Oscar Ghiglia is a person who does not take centre stage. That might also be the reason why he is always relatively seldom seen on stage.
What a loss for us as an audience, because already listening to his early recordings you are enchanted by the beauty and musicality of his playing. And today, in his mature days, he has reached a depth of musical understanding whose appeal is hard to resist.
Ghiglia was born on 13 August 1938 in Livorno, Italy, into a family of painters. The work of his grandfather, which was mainly influenced by French styles, can be found today in numerous private collections.
His mother was an excellent pianist and tried to kindle his love for the piano in him. But in his eyes it was: “too loud, too square, too white or too black, just something.”1 Anyway, he played so badly that she finally gave up and Oscar could devote himself to painting.
It seemed natural to him to follow in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps. Until he was thirteen years old, his only wish seemed to be to become a painter and he apparently never thought about playing the guitar.
It was his father who brought him into contact with the guitar. Even an enthusiastic hobby musician, who accompanied himself to Sardinian folk songs, he probably laid the foundation for the later enthusiasm of the little boy. In any case, the fire of enthusiasm broke out one day when he had him pose for a painting with a guitar in his hand.
Without pain or regret he gave up painting and from then on devoted himself exclusively to music, to his lifelong passion for music.
After a few years of self-taught guitar lessons, following his father’s example, his mother decided that he needed a solid musical education.
Fortunately for him, the first Italian conservatory opened its doors in 1954, the Santa Cecilia´s Conservatory in Rome.
It was not yet possible to graduate, but Ghiglia got to know the whole repertoire of the classical guitar, especially its textbooks and etudes.
In 1957 he moved to Siena to the class of A. Segovia and was taught by A. Diaz in the first year.
“He was a very good teacher who opened many doors for us, especially in terms of sound and tone.”
In the following years he was taught by Andrés Segovia, who remained his main source of inspiration for many years.
„I think I was a nightmare for him. “I had long hair and a beard that had begun to curl.” 1
After completing his studies, he won several important prizes, including first prize at the international guitar competition of the French radio station in Paris.
This victory also gave him a scholarship to the Schola Cantorum in Paris and the opportunity to study music history with Jacques Chailley.
„When we heard these wonderful rubati, our breath stopped. We would never dare such things. They were absolutely forbidden.“ 1
From them he also learned to put music into words. A. Segovia had the method of showing things on the guitar and acting through his role model.
Presti and Lagoya, on the other hand, knew how to talk about music and thereby raise awareness. Exactly what Ghiglia is trying to do with his students today.
Besides his work on stage, it was above all the passing on of his knowledge that was important to him. Therefore, there are very few well-known guitarists today who did not come into his sphere of influence and benefited from his lessons.
The first thing he tries to teach his students is to “open their ears.” This means not playing the music as they imagine but shaping it according to what they hear. Because the most important thing in his eyes is and always will be the real listening experience
Nevertheless, he pays very close attention to the rules that every musician must know and knows what they mean.
This is expressed, for example, in his words to the musical text: “I try to teach the students to love music. To look at the notes and the score like a magic ball and to discover all the truths in them with your mind, instead of putting a certain approach, a certain kind of playing over the music. The roots come from the notes. The grades tell us what kind of approach is the right one.“ 1
But quite apart from his influence as a teacher, he is a wonderful musician, of whom unfortunately there are far too few recordings. But the little we have of him gives us a picture of one of the greats of our time.
“He is not only a refined and attentive musician with an impressive technique, but also recognized as one of the most important teachers of his generation.” 2
1 Guitar Interviews: The best from “Classical Guitar”
2 New Grove Directionary of Music and Musicians