Guitarist  ANGEL  ROMERO

in conversation with

Bruce Duffie

Let me state right here and now that practically all of my professional life has been a joy.  Fun things happen to me, to say nothing of the solid material I have been able to present on the radio and in print... and now on the internet!

Besides the full-time gig at WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago, I also worked for a year and a half with Music in the Air Corporation, which provided in-flight entertainment packages for various airlines.  United Airlines, based in Chicago, was the largest, and had, as a bonus for us, the fact that their package was also provided to Air Force One, the Presidential Airliner.  Whether or not Ronald Reagan or George H.W. Bush ever listened to my classical music segments, the programs were up there, traveling with the leaders of the Free World.

In addition to United, Music in the Air also serviced several other airlines, including Northwest, and that is where this interview with Angel Romero was first heard in July and August of 1988.  A profile of the guitarist was presented, and I was asked to chat with him to provide some comments and personal anecdotes.  As always, the conversation was not simply "a few minutes and out," but garnered a great deal of interesting material which I used in the air, on the air, and now on the worldwide web.

Setting up the chat was also special because like myself, Romero was a nightowl.  The corporation put us in touch and we then called each other several times to find a good place to insert the interview into his busy schedule.  Each phonecall was uproariously funny, and when we finally met in Chicago, it was as though two old friends had been reunited.  He came to the station toward the end of my regular shift, we did the interview, and then went out for pizza.  And though our paths have not crossed again, we talked late into the night a couple more times, and I hope he recalls the incident with the same fondness that I do.

Since we met, his career has progressed nicely and he is now conducting as well as performing.  His recordings continue to appear on various labels, and, like myself, he has his own personal website.

Here is that wonderful give-and-take from so many years ago.

Bruce Duffie:  Let me ask you about your instruments.  You have a number of guitars, but do you prefer one for most concerts and recordings?

Angel Romero:  I have a few instruments that I keep in constant use, but there are two that I take on the road, plus a recording instrument that I keep at home.  That one has all the characteristics of feel for the hand as the ones I tour with, but it has a little softer tone and is a little bit more even for the recording.

BD:  Do you play differently in the recording studio than in the concert hall?

AR:  No, I try not to, but I am sure there is a little difference.  Recording is a little more sterile.  You have to almost play like you have gloves on.  The microphones pick up every single sound, including noises along with the music.  We're human, so we're capable of making noise, but mostly I try to feel the same way as when I'm in concert.

BD:  Do you enjoy making records?

AR:  Yes, very much.  You have a sense in the music you are making.  It's lasting.  It's a wonderful feeling when you're playing.  When I'm sitting and playing, I hear it and like what I'm doing, and I know that the machines are turned on.  So I get a charge out of knowing all this good stuff is going down on the tape.  There's no going back.  This is it, it's on.  Once in awhile I've been disappointed when the producer comes in and says we'll do 'take one,' because then I know the machines were not rolling.  But that doesn't happen very often.

BD:  Do you find yourself going back and re-recording little sections and editing very much?

AR:  No.  As a matter of fact, in the first recording that I did of the Aranjuez Concerto, when I was about eighteen years old, I did it in one take.  I messed it up in the last movement on the very last scale.  One of my fingers got caught and they wanted to restart it from that place and splice it in.  But I said, "No, no, no.  I want to do the whole movement," which I did and made the scale.

BD:  So you'd rather do long takes.

AR:  Yes.  I don't like to chop it up.  Naturally there is some editing, though.  I perform the piece two or three times and then decide I'd like mostly the first one with something really nice that I did in the third one.  So I cheat a little bit, but it's still me.

BD:  Is there any time when the recording becomes a fraud?

AR:  No!  I am a musician first, and career and recordings and ego and everything else comes second, a very far second.  There is a certain integrity that is a moving force within me which is very much sterling throughout my career.  I'm proud to feel this way because I don't let my ego get in the way.  That can be very dangerous if you find yourself splicing here and there trying to keep it as clean as possible.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:  Why did you start with guitar rather than flute or trombone or something else?

