Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Classical Guitar Interview

This weekend I'm going to hear my friend Ernesto play a recital in New Paltz, NY and he'll release his new cd! Last month he stopped by and did an interview at WITF. Here's the transcript - look for some mp3s of his playing live in the studio to show up soon!

John: It’s good to have you here today.
Ernesto: Thank you, good afternoon.
J: I wanted to start out and ask about this new cd, Classical Persuasions. Where does the title come from?
E: The title was actually a suggestion by Blair Mohn and John Napfliotis. We have worked together as a team. I always try to share with everyone my playing and the classical music I love. I tell people: - you should listen to the classical guitar – trying to persuade them to love the instrument, that’s where the title comes from.
J: Well, you’ve persuaded me with this album! It actually goes back several hundred years of great guitar music: Fernando Sor, Weiss, and one of your teachers, Leo Brouwer. How was it to record his music?
E: Well, Leo Brouwer is one of the dedicatees of this disc, besides three other wonderful guitarists, musicians, and friends. Brouwer was my teacher in Cuba – an oustanding composer, an amazing guitarist and a great friend. He came to the United States before the Cuban Revolution to enhance his musical studies. He’s also probably the most important composer for the classical guitar since the 1950s and still very much alive. While listening to this work on this cd Tress Apuntes “Three Drafts” from 1959, you can really feel the Afro-Cuban influence in the piece. In the first movement you can really hear fire music – its percussive and dramatic influenced by Manuel De Falla, very effective! The second movement is philosophical, at least that is how I feel it. The third one is probably my favorite, it’s very Bulgarian in feeling but has this Afro-Cuban rhythm underneath it, like congas. It’s really interesting and fun to play!
J: You’ve been in touch with Brouwer recently haven’t you?
E: Yes, I talked on the phone with him a while ago when he was in Cuba. He’s doing better after being rather ill. But he’s writing a lot of music and playing the guitar a little bit. Someone that I know for a long time is taking very good care of him.
J: Now this isn’t your first “classical” cd release, there was Bach; a cd of folks songs; and last year we talked about your release “The Cuban Guitarist.” How is it to go back and record a disc with some Cuban influences?
E: Well, it’s interesting. I’ll start with the Bach release in 1996. I was at Peabody studying at that time, and became friends with Stephen Kates, a cellist who passed away a few years ago. I used to take some lessons with him. He encouraged me to record the Bach project. The motivation came from Mr. Kates, no really from the Guitar department at that time. It was a fantastic learning process for me. I went to Bach festivals, I was able to play with orchestras, and a lot of classical guitar events. While playing some of these recitals I met someone from Bacardi. We became very good friends – he encouraged me to prepare some Cuban music arrangements. So I did the arrangements and ended up recording them. I did one of the Cuban pieces at my Carnegie Hall debut, do you remember that evening?
J: Of course, that was a lot of fun!
E: So a lot of folks enjoyed the Cuban pieces and encouraged me to play and record them. After a four year break from recording, then The Cuban Guitarist cd came along. On that release I added some classical selections and Cuban music where I recorded several tracks, I played some percussions instruments, I wrote music for the project, it was a great collaboration between Blair, John, and myself. But still, I didn’t have a recital cd. And I think as a classical guitarist it’s important to have a cd with different composers and different styles, so Classical Persuasions came next combining important works from the classical guitar repertoire. This new disc is 72 minutes long, with some Venezuelan music, arrangements of Antonio Lauro, things that are well known in the classical guitar world. There’s Fernando Sor that you mentioned, the title is “Malborough s’en va-t-en guerre” – ugh, that’s hard to pronounce! *Laughter* It’s a theme and variations. There’s a Weiss work, a Sonata arranged by Michael Lorimer. Michael is a good friend of mine – as I was saying before, the cd is dedicated to four friends and guitarists. Michael is one of them. I’m also playing Albeniz: Cordoba from the Iberia Suite. It’s from a suite of 12 impressions of Spain and this arrangement is by John Williams. After that, I have Joaquin Rodrigo’s Tres Piezas Espanolas, Three Spanish Pieces. I would like to mention the names of other two dedicatees of this recording. They are well-known Cuban guitarists Elias Barreiro who I met after I arrived to the US, and Antonio Alberto Rodrigues (Biki) who was also my guitar teacher back in Cuba. They have also contributed so much to the classical guitar and the musical world.
J: I remember you playing those Rodrigo pieces when we first met in Wichita – you played them at Chamber Music at the Barn.
E: Yes, I can say that this cd is a recollection of repertoire that I have been playing for a while.
J: How is it to return to pieces? Is it a challenge or is it comfortable?
E: It is a challenge. You learn pieces one way and then look at the score later and something might have been missing or you might not have done it the right way. You have to go back and practice the piece – for the recording you have to make sure everything is just right – so yes, I would say it is a challenge. But I would also say it is a lot of fun.
J: I know that you mentioned early John and Blair, your support team – this is something, Classical Persuasions, that you recorded in your own studio. Was that another fun challenge?
E: Oh yes, it was in my own studio. Considering the fact that the music industry is going, and with the technology available today for everyone it is very important for every musician to have their own recording equipment in order to record themselves while practicing or for a project. The original idea for me was just to record my practicing, so I could hear myself. But I ended up getting really top of the line equipment – something Sony studios might have, so why not make my own recording? This way I don’t have to pay high fees to rent a recording studio – I have one myself.
So, Blair and John urge me to create my own company, Virgo Productions. So basically the three of us are producers if you will, from the recording to the repertory. John and Blair aren’t as familiar with guitar repertory, so they’ll do a lot of listening and read all the information I have – it’s quite remarkable what they do – and so talented, they’ve wound up knowing more about composers than you or me! Its fun to work with them and we’ve become very close friends. Another important factor, John, is my guitar. It’s made by David Daily, and I use La Bella Strings. I exclusively use this and it makes a huge difference. They have been fantastic to me – especially with the recording studio. Sometimes you know, there are so many strings, and not all of them work with particular microphones, you just have to keep trying for that just right sound. Richard Cocco really worked with me on what I wanted and I’m very grateful for that. It’s an interesting process! And there’s a lot of support really.
J: It shows in this new disc, definitely. I have a hard question for you. We talked last year when The Cuban Guitarist was released about a car accident, that had you rethink things in your life. With this release, have there been things in your personal life, that affects your professional life?
E: Yes, it does. I have to say the accident was on February 15th, 2005. Before that, I was, well, let’s go back. I’ve been playing the guitar since I was five years old, so therefore I have performed a lot of concerts. When I reached my 30th birthday I took guitar playing for granted. I lost my focus really. God was probably looking at me and saying, “That is not what you should be doing Ernesto.” I truly believe that this accident was a wakeup call. Again, “go back to your roots. Go back to what you are here to do.” So obviously, after the accident, I thought about the cd before – the Cuban folk tunes, and I thought about some new arrangements. So I decided the Cuban Guitarist was a good choice. But in the back of my mind, I had this recital cd and project to do. Plus, the classical guitar market is already established. I mean, it’s nice to have a Cuban cd made and these arrangements, and to provide them for the repertory. My agent is working hard to book me for festivals and concerts in Europe, and this is very important for me to have: a recital cd of standard repertoire. It shows everything you do, and honestly, it is my favorite repertoire to play. As for personal changes, that accident did change me - I came out with no bruises or scratches despite the car rolling over four times – really a wakeup call. I defected from Cuba to enhance my playing and musical skills, and you get wrapped up in life and other things. Different things distract you, that’s the way it is. So I feel I’m back on track.
J: Now you teach at the PA Academy of Music in Lancaster. What do you recommend to kids who are interested in classical music and the guitar specifically? Is there a route to take, listening? Lessons? Masterclasses?
E: Well, the department is very small still at the Academy. We are working on it together to increase it and make a real program. Right now my teaching schedule is only one day a week. We have space for more students, and it’s not a full program yet. Next year, we’ll start repertory classes, group lessons, guitar orchestra and a literature class. That is my goal to have a real program there for the guitar, maybe a festival, will see.
The advice for students is to listen to recordings, and to music in general. Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart – get familiar to great music and devote yourself to your guitar. You can talk to me of course, about lessons! *Laughter* I will be happy to guide them and see where the program lads. The academy is building a new facility in Lancaster rand it will change the course of musical education in the state of Pennsylvania. I have to say you have to give credit to Michael Jamanis and Frances Veri, both wonderful musicians, who have this vision- from 14 years ago, to teach music and it began in their house, now to be in a 20 million dollar new facility! I am very proud to have had students here go on to Yale University and to the Peabody Conservatory and continue their studies in guitar.
J: Very exciting. Ernesto, thanks for stopping by today and congratulations on your new release, “Classical Persuasions”.
E: Thank you John.

