The musician's success in his own work
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Sergio Calligaris, the artist


Nicolas Slonimsky, "The Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians":
"His playing is distinguished by a romantic élan and virtuoso technique. As a composer, he effectively utilizes romantic and post-romantic styles in a thoroughly contemporary idiom..." [Edition - G. Schirmer, New York, 1991]

Paolo Cairoli, "Il Giornale della Musica", July-August 2011:
«[...]he can put his knowledge of the technique of the instrument at disposal of a personal artistic taste, strictly binding these two different poles.
[...]the most peculiar substance of the composer's language, that always swings between Dionysian and Apollonian.
[...]the harmonic research, always rather refined, strictly conducted within a tonal language and developed thanks to the deep knowledge of the piano technique.
[...]a long performing habit, that makes Calligaris one of those composers who always write "in favour" of the instrument, and never against.»

Richard A. Kaplan, "Fanfare", 18th October 2010:
"I would describe the music as freely atonal, although there are certainly frequent vestiges of tonality within a basically dissonant context."
"Calligaris definitely has something to say."

Luca Segalla, "Musica", October 2010:
"A brillian though not trascendental virtuosism, because the communicative instinct leads Calligaris to exploit every expedient of the keyboard to seduce the listener, without really wearing out the performers. To whom it is requested, anyway, an excellent technique."

Michele Gioiosa, "Musica e Scuola", 15th December 2009:
"[...]his music, after the Poem Opus 49, has become more rarefied, dense of spirituality and of more difficult performance, given the strict counterpoint that pervades the composition in any step."

Luca Segalla, "Musica", October 2009:
"It has to be nevertheless pointed out that even in his most brilliant works Calligaris remains faithful to the principle of the cantabile mood. This is an absolute element of his style."

The Cristofori Foundation: Martin Berkofsky interviews pianist Alessandra Pompili, 28th September 2009:
"[...]I was a student of Sergio Calligaris at the Conservatorio Casella (L'Aquila): he was the one who taught me to think and ponder every single note within the score and make it meaningful. At the beginning I found such an approach very traumatic: when I would finish practicing my head was on the point of bursting. With time, however, I became accustomed and the habit of concentrating turned into second nature.
[...]With his usual generosity, he still gives me suggestions and indications every time I put up a new programme.
[...]MB: 'You have been performing works by Sergio Calligaris, a fascinating composer whom we should all know better. Could you tell us something about him?'
AP: Calligaris was my teacher at the Conservatorio and is the one with whom I never lost touch. As I said before, we still manage to meet during the year to talk and make music. In L'Aquila he taught piano, but the composer's side was never completely overshadowed by the performer. Thus I remember witnessing the composition and the rehearsals of the Piano Concerto op.29: Calligaris would play fragments of the work in the breaks between students. I really already knew the concert by heart when the time came for the actual performance. Now that I am a performer of his music I feel grateful for all his work and teaching of the past years.
Calligaris is an extremely meticulous composer, and this is reflected in his music. Nothing is improvised and unplanned: although his inspiration is extemporaneous, this is then channeled through a very rigorous and complex compositional technique. Whatever work you pick from his catalogue you find that the attention to the form is always there (and it could not be otherwise, since he was taught composition by a student of Paul Hindemith).
I find one of the most fascinating characteristics of his music to be the balance between the freedom and liberty of inspiration and the logic and rigor of the form. The two blend and mould each other without constraints, and the final result is absolutely captivating.
Contrary to what sometimes happens with contemporary music, I find his works to be received enthusiastically. Although his music is atonal it often gives the impression of leaning around some sort of gravitational centre, and this - I think - is another key element which is much appreciated."

Carla Di Lena, "Il Giornale della Musica", September 2009:
«Given that I studied with a Paul Hindemith's pupil, I use a polytonal language with a preference for the harmonies of fourths[...]. Their use under various forms can remind Skrjabin also. I cannot deny that, almost unconsciously, my familiarity with the piano repertoire emerges in my music, it is a heritage one cannot leave apart.
[...] The sense of form is inborn in me, so as I believe in great themes. This does not mean easy themes, rather than themes that have the capacity to be remembered. This always bearing in mind that in my music every bar has a counterpoint purpose.
[...] I love classical ballet very much, also because I belong to that world on my mother's side.»