AR:  In a way it's like asking why I started with Spanish.  I was born there in Spain, and the guitar was the language spoken in my house.  The same as I heard Spanish I heard the guitar.  It was my father's way of speaking and so I picked it up.  He was and is a great concert artist, a great exponent of the guitar, and it was just a great inspiration always being around him and listening.  I don't remember a day in my life where I was not associated with it.  It's very strange once I think about it.  If I had many lives to live, I wouldn't say that I would always be a musician, but most probably I would be some kind of artist.  If I couldn't do music I might paint.  I adore painting and am a great lover of art.  I spend all the time I possibly can  just outside of Paris with the water lily ponds of Claude Monet.  I go there to visit and to paint.  It draws me very much, like a magnet.

BD:  It's interesting that being Spanish you would enjoy the French paintings so much.

AR:  Yes.  I am far more drawn to the French than the Spanish for painting, though we have masters, of course.  I could go down the line, but the French impressionists use certain colors.  There's a certain light.  I love light.  Light changes my moods.  I love a sunny day because I have a bright personality.  I'm not a loner.  I don't go off into a corner to be by myself and enjoy it.  I have my moments, but I love people, and since I was a kid I like to be around people.  In the same way I tend to go towards the light.  I love a sunny day, and the French impressionists loved to paint sunny days.  Renoir and Monet would sometimes meet in the park and paint side by side, which is of great interest to see the differences of how two of the great masters saw the same subject.  They had a certain life to their paintings because they would actually paint the light, even beneath the dark color.  Coats of white would make them come through, and they would apply that technique to give you the sensation that it's coming alive when you look at it.

BD:  Then do you do the same thing  in your music - have the light underneath?

AR:  Yes, I do.  When I paint, I go for the colors and the light.  When I play the guitar, one of my fortes is this coloration.  I love to explore the coloration within phrases.  I go crazy with color.  I create different colors in the instrument with my fingers.

BD:  Do composers also do this same kind of thing - working with colors in their music?

AR:  Yes, I imagine so.  In works by different composers you get different interpretations of the same idea.  But what is more apparent is the interpretive.  The composition by the composer is like the subject for a painter.  The interpreter is the actual painter.  We performers create what we see.  We see notes on a score and make a musical picture for people to see.  It's funny that I used the word "see," but I really did mean to see, though by logic it's to listen.  But I am very visual in my music.  As I said, I use colors.  I see scenes and then interpret them somehow in my mind.  It goes into the musical mode, but I see it in my mind.  As a matter of fact, when I'm playing, I'm thinking of things that happened to me during the day and during different times in my life.  I have a little library of emotions in my mind, and when I'm recording or in concert, I bring these emotions forward and put them into the music.

BD:  How far can you go when interpreting a piece of music?

AR:  As far as your imagination can take you.  There are a few guidelines which the composer puts down to let you know what he had in mind when he wrote it, but as an interpreter, you should be able to expand to the maximum of your imagination within those limitations.  What I pay most attention to is the basic moment of music.  It has to have a skeleton, it has to have bones and a structure just like the human body, and this occurs through the rhythmic pattern of the piece.  Even if a piece is pretty and played nicely and is attractive to the ear, I don't like it when it has no backbone.

BD:  Do your imagination and creativity expand as you get older?

AR:  Yes, they do.  I have become more aware of happiness and sadness.  I feel more in both directions.  Life throws curves, and you must know how to deal with them, both in everyday life and, for me, in my life artistically.  I am very much involved every day with my art, with my music, so it's a gauge of my everyday happenings.  My private life is my music.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:  In music, where is the balance between the art and entertainment?

AR:  To me, everything should be entertaining.  There is no sense for something to be just art for the sake of art without any enjoyment.  That would be boring.  I give master classes both in Europe and here in the United States, and something I find interesting is to tell students not to just think, "Oh, I'm in a concert, I'm performing, I'm being judged."  I tell them never to forget that they're entertaining.  Sit forward and entertain.  It's just for the emotions of people, no more, no less.

BD:  What do you expect of the audience that comes to one of your concerts?