FIRST PRIZE WINNER of the 1995 NGWS in New Milford, Connecticut, Ernesto Tamayo has toured extensively throughout North and South America and Europe. He is one of the most accomplished and sought-after guitarists of his generation. Ernesto is often praised for his brilliant technique, artistry, and his exceptionally warm tone and expressive interpretations on the guitar.
Born in Havana, Cuba, Ernesto began studying the guitar with his father when he was five. He made his television debut at the young age of nine. Sony Music Entertainment and Sony Classical of Mexico enabled Ernesto to come to the United States where he received a full scholarship for advanced studies at Peabody Conservatory with well-known guitarist Manuel Barrueco.
Since his arrival in the United States, Ernesto has performed in numerous concert series' and with orchestras in the United States and abroad. In September of 1999, he made his Carnegie Hall debut with a sold-out performance. Past engagements at guitar festivals include appearances at the Fourth International Guitar Festival in Cuernavaca, Mexico, the Sixth International Guitar Festival in Long Island, New York, the "Classical Guitarists of the World" concert series in Fullerton, California and the Connecticut Guitar Summer Workshop. Ernesto has also given solo recitals for the classical guitar societies of Baltimore, Miami, Reno, Cheyenne and Northern Colorado, among others.
Ernesto has recorded three albums, Ernesto Tamayo Plays Bach, Melodias Cubanas, and The Cuban Guitarist. His latest Album The Cuban Guitarist features two world premier recordings, “The Havana Suite” by Cuban guitarist and composer Aldo Rodriguez, and “Five Inspirations” composed by Ernesto himself. His fourth album is scheduled to be released in September of 2006 where he feature works by Silvious Leopold Weiss, Fernando Sor, Leo Brouwer, Isaac Albeniz, and Joaquin Rodrigo.
Ernesto is a recipient of career development grants from the Maryland State Arts Council, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Bossak/Heilbron Foundation. He is sponsored by Bacardi Foundation, Del Mar Foundation, La Bella Strings and performs with a David Daily guitar.

JOHN CLARE is a radio broadcast professional, violinist, and webmaster of ClassicallyHip.com. Winner of ASCAP's Deems Taylor Award in 2005, he is a member of Phi Beta, the American Music Center, and an ordained minister of New Music of Universal Life Church.

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