The young Aussie chose the guitar because it was totally different from what his siblings played. Now he’s determined to liberate it.
Was the guitar your first instrument, and what made you choose it?
I started to play guitar when I was six years old. My elder siblings played trumpet and piano, so when it was suggested I could learn an instrument I was quite excited. But I distinctly remember trying to choose the one that looked the least like the trumpet or the piano.
Who would you consider musical heroes?
I have many, but my teacher, Timothy Kain has been an important one. Tim’s contributions to Australian music, his work with Guitar Trek, his solo and chamber projects and his somewhat legendary teaching career is a real source of inspiration. I aspire to lead such a meaningful musical life.
Who are your all time favourite composers and works for classical guitar?
Lately I’ve been very fond of Joaquín Rodrigo’s Fantasia para un Gentilhombre. It’s an underrated piece of music, but a particularly charming one. I’ve also been a fan of Nigel Westlake’s Antarctica Suite for ages. It’s such an evocative work that for me brilliantly captures the inhospitable vastness of the place, as well as the beauty of its unlikely inhabitants.
Do you feel the guitar is still seen as being on the fringes of classical music?
The modern classical guitar simply hasn’t been around long enough to be a serious feature of the canon. The guitar is too often put in the ‘unusual instrument’ category and so is programmed infrequently in musical festivals and such. Our instrument is a serious and potent musical voice, fully capable of transcending itself to touch the hearts and minds of our listeners, and we have a responsibility as guitarists to do nothing less.
What did you learn from releasing your debut solo CD, Spanish Guitar Music?
It’s not often you apply such detailed listening to yourself as when recording, and this process taught me a lot about my own playing.
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
Performing Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez with an orchestra in a competition final in San Francisco is certainly up there. I’m currently working on a very exciting collaboration with Opera Australia baritone, José Carbó, and a guitarist friend of mine, Ariel Nurhadi. We’re doing our own arrangements of classical ‘recital’ style repertoire from France, Germany, Spain and Italy. Most of these pieces have never been heard with guitar accompaniment, so we’re breaking new ground and this is an immense challenge. José’s voice is so expressive and captivating and he gives it everything. He also listens intently to us, and us to him, creating a wonderful synergy. I’ve never felt more moved than during the gigs we’ve done.
Who would you like to collaborate with?
There are wonderful musicians in Australia. I haven’t done much concerto work, so I’d like to play with some of our great orchestras.
What advice for aspiring classical guitarists?
We need to make more time to really learn as much about music as we can and about the craft of using our instrument to convincingly bring to life a musical score. Rhythm, melody, harmony, structure, style, texture and so on, these are the building blocks of music and the things we need to keep coming back to in our practise. And practise needs to be really conscious, thoughtful and musically constructive. Don’t waste your time doing mindless repetition simply to try to get something a little more technically perfect. Apart from it being a complete waste of time, it’s boring as!
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I want to keep learning and improving, and I want to stay happy and inspired with my music. I see myself doing plenty of solo recitals, chamber music collaborations, concerto performances and maybe the odd competition. José, Ariel and myself are working towards a CD, and there’s a new solo CD of Latin American music in the pipeline. Apart from that, I’m enrolled in a PhD programme. Ah, the life of a musician… did I say life?
Andrew is touring Australia and New Zealand in 2017 with a solo recital in the Sydney Opera House Utzon Room at the inaugural Classical Guitar Festival Sydney