Michele Gioiosa, "Musica e Scuola", 15th November 2007:
"[...] Since a long time, by now, Calligaris has spent his summertime surrounded in the solemnity of the mountains and in the beauty of nature, joined to the prayer. There the themes that will be then developed and will take form in his compositions are conceived."

Luca Segalla, "Musica", June 2007:
"There is a constant that can easily be found in Sergio Calligaris' work [...] and it is an immediate eloquence that has a sure appeal to the listener. Immediacy is not equal to simplicity, because the composing means used by the italian-argentinian composer can be even very complex, but a strong communicative tense. His music arises from his need to make himself understood by the listener, before that from a reflection on the form.[...] he presents a dense writing, both on the couterpoint and on the timbre levels [...]."

Stefano Ragni, Giornale dell'Umbria, 27th June 2007:
"One of the most interesting musicians who maintan a more than traditional relationship with composing. Gifted with an extreme fantasy and a consolidated ability of creative organization, the composer of Argentinian origin still writes for a five-line stave densely tonal, linking to a thread which joins him to the beginning of the Twentieth Century, without traumatic breaks. Music trusting in communication, propositive message under the mark of a sound making which still gives emotions and invites to particular meditations."

Michele Gioiosa, "Musica e Scuola", 15th May 2007:
"The piano has always an active part and the instrument with which it converses becomes part of a rigorous and extraordinarily expressive counterpoint."

Angelo Foletto, "Suonare news", March 2007:
"[...] a composer and pianist who devoted himself to the composition with continuity, remaining faithful to an inspiration without lexical contortions. An author that can be appreciated at the first listening, able to alternate expressive moods and being happy in mixing [...] technique expertise and free immagination, under the mark of a straightforward eclecticism."

Fiorella Sassanelli, la Repubblica, 14th March 2007:
"Rigour and passion, both nouns [...] contain the artistic horizon of the italian-argentinian composer Sergio Calligaris[...]. In his music, made of primordial passion alternated to a craft rigour where there is space even for elegy and lyricism[...]. All his works[...] demand a technical and expressive deep commitment to make the most of Calligaris' sophisticated taste of harmony."

Antonio Tinelli, "Fax", 27th January 2007:
"A music full of impressions, atmosphere and emotions."

Antonio Galanti, Suonare News, December 2006:
"Sergio Calligaris, Argentinian pianist and composer naturalized Italian, is one of the most appreciated contemporary authors."

Michele Gioiosa, Musica e Scuola, 15th December 2006:
"[...]moments of high poetry after dramatic and passionate episodes: a feature of the Calligaris' style."

Dismamusica Magazine, 30th September 2006:
"Sergio Calligaris' personality is appreciated all over the world by virtue of his great talent as pianist, teacher and composer."

Michele Gioiosa, "Musica e Scuola", 15th December 2005:
"It does not occur very often that performers love the music of a contemporary composer and play it all over the world; it often occurs, instead, with Sergio Calligaris' music. Hundreds of musicians play his music and thousands are the performances of his music, right because Calligaris' style is immediate, passionate, virtuosistic and melancholy, characteristics that both performers and audience understand in the most natural and simple possible way."

