The art of music
Interview of the master Giovanni Cultrera di Montesano
di Umberto Garibaldi
Internationally renowned pianist but also composer, director and teacher, Giovanni Cultrera of noble origins from Ragusa, comes from the school of Catania Maestro Giuseppe Cultrera and the Soviet musical tradition of Bario Petrushanisky. Graduated in piano and law, Maestro Cultrera has already held over a thousand concerts in the most famous national and European stages and theaters. They savored the music produced by the gentle touch of his hands the audience of the most famous European cities (Moscow, Zurich, Prague, Athens, Bucharest, Berlin, London, Warsaw, Sofia, etc.) coming up to America, Argentina, Japan, Brazil , Australia, Canada and Colombia.
His career has been marked by important awards including, last but not least, the prestigious international “Le Muse” award which he received, in the name of the muse Polimnia, last June 2017 in the Salone dei Cinquecento of Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.
Maestro Giovanni Cultrera currently holds the chair of the principal piano at the “Vincenzo Bellini” Institute of Musical Studies in Catania and in the province of Ragusa he holds the position of artistic director of the concert seasons “Ibla classico international” and “Ibla sacra international “And artistic director of the international concert season” Fondazione Teatro Garibaldi “of Modica.
Master, let’s start to know you better with the most difficult question that can be asked to someone: who is Giovanni Cultrera and how does his passion for music come about?
Giovanni is a lucky traveler who immediately met music at the beginning of his journey, and a long love followed him over time.
Of this I am deeply grateful to my family, to my parents, who, inheriting in turn the dedication and the value of the ascendant generations, they wanted to strongly convey that simple sense of love for all the arts, specifically for music , even more in detail for the classical piano and lyric repertoire. I immediately lived the music as a natural education that completed the dictates offered to a child by the ‘good father of the family’, with the “snack flavored” from listening to the piano of dad and mom. In short, an education that I wish to all children, as a privileged path that leads to excellence in education, that is, love for beautiful and simple things.
Music is considered as the art of sound capable of arousing extraordinary sensations and emotions. What music does Giovanni Cultrera want to convey to his audience?
Yes, it is the art of sound, but it also reveals itself as the art of ‘Silence’, the art of ‘Sensitivity’, art that resounds in our silences of sensibility, art that wants and must give voice to the silences with life energy; our silences thus release sensations, they listen to the charm of the harmonics of sound free to vibrate in the universe and they get excited at the alchemy of the transition from ‘non-sound’ to ‘sound’, just as you get excited in the precise moment in which the first light of the sun rises from the darkness … and in this boundary I believe the direct sensation of musical emotion lies.
My Master Petrushansky taught me that being an artist, trying to be an artist, is equivalent to being a child who has just received an object as a gift and with infinite smiles shows it to everyone; well, even in music you immediately feel the need to share sensations and intuitions to contemplate all together its beauty. I would like to transmit the linearity of the natural musical discourse of the composers, as it was conceived by the absolute genius with absolute philology of the text and stylistic rigor of the time.
Ultimately the goal would be to tune into the listener, animating the apparent dry score, from the algebraic fraction codified with melodic numerator and harmonic denominator in impalpable emotional stargate.
The pianist is an interpreter, a medium, and as a carrier also of limits, but classical music has managed to live for centuries and is destined to last in time for its irrefutable cathartic flavor.
Are there any composers you feel most influenced by and some songs you are particularly attached to?
I attended several masters of the great Russia and I was fascinated by their multi-faceted culture, by their way of impregnating the music of literature and figurative arts; consequently I began to approach and love more and more composers such as Tchaikovsky, Musorgsky, Prokofiev, Rachmaninov, all authors of pages with intense colors. I am strongly connected to Musorgsky’s ‘Pictures of an Exhibition’, a song I have interpreted hundreds of times, a composition that clearly explains the strength, pride, grandeur, history and also the difficulties of the Russian people. I love Tchaikovsky’s lyrics and Rachmaninov’s Sonatas.
I still prefer romanticism and late romanticism, Chopin, Liszt, Schumann, Brahms, without forgetting my iblei baroque births and being influenced by the eighteenth-century style; and then how not to be transported by the linearity of a Mozartian source, or even later, by the very current contrasts that emerge in Beethoven.
The classic can not leave insensitive in my opinion because it accurately reflects our being without problems of time, here is the real relevance of classical music.
A dutiful mention of my love for opera and its excellent Italian Bellini, Rossini, Donizetti, Puccini, Verdi. Here the sublime melodrama reveals its social importance, revealing a timeless reality, combining the timeless lyrical beauty even with some difficult issues of our day, such as violence against women; an opera to enjoy the instrumental timbre and vocal agility, but also to reflect on ethical and social values as messages.
The success of a musician conceals years of hard work that often involves sacrifice or renunciation, to achieve your goals you had to sacrifice or give up something?
Music as any artistic discipline asks, requires; question and command!