AR:  It's like new friends.  You are a bit nervous... or at least I am.  Sometimes when you meet people, you don't know how they're going to react to you.  Even what appears to you to be perfectly acceptable and even enjoyable, might not be for the person standing next to you.  So there's always a certain degree, even though, of course, I can say that guitaristically, they have to like it.  I'm not making mistakes, at least most of the time I'm not, but musically there's always a chance they might think it stinks and not like they way I play.  There's always that chance in the back of my mind when I'm playing in a concert hall.  What I expect of the audience is to feel relaxed and to be able to enjoy what has taken me so many years to create.  It isn't just a moment, it's many years of preparation not of a specific piece, not of that specific moment, but within those few moments of music.  There's a whole life which is behind it.

BD:  Have you spent a lifetime learning to be a guitarist, or learning to be a musician?

AR:  Learning to be a guitarist.  Being a musician I did not have to learn.  That was in me.  It's mine.  I still learn how to play the guitar.  There is always room for improvement, but musically, those are my taste buds.  I know how to taste.  Something tastes good or bad.  That is my inner sense.  You cannot really learn to be a musician.  You have to be one or not.  You learn the craft and how to interpret.

BD:  You mentioned that you come from Spain and Spanish music is in your blood, yet you love French painting.  Are there French composers for the guitar, or Russians, or even Americans whom you admire and perform?

AR:  Sure.  I would never limit myself to just Spanish composers, as my repertoire proves.  I'm a great lover of the German composers of all periods, and composers from all around the world.  I love many countries and different cultures.  That's one of the things I most treasure in my travels, the opportunity to meet and see so many different cultures.  On my first Telarc CD I was able to do music of Debussy, Satie and Stanley Myers film scores.  There's quite a literature written for the guitar.  I even do Sakura Variations from Japan.  When I went to the Osaka Festival, I tried to go out of my hotel one night and there were millions of people in the street.  You couldn't move, you just had to go with the flow of the people.  They were pushing down to the river for the festival of the Sakura tree.  Cherry blossoms were all lit up all along the sides of the river banks, and they go and worship them.  They parade by and they're in colors of white and pink and were just absolutely stunning.  I was so taken to see them glowing against the black of the night.  I heard people singing the famous old folk song and I played it when I got back to the hotel.  I put my head down and remember that night, and when I recorded it, I played it just like that, just how I remembered it.  Something came over me.  It brought out emotions as though I'd been Japanese in another life.

BD: Did the Japanese public react the way you'd expected when they heard your rendition?

AR:  Very much.  They're a responsive people.  They're very meticulous and they like professionalism.  They're wonderful audiences.  I like the Far East - Japan and Hong Kong and elsewhere.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:  Do you prepare differently for solo appearances as opposed to chamber music or concertos?

AR:  Yes.  When you play solo, you must create a complete concept by yourself.  When you play chamber music, it's team work, just like soccer or basketball.  You not only carry the ball, but also prepare passes.  Musical ideas are very interesting when you play chamber music.  Whether I'm playing with strings or an ensemble of guitars, what I play at any time might not be prominent.  I might set up a musical idea and another resolves it.  It's just like in a game.  You pass the ball in order to score, and you might not be the one who actually makes the point.  You must be very objective and free with a musical idea, not just yourself.  In a concerto, you're the soloists but you're still part of the larger musical idea, so when I prepare for orchestral performances, I learn the scores very well.  The idea is that each instrumental family - woodwinds, strings, brass, percussion - has a different coloration.  By understanding the piece, by understanding the orchestration, I conform what I am playing along with them.  That way the colors mix.  You can't just play the notes cleanly and be successful technically and let others worry about their parts.  There's much more to music than just making the notes.  To me, playing with orchestras is one of the great fulfillments.  I almost push myself even more to the limit to be dead-on with different colors around me right at the same time that I'm playing.  It's a challenge to be able to blend and make contrast with them.  We fight it out so it pushes the spectrum of sound even more.

BD:  Does it ever surprise the conductor that you know as much about the score as you do, not just your own part?

