The first question is always the classic one: how does it start your love and interest for guitar and what instruments do you play or have you played?
It started when I was nine years old. My brother was having guitar classes at school and I fell in love with the guitar by the moment I saw it! He taught me the basics, how was the fingers name and numbers and how I could read the chords in those little and popular magazines. Two years after I started to study with a teacher in my hometown, Criciúma (south of Brazil). I had classes for three years, and since this moment, I never stopped playing.
Actually, I have to share that I was about to be a doctor, when I really decided to become a professional musician. At that time I was studying medicine at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC). With no regrets, I left that behind and got into the University of Campinas to study Popular and Classical Music, with one of my masters, Ulisses Rocha. In my formation I also had classes and masterclasses with Daniel Wolff, Henrique Pinto, Paulo Martelli, Fábio Zanon, Leo Brouwer, and some conferences with David Russel, Jorge Caballero and many others.
My guitar is a Sérgio Abreu from 1999. It’s a great instrument that is becoming more and more mature, with a collorfull sound and very well balanced. Abreu was one of the greatest classical guitarists in the world. His recordings are memorable. He had a very known Duo with his brother, Eduardo (they studied with Monina Távora, years before the Assad Brothers started to having classes with her). But they stopped playing, and for our lucky, Sérgio didn’t let away this guitar universe, having becoming one of the best luthiers of Brasil.
I’ve also played in a Hauser-I guitar (from Sergio Abreu), and that is a very special one. In my humble opinion, the Stradivarius of the guitars.
Let’s talk about you last record Sarau para Radamés, how did this project start? You play music by Raphael Rabello, Paulo Cesar Pinheiro, Tom Jobim, Paulinho da Viola, Ernesto Nazareth, Radames Gnattali, Baden Powell, Vinicius de Moraes …, why did you choose these composers and how?
The story begins in my first album (Radamés Gnattali – Complete Works for Solo Guitar). I realized that Gnattali, even in Brazil, wasn’t well known, especially by my generation. So, to make the concerts of that CD, I decided to mix in the program his original music for guitar and some arrangements from composers who had some connections with him, such as Pixinguinha, who worked with him at the Radio Nacional, or Jobim, who took some classes with Gnattali in the beginning of his career. I called this project “Sarau para Radamés”. “Sarau” is a kind of cultural meeting where people can play music or read some poetry, tell stories; and I tried to bring this atmosphere to the concert. So, between the pieces, I used to tell the audience some stories from Gnattali’s life, in a very intimist and informal way. That was how I introduced Gnattali’s world to many people, inviting them to get closer his music and his history.
And fortunately, it was such a success! That’s why I decided to record the “Sarau”, only with my arrangements for solo guitar. It was also a way to get closer the composition, because, for me, arrange is a form of composition, especially talking about guitar. And the main goals of these arrangements were to make them sound as if they were composed for my instrument. To achieve this goal, I also had the honor of being produced by Paulo Bellinati, a great person and a great master. We worked hard for many months to get that result.
You have played a lot Radames Gnattali’s music, making a record devoted to his music for guitar solo, can you talk to us about this composer? I didn’t know him but his music is really beautiful….
Yes, his music is fantastic! For me, he is one of the most important brazilian composers of all times. Radamés Gnattali was born in the south of Brazil, in a city called Porto Alegre. His father loved so much opera that he gave him the name of a character from the Verdi’s opera. Gnattali’s sister is called Aida, for the same reason.
He studied piano at the conservatory of Porto Alegre and he was really great as a pianist, so he was encouraged by his teacher to move to Rio de Janeiro, that was the capital of Brazil at that time (around the 1920’s). He had to work to make his living, and he worked in many places, but was as arranger in the radios that he found his place. He made thousands of arrangements in the period he worked at Radio Nacional, the biggest radio in Brazil at that period. And because of this job, he met and lived with the best musicians of that time, such as Garoto, Pixinguinha, Jacob do Bandolim, Zé Meneses, Tom Jobim, Dorival Caymmi and many others.
