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An happy rediscovery

During my last years as a music critic, and even after reading many books and papers as a pensioner, my first meeting with Giorgio Questa remained my most vivid memory of him. I met Questa in autumn 1968 at a gathering organized by Vittorio Gui in his villa in Fiesole. Questa had set up his small wooden organ and the host and I listened to his wonderful playing of Renaissance music.
Questa was born on November 27, 1929 (just three years before me) and I admired him long before our meeting as I read of his musical activity in the newspapers. Giorgio Questa’s died on June 11, 2010. I met the Genoese pianist Maria Grazia Amoruso, who was Questa’s pupil and protege and is the inheritor of his organ. She provided copies of many documents attesting to Questa’s artistic and intellectual impact on the international music scene. After our conversation, I listened to a CD by Maria Grazia dedicated to Schubert, and I admired her playing.
I tried to understand why a talent like Giorgio Questa should be forgotten, whilst his uncle Angelo (the Genoese musician who was born in 1901 and died in 1960) is still cited in music literature, if for nothing else for the fact that he stood in for Toscanini, Serafin, Gui and De Sabata at La Scala. The writings about this singular organist, Giorgio Questa, whom l had met so long ago and who stayed in my memory, made me understand him as a person with a truly international standing, though mysterious in the solitude of his last decades. I had the joy of finding the first articles that I had written about Questa. I was able to read the article I wrote on January 28, 1969 for "La Nazione", when I went from Florence to the Palazzo Provinciale in Lucca to hear his concert with the "portative" organ that he had built. I heard works by Antonio de Cabez6n, Bach, by the Lucca composer Giuseffo Guami and by Francesco Gasperini, and - I wrote - "rarely have we been able to enjoy the hardness and tightness of the celebrated "Roman" composer Gerolamo Frescobaldi that Questa performed in his concert; and likewise the clarity, one might almost say "enlightened" clarity, of the pieces by François Couperi... In short, Giorgio Questa's music making, sustained by musicality informed by manual ability, gives one the sensation of constantly rediscovering the essence of the "expression" and of the "fun", the delight in seventeenth century music and with it the humility of an ancient musical service to community.”
After rereading my article from the distant past, I became increasingly interested to learn about the years he spent away from the world of music in ltaly, and I found Questa at the Sagra Musicale Umbra where in September 1969 his name appeared alongside those of famous musicians (lncluding a young Riccardo Muti). Later, in the copies of his documents, I found not only some of his letters which reflect his cultural interests, the morality and literary beauty of moments of joy and sadness, friendships and adventures , but also his friendships with a scholar and musician like Alfredo Mandelli (one of the first to notice him) and with personalities and performers like Nino Sanzogno, Igor Markevitch and Sandor Végh.
I reread, with pleasure, my article about his last Florence evenings when the Orchestra of the Florence May Music Festival in its symphonic season offered three performances of a single program in the space of one week: on 7th, 8th and 9th April 1977. The well-known English conductor John Pritchard had Giorgio Questa as soloist presenting the little-known Concerto n 1 in C major by Haydn… I wrote: "The juvenile work by this prodigious composer of the eighteenth century still possesses a structure of archaic style, full of nostalgia for the baroque, and it is well suited to being performed by an instrument with chaste, essential sounds like those of a wooden organ; the work done by Questa and Pritchard brought such expressive fullness that one can only regret the fact that pieces like this are not more frequently included in concerts at the Comunale. lt was received very enthusiastically, and Questa had to play an encore not included in the program, a splendid Toccata by Frescobaldi.
"From the start of his much-admired concert activity, Questa also knew the discipline, humility and "rules" of musical practice, as can be seen in the exchange of affectionate letters with his "carissimo Maestro" Nino Sanzogno, for whose "precious advice" he expressed gratitude, and with a "signorina" in Milan, Sofia Amman, to whom he wrote about his collaboration with Sandor Végh, the violinist famous for his quartet and who had recently become conductor of his Salzburg orchestral group. "The tour with Végh and the Camerata of the Mozarteum," he wrote to her in December 1981, "was fabulous… This is real "musizieren"...! An extraordinary musical communion... With Végh the music is in continuous evolution, never are two performances the same, everything is constantly renewed as in life… l hope to have other opportunities to play with him.”
To contrast the silence about Giorgio Questa in the last few decades there is the program published by the Province of Genoa far a concert he gave on December 6, 1991, in honor of the 25th anniversary of the building of the "wooden organ” by Questa. In the four illustrative pages, clearly Questa's own work. l was once again struck by the enthusiastic testimony by international musicians like Igor Markevitch and Nadia Boulanger, who were prominent in the music press of the time and in music histories. The silence about Questa seemed all the more clearly to be the fault of contemporary music attitudes.

Leonardo Pinzauti