AR:  Yes, it does.  They like it because I tell them my favorite phrase.  I see them leaning to try to hear what I'm doing because the guitar doesn't have that much power.  It's not like a piano.  When they lean in, I tell them not to strain, that I am watching them and following.  I am a member of what's going on.  I'm not leading.  It's great to make music, all aspects of it.

BD:  How do you, as a concert artist, view the electric guitar?

AR:  I don't consider it the same way as a classical guitar.  It's a different instrument.  It has the same name and the same amount of strings, but it's a totally different instrument.  It creates sounds for a different purpose, different moods, different sensations.  When it's used properly in the hands of the right exponent, it sounds very good and I like it.  I'm not much into heavy metal, that I can plainly say.  I don't really understand it and it gets me a bit nervous when I hear it, so I tend to stay away from it.  But I grew up with surf music, and, as a matter of fact, I went to school with a member of the Beach Boys.  I was caught in that wave.  I was a healthy young Californian living on the beach and listening to it full blast in my convertible just like the rest of the kids.  So I was very aware that it created a mood.  It certainly did for me.  Like everything else, however, the electric guitar can be misused and it can be rightfully made to sound very good for what it does.

BD:  OK, then, let me ask the big question...  What is the purpose of music?

AR:  Having lived myself some hard moments, as I grow older and hopefully wiser, I think that the mission of music in society is to try to help us survive emotionally.   And that helps us physically because I think our emotions do control our physical behavior and the outcome of our actual physical being.  Music is just to aid humanity, it's a simple as that.  It's a hard life.  It has very good things, but when you remove your blinders and look around, there are so many hard things to see.  There's so much starvation and so many moments of despair along with so many happy moments.  I guess that's the way it was intended to be.  If we didn't have the contrast, we wouldn't appreciate.  That is the hard price to pay to appreciate.

*     *     *     *     *

[After a brief pause, we settle down to return to the conversation, and Angel clears his throat before beginning again.]

AR:  You know who taught me to clear my throat like that?  Riccardo Montalban, the actor.  He says doing that is great for the vocal cords.

BD:  Do you feel that playing your melodic line is like singing?

AR:  Oh yes, very much, very much so.  I'm also a great fan of opera.  One of the fun things growing up was to ask my father to drive us down to the record store.  My brothers and I collected a great deal of opera.  We would listen to them between our own rehearsals and studies.  So I grew up with a great sense of melodic playing, a sense of singing, of being able to interpret as a singer would.  Many times I sing along with what I'm playing.  I sing along with what I'm doing in my mind.  Sometimes I've been told that they can hear me from down underneath the footlights, especially when I'm doing concertos.  I sing along with the orchestra.  It's great fun.  You hope the playing is very loud so the audience won't hear you, you know.  [laughing]

BD:  [slyly asking...]  You took performance lessons from Glenn Gould?

AR:  [more laughing]  That's it exactly!  But seriously, you must have melodic singing in mind when you perform to have the continuity, the flow of the human voice, which is unparalleled.

BD:  Let's talk a bit about your family.  Most performers are involved in a career that is just themselves.  You are the son of a great performer, the brother of fine performers, and now the father of a budding performer.

AR:  I am thrilled, as any father would be, with the great surprise of having my own son follow in my footsteps.  He wants to continue with tradition and is the third generation of the guitarists "The Romeros."  He calls himself Lito.  His actual name is the same as mine, Angel Romero, and in Spain he would be called Angelito, meaning Little Angel.  He's played with me on tour and on recording.  It's a great joy to have him interested.  It's a way to be closer.  Normally, children grow away and go in other directions, which is healthy and normal, and he's free to do so.  I never pushed him to the guitar because I was never pushed myself.  Sometimes I get frustrated because I would like him to be able to do everything all at once, but he has certainly fulfilled most of my great expectations.

BD:  Were you his teacher, or did you send him to someone else?

AR:  He has studied with my father, and, being around all of us, he has listened and seen how all of us individually play the instrument.  But he has very much taken my own personal technique since his hands are very similar to mine.  It's very strange to see him do it.  When he plays, he has a great similarity to my technique, but he has his own sound.  He's very much his own person and it's very nice.