Sacrifice is inherent in every form of art, it is an integral part of it; sacrifice as ‘sacer facere’ that is to make sacred, and consequently to engage in music with an approach almost to religious commitment, sincere dedication as when we commit ourselves to bring out all the best of our truths to present them to a creed.
Even the concert I believe is in itself a ritual, a creed or a secular-mystical ritual that begins with the dressing of the artist and the access of the public in the theater. In the first instance I think today that I have done well in the past to be able to renounce ephemeral things and today I perceive them even more ephemeral, and obviously this experience I try to share it with my pupils and with my little children; but then, reflecting aloud, the secret is that you give up something only if this renunciation should please you more, and what is more beautiful as interact with an art?
I learned, thanks to the aforementioned education, that there may be a time for everything and for everyone, and luckily sometimes it is also the Time that knows how to choose for us. For charity, adolescence and its fashions are always rightly lurking, but it is also possible for a young man to knowingly unmask the false myths, stumble or jump.
For this reason, I consider socially and humanly fundamental to study a musical instrument already in primary school, so that the child can discover the magic of playing together in the orchestra, make more and more their own contribution, compare and rediscover an essential part of a whole.
A small regret, however, I always carry it with me, it is a matter of regret of law; despite having passionately put into practice the degree in Law (thesis in administrative on the transformation of lyrical institutions in foundations of private law) with the academic level II Specialistic level in ‘Disciplines musical’ of ‘Law and legislation of the show’, however I wonder how it would have been to practice the legal profession, since music and jurisprudence have many similarities such as interpreting a well codified writing.
What are, if there were, the main difficulties you encountered?
The main difficulties are to be found in the first place in ourselves, which we struggle daily with the symbiotic relationship with the instrument, and like all relationships there are moments of great ‘agreements’ and moments of great ‘dissonance’. We ask the instrument with the hands, the heart and the mind, he responds with the sound and often we are not able to ask the right questions or even understand his answers or his non answers. Being also a physical activity you should never get away from the study sessions, here is the second difficulty understood as finding time and desire.
The concert artist today lives according to the rhythms imposed by society and no longer as in the past when it was possible to allow a proper alienation from everything and had the opportunity to withdraw without external interference; the society, the family, the academic and institutional positions and other memberships require to redesign the concept of time to devote to art.
The study of music requires twice the years that are used in the study of even complex university disciplines, if you had to give advice to a young aspirant what would you suggest?
A musical journey can start as a child, continue in adolescence and continue to university levels, and in fact is a very long but irreplaceable period.
Since the law 508 of ’99 came into full swing, the transformation of musical studies in university has effectively remedied a distinction between traditional universities and musical study. Today the dignity of a degree course leads many young people towards the musical disciplines, and there are many, such as at the AFAM university of Catania, who want to train as concertists, teachers, journalists, critics, operators in the sector, organizers and managers. My advice is obviously to study with passion but above all to follow with confidence the Sicilian genetic patrimony that the whole world envies us and that has already given many positive aspects in national and international competitions, in careers of solo interpreters and in terms of results of excellence.
In the field of piano I am pleased to mention the XXXVI Venice Prize at ‘La Fenice’ which sees all the best graduates of Italian universities compete; it never happened that the podium of such an important prize saw two students of the same origin, in this case the Catania University of Music ‘V. Bellini ‘: Ferro, originally from Gela and my student Ragusa Ragusa (established in the international field) have confirmed the strong gene of the last strip of Italian land and the tenacity in never giving up and never ever.
So my advice is to look into the long time horizon falling in love with their talent, face the particular anxieties of the moment with confidence even before that with study, with optimism even before that with tenacity; on the other hand, the great talent, if any, is like love, omnia vincit!
In Italy we are witnessing a process of “euthanasia of music” because of the crisis that affects, for various reasons, even our theaters, according to you, we can talk about “brains fleeing”?
The career of a concert performer, unlike other professions, allows to move quickly to distant lands and to return to his home, so theoretically a forced “brain drain” could be avoided in this sector. Another real problem, if anything, is to leave Italy to land permanently in other countries in which the musical culture is more exhaustively focused by the institutions and unfortunately we must note that there are many foreign countries where this happens, especially overseas and in East Asia.
The Italian institutions offer on a silver plate heavy difficulties and uncertainties in the music sector, especially today, with the excuse of the crisis, they take away the air to the lyrical institutions, assimilated concert institutions, associations and organisms of music production, suffocating in fact, the most spontaneous organizational yearning or by blocking the ambitions of economic subsidies due to the bureaucracy. The historical transformation of lyrical institutions into foundations under private law in 1996, trying to involve private individuals to increasingly support the costs of lyrical-symphonic foundations, did not take into account the different industrial typologies of the country and the different marches with which they walk some regions especially of the South. The private sponsors are welcome, but I hope the centrality of the state to take into consideration the fact that culture is the best opportunity to grow the GDP of an entire nation.