Roberto Piana, "NonSoloPiano", 2002:
"The Poetic of a Composer is investigated, codified and explained by scholars. Seldom are style and motivations so clearly expressed by the composer himself as it occurs in Sergio Calligaris. The enthusiasm of his tone, the clearness of his opinion are splendid and precise anticipation of what one can subsequently find out in his works.
There's something in his music of absolutely fortunate and winning, a fundamental element Calligaris cares about: communicativeness. Calligaris expresses and the listener understands. A fact, nowadays in the world of Art, really singular and extraordinary. Therefore, it's not surprising that Calligaris, in spite of his also eminent colleagues, is a musician particularly beloved by audience and often performed.
To define Calligaris' style with just one term, I believe would mean to run the risk to fall into a big misunderstanding better to clarify: Calligaris isn't a neo-romantic and I believe he doesn't even love being defined this way. Calligaris is Calligaris and, for those who love labels, he might be better defined as neo-classic.
On the contrary, what immediately surprises and reassures is the unity, the stylistic coherence since his first works up to his recent Sonata for clarinet and piano Op.38 dedicated to Vladimir and Dimitri Ashkenazy. A style that enrich itself with new elements but never loses its roots and always remains recognizable.
In Calligaris, a particular harmonic sensitivity is immediately apparent, which leaves great space to polytonal inventions. Tonality, intended as an absolute value, is never betrayed but it doesn't even prevent from audacious digressions and expressive freedom. The tonal chord doesn't lose its restful value in Calligaris, but it's never used without a specific expressive aim. It's appropriate to say that the chord, or better the harmony, in Calligaris becomes colour. And it wouldn't be improper to define Calligaris as a musician of colours. But behind an apparent anarchic freedom there actually is a strong severity. Rigours and clarity of form that make Calligaris a neo-classic musician.[...]
In the current musical panorama, Calligaris asserts himself as an artist of considerable importance and interest as well as a man of expressive richness and clear intellectual honesty."

Roberto Prosseda, "www.hi-figuide.com", 2002:
"[...]a personality of remarkable interest in the field of today's music. In fact, his artistic itinerary has developed in anything but conventional way.
[...]thanks to his wide performing experience, he has been able to characterize a piano writing always very effective and of great expressive charm.
[...]Calligaris uses always a strongly communicative language. He best exploits the dynamic and colourful resources of the instrument, referring to the pianistic tradition coming from Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev, of which he further develops the effectivness of writing and the timbre variety.
Calligaris' poetic works on strong expressive contrasts and avails itself of dilated and enchanted atmospheres, often alternated to moments of deep passionality. He's basically a romantic composer, in the sense that his music never gives up spontaneity of emotional communicativeness, therefore emerging as very natural and direct. Moreover, this doesn't exclude a careful form and couterpoint study, testifying to his severe training.
[...]one of the most sincere composers of the current musical panorama: outside fashions and artificiality, Calligaris can once again make us feel genuine emotions."

Enzo Restagno, "Stampa Sera":
"…a composer of class… music of dense texture, sustained by great melodic invention and by exceptional rhythmic energy…"

Luis Carlos Badía, conductor:
"It was something really very important to meet Sergio Calligaris, one personality, one artist at the highest world levels, so much that his works are performed by unquestioned artists, for example like Vladimir Ashkenazy."

Elide Bergamaschi, "la Voce di Mantova":
"What do you ask your performers, when they approach one of your compositions?"
The answer is, in the bud, all the essence of Calligaris, his latin soul, his unconditional yes to life and to music:
- I ask them to enjoy themselves, to feel on themselves all the freedom with which I wrote these pages. I ask them to deeply love and communicate this emotion also to those who listen them. No more demands.

Enrico Cavallotti, "Il Tempo":
"It is very rare for a figure as classically elegant, composed and yet impassioned as Sergio Calligaris to appear on the contemporary music scene.
His works live to-day's experience; they reflect to-day's great poetic and aesthetic crises as well as the confusion surrounding contemporary linguistic identities. His music, it is true, does not shy away from the frey, from past memories or from the left-over ideals of a lost harmony and a disenchanted, biting, even hostile method of composition. But even so, Calligaris' mode of expression manages to find a peaceful compromise between to-day's harshness and the "utopia" of yesterday. The Romantic and Late Romantic traditions still speak to us with freshness brio and the astonishing pleasure of something "new" from the pages of Calligaris' works; at the same time, the difficult reality of present finds a sort of comforting, encouraging element in that affectionate legacy.
This is the source of the exceptional serenity of Calligaris' opus. Its nourishment comes from its cultural roots - just as important as a natural mother - left open to mediation and to the critical acceptance of the here-and-now. Calligaris does not try to hide the quiverings of emotion or the wide range of pathos; he rather arranges them in a rational structure where knowledge and technical know-how are balanced against the shiver of enthusiasm. In this way, we can say that Calligaris embodies something from Brahms and from Berg both."

