Workshop Concert 2013

Ermanno Chiavi Guitars
2013 Workshop Concert in Zurich, on the tenth anniversary of the 13-string Chiavi-Miolin Guitar

by Oliver Primus

It is a Sunday in November in Zurich, and it’s a special event: in the workshop of the guitar-builder Ermanno Chiavi a Jubilee Concert is to take place, in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the 13-string Chiavi-Miolin guitar. On the roof of the building, in which many small, interesting and creative businesses operate, is a glass pavilion, which serves as a canteen and concert hall. It offers a great view over the city, along the railway tracks on which one can take the night train to Lisbon. Out on the terrace a fire blazes, 150 guests are here, the small stage is illuminated by candles. In 2003, following the proposal and wishes of Anders Miolin, Professor at Zurich University of the Arts, the prototype of the 13-string guitar saw the light of day. Ermanno Chiavi built four instruments that were publicly presented at the University. Interest was immediately sparked: not only musicians showed great interest, but also the ETH Zurich, the Technical Universities of Berne (HTI) and Rapperswil (HSR) were carrying out research projects with special focus on the relationship between structure, material, and acoustics. The musical press in several countries began to report on this guitar, and Ermanno Chiavi gave numerous lectures in front of specialist audiences. Subsequently, several works for the 13-string instrument were composed, such as the Quintet for 13 Strings and String Quartet by Martin Derungs which had its premiere in 2007 in the Tonhalle Zurich, played by Admir Doçi and the Galatea Quartet. Two years later, the same composer produced an Opera for Guitar and Orchestra, which was premiered in the Victoria Hall in Geneva, also performed by Admir Doçi and the Swiss Youth Symphony Orchestra. Successive commissions from all over the world enabled constant further development and optimization of the instrument. For this reason, during the Workshop Concert Anders Miolin played the prototype and his duo-partner Luka Stamenkovic played the most recently built guitar. A word about the musicians: Anders Miolin, born in Stockholm, at the age of 15 entered the Royal Danish Music Academy and graduated with four diplomas in Copenhagen, Malmö and Basel. He won first prizes in competitions in Finland, Italy and Martinique. Today, at Zurich University of the Arts he teaches guitarists from many countries. Luka Stamenkovic, born in Belgrade, began to play guitar at the age of eight and soon started to win prizes at several national and international guitar competitions. He has been studying with Anders Miolin since 2010 and attained his bachelor degree with the project “Balkanin Progress”. Two years later he was accepted by the renowned Yehudi Menuhin organization “Live in Music”, and he has performed several benefit concerts. The concert begins at 5 p.m., after instruments in various stages of construction were on display. Ermanno Chiavi opens the evening, the two artists take the stage and play with virtuosity and passion. The audience is particularly moved by the composition “Capriccio for Malala”, which Anders Miolin had composed after a young girl was shot by the Taliban. After the interval Messrs Chiavi and Miolin take the stage and, each from his own perspective, tells the story of the 13-string guitar: What Anders Miolin particularly values are the outstanding tone colours and the new sound-volume that allows the guitar to hold its own with string-instruments. Also, the 13 strings with a much longer reverberation can escape the “prison of six strings”. Ermanno Chiavi gives an account of the long planning-phase, of the many discoveries made during construction, and of the difficult detailed problems and their solutions. During this work he was also building another type of guitar, with six to ten strings, where the sound-hole has been moved more towards the fingerboard. The resonance of the top of the resulting guitar has completely different characteristics and a much longer reverberation. Comparison of the tones of the two instruments – the first and the last to be built – is clearly audible, with Luka Stamenkovic’s guitar sounding warmer and fuller, because of ten years’ further development. He plays two new compositions which are also warmly received by the audience: the piece “Fraumünster” in the presence of the young Japanese composer Kotaro Nishishita, and the piece “Walk Dance” by Miroslav Tadić. The final piece is a duo by Giovanni Battista Marella. The musicians leave the stage after prolonged applause, the bar is once again open, and we can sit together. Outside a night train passes by. (English translation, Tom McClymont)