BD:  How much is the sound of any guitarist the instrument and how much is the player?

AR:  The complete sound is mostly the player.  I can get all the sounds that I want out of almost any guitar.

BD:  [mischievously]  Even a cigar box?

AR:  Almost.  [laughing]  It would depend on the kind of cigars!  Everything is all the guitarists, of course.  You cannot have a full spectrum.  It's like flying.  You cannot fly a little Piper the same way you'd fly a big jet or a fighter plane.  Guitars vary in volume and coloration capabilities, but the player can certainly be recognized on any instrument by the sound.  Even if it's a broomstick, you can identify him dead-on just by hearing a few notes.

BD:  How is your sound different from your father or your brothers?

AR:  It's very personal, but it's hard for me to be able to explain how my sound is.  That's something to be analyzed by the listener.  I try to have a very rich sound.  I hear things in a very lush way.  I see a forest.  I like rainforests.  It takes me back to colors, but I hear in a very lush form.  I try to be very rich and at the same time not mistake the richness of sound with the smallishness of the playing.  Those are two totally different things which are sometimes mistaken by interpreters.  The minute they start making the guitar sound in a lush way with nice thick tones, they immediately alter the phrasing.  It's two different roads.

BD:  Well, should the listeners who come to your concerts be attentive to your technique, or just enjoy the sound?  Or should they be absorbed in the totality of it all?

AR:  Completely in the totality of it.  They should forget everything, just come and sit down and enjoy it.  That's what I'm there for.  I want to share with them my musical experiences.  I'm creating something for them just to really enjoy and have some happy moments, and some sad ones, and whatever.  They can listen to technique if they want.  Everybody's different, but the real music lovers don't care who's playing.  They just come to get some musical emotions put to them and enjoy themselves.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:  Where is music going today?

AR:  I don't know, I really don't.  I like composers of this day, but I don't like ones that are moving music along into a spectrum of the unknown just for the sake of moving it into an unrecognizable place.  It's sometimes puzzling, just like I don't know where art is going.  I sometimes see a lot of unrecognizable figures on a canvas, paint dropped on canvases, and sometimes plain canvas with no paint at all, and people are staring at it and it's worth $100,000.  Some recordings have nothing on them.  I hope that's not the music of the future.

BD:  Then are you optimistic about the future of music?

AR:  I'm optimistic in the sense that I feel people will eventually relax and go back to some type of melodic form.  We've had enough slide rule compositions making musical equations.  There are great musical equations in Beethoven and Mozart.  You can't get any better or any more mathematical.  You can make it more unrecognizable, but certainly not more complex.  I don't understand some of the latest music, so I tend to shy a little bit away from it.  I'm still submerging in the oceans of Baroque and Classical, although there's a lot of contemporary composers whom I enjoy very much.  I think music today is going a little more for the abstract, like outer space, you know, to make you feel like you're on a different planet.  But I like to stay here on Earth.  I don't like to float around with the weird chords and whatever.

BD:  OK, then, what advice do you have for composers who would like to write concert music for the guitar?

AR:  Certainly don't imitate.  I do not want to give the impression that I want everyone to start composing like the masters of the past.  I want music to go forward.  Everything goes forward in time.  We cannot stop the clock.  Everything is created going forward, but I encourage all composers to write for the guitar.  We don't have that much, you know.  There is an enormous, abundant amount of repertoire for other instruments, so I hope that composers will write for the guitar.

BD:  Is that why there are so many transcriptions?

AR:  Sure, but that's a whole different world.  They're very legitimate.  There are purists who will turn their noses up at anything that is not written for the individual instrument, but I am very much for transcriptions.  I can take an orchestral piece by DeFalla and interpret it.  He was thinking it out, and his orchestra was one big guitar.  Almost all Spanish music was conceived with the guitar in mind.  Some piano music is irrational for the pianist to play because it's guitaristic, even though it was written by a pianist.  Albéniz and Granados were pianists and didn't play the guitar, yet they conceived things guitaristically.  Every Spaniard is a guitarist at heart just like every Italian is a singer.

