Now, I’ve got your attention, let me share some news about a true legend of the six string fingerboard. A new museum for guitar lovers, and fanatics like me, has opened in Italy—the ‘Casa Museo Mauro Giuliani.’ This is an extremely important centre to learn more about the life and times of the guitar virtuoso, Mauro Giuliani. It is brilliant and of much interest to all us ‘musos’, who are are seeking as much information about every aspect of music, as is possible. In my personal case, I’m a little bit like a ‘musical sponge’ soaking up as much info as I can on musicians, both past and present. Yeah, true, I am a self confessed nerd, geek, whatever, but I love music, old or new—truly fabulous stuff ignites the heart and brain cells, in equal measure.
Giuliani was a true master of the guitar, and the equivalent of a ‘rock god’ of the 19th century, and possibly one of, if not the most, famous guitarists in the world at that time. Over a career spanning many years, he gave numerous performances around Europe, and included many of his own compositions in his concerts, which were highly regarded then, and are now again beginning to be much appreciated by many players, students and professionals alike.
History can give us all a slightly different perspective on an artist and his works, we’ve seen this many times over the years: retrospective books, re-issue album collections, and TV documentaries. There are many recordings and publications now available of his works, that are performed by beginners learning the classical guitar and also the hardened professional concert artists, who, given the amount of dedicated practice to learn a work in limited time scale, don’t waste time on anything not worth the effort, which reinforces my point. He is also often remembered for helping to establish the guitar as a solo instrument, alongside colleagues such as, Fernando Sor, Ferdinando Carulli and Matteo Carcassi. It may be fair to say, that without his musically creative output, superb teaching, and compositions, the opportunities for both the modern acoustic guitar and its performers to develop, would be slightly lacking now.
In his performing career, he helped develop the standard tuning and the actual shape of the guitar that we now take for granted. The developments were helped along by the tenacity of individual performers/composers, such as Giuliani, but their work was often frustrated at the time, as the guitar was not always welcomed as a ‘real’ instrument. It was often confined to the salon, or drawing room, and used for light entertainment in the houses of the rich and influential. Also, there had been a massive boom in the repertoire of music for violin, piano and other instruments. Sales of these grew at a rare old pace, it has to be said, and left behind the quiet, delicately constructed guitar.
Mauro Giuliani’s descendent, Nicola Giuliani, had the vision to create this collection, and has opened up the new museum, Casa Museo Mauro Giuliani’ in Bisceglie, in the region of Puglia, on the beautiful Adriatic coast of Italy. Here his ancestor’s life and music is brought to the fore once more, and is definitely a project of love for the man; a legacy for all lovers of the guitar.
A great advocate of Giuliani, Nicola has written a number of books already about his illustrious namesake, including, ‘a septa cuerda: Vida Narrada De Mauro Giuliani’ (The Sixth String: The narrated life of Mauro Giuliani), which was launched recently at the International Petrer Festival in Alicante.
Amongst the terrific collection of artefacts, including manuscripts, another must see is the collection of the maestro’s guitars, including a very early, slim wasted instrument, built in 1804 by the noted Neopolitan guitar maker, Gennaro Fabricatore. This is purportedly the actual favoured instrument used for many virtuoso performances, and built especially for him. This guitar maker is also credited with formulating the finalised tuning of the modern guitar too. A unique collection of artefacts of the genius—his life and music are covered equally in the building—allows us to peek behind the legend that is the 19th century king of the guitar, Mauro Giuliani.
In the birthplace of Giuliani, imagine you’re walking slowly around the museum, taking in the atmosphere of the environs of a great artist, seeing genuine personal and professional collections of instruments, music manuscripts, paintings—the list is amazing. Then you step outside into the Italian sunshine, before heading into town for a glass of vino—all this with the memories of a great guitarist and beautiful harmonic and melodic music, spinning around inside your head, like an hypnotic ear worm; what’s not to like? What a way to spend an afternoon—trust me—I’m a composer! Peter Byrom Smith