to sing “happy songs”, like the final of the Barber of Seville … Then, after the afternoon nap, he let us listen to the symphonies of Beethoven and Mozart, or Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, his favorite. It was therefore inevitable, perhaps, that we all start a musical career.
And why did you choose to play the cello?
I chose it almost by chance. I remember that at 5 years I asked to play the trombone, fascinated by the coulisse, or the electric guitar, but they were too cumbersome for a child like me. The meeting with the cello was casual. My father had organized a musical twinning between the school where he was teaching and a school in Furtwangen, a small Black Forest municipality. At our house we were hosting a boy, Florian, who played the cello, and that filled me with attentions. I became attached to him and so, when my parents asked me what I wanted to play, I choosed the cello.
What are the difficulties and what are the satisfactions for a guy who, like you, decides to dedicate himself to music? And in particular to a repertoire like the baroque one?
The difficulties that a child has to face (I see it also in the students that I have had during these years) are the constancy in the effort and the sacrifice that the study requires. A child who studies music at a non-amateur level lives a different kind of childhood from his peers and, inevitably, this makes him suffer: his companions go to play football, while he has to stay home to play … Moreover, in early years, the study of classical music is often focused almost exclusively on the acquisition of technical skills, and does not offer great rewards. In short, only after having spit blood for years, you finally have a way to fall in love with the beauty that music offers to anyone who knows how to take it. One of the main difficulties for a musician (and his family) is also the expense to be faced to have tools and accessories up to the situation. Who then, like me, after the academic studies on “modern”, decides to specialize on an instrument such as the baroque cello, sees these expenses double. As a result, being able to make one’s passion a trade is a privilege for the few, and after a concert, satisfaction is such that it repays all the efforts and sacrifices made.
After studying in Italy, you decided to go to perfection abroad. You can therefore compare different ways of studying and learning music. Which are, in your opinion, the strengths and weaknesses of the two training systems with which you have faced?