Michele Carreca : " I think that the lute,like other musical instruments, takes years to get to performance skill. I always work as much as I can to develop my skills, this is something that takes your whole life,"

From you biography I have learned that you play three musical instruments: the lute, guitar and theorbo. Which of them was the most difficult to learn and how long did it take you to master the performance skills If to speak about each of these instruments?

I do play many lutes: Renaissance, Baroque, Archlute, Theorbo, some early guitars, etc.

When I say “ I play the lute” this means that I am playing one of the instruments of the lutes (and guitar sometimes) “family”.

I think that the lute, like other musical instruments, takes years to get to a performance skill. I always work as much as I can to develop my skills; this is something that takes your whole life.

- You graduated in lute at Conservatorio S.Cecilia, attended numerous master classes with various renowned lute players. Does this mean that the lute has become your favorite musical instrument and overshadowed the rest?

- Yes, I think so.

- Who were your teachers and what knowledge you have received from them?

I began to study the lute with Andrea Damiani, now teacher in Conservatory S.Cecilia, Roma.

Being my first lute teacher he taught me many basis of lute's playing, for instance about taste of the sound, rhythm, phrasing, adherence to the musical (and sometimes poetic) texts, and so on.

Apart from other great lute players with whom I had some useful master classes, I had the luck of following Hopkinson Smith for some years, which gave me completely new inputs.

-What can you tell me about your meeting with Hopkinson Smith? He is considered one of the world's great lutenists. What have you learned from him during his master classes? Do you find this meeting a turning point in your career?

I did meet Hopkinson Smith first time in 2002, in Basel, Switzerland. He gave me a lesson at Schola Cantorum Basiliensis.  After that lesson I wanted so deeply to study with him, but for many circumstances I couldn't try that year to get in the SBC.

I asked him many more lessons after that day and I tried to follow as many public master classes as I could. I had the input of change all my way of studying, beginning from technique, objectivity of self-listening, to get to a strict connection between the characteristics of a musical piece, its composer and the inner meanings and feelings of the interpreter.

Music is not only a matter of styles, techniques, aesthetics of the time during his classes, while of course you're purely making it.

- From the mid 80's, Hopkinson Smith has focused his attention mostly on solo music for early plucked instruments. These include the Renaissance lute, and the baroque lute. Is there any considerable difference in the quality of the sound they produce? Which of these two instruments do your prefer to play?

The Renaissance and the Baroque lute are quite different instruments. The sound is very different, so is the music, the tunings, the number of strings, the technique, etc.

The Baroque lute is an instrument with 11 or 13 double strings, except first two, which means a sound full of resonances and the possibility of an extra-base line in the music.

The Renaissance lutes may have from 6 to maybe 10 double strings (except the first), the sound is considerably different while talking about the 6 coir instrument, which is a very “clean” and “pure” sound.

Then there are archlutes and theorbos about 13-14 strings (both double and single) and completely different sounds, in the middle of the two eras.

What really marks the difference between the instruments of the lute's family is the music written, which may be dedicated to one kind of lute or guitar, talking strictly the idioma of that composer and that instrument.

It's strongly the opposite of standardized musical instruments!

I think I love all the lutes and the guitars. Every time that I choose one repertory I feel fully satisfied of the instrument and the music that I'm playing.

At present you work with the La Selva Ensemble.  Could you, please, tell me something about the most memorable moments of this collaboration? Are there any interesting projects you are working on?

I founded the ensemble La Selva with the recorder player Carolina Pace almost in 2005. It's a kind of open group; we play so many different repertoires with different musicians for each project.

We started with early Baroque instrumental music from Italy, but we developed many programs during these years.

Some of our most great moments where playing in trio for national Italian radio Rai Radio3, at Palazzo del Quirinale (in Rome, it's a Renaissance residence of the Pope nowadays residence of Italian President of Republic), we had concerts in Brasil, Spain, Algery, few weeks ago we had another live at Radio3 studios in Milan...

I'm always very happy when we have a new concert to play!

We are now working to a “dittico” (termin took from picture, it is a composition made of two paintings) on English music, it's called “The English Masters”, we'll play music of J.Dowland and H.Purcell for the Festival Echi Lontani, Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy, 21th & 23th of March 2013.

Our last cd “Divisions and Sonatas” came out in October 2012, it's a work on the duo lute and recorder.

We will record a new title this year, probably on Italian music, it's not yet scheduled.

