andrea dieci guitar masterclass at livorno music festival

Interview with Maestro Andrea Dieci: from Training with Oscar Ghiglia to Professorship

We had the pleasure of interviewing Maestro Andrea Dieci, who will hold his guitar masterclass at the Livorno Music Festival from August 7th to 13th. In this interview, we will revisit some significant moments of his career, listen to reflections on his teaching approach, and how to deal with stage fright. 

Maestro Dieci, during your training, you studied with renowned guitarists such as Julian Bream and Oscar Ghiglia. Are there any teachings from those years that still influence your current study and approach to the instrument?

Certainly, yes, there are many teachings from both of these instructors that accompany me in my daily practice. In particular, I must say, the teachings I received from Oscar Ghiglia, who was my teacher for many years, for about eight years, so, a decidedly long period. First, the advanced courses, then I also had an experience at the Basel Academy where I studied with him, practically at the pace of one lesson per week for three years. Among the things he left me, it may seem perhaps trivial, but in my opinion, it is the deepest, is that he taught me to listen, not to accept from myself anything less than the best I could do, to have an approach to music based primarily on understanding, which then, naturally, must transform into expression. These are probably the most important teachings I received from him.

As for Julian Bream, I cannot call myself his student, I only had two lessons with him during a masterclass he held in Florence in 1994. Despite this, the encounter with a musician of such caliber, with such a strong personality, had a truly remarkable impact on my formation. His approach to sound, to timbre, is something I will never forget, also because during the lesson he played, he played continuously. So, it’s something that I really, how can I say, experienced firsthand, a very intense experience; that too gave me a lot to think about for years to come and I would say even today, he has always been a role model for me, a great source of inspiration.

During your career, you have won several first prizes in international competitions, what advice would you give to young musicians who are preparing for an audition or an important competition?

This is a very difficult question because competitions have changed a lot since I participated in them today; there were many fewer back then. I believe that it is important to develop one’s personality, and I think that, nowadays, the risk is towards a standardized way of playing. So, for young musicians preparing for auditions or competitions, I would say to choose a suitable repertoire, suitable for their way of playing, their personality, their character. Not necessarily seeking out competition pieces because this leads to choices, sometimes forced, towards a repertoire that doesn’t feel like one’s own. At the same time, I would say to invest in what are one’s strengths, one’s individuality. This is an aspect that, at least for me, when I happen to be on the jury in competitions, I like to see in the contestants.

Of course, each competition is unique, and it’s impossible to give valid advice on the right choices to make to participate in a competition. Obviously, maximum preparation of the repertoire, I take that for granted, yes. Certainly, there is a very high technical preparation, but musicality is lacking. Yes, sometimes there is a feeling that there is great technical security that hides, however, a substantial misunderstanding of the musical material. I repeat, good technique is necessary, I would even take it for granted since the level is undeniably very high today among young musicians, and young guitarists. But what interests me a lot is perceiving in the young performer a well-formed musical idea, a thought that also has its own physiognomy, its own originality in some way.

What is your relationship with stage anxiety and fear, and how has this changed over the years?

It has changed… I remember when I was very young, my very first experiences in public (I started performing concerts very early, around 13-14 years old, although they were obviously very sporadic experiences). Well, I remember that at the time I didn’t experience performing in public as something particularly strong from the point of view of my emotional reaction, it was almost like a game. Growing up, as the years passed, maturing, I felt the concert much more. I wouldn’t call it anxiety, it’s a form of apprehension, a desire to do well, first of all for myself, but then also as a form of responsibility towards those who listen to me. I have definitely learned to manage it, and it’s part of the experience, it’s a part I wouldn’t honestly give up. I believe I have learned over time to transform this sensation into something that becomes a catalyst for concentration, it helps me to regain extreme concentration when I am in public, which is also what sometimes allows spontaneous and beautiful musical ideas to arise in the moment. So, it makes every experience unique. So, I live with it, it’s something that I believe can never be completely eliminated. And it’s okay like that.
It essentially comes from the awareness of the difficulty of what we are doing, and of the responsibility we have, it comes from the desire to do well. When you are very young, you don’t perceive all of this, but with time, yes. So I would say that yes, it’s a sensation that I know well, that has been with me for many years, but with which I live very serenely.
I have also learned over time not to live with the anxiety of making a mistake if it happens, patience. Nothing serious, well, you also need, in my opinion, to learn to live serenely with the live public experience, which by its nature has different characteristics compared to, for example, recording. I like more today, perhaps, than before, to take risks, when I perform in public.

