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?
Frédérique: My love started with the music and not the guitar. I learned the piano at 8 years old but I quickly realized this instrument was not for me. I had the desire to play music since my childhood. To be honest, my dream as a little girl was to sing. That’s the reason why I’ve started the guitar, just to accompany myself, not more. And sometimes, we don’t realize the power of our teachers. One year of learning the classical guitar with my first guitar teacher made my path change.
Pierre: I first started with the piano when I was 7 and then the electric guitar when I became a teenager. At that time, during the 90’s, there were many rock-bands, which fascinated me. This is how my passion for the instrument started. Later I discovered the Classical Guitar, that I started to study at the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris. That was a total revelation to me: the beauty, the sound, the repertoire. We have the chance to play an amazingly beautiful instrument.
What was your musical training, with which teachers have you studied and what impression they left in your music?
Pierre: I had many teachers who all gave me different and very personal and interesting things.
– Geneviève Chanut, who gave me my first technical and musical approach to the instrument. She was very passionated, sensitive and very connected with the music.
– Alberto Vingiano, who gave me a real sense of feeling and chanting the music, and with whom I got my Conservatory 1st Prize.
– Judicaël Perroy, who remains the one who learned me everything: a very high level technical approach, a very precise way of thinking the music, he learned me to have a very high exigency with myself.
– Hughes Kolp who used to be Odaïr Assad’s Assistant in Belgium and who is a very human person. Technically, I learned a lot from him, especially with the attack. Musically, he gave me a very precise approach of the rhythm. This is when we started to work a lot with the duo and he was as well an amazing coach.
– Carlo Marchione, my dearest Maestro who gave me all the rest: precision with the esthetics, a very precise way of approaching the score at the source, how to become a professional musician, how to practice as a concert performer, how to transcribe. He is the incarnation of generosity and simplicity. He is a true Artist.
Frédérique: I had the chance to meet a lot of great teachers during my studies. Each of them brought me important things and very different from each other. Among them, the most important was Carlo Marchione, in the Netherlands (for his work on transcriptions, the musical part and the trust he gave to me) Hughes Kolp in Belgium (for his work on different way of practicing in guitar duo and the technical part) and Alberto Ponce in France (for his deep love for the music he gave to me). And I’ll never forget my only lesson and different meetings with Odair Assad who made me look at the music very differently (in a more natural way).
Berio in his essay “A remembrance to the future,” wrote: “.. A pianist who is a specialist about classical and romantic repertoire, and plays Beethoven and Chopin without knowing the music of the twentieth century, is also off as a pianist who is specialist about contemporary music and plays with hands and mind that have never been crossed in depth by Beethoven and Chopin. ” You play both traditional classical and contemporary repertoire … do you recognize yourself in these words?
Pierre: I think this is totally true. A classical musician must be able to play any music of any time. But now people get very specialized: Baroque Ensembles, Contemporary Ensembles, etc. which I think is very interesting. As 21st century musicians, we have that chance to have all this repertoire background, which is a true richness that nourishes and influences the interpretations from one period to another. Of course, purists would tell this should not happen, but the fact is that is happens anyway, just because we are in contact with all these different periods. Now, for the guitar-performers, I think that the job of rediscovering the repertoire, or creating a new one (Segovia, Bream for example) and showing to other musicians that the guitar can be an entire classical music instrument, has been done. I think that the next challenge will be to see where we want to bring the guitar. The answer to this question is multiple: some guitarists want to cross it with jazz or world music, some others with contemporary music, some others want to keep playing the guitar as it is. I believe that everyone is right in his own project and this is how we’ll make things go further.
Frédérique: Of course Music is Influences. Nowadays, we have a huge and rich Repertoire and we choose to play the music that speaks to us the deepest. The knowledge of all the characteristics and parameters of the different epochs is very important for a good playing. We need to understand the writing of Music of each epoch to be the closest to the original thought of the composer.
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.?
Frédérique: I think Live Performance is a kind of improvisation. Practicing is a kind of endless research, so a suite of many improvisations in order to find some different ways to lead the musical sentence. Moreover, each concert is different. Your feelings are different, the audience is different so in a certain way you play differently.
Pierre: Improvisation has had a very important place in the classical music, especially during the Baroque period. In the 20th century it has known a real revival, with jazz or contemporary music. In my opinion, today it’s possible to talk about improvisation for classical music on many points but more specifically on the gesture. I’m convinced that the very natural gesture that you meet in improvisation can be included to classical music, which can bring classical music to a new level of performing. This is a very fascinating subject.
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…
Frédérique: For me, Music is experience. And when you experience something you always make ‘error’! It’s the same in life. You learn a lot by the mistakes you make and try to go further to the right way. Fortunately, we are human beings and therefore imperfect otherwise we’d be bored. So the role of the error in my musical vision is essential.
Pierre: If we continue speaking about improvisation, then the notion of “error” doesn’t exist. The improvisation musician knows it and even explores its “error” as a new idea. I believe that it’s very far from classical music, where the challenge is not the same. In classical music, an “error” can be a wrong note, or a deficient technics at some point. The relation between the performer, the score and the composer is very specific: the score is seen as a sacred object, which in a way is true, that the classical musician has to perform perfectly. These are two different worlds, but to speak about Berio’s idea, I believe it would be interesting to see both nourishing one from another.
If you had to choose, who is your favorite composer to play?
Frédérique: Wow, this is a hard question! Almost impossible to answer for me! It’s the same if you ask someone “Do you prefer your Mother or your Father?” For me, it has no sense. I’ve got a lot of favorite composers!