- Could you tell more in detail about your interest in Early Baroque instrumental Italian music? Who is your favorite composer for the lute of that period of time?

Italian Early Baroque music is charming; you can find in a single 5' piece so many elements: the sacred music, the virtuosity, the dances, the mannerism of the time and frequently it is balanced by contrast.

I always think about the architecture of Rome, the paintings of Caravaggio, as well as the late Renaissance and the forthcoming Baroque peak.

It's all there, in the same time.  

In these years I'm often playing in the concerts the music of G.G.Kapsberger for chitarrone (theorbo) and lute. He is in this moment my favorite lute composer of that time. I did play it for Radio Vaticana in Rome last October; it was a good occasion to see how the things are going between me and his music.

I'm still working on it but I must say that it's so effective on the audiences.

- It is believed that the lute music is intended for a narrow circle of listeners? Do you share this opinion and why?

From historical point of view it is certain that the composers that we know and admire nowadays were employed by the Kings, Princes, aristocrats of that time, for their own pleasure and utility. The sound of the lute itself is full of subtle and beautiful characteristics which may be easily lost in a very big hall.

On the other hand many knowledge and arts once given only to elites are now available for a great number of people :  today an almost normal person can find information, music sheets, recordings, videos just on the net, without moving from home.

I think it is possible that in our time the lute music may be for a considerable audience, theorically.

Lute music moves emotions, like many other genres, so it can definitely work.

-What things, according to you, might increase the interest of modern listeners in the Baroque music?  Are there any measures applied to promote this type of music in your country?

I'm sure that a growing number of people will appreciate Baroque & Early music in the next future.

All mediums can help in promoting Early music, new mediums for instance are great, they can bypass the old medias and stimulate the individual and collective research by the people, once only asked to go to the concerts, buy Lps, read newspapers...

Almost all important concert seasons today are devoting some concerts to the Early music, often it's an orchestra and/or renowned singers and conductors. That should increase and include some “little” music for small ensembles, soloists, corresponding concerts and events for young interpreters and groups living in that specific area, forming new stable groups inside the institutions...

If we look at the whole society, what could possibly make the difference is the teaching the music and the musical instruments in all kinds of schools for the pupils which may ask for it.

In my country we are leaving a bad moment for the culture at every level. Archeological sites, museums, concert seasons, theaters, even the Public Schools, once a source of pride for the country, are under attack by the deceiver politics of “leave-it-to-the-market-it-will-be-fine”. On the other hand the people really need culture and ask for it, so that many artists, teachers, music-lovers, etc. are now working for the music in Italy.

I believe that it should be possible and effective, with a minimum economical support, to create a system between museums, art events, theaters, schools and music festivals for live events, promotional lessons, etc.

Where, if not in Italy?

- What are your creative plans?  Do you plan to continue developing your career as a concert lutenist or want to try yourself as a teacher? 

I have some projects about concerts and recordings; I can just talk now about my concert on J.Dowland on the 21th of March, for His 450th birthday. I'll play some lute music together with songs with the countertenor Victor Soares and that concert will be given in streaming on the web, I still don't have technical details but I'll publish this information on our FB account: www.facebook.com/ensemblelaselva

I have always taught the guitar, since I was maybe 20 years old. I believe that teaching is something different then playing, but it is in some way deeply connected to it. I enjoy a lot teaching, as well as giving concerts.

So my answer is: I'd like to continue with both concerts and teaching in the next future.

- Did you ever receive an offer to give a master class? If so, what knowledge would you like to impart to your students?

I did lessons at DAMS (art, music, and theater department) Università Roma 3; I gave two master classes in the last few years: one in Italy and one in Brazil. In both cases the master class was intended on the interpretation of Early music for all instruments and voices, so I chose to direct the lessons to the most evident characteristics of music and styles proposed by the pupils, the needing for the interpreter to veiculate ideas in the sound and the personal attitudes on the stage. It would have been a bit different for lute players, but not so different. In fact I believe that a master class should give something more than a regular class with the main teacher. It should unveil new ways, points of view and mostly inspire the student to new intensity or directions.

- What would you advise a beginner lutenist?  

To play with other musicians, other lutenists or any instrument or voice, to go to the concerts,  to ask for lessons and auditions, to know as much people as possible with your same passion.

Music is something to share.

There is nothing like hearing someone playing very nice, at your side or in front of you,to inspire your music and your life.


Michele Carreca,

1st of February 2013

Dina Mukhamedzyanova