Certainly, and speaking of recordings, you have recorded several CDs in your life, has there been a recording that really put you to the test?

Yes, more than one, I must say.

There, mistakes are not allowed

Well, there, mistakes are not allowed, but there is obviously the possibility of repetition until one is satisfied. One of the most demanding albums I have recorded is certainly the one dedicated to Hans Werner Henze’s Music for Solo Guitar. Yes, in particular, the two sonatas from the Royal Winter Music cycle and the Drei Tentos; the two sonatas are colossal works whose total duration approaches one hour and are very, very complex, not only technically but also as expressive language which has many references to theater, as they are sonatas based on Shakespearean characters portrayed in a series of movements. This was certainly a very demanding job.

More recently, last year, I recorded with my esteemed and dear colleague Piercarlo Sacco, a violinist; I recorded a triple CD dedicated to the works for violin and guitar by Ferdinand Rebay, an Austrian composer from the first half of the 20th century, who is now the subject of investigation and rediscovery, especially by guitarists because he wrote a lot of music for and with the guitar. Well, it was a truly enormous task both in finding all the repertoire and revising it because not all of his music works naturally on the guitar. Studying it together and recording it was really a very, very tiring and demanding job, but we are very satisfied with the results.

This is not your first year coming to hold the masterclass at the Livorno Music Festival, what lessons do you hope to convey to the students of your masterclass this year?

This is not the first year, it will be the seventh. What lessons will I convey? Well, of course, the lessons will be tailored to the needs of the students who will be there. Sometimes the level is quite heterogeneous, and therefore, obviously, an advanced student, perhaps already at the end of their studies, needs to deepen certain aspects related precisely to the understanding of music, and interpretation. A student still in the early years of study needs more attention to what can be aspects related to the relationship of the body with the instrument, generally what we call “technique.” My teachings move obviously within these two areas with a certain flexibility depending on my interlocutor.

I never like to talk about technique disconnected from the musical aspects that technique entails, but sometimes it is necessary to talk about it. What I always try to do is to work on the student’s personality in a very respectful way. I find this a very valuable element when there is already a well-formed point of view in the student, and then it is a matter of helping to develop it and to highlight one’s own personality in the most effective way through the repertoire presented in the lessons.

You also mentioned posture. Sometimes we find ourselves in front of talented students but with little bodily awareness. Have you ever encountered such a situation, and if so, how do you manage to help the student without discouraging them…to say “Oh, I have to start over because I have a wrong posture, I don’t feel my shoulders when I play…”

I have encountered this situation very often and I still do. This is a very common problem, and I believe that it is an area in which it is particularly difficult and delicate to act because it has a lot to do with sensations as well. So what I try to do in these cases is to help the student to bring the gestures needed to play back to gestures that are as natural as possible for the hands and body. Sometimes we forget in playing the naturalness of the gestures we have in everyday life and we tense up, working practically only from the wrists down. Instead, I believe that good technique involves a taking of awareness, that it is the whole body that plays. Every segment of our body is connected, and to play with the best result and the least effort, without getting tired, without getting tendonitis or various pains, it is important that the whole body participates in the right way. This is something we do without thinking when, for example, we bend down to pick up a fallen object or to look at someone next to us, we turn our whole body, not just our head.

Well, when we play, we forget about these basic movements that our body does naturally, we get stuck, and we make only the hands work. Sometimes, this, even in the belief that by doing so we save movement and play better. Actually, this opens the door to a whole series of physical problems that I have often had to deal with with students. In short, especially now that we are teaching in conservatories, where we deal with high-level training, so with students who come already prepared, already trained by other teachers sometimes with very difficult repertoires, not supported by conscious technique.

We give an appointment to all the guitarists at the Livorno Music Festival from August 7th to 13th with Maestro Andrea Dieci

We remind you that all Livorno Music Festival students can participate in the selection to play with the masters on the festival stage, and that some instrumentalists will be able to participate in the selection to play as soloists with the Mascagni Conservatory Orchestra in the concert on September 1st, 2024, scheduled in the program of concerts of the XIV edition of the Livorno Music Festival. All information is available on the dedicated page Prizes and Competitions


Follow us on our social media platforms, Instagram and Facebook, to keep up and not miss any updates!