BD:  Is there any difference for you when playing an original piece or a transcription, or, no matter what, is it just a piece of music?

AR:  It is a piece of music.  The only thing is that when it's a transcription, I tend to honor the sounds of the instrument that it was created for.  So there are two things going on - the actual piece of music and also a certain imitation of the sound of the original instrument.  When the piece is originally for the guitar, its conception and all the techniques are being interpreted on the guitar, so you have just the musical thought.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:  You mentioned doing master classes.  What advice do you have for young guitarists coming along?

AR:  Practice!  The guitar is a very difficult instrument, and it's a very rewarding one.  Guitarists are usually very devoted artists.  They have to be because the guitar is like no other instrument.  I'm not saying that you can just goof around on other instruments and be successful.  Nothing in this life can be successful when attempted lightheartedly.  But my advice is to seek the very correct way of playing, even if it's a little more difficult to get proper attention, proper techniques and studies.  I'm very free with my music and I like to make it sound free, but it combines a lot of analysis and many years of practice.

BD:  Is playing the guitar fun?

AR:  For me, it's magnificent.  I love it, but sometimes I can see how it can be frustrating.  I can only speak for myself, and for me it is a great deal of fun because I've been blessed.  I have a great facility, and since I was very little, it came naturally to me.  When I was a young child, I was able to take the guitar and do scales, and if I thought fast, my fingers would go fast.  Literally, I think fast and my fingers go fast, too.  So I have not been limited by my technique.  It's like having big wings.  You can go farther and just glide and take in the scenery like a big bird.  It's the same for me on the guitar.  It's a lot of fun, a great deal of fun.

BD:  Do you ever play lute or other similar instruments?

AR:  I play the lute, but I stay away from it because in order to really be successful, I would have to devote a lot more time to maintain a clean lute technique.  You have to devote more time than just a casual picking up of the instrument, which is the most I can really do because I am a guitarist completely.

BD:  Do you like the life of a wandering minstrel?

AR:  Yes.  It gets a little bit tiring, but I love to travel.  I have always done it since I was a little boy and have never stopped, so I don't know really how it is without traveling.  Whenever I arrive home after a long tour, home is welcome.  I see friends and you sort of put your head together.  But I'm usually changing bags and making some more plane reservations to other parts of the world.

BD:  Does that leave any time for your family?

AR:  I take them with me a lot of the time.  It's hard, but, like everything else, it has its pros and cons.

BD:  A singer must be very careful that they don't sing too often and tire the voice.  Is there any kind of the same technical problem with the guitar?  Do you have to be sure not to play too much and tire your fingers?

AR:  One of the technical aspects that I like to emphasize to my students is that you should have endurance, and that comes from the correct way of playing.  Guitarists can put too much pressure with the hands.  There's a set point where no matter how much you press with the left hand, it's not going to make the note sound any louder.  You should always stay right where you have covered with full pressure.  Everything after that is wasted movement.  If you are playing correctly, you should be able to play for long periods of time.  There's really not too much problem with that.

BD:  Have you done any composing yourself?

AR:  Yes, but not much.  I have written some things for the guitar and will be publishing them.  Right now I'm in the process of doing a method book for guitarists to actually see in writing my ideas of how to interpret.  My concept of the actual technique of the guitar will come with some sets of compositions for the instrument.  Interpreting has its own set of frustrations and rewards as well.

BD:  Will you play your pieces, or have another guitarist try them out first?

AR:  I will be the guinea pig... or maybe my son.  I'll give it to him and if the piece is no good, I'll blame him for it.  [much laughter all around]

BD:  I've often wondered if the composer was the ideal interpreter of his music.