Indeed the D.L. in 1996 it recognized the legal personality of private law as a body but did not favor the contribution of private individuals with a real tax advantage; in fact it appears penalizing to have recognized in principle only 27% deduction from the gross tax on the contributions of individuals who, instead, with a greater tax tranquility (as happens abroad) would have gone to more substantial donations and to real and their own examples of American patronage.
Such donations would have guaranteed for a long time a higher financial autonomy to the institution-foundation, now in effect a modern entrepreneurial holding company, and therefore the possibility of operating without the nightmare of the constant search for economic resources or of the expected and always delayed state or local contribution, thus favoring the success and a more serene application of the DL 367.
I hope for a reorganization of the lyric-symphonic foundations and an entrepreneurial logic of the management of the theaters with real smart industrial and marketing strategies capable of attracting world cultural tourism, well-known abroad.
I wish the leaders courage in scientific research to produce new works and compositions, which research creating knowledge becomes a cultural heritage at the service of all humanity. Finally, I hope for synergy and collaboration between all the lyrical institutions without excessive ambitions of exclusivity, as rightly prescribed by the D.L. 64/2010.
Tell me your motto with which you often compare yourself with your projects?
A person is worth as much as the things he seeks.
What are your future expectations for musical events and what news do you think of offering to the territory?
As the saying goes, the future is always lurking! I think therefore that we must be ready for the near future, constantly updating ourselves to the progress that it imposes and we must all resort to the most innovative inventions so as not to exclude music from new trends; for example I expect creative efforts to involve Cultural Heritage to host concerts and events, integrating and expanding the cultural offer with the beauty of the sites. A theater outside the theater where the enriching element invests the architecture of the site; we think of our beloved ‘Val di Noto’, one of the largest UNESCO sites in the world and how much value its monuments can give to international cultural life. As a pianist and artistic director I also reflect on the scenic beauty of the ‘Val di Noto’. As an agricultural entrepreneur I follow the evolution of nature, and I have managed events in beautiful farms, wine estates and protected landscape sites, nothing better to enjoy music with nature and the food and wine of the place. I am still personally involved in the creation of innovative accommodation facilities with 360-degree cultural paths and a museum that unites architectural baroque, history of the territory and coordinated musical themes.
You have been awarded the 52nd International Prize ‘Le Muse’ in the name of the muse Polimnia, the first muse of the Peccettum, at the Salone dei cinquecento of Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. One of the oldest Italian awards awarded in the past to Abbado, Muti, Gazzelloni, Oren, Metha, Rota … ‘Academicum’, is worth an honorary degree, what value does it reveal?
At the news the first feeling surfaced was of great pride. This historical recognition wanted to reward not my person, but my person firmly rooted in a splendid and too often forgotten and mortified territory. A land that has accompanied me in all my musical journeys abroad from the Americas to Oceania and that I have always mentioned, and a land always present throughout the development of my projects. And if it is true that style is revealed as what one is in what one does, I realize that I could never grow without the pride of a land that proudly calls its children; this is why this award is of the strength, of the identity, of the tradition and of the history of a territory that loudly calls for the dignity of the Parnassus. We listen to all this voice.
Giovanni Cultrera, how does the magic of music live?
I live the magic of music with the amazement of a happy child who wants to know the trick! Yet there is no trick or deception, only the truth of finding oneself; the magic lies in our feeling good with music and being seduced, not according to mysterious mysteries, but simply because we are music and our nervous system recognizes it.
I agree with Einstein: ‘Music is more fluid and positive than any attempt to explain it’. His question also refers to a conversation after a concert held in Seoul a while ago, when an oriental teacher explained his ecstasy to the Italian theater with all the beautiful orders of boxes and our luck in owning these architectural jewels . He then combined the form of the theater with a honeycomb, the boxes at the cellars, the spectators at the bees, the honey at the Beauty that emanated, and finally the queen music to the queen bee.
Even today, during every concert, the magic, as a sweetener to life, re-emerges from that observation.
Do you have an own dream?
I have many dreams and luckily I also dream of endless “drawers to fill” … My dream is to always be able to offer music in any way, from an actor as a soloist, but also as an entrepreneur of the show tracing my passion as a direction, an artistic direction, infecting the greatest possible number of musical operators with this enthusiasm. For example, I was very excited about being able to bring the opera back to the Teatro Garibaldi of Modica after almost a century and to give life to a theater until then without an organic and varied programming over time. In the same way, I am proud of over a decade of concerts at the Donnafugata Theater in Ragusa with Ibla Classica International, and again with Nonsoloclassica International. So the real dream is to always give a small contribution to make the community live in quality music, and revive the excellent music in the whole community, thus welcoming visitors in the name of art. I prefer all kinds of music and I think that a theater should live all kinds of good music.
How do we end this conversation?
Music is freedom, freedom to choose beauty. We can thus renew the experience of music endlessly, remaining free to experience ever new and unexpected feelings thanks to an increasingly in-depth and reconciling conversation with ourselves.