Raffaele Calace (1863-1934) was a Neapolitan musician and, just like Antonio Vivaldi, a composer who can beassociated with the mandolin immediately. He was born to an instrument maker’s family and was initially trained as a lute player. At the same time, he discovered the possibilities of the mandolin and became an unequalled mandolin virtuoso. After he had graduated with honors at the Regio Conservatorio di Musica in Naples, he intended to give the mandolin a full place in music. In order to achieve this, he toured Europe and Japan, and made three long-playing records. He wrote about 200 compositions which are said to be the most beautiful and technically difficult works written for the mandolin. He also wrote didactial works, among which a method for playing the Liuto Cantabile (an instrument that has ten strings tuned in pairs) and the much-praised mandolin method. This mandolin tutor was published in 1910 and elaborates on the eighteen-century Italian methods by mandolinists like Giovanni Battista Gervaiso (approx.1725 – approx.1785), Gabriele Leone (approx.1725 – approx.1790) and others.
Calace’s method clearly shows the development of the traditional Italian playing style ofthe Mandolin.
Raffaele Calace as well as his brother Nicola Calace (1859-1923) were leading mandolin makers. They introduced improvements in the building techniques such as the enlargement of the sound box. They also made instruments with a fingerboard carrying on over the sound hole, like the Roman master luthier Luigi Embergher (1856-1943) did. The name of Calace became well-known in Europe for the extremely great volume and beautiful quality of the instruments. When Nicola emigrated to the U.S.A., Raffaele continued the Calace workshop with his daughter Maria, a gifted mandolin player as well, and his son Giuseppe. Raffaele Calace died in Naples in 1934.
One of his most famous compositions is his Round opus 127. There are different versions of this work made by Calace himself, among which is a version for ‘Orchestra a Plettro’ (Mandolin Orchestra) and one for ‘Quartetto a Plettro Romantico’ (Quartet for two mandolins, alto mandola and guitar). The most known version, however, is a combination of mandolin and piano or guitar. For this video a harp was used to perform the original piano part.
A video by
Pauline Ulderink and
Zwolle – Netherlands.