Ciammarughi presents Schubert’s last sonatas: “It is a book for musicologists and music lovers”

by Gloria Galbiati

A man with many different talents: pianist, radio host, writer, and more. But first of all, Luca Ciammarughi is a great friend of Cremona Musica. This year, on Saturday 28 September, he will be a member of the Media Lounge and is also presenting his new book about the Schubert’s last Sonatas. We interviewed him to talk about it.


Welcome back Maestro Ciammarughi! After one year you are again at Cremona Musica. What does this event represent to you?

First of all, it is a way to keep me up-to-date on what is happening in the world of music: musical instruments, publications, concerts, and much more. But there is also a playful component: it is a bit like being kids again, in a Carnival. I am happy that, besides the business area, there is a richer cultural and artistic proposal, that gives space to many moments of music, with concerts and conferences. 


Why did you decide to write your essay, "Le Ultime Sonate di Schubert" (Schubert’s Last Sonatas), and who is it written for?

I had been thinking for many years to write this book, but, as usual, I never started. Luckily, the musicologist Guido Salvetti asked me to write is, for LIM’s series “Repertori musicali”: I had no more excuses. Anyway, I took some time to start: writing about what you really love (as Schubert, in my case) is maybe the most difficult thing in the world, as it is difficult to communicate your love with words. For this reason, I tried not to dissect Schubert’s last three sonatas as they were cold corps, but I analyzed them as they were being written in that same moment. I did the same in the last part, where I analyze the history of the interpretations of the triptych from Schnabel to our days. I wanted to find and highlight the symbols and the images of Schubert’s Lieder world: the narrative and symbolic component is clear. If you listen or play Schubert, with your conscience in his imagination, that is very rich and not naïf at all, diving deep in his world much more fascinating. So, the book is conceived not just for musicologists, but also for music lovers and students.


One of the topoi of the Romanticism, is the Wanderer, that we find in many of Schubert's compositions, as an errant character, going through mysterious lands toward undefined horizons, looking for a new dimension. In the contemporary era, dominated by consumerism and material wealth, who is the Wanderer, and where is he going? 

Even if you sometimes idealize the Romanticism, the problems Schubert faced where not so different from the one of our age. In his letters, Schubert says, for instance: “My music does not sell. Only fashionable trash works”. Or, still being a modest person: “The State should give me a living!”. Schubert could have been more compliant with the market of his times, but he did not. He was a real Wanderer, the one that feels the to be the chosen for a long journey, even if the journey is on a dangerous path, far from the main road. Today’s Wanderer is the same. It does not be to be a contrary Mary, as it would just be another kind of conformism. The Wanderer is the one who lives his difference from the common people without considering it merit: he acts in silence and solitude. Maybe he looks a bit nihilist, or misanthropic, but he dreams of a better world: he does not surrender to the “Banality of Evil” that exists in every age. When Schubert writes “Winter Journey”, his friends were scared by the darkness of that Lieder. Who could imagine what a gift that young composer made to humanity?


One of the meetings organized by the Media Lounge deals with the relationship between music and social media, an instrument very popular among young people. How is classical music finding its place in the digital world?

Social media are a jungle. It is up to us to find our path through the net, as modern travelers in the digital universe. Classical music is present, of course, both in the personal profiles and in the groups made by music lovers. The comparison is very important, it let you learn a lot. But one of the first goals is learning to deal with envy, that is a very human feeling, we all are jealous sometimes. There will always be someone making something better than us or being more successful. If we accept it, comparison becomes something useful to understand where we can say something really personal, making the difference, instead of being something humiliating. I think it is important not fossilize on music. Think of Debussy, who used to talk with more writers and painters than musicians. Unfortunately, music on social media always loses: it is too complicated, compared with memes and kittens (I want to be clear: I love cats). I think that spending too much time of social media is dangerous if you aim to fulfill an original artistic or existential research. Unfortunately, we are all quite addicted. Personally, even if I use them a lot, I force myself to stay out of them, making something that keeps my hands busy, such as playing, writing, swimming.


You are not just a pianist, but a disseminator, a critic, a radio host. Do you think that to perform people need to discover complementary fields? Or, vice versa, to fully understand and explain music you need to be a musician?

I must admit that my versatility is not just a choice of mine. In the beginning, I had to do many things just because I needed to work: I could not permit to be just a student and stay at home till the age of 30 preparing competitions. So, for instance, I started early to work as radio host. I was just twenty-something, and I suffered because I could not dedicate completely to the piano, as my coetaneous.  Then I understood that the number of different things I learned (though Classical High School, University, writing notes, articles, essays, books, preparing radio show, conferences, and lessons) could make me be a different kind of musician. Maybe less maniacal about details, but more focused on finding a synthesis. Now I realize that my versatility makes me live in a not-oppressive way my relationship with the piano. My goal is to keep my gaze and hear fresh. If you start feeling bored, is over. To explain music you should have a deep knowledge of music. But not to understand it. There were many not-musicians with genial intuitions on music. Many fans, even without reading a single note, can live it with an intensity that maybe professional musicians have lost, because of routine. What do we mean for “fully understand”? Sometimes a full understanding can be originated by a sudden intuition (like a love “coup de foudre”), sometimes is the outcome of a long work.


What are your next projects?

I do not know. Despite I did many things in the last years, I have always struggled to define my job. I am sealing without a compass, with the only constant to not stop playing, as it is the thing that makes me happier. But I also love writing, so I hope to write my fourth book this year.