Recently, I discovered a wonderful guitar album played by Julian Bream Prize winner, Carl Herring. Carl is a member of the Tetra Guitar Quartet, an innovative and virtuosic guitar ensemble. Carl also actively collaborates with Eduardo Niebla, an established guitarist/composer of flamenco jazz fusion.
Carl's latest solo guitar CD, "Russian Guitar Music" was released in 2011 and includes several world premiere recordings.
Q1. You are very passionate about discovering new repertoire, featuring little known music. Also you are very active in ensemble performances such as Tetra quartets or duet with Eduardo Niebla (flamenco guitarist), etc. Tell us about your artistic vision.
The exciting thing about being a guitarist at the moment is the sheer array of musical options open to you. It's possible to be a soloist, a chamber musician, and to collaborate with musicians with backgrounds in many different styles of music. Playing chamber music is very different to playing solo, in the sense that you have access to very different repertoire. The interaction between individuals and the blend of their personalities is part of the joy of playing with other musicians. With the Tetra Guitar Quartet for example, we always have fun together and our different musical interests really complement each other. We've just recorded a disc featuring arrangements of Elgar, Mahler and Beethoven, alongside some new commissions.
I enjoy the challenge of trying to discover new repertoire for guitar. With Elgar's Sevillana I think I was lucky and struck gold! As soon as I heard it, I knew it would make a superb arrangement for guitar quartet. It's a little gem, full of colour and lovely melodies, and is the opener on our new Tetra CD, About Time. Arranging is a wonderful way of immersing yourself in a composer's work and you come to know a piece quite intimately. I had that experience when arranging Schumann's Dichterliebe, which again, hadn't been arranged for guitar in its entirety before.
I've always loved flamenco guitar for its rhythm, virtuosity and expressiveness. My experience of playing with flamenco musicians has also broadened my palette of colours and techniques when playing in other styles. When I play with jazz musicians for example, I find that my flamenco persona comes to the fore a little more.
Q2. Your latest album is all about Russian music. What inspires you to choose this theme?
My wife, Alla, is originally from Russia and I'm a great admirer of Russian language and culture. Russians have a concept - dusha, which refers to their idea of the soul. I love Russian music that captures that sense of melancholy, yearning and nostalgia. I find that Russian music can be stern or tender; bleak or joyful; and sometimes all these feelings are somehow mixed. It was a real treat to immerse myself in page after page of Russian guitar music and to gradually see an album of music emerge. The fact that much of this music was neglected, new or unknown was a huge bonus.
Q3. On the album's booklet, you quoted an extract of The Bronze Horseman by Alexander Pushkin. Also, "White Nights Serenades (St. Petersburg Serenades)" by Grigory Korchmar (track11-15) were inspired by an extract of the same poem, which was actually recited by your wife Alla (track 10). Please tell us about the role of Pushkin's poetry in your album and in Russian art music.
Pushkin takes a special place in Russians' hearts and his influence can be felt right across Russian culture. The Korchmar piece was inspired by Pushkin's The Bronze Horseman, and the composer actually includes an extract of it on the score, and it is this that Alla recites. Having her read it on the album is also significant on a personal level because of the way that my own experience of Russia and Russian culture has been shaped to a large extent by my wife and her family.
Q4. "The Evening Flower (track 22)" by Elena Langer is a world premiere recording. Please tell us about this piece and the composer.
I met Elena while we were both students at the Royal Academy of Music, London. Elena is a distinguished composer who writes for a wide variety of mediums, from small chamber ensembles to full-scale operas. A fellow student and I performed Elena's guitar duet The Evening Flower at the Academy and I was struck by how well Elena had understood the guitar despite not having written for the instrument before. I hope she writes more for guitar in the future. It would be a pleasure to work with her again. As with the Korchmar piece, Elena's composition is also inspired by a poem, in this case a haiku by Matsuo Bashō.
Q5. Please tell us about Russian guitar tradition. I assume any music is strongly tied with its cultural background and language too. Did you take any approach to absorb the cultural aspect?
There are really two traditions. There is a huge amount of music for the Russian seven-string guitar by composer guitarists such as Andrey Sychra. Some of this music is starting to be heard, thanks in large part to publishers such as Matanya Ophee. At some point I would like to explore this music myself too, but for this particular project, I wanted to focus more on music for the modern six string guitar. This is mostly because this is the instrument that more modern composers such as Grigory Korchmar, Sergei Rudnev, Boris Asafiev and Elena Langer wrote for.
Q6. Please tell us about your next project.