Pierre: In the CD program, honestly I love to play each composer. But I’m very interested by Ginastera’s Music…
I have, sometimes, the feeling that in our times music’s history flows without a particular interest in its chronological course, in our discotheque before and after, past and future become interchangeable elements, shall this be a risk of a uniform vision for an interpreter and a composer? The risk of a musical “globalization”?
Pierre: I’m not sure if that is a “risk”. Professional musicians know where they belong and perform different music from different times with all the background they learned during their studies and after with research and/or confrontations (= meeting) with other musicians. This is somehow the “oral transmission” part of a “written transmission” music. In a way, on the history scale, our Occidental written music is quite young. And the more time will go on, the more the music will get global.
Frédérique: I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s a risk but quite the opposite… As I said before, nowadays we have the chance to have many centuries of music history behind us. The most important for an interpreter is to keep the right way to play the music in his right epoch! We cannot play Bach the same way as Piazzolla for sure.
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?
Frédérique: Nowadays, it’s essential to have good marketing! There are a lot of good musicians but not a lot of good promoters of themselves. A musician must have the visual sense today not only the auditive sense. It’s another job! Today, Music is also a visual transmission (videos, concert posters, website, magazines…).
Pierre: I believe this is a fundamental question nowadays. 50 or 60 years ago, and until not so far, artists’ role in society was totally different. In a few words: today, nobody’s waiting for anyone. The market is full of brilliant and talented musicians. The difference is on how they will meet their audience.
Which composer (or which historical movement) do you think is easiest for the non-musician listener to appreciate? Do you think they enjoy pieces that are more technically difficult or just more “flashy”?
Pierre: I think there is no answer on this. Some will love Baroque, some will love classical or contemporary, others will be sensitive to intimate music, others to virtuosity. From one concert to another, or more recently with the CD release, from a review to another, people’s feeling are always very different. Which is really interesting.
Frédérique: From my point of view, it depends on the way you play a piece! If you like the piece you play, then the audience will certainly feel it and appreciate it, depending on it’s a professional musician or not! But after the concerts, it’s always interesting to talk with the audience because a non-musician listener will say that he loved Ginastera and another Granados. It really depends on the individual preferences. There are no rules. But in general I noticed that the audience loves when the piece is a bit original and not much performed. They love in a certain way to be surprised. It’s always the case with the ‘Suite de Danzas Criollas’ Opus 15 by Alberto Ginastera. This piece makes each time unanimity among professionals and non-musicians listeners.
Please tell us five essential records, to have always with you .. the classic five discs for the desert island …
Frédérique: If I would go on a desert island, I don’t think I will take 5 records of classical music. I love too much Jazz music for that.
For example, I’ll take with me:
– Avishai Cohen ‘Aurora’ and ‘Seven seas’
And 3 records of classical music:
– Glenn Gould ‘Goldberg Variations’
– Daniel Barenboim ‘Piano Sonatas’ Beethoven
– Pablo Marquez ‘Musica del Delphin’ Luys de Narvaez
Pierre: hopefully now we have smartphones, which would allow us to take a few more than 5 CDs on a desert island. But ok, if I had to keep only five, let’s say:
Gustav Leonhardt: Bach Harpsichord Works
Glenn Gould: The Goldberg Variations
Daniel Barenboim: Beethoven Sonatas
Stephan Schmidt: Maurice Ohana
John Coltrane: A love Supreme
And let’s put it to a 6th
Pierre-Laurent Aimard: Ligeti Works for Piano
What are your five favorite scores?
Pierre: The same here, I could have many more on iPad, which is hopefully a real chance, but let’s say:
J.S. Bach: Chaconne
M.M. Ponce: Variations on Folia
M. Ohana: Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra
V. Asencio: Collectici Intim
A. Piazzolla: Tango Suite
– ‘Chaconne’ (Partita n°2 for violin) J.S. Bach
– ‘Invocation y Danza’ J. Rodrigo
– ‘Cancion del Emperador’ Luys de Narvaez
– ‘Suite Valenciana’ Vicente Ascencio
– ‘Sonata K27’ (and the 554 others!) Domenico Scarlatti
With who would you like to play?
Frédérique: With who I’d like to play? Wow, that’s my secret! You will see in the future! I’m a big dreamer… The only thing I can say is that he or she is not a guitar player!
Pierre: I’m very happy to play with Frédérique who is a true artist and musician. Now, I have no names of whom I’d like to play with. But a Chamber Music formation that I’d love to explore further is Guitar and Cello.
What kind of music do you listen to usually?
Pierre: Mostly Piano Music.
Frédérique: The music I usually listen depends on my mood and the period of my life. At that time, I like to listen very rhythmic music and Avishai Cohen is my favorite one. I listen much more piano music than guitar music.
Your next projects? When we will see you playing in Italy?
Frédérique: Actually, we don’t have project to perform in Italy except if you invite us of course!
But performing in Italy has always been and would be again a real pleasure for us! I really keep a very good souvenir of the Italian Audience when we were there for the last time, two years ago.
Pierre: We have many projects coming. On Summer 2014 we’ll be performing and teaching Masterclasses at the Cap Ferret Festival and Music Academy, in France. People can get infos on our website or via Facebook. During the Festival, we will premiere a piece which has been written for us by Jeffrey Holmes, an American composer. His music is very interesting and has a very strong personality.
Of course, we already think of a second disc for the future. Let’s say in the next 2 or 3 years. We already know the program, but we prefer to keep that for us for now!
We have already performed in Italy and we hope we’ll be back soon of course! It’s a wonderful country for the guitar and the music in general.
Thanks a lot for inviting us to this interview, it has been a real pleasure to discuss about music and guitar with you. All the best!