AR:  When you hear them, a lot of composers are not thought of as good interpreters of their music.  I've been shocked by the concepts of some composers, and I want to tell them, "That's not the way the piece should be!"  Of course, they have created it, but sometimes the composer is not fully aware of the magnitude of what he has created.  Other people may see farther within the creation.  When you speak, others may get more meanings than you intended.  There's no stopping the interpretation of that creative moment.  The composer is really just a pawn in the basic creation of the music.  It comes from somewhere, maybe a little farther above than just the individual.  The composer is caught in the wave, like we all are, in putting forward that moment of music.  But I tend to think it's preconceived somewhere.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:  You were with Angel records (appropriately!) for several years, and now you've moved over to Telarc.

AR:  Angel is a wonderful company and I have done twelve or thirteen recordings with them, but I was taken by the quality of Telarc and wanted to participate in creating something for them.  It was just a breath of fresh air.  It doesn't have to be that something's bad to change.  Sometimes change motivates more creativity.  It's good to move forward and meet new friends and see new ideas.  I don't mean to sound like an advertisement, but they are a lot of fun people.  Just within the building you can feel a real electric charge of ideas going all the time.

BD: I assume you'll record some new repertoire as well as re-record a few old favorites?

AR:  Of course.  The new items will be fun, and the famous - or infamous! - Aranjuez Concerto has been played so many times, but it's such a magical piece that you never cease to enjoy it.  I also have some new pieces which are being written for me.

BD:  If the Aranjuez has been heard so much, would you rather people turn to other material?

        [Photo at right:  Angel Romero with Joaquín Rodrigo]

AR:  I enjoy playing many of these pieces, and I never play them the same twice.  I always find new ideas within them and thoroughly enjoy each one again.  It's like a new piece every time for me, plus I have a comfort in them.  Of my repertoire, that concerto is the one I don't ever have to practice at home.  I warm it up and just play a little bit to get my hands moving and then come out onstage to play it again.  It's very rare for a performer to do that, especially with a concerto of this magnitude.  It is a very difficult piece technically for the guitar.  We're animals of habit, and my habit is playing the Aranjuez Concerto.

BD:  But you don't let it get stale, do you?

AR:  No, never.  I don't let anything get stale.  There's too much in my imagination, and that forces me to be fresh each time.

BD:  Even though the repertoire for the guitar is not nearly as large as for the violin or piano, you still must decide which pieces you will play in any given concert or over any given season.  How do you choose?

AR:  Being in the concert circle, there are a lot of organizations and presenters that require different repertoires.  They call my management and have individual desires for their series.  So I have to determine which way my repertoire is going to drift within that specific season by what concerts are programmed and who has wanted what concerto.  I put forward almost thirty concertos for them to choose from, so it can be any of those, but it's like a restaurant.  I have different tastes.  I love Italian food, Greek food, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, and you can't eat them all at once.  You'd get sick.  I cannot play all the literature.  Even though it's not as large as for the violin or piano, still it's a lot of music.  I think about what will soothe my spirit and what will get my emotions flowing at the moment, so I go to my music cabinet and look at the menu.

BD:  Do you like being booked several years in advance?

AR:  I haven't really thought about it.  I guess it gives me motivation to get up in the morning!  [laughter]  I do enjoy it because it shows that there is an interest not only for me, but for the instrument I play.  And along with the concerts and recordings, I do a bit of film work.  I have had the great enjoyment of meeting several film composers, such as Lalo Schifrin, Dave Grusin, Bill Conti and others.  I am doing some "hot new things" as they say in the film business, that are going to take me into a new dimension.  And it's one I can understand because I have grown up in Los Angeles.  I was born in Spain, but I moved to California when I was about eleven years old.

BD:  Thank you for being an artist!

AR:  Thank you for making me feel like one, even though it's very late when we're doing this interview.  We've gotten into the habit of calling each other at this time of night.  But it's been fun and I want to thank you for making it very easy for me.

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© 1988 Bruce Duffie

Recorded April 1, 1988 at the studios of WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago, for Music in the Air Corporation to be used aboard Northwest Airlines in July & August, 1988.  The interview was also aired on WNIB in 1989, 1991 and 1996.

To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.  To read my thoughts on editing these interviews for print, as well as a few other interesting observations, click here.

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Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001.  His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.

You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests.  He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago.  You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.