Virgilio Celletti, "Suono":
"Pianist Sergio Calligaris could be described as a character of the past who is still living in the present time.
The image of the composer-interpreter, Paganini permitting, is linked to that small stage which is the piano, untenable tribune of ideas and experiences, of thoughts and musical events. But, above all, the pianist-composer image is a figure going back to a more or less remote past. The last conqueror of the general public in this way was, at the beginning of our century, Sergej Rachmaninoff, epigone of F. Liszt and F. Chopin. Today the situation is developing in a different way. Reached the watershed, most of the musicians choose between one or the other "career".
Calligaris gives us the chance to savour a world that seems incompatible with nowadays world, and he offers us at least two starting-points of incontrovertible validity: to give the space to a particular type of creativeness which lives together with a personal enjoyment of interpretation, and to write at the same time a kind of music that winks to the past without giving up to savours of new, of technical evolutions, of widely eloquent originality.
The CD we are presenting (Sergio Calligaris Composer and Interpreter - Ares) is a "résume" of this all, and hides a touch of provocation if we observe that "the others", which means the authors that Calligaris performs in this CD before putting forward his own music, are by chance Chopin and Rachmaninoff. We could explain it as a sign of humilty if we didn't have the opportunity to remark the extreme concentration and the accuracy in the phrasing of each performance.
The image of Calligaris as a composer would require a longer speech, not only for the considerable amount of his own artistic production, but also for its interest, for the richness of its subjects and even for its different types of compositions (including pianistic, symphonic, sacred, chamber and ballet music). A meaningful summary is offered by the second part of this CD: it's a "panorama" based on rich and graceful episodes always open to melody or vehemency, a "nuance" or a clean cut, a remembrance or the absolute new, In short, a landscape for music itself. The author's imagination appears both in composing and in orchestration, with combinations which can always offer new ideas and incentives.
The pianist-composer of the past-times emerges also in the structure where poetry and didacticts live together or in the taste of the transcription, where Calligaris gives life to those authors revisited with the chrisms of his own poetry."

Michelangelo Zurletti, "La Repubblica":
"A composer works mainly with his own materials: this is the minimum of coherency that can be asked of him.
Sergio Calligaris declared what his were right from the first item of his production "Renzo's Piano Notebook" (this is his op.7, but in many aspects it may be regarded as his first work): the interval of fourth, chromaticism and rhythmic ostinato. The elements preferred must be included in designs of severe counterpoint, encompassed in most graceful, singing, melodic lines. In his favourite field of piano music, moreover - and this is quite normal, Calligaris being a pianist before being a composer - there is one further predilection: alternated octaves, preferably inserted in very wild runs.
The composer's twin souls, the elegiac and the dithyrambic, gaze at each other from a distance, never meeting, although both are nourished by the same substance. On the one hand the discretion and the calm, dreamlike development of the "Three Madrigals", on the other hand, the wild beating of drums that starts the ferocity of the "Requiem". Intermediate ways are excluded. The "Notebook" is indicative in the clearcut opposition of the two levels: two dithyrambic pages against eight elegiac ones. Not one of the ten numbers mingles the composer's two souls.
There is just one feature, in ten years of composing, that Calligaris cannot count among those to which his coherency is due: being untopical.
His precise, clear, "cantante" themes could have made him appear so ten years ago. Today the annals of history include him simply among the many who salvage some slice of the past: but they give him a singular right of primogeniture. It is not only his liking for singing, or fondness for tonality; it is his drawing on clear sentiments, his constancy in not failing back in the face of communication devoid of complexity, and indeed encouraging it.
The complexity of certain pages is only apparent: once one has identified the module which, repeated in long progressions, determines the ostinato, and with its phonic weight and its riot of alternated notes determines the technical frenzy, the clear, simple, even severe structure of the music appears evident. And in the end precisely that basic severity is the element that resolves the dialectic of the two extreme expressions, the elegy and the dithyramb, as the only two possible epiphanies of materials chosen and investigated all life long."

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Edited by Renzo Trabucco: Page updated to 02/10/2011
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