Ahead of his performances in Guitarra, the Australian guitarist chats about his most recent recording projects.
Who are the musicians (guitarist or otherwise) who have really inspired you across your career and why?
Thankfully this is a constantly growing list. It is however impossible for me to single a few musicians out and to say why they are more inspiring while not mentioning others… there are simply too many and from different musical genres. Here’s a (very) short list of guitarists only. If I looked outside of the guitar world we’d need a few pages… Paco de Lucia, Julian Bream, Pat Metheny, Ralph Towner, Rafael Rebello, Baden Powell, John Williams, Manuel Barrueco…
The Bach Cello Suites disc was your first solo recording in 15 years – for you, how different are the musical challenges of performing/recording solo to with other musicians? Do you prefer one over the other?
I generally prefer collaborating with others – hence the 15 year gap! The interaction and collaborative energy that’s generated to create a piece of music in a group is very exciting to me, much more so than playing on one’s own. I also love the instant feedback that one gets when working with others. I definitely find it more challenging rehearsing without that response from a fellow musician.
For you, what are the pleasures and challenges of performing Bach on guitar?
A solo project like the Bach Cello Suites is a life changing musical experience. Diving into this music has been deeply profound and humbling. The pleasures are endless and there seems to be a wonderful surprise around every corner. On the guitar, one of the biggest challenges is that of sustain and lyricism. To my ears, Bach’s music suffers immensely when this isn’t taken care of.
Are there any Bach interpreters, on any instrument, whose approaches you particularly admire?
I honestly love the variety and character of very different interpretations. I love listening to Casals and Yo-Yo Ma as much as Anner Bylsma and Pieter Wispelwey. I love Glenn Gould’s approach as much as Murray Perahia’s or Andras Schiff’s or Keith Jarrett’s. There are many masters out there who take this astonishing music and make it their own. That’s what I love.
Songs Without Words involved close collaboration with both your father and your brother – how does this affect the musical experience for you?
This is a very comfortable zone for me. Lenny and I have done so many recordings together now that it feels like the most normal thing to be doing. And, Dad’s been a part of them all. He’s definitely our biggest musical influence and it’s so wonderful to be able to collaborate with him as we all get older…
Songs Without Words has proved especially popular (it’s been at the top of the Limelight chart for several months running) – what do you think audiences are responding to about this recording?
With our ‘classical’ projects we are very much focused on giving the guitar a new platform. Playing arrangements of works by composers that didn’t write for guitar, for example, gives our instrument a different palette of colours and a new musical vocabulary. From a selfish perspective we get to absorb music that guitarists don’t get to play by truly wonderful composers. We love ‘singing’ on our instruments as much as possible and the selection of songs on this album allows us to do that more than we’ve done in the past. Maybe that’s what audiences are enjoying…
What music will you be bringing to the Guitarra tour?
We’ll be playing a mixture of things as always. A few original compositions and definitely some pieces off the new album.
What future projects have you got planned?
After a really hectic two years of recording we’re looking forward to performing as much as possible over the next year or so. Lots of exciting projects are in the pipeline but I don’t want to give away any secrets just yet!
Slava Grigoryan performs in Guitarra in Canberra on August 23, Melbourne on August 25, Sydney from August 26 – 27, Perth on September 1 and Adelaide on September 2.