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Interviews Emanuele Quaranta. Photo: Fabrizio Sansoni. Emanuele Quaranta. Photo: Fabrizio Sansoni.

Emanuele Quaranta: leading from a human perspective

The Spanish language, and Italian, are part of this small family called romance languagesderived from Latin, being precisely one of the most similar. Between the two, there is a very high lexical similarity and, beyond science, the Latinity of the countries that have adopted such languages is evident in the way of communicating: gestures go hand in hand with language. Thanks to this, the language barrier between an Italian and a Cuban is not so serious and allows, mixed with a somewhat rudimentary English, to establish a pleasant conversation and even dare to do an interview. 

Opening the program of the Habana Clásica Festival, right on the first note, we come across the baton of the young Italian conductor Emanuele Quaranta. Almost about to start rehearsals for his next performance, with the enthusiasm of someone who knows he is part of a special program, he accepts an appointment and a coffee under the morning sun of the Plaza Vieja, to talk a little about his time on our stages. 

You have come to Cuba as an orchestra conductor, however, you are a graduate of trombone as your main instrument, which has also brought you your greatest successes. Where did you study? Who have been your mentors? 

Brescia is my hometown, a small city in northern Italy, with medieval airs, at the foot of Monte Maddalena. I finished my elementary studies there in 2009, at the Luca Marenzio Conservatory, under the direction of maestro Guido Delmonte. I began my orchestral and soloist career even earlier, collaborating with Italian and French orchestras: Orchestra of Padua, Mediterranean Youth Orchestra of France, Italian Philharmonic, etc.. Thus I complemented my basic studies with some more specialized ones, under the tutelage of renowned instrumentalists such as Christian Lindberg, extraordinary classical trombonist, Michel Becquet, Joseph Alessi and many others. 

After graduating I was admitted to the Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional de Paris, where I studied for a couple of years with Jacques Mauger, a great trombone scholar, pedagogue and soloist of important orchestras, former first trombone of the Paris Opera, with a relevant concert career. I also spent some time under the guidance of Ian Bousfield, first trombone of the London Symphony Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic.

Emanuele Quaranta. Photo: Fabrizio Sansoni.

Emanuele Quaranta. Photo: Fabrizio Sansoni.

However, the trombone will be absent from the concerts in Cuba.

Yes, I have come alone in the role of conductor. At least for this time.

Did this referral to management come with time or was it always planned? 

It was always the plan. I think since my elementary trombone studies, the idea was to drift into conducting. It's what I prefer, actually. I found the right moment after so many specialized studies in trombone, even as a teacher or as founder of my own Brass Band, Mascoulisse Quartet, which I have been regretfully leaving behind to go into my most recent studies. Perhaps it has been my method of searching for a more humanistic way of thinking about music. When I knew I needed to change the course of what I had been doing for decades, I left the trombone to head towards orchestral conducting. I knew it was a specialty that required a high level of discipline, many hours of study, and the utmost dedication. 

I then went to the Accademia Musicale Pescaresse, a school of high training, directed by maestro Donato Renzetti who then, to my surprise, would leave me as his assistant in the period of 2019-2020. Then I would also start as assistant to maestro Sesto Quatrini, collaborating with him on various projects. From these associations I know Marcos Madrigal and, upon receiving the proposal to come as conductor to the Habana Clásica Festival, coinciding with dates that were propitious for me, I decided to come to Cuba for the first time. And here I am.

Do you have any elaborated opinion about Cuban music?

As for popular music, I must say that I have not yet. I have not had the opportunity to attend concerts where you can really distinguish the good music that, it is known, is made in Cuba, from the music that is usually used to attract tourism and that stays in bars and restaurants. As for academic music, I must say that in the last century, until the 1980s, a Cuban orchestra or, failing that, a conductor, could play in the largest orchestras in Europe and parity would be total. However, nowadays, I have been surprised by the great musical quality I have found in Havana, although with a certain time lag. Perhaps I notice a kind of neoclassicism, with extraordinary projection and technique, but I appreciate that it would be good to find what I call "own voice" among the wide range of today's music. I think that, perhaps -and this is just a visitor's opinion-, Cuban academies would have to innovate, reinvent themselves. 

Apart from this, I have come across excellent Cubans, many of them abroad, starting with Marcos Madrigal, and I would like to know a little, if possible, about the usual spaces of good popular music.

The opening of the Festival, the first piece of the program, was under his command. I must say that it was the first time I saw a conductor standing in front of the audience and not with his back to it, and that aroused my attention. Then I realized that there were violas and violins arranged around the hall to create a particular enveloping effect. Tell me about the piece chosen to raise the curtain.

Riflessioni sull'Indifferenzaa composition by the Italian maestro Nicola Sani, who has also been chosen as the Festival's Composer in Residence. Yes, it has also been quite new for me. It is an almost philosophical piece, created to be accompanied by the voice that, with a lyrical sense, intertwines verses of a great variety of poets, Federico García Lorca, Pablo Neruda and others. As the maestro wanted to adapt it for the occasion, the instrument chosen was the flute, for its melodies so similar to the human voice. 

This piece plays a bit with sound metamorphoses, contractions and distensions of the notes, the arrangement of instruments, the silences. I think the best metaphor that an Italian could use is that of pasta: this work is like the previous dough, of semolina mixed with the rest of the ingredients, to which you give a specific shape while you transform it with your own hand. In short, an endearing work. 

Emanuele Quaranta. Photo: Fabrizio Sansoni.

Emanuele Quaranta. Photo: Fabrizio Sansoni.

How was the experience of conducting Niurka González on the flute and, of course, the Música Eterna Chamber Orchestra?

I am certain that this work reached the highest point of its execution thanks to the mastery of Niurka González. I did not know her in person, we had not shared the stage, but I had very good references. And about the orchestra of Maestro Guido López-Gavilán, it is a luxury to be able to count on them.

According to what I have read, his next performance will be on Friday 18, at the Ignacio Cervantes Hall, with a complex program that includes Verdi, Beethoven and Tchaicovsky performed by the Youth Orchestra of the Amadeo Roldán Conservatory. 

It is certainly a complex program. Pieces very different in their very spirit, which, beyond the technical difficulty of their execution, carry a deep understanding of their reasons, a particular feeling. For example, the tragedy of Tchaikovsky's piece, Romeo and Giuliettafollows the line of the literary work. Fantasy, alternations of the typical strength of the composer and the romantic softness of the piece. It begins and ends in a similar way, but with a spirit that distinguishes each movement. Just a few days ago I met the musicians, very young and talented. We have already started rehearsals; the willingness and artistic curiosity is absolute. 

In addition, it is a beautiful room.

That's what I have been able to see. The truth is that I like Cuba, the welcome, the history behind each square, each rock. The contrast and the way in which the musical spirit has survived time. In the Cervantes Hall will be my second and last presentation, the next day I return to Italy, surely with a good memory.

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