During my teaching experience at WKMT, I recently had the great honour to study and perform one of Gisela`s creations “Phantasy for Violin and Piano op. 28”. My partner in crime was Hitomi who enthusiastically took the challenge. Having the composer attending the rehearsals was a great advantage as we asked many questions about the interpretation of the piece and the story behind its composition.
Gisela studied composition in Argentina where she graduated with Honours at IUNA's Music Department (National University Institute of Arts). I was impressed by the Argentinian highly selective musical education in which only few gifted people gained access to IUNA, how competitive and demanding is the environment which lead to the surprising figure of one people graduated in composition per year. No doubt that Gisela knows her business and her impressive ability to compose in any style and “alla maniera di” – the same way as Bach, Mozart, Chopin, Debussy, Bartok - allows her now to break the rules.
“If you can compose in any style, form and you know the rules, then you can break them to create your own style. First build strong foundations, make sure you know how the great composers created their masterpiece and afterward you have the tools to create your style”.
My attentive friend Hitomi spotted an usual spelling of the title “Phantasy” and not Fantasy as we are all used to write it. That caught my attention and suddenly it reminded me my teenage time at a Grammar school in Italy where I was reading Ancient Greek. “Fantasy” is composition form based on freedom in which rubato, tempo changing, ornamentation, improvisation patterns are key elements. Composer and performer are free to express their imagination. In this specific case, the word Phantasy recalled the world of Phantoms, Ghosts, Phantasmagoria, something transcendental that we cannot explain with words. Hitomi and me, decided that our interpretation of the piece is a journey of a human being discovering himself through meditation. The piece starts in “Moderato” (80 bpm a crotchet), slow tempo and a chordal melody which remind us the routine of a daily life. After 45 bars, there is a new section “Moderato” (100 bpm), faster than the first one in which a stream of triplets instead of chords reflects the journey inside the human being discovering his true self through meditation. It is not casual that I mentioned the word “meditation”; when I firstly read the piece I could see Gisela`s personality in it and I said: “I am sure, that this is what happens when she meditates”. At first, I was terrified to tell Gisela about our idea of a “man`s journey in his soul to discover his true self” but she agreed:
“This is not music for entertainment but music to transport you to another state of mind. This is Music that lives inside and not outside. Therefore, it is in D flat major - lydian mode which in strings instrument doesn`t resonate that much and it keeps that intimate atmosphere. Also, as you noticed dynamics stays in the p, pp, ppp nuances except bar 98 where the climax has to be expressed in F”.
Very often composers feel like mothers towards their compositions, very protective, wanting to keep their babies and guide them forever. I must admit that I felt quite nervous about our first rehearsals with Gisela. Many times I wondered: “ I wish Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann could be alive to tell me how to play this phrase, how Forte or how Piano I should play or what is the reason of this sforzandi?” It was very special to have Gisela with us during the first rehearsals and we discovered she is a “modern” mum letting their babies free to live their life in other performers hands.
“I compose something with my own idea and afterwords I give it to the performers and I want them to be free to express themselves. It is more of a collaboration than an imposition.”
We can`t thank enough Gisela to offer us the opportunity to perform her Phantasy op. 18 at the Festival and for giving us such a detailed insight on her fascinating composition process.