So in his compositions you can see many different influences, especially, from the urban music from Rio de Janeiro (highlighting samba and choro). And it was a thing for him, because the classical musicians thought that he was too much popular, and at the same time, the popular musicians thought he was too refined for a popular composer. Gnattali’s music was way ahead of his time. Nowadays it is a little bit better, but often we can encounter the same issue: it’s not “classical”, but it’s neither popular. For me, in his works you can find a perfect balance, it’s right in the middle, so you need a great technical approach, but you also need the fluency of popular music to make it sounds, particularly the rhythmic part.
What does improvisation mean for your music research? Do you think it’s possible to talk about improvisation for classical music or we have to turn to other repertories like jazz, contemporary music, etc.?
For me, improvisation is far beyond to play notes. Of course that jazz has brought this to a great level, but this kind of improvisation, used to exist since before the baroque period. The Preludes, in a certain way, were all improvised; the ornaments too, and also the cadences of the Concertos. I think that the classical musician left a little aside this study, because the technical part has become high level, also as a consequence of the appearance of the recordings.
So, if we are talking about improvising notes, contemporary music, jazz and choro (brazilian instrumental music), for example, are still the best way. But music is also dynamics, and tempos, and timbers. In these fields, even in an all writen piece, you have so much space to improvise music! The thing is that you need to study it as much as the jazz player studies scales and arpegios. The instrumental music is very powerfull, but you need to play as if you were talking. I can say many words, but sometimes few words said with the right intonation and timing, is more effective to transmit the message.
What’s the role of the “Error” in your musical vision? For “error” I mean an incorrect procedure, an irregularity in the normal operation of a mechanism, a discontinuity on an otherwise uniform surface that can lead to new developments and unexpected surprises…
It depends. If I want to play Gnattali’s music for example, first of all, I need to know the notes that I want to play. If my proposal is to translate in sounds, the notes that are written, every single note should be played as correct as possible. And by correct, I mean, exactly as it is written.
When I play tonal music, I study the harmony, to be ready for odd circumstances, that may appear during the performance. I also study scales and arpeggios, and this is a great technical tool, and beyond that I pay attention all the time in the sound that comes out from the guitar. For me it’s better to play a little slower, but with a good sound, than play faster just to play faster.
If we are talking about other things, like physical things involving posture or position of the right and left hands, for example, I just consider that as an “error factor” if these things interfere directly in the performance. Sometimes you are in the flow of the music, playing something beautiful and suddenly, your left hand slips. You need to check if that occurred because of a passage not so well studied, or if it happened because of a lack of concentration… In both ways, you need to be prepared to return to the musical flow. Here enters the improvisation study and your capacity of find a way back to the music.
But in all cases, you need to be prepared for the unexpectable. When you are on stage, with an audience in front of you, you open yourself to exchange that musical experience, and many things can happen. You need to be prepared. I study the parts separated and usually in the end of the study I play from the beginning to the end of the piece, and if something odd happens in the middle, I try to explore this causality to create something new.
Let’s talk about marketing. How much do you think it’s important for a modern musician? I mean: how much is crucial to be good promoters of themselves and their works in music today?
Marketing is very important. For a long period of time, artists were subordinated to the Records companies. Nowadays, with the Social Medias and specially YouTube, it’s easier to show yourself to the world, although the “ocean” of artists is becoming bigger every day! First of all you need to have a good product, and that’s the great thing of our time: there is room for everyone! You just need to do whatever you want, and do it with passion and respect (for yourself and for your art), that’s the way. That is what will make your music different from the others.
After that, comes the technical part: audio recordings, good videos, websites, and throw it constantly in the social medias, to your email lists, and promote yourself and your art. You need to be in touch with your audience, or they will forget you. And that’s not because you’re not good, but essentially, things are coming and going in a faster way, so you need to be remembered. And internet gave us the freedom from the Studio Recordings, and a bunch of tools to help us doing that, but you need to work hard to make your music be listened and understand the way the medias work to promote your music or business better.
I talked a lot about marketing with Ulisses Rocha, a great guitar master and my teacher at the University. And the hardest point to understand, not just for the musicians, but for every artist, is that in this world that we live, you need to transform your art into a product, otherwise, you have a hobby.
So, find out who are the people that will love your art, and promote yourself, studying the best way for it, for me, is essential.
Please tell us five essential records, to have always with you… the classic five discs for the desert island…
I think that is the hardest question (laughs)! Just five! Well, let’s see…
The Goldberg Variations – Glenn Gould
I couldn’t left aside some Bach. Although we can find more “historical” concepts, I love the way Glenn Gould does it, with a lot of energy and passion. I like both recordings, but I’m been listening more the first one.
Lamentos do Morro – Raphael Rabello
Rabello, for me, is one of the biggest guitar players of all times. In this recording he is brilliant. The rythmic aspect is so well solved, and at the same time the guitar sings the notes very well pronounced, and everything very intense and visceral.
Mercedes Sosa interpreta Atahualpa Yupanqui
This album is really incredible. Mercedes singing is really something. Atahualpa was one of the greatest Argentine folklorists. His songs reflects an Argentina much more plural and rich than just the tango music. So many different rhythms in an intimate way! And what can I say about those percussion and guitars?! It’s really beautiful!
Retratos (the original recording) – Radamés Gnattali
I also coudn’t left aside some Gnattali’s recording, and it’s very hard to pick just one. This is an emblematic album, that came with the original recording of his Suite Retratos, for string orchestra, mandolim and choro group (called in Brazil as “Regional”). Gnattali made some “musical portraits” from four Brazilian composers, Ernesto Nazareth, Chiquinha Gonzaga, Anacleto de Medeiros and Pixinguinha. They are considered the foundation of the Choro Music. And it was written for the greatest Brazilian mandolinist, Jacob do Bandolim. In this recording there’re also some Gnattali’s pieces for solo piano. A jewelry of the Brazilian instrumental music.
Antônio Brasileiro – Tom Jobim
This was Jobim’s last album, released few days after he passed away. It’s a very rich album, with some instrumental music, and some rearrangements, great success as Insensatez and Só danço Samba. It’s a masterpiece where he shows all his geniality as a composer and arranger. Also there are two tributes to Gnattali, a piece called “Meu amigo Radamés” (My friend Radamés) and Radamés y Pelé. Fantastic album!
What are your five favorite scores?
There are so many, but some scores that I really love, but still didn’t have the time to study, are the Five Bagateles by William Walton, the Decameron Negro by Leo Brouwer, Prelude, Fugue and Allegro (BWV 998) by Bach. And from the scores that I already play, Brasiliana nº 13 by Radamés Gnattali and Lamentos do Morro by Garoto.
With who would you like to play? What kind of music do you listen to usually?
I’d like to play with a great orchestra. In fact, play with any orchestra is already fantastic, but with a great one might be outstanding. I’d also like to play with many musicians, some of them already dead, like Radamés and Raphael Rabello, but also with the living ones as Egberto Gismonti and Milton Nascimento.
I listen to many different things. I easily change from Gesualdo to Dave Matthews Band. In my phone you will always find some rock, jazz, baroque, classical, contemporary and Brazilian music and I usually listen to it in a random mode. In fact, that was the way I found to really listen to all the music I have, and now I have Gesualdo, Dave Matthews, Ella Fitzgerald, Django Reinhardt, Marcus Siqueira, Julian Bream, Gnattali, Sviatoslav Richter, Baden Powell, Claude Bolling and some others…
Your next projects?
I have many projects, in fact, I think that one life won’t be enough for them (laughs)… But my idea is to keep in this borderline between classical and popular music. Right now I’m working in three projects, the new album of the Tau Quartet (a guitar quartet where I play), the music of Baden Powell, in a trio formation, with bass and drums, and continuing my studies in the Gnattali’s works, and there are lots of things! Besides that, I’m promoting my two albuns, specially the “Sarau para Radamés” in Brazil and Europe.