Another lovely rehearsal last Monday for LME. We were really delighted to meet Stephen Lalor, renowned Australian composer and plucked string specialist, who visited London with the Australian Chamber Orchestra for a series of concerts at Cadogan Hall.
We're very grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from him, and hope he visits us again soon! Now to get our hands on his Australis Suite for mandolin orchestra...
Carmelo Catania (1908-1970) was a Sicilian luthier who built his first string instrument (a harp guitar) at the young age of seventeen.
Luthiers in Sicily were always open to both the Baroque influence from Spain and to the innovations coming from Europe and the USA, and Catania became the first great star of Sicilian luthiery.
Catania started working on mandolins, learning the ropes of his trade very early in life in Naples, gleaning the secrets of the Neapolitan school of string instrument making and repair. At age 18, he went to Naples to work in Calace’s workshop. At age 20, he set up his own shop back in Catania, where he built his second, more elaborate, harp guitar that would become his company’s logo when his business was registered in 1936. In Rome he met luthier Luigi Embergher, and became influenced by the Roman school.
After the Second World War, the “Primaria Fabbrica di strumenti musicali a corda Carmelo Catania” recorded a sharp increase in business, peaking at 10,000 instruments sold a year, ranging from the professional to the beginner. He produced an incredibly wide range of crafted instruments on an industrial scale in Sicily. Carmelo died in 1970.
The English guitar was a fashionable instrument from about 1750, considered easy to play and tuned in C major, although the player would use a capo, much like a modern folk-guitarist, in order to change the key. The tuning pegs were often small metallic pins that could be turned with a watch-key, to keep the strings in tune longer. This instrument was made in Portugal, a country with strong trading links with England, and its peg box is decorated with a paper 'cameo' in imitation of a jasper ware medallion, a motif made popular by Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795) from about 1770.
A recording of the Hasse Mandolin Concerto, with soloist Takashi Ochi and the Paul Kuentz Chamber Orchestra, Paris. Its a favourite of ours...
Ethel Lucretia Olcott was born on October 17, 1885 in Norwalk, Ohio. She was three years old when she and her parents moved to Los Angeles, California. At the age of eight she started guitar lessons with George Lindsay, a well-known classic guitarist. From 1903-1904 she lived in Berkeley with Manuel Y. Ferrer, where she expanded her repertoire to include European guitar techniques. In 1914 she moved to New York where she gave concerts and lessons, and assisted Philip J. Bone with the publication of his book The Guitar and Mandolin.
She married Myron Bickford (Zarh), a well-known mandolinist and astrology enthusiast, in 1915. Once married, they both changed their names to Vahdah and Zarh Bickford. Vahdah was well known in the world of astrology. Astrological enthusiasts from various parts of the country would request astrology readings from her.
When she returned to Los Angeles in 1923, Vahdah, along with other local guitarists, started the American Guitar Society (AGS), then known as the Los Angeles Guitar Society. She was a major contributor to the AGS and The Crescendo magazine, and was the secretary and Musical Director of the AGS for many years. As secretary she would receive personal and professional correspondence from all over the world. As a passionate contributor of AGS, Olcott-Bickford and her husband combined their names to make the Zarvah Publishing Company. Zarvah Publishing Company worked together with AGS to provide new and renewing members with published music every year.
An avid teacher of the Guitar, Olcott-Bickford is well known for her influential Guitar Method, Op. 25, and the Advanced Course, Op. 116. Olcott-Bickford also wrote numerous articles about the guitar, and corresponded with other musicians and enthusiasts about the instrument.
She continued to live in Los Angeles, and when Zarh Bickford passed away in the 1961, she was devastated. She later remarried Robert Revere, once again changing her name to Vahdah Olcott-Bickford Revere. Olcott-Bickford played guitar, and was associated with the AGS and the Astrological Society until her death in 1980. Over the course of her long and prominent career, her work influenced guitarists around the world.
Composer, organist, bandmaster, conductor.
Giacomo was the son of Domenico Sartori, a barber, and Hedwig Lutteri. He started in his father's profession, and it was initially thought that he would continue in his father’s business. However he became a self-taught mandolinist, wrote his first composition at age 18, and in March 1881 enrolled as an "apprentice violin" to the Musical Society of Ala.
He furthered his musical studies in Rovereto, as a student of Tito Brogialdi for violin and Giovanni Toss for composition. In Ala, where he continued to live, he soon became an important musical figure, as teacher, a conductor of the local band, and organist in the parish.
His first known public performance was on 26 January 1888 in the Philharmonic Hall of Ala, where he played the violin fantasy from ‘Roberto the Devil’ by G. Meyerbeer, with Lorenzo Frelich on the piano.
In 1889 he married Elvira Wagmeister from Appiano, by whom he had four sons. During the First World War he became a refugee in Verona, where he often played first violin in symphony concerts.
After the war, in 1919, he did not return to Ala, but moved to Trento, and devoted himself entirely to music. Here, until 1938, he directed the mandolin orchestral ensemble " Club Armonia" in place of Vigil Kirchner, performing in many places in South Tyrol and in various cities of Italy.
As a connoisseur of plectrum instruments he began to write for mandolins and guitars (solo, quartet and orchestral works), and a series of his compositions were printed on a regular basis, especially in the Turin newspaper "Il Mandolino" from 1894-1939, and on the pages of "Mandolinista Italiano”in Milan.
His works were well reviewed abroad, and he received no less than seven prestigious, international prizes. His music was widely used throughout Europe until the Second World War, and reflects his respect for the Italian tradition of melodic and popular musical themes, elegies, serenades, and dances.
He died in Trento in 1946. The city of Ala honoured him by naming the city theatre the “Giacomo Sartori Theatre”. An international mandolin competition, Concorso Giacomo Sartori, held in Ala, is dedicated to his name.
Vincenzo Perrugia with his mandolin - famous (or infamous!) for stealing the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in Paris on 21st August 1911...
These strings, by Dogal, are used by many Italian players. They produce a traditional Italian sound, and although a little metallic initially, play in very easily.
A lovely, ornate mandolin C. 1900 made by Angelo Mannello (1858-1922), New York City. The mandolin, decorated with ivory and tortoiseshell, can be seen at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The LME blog
Players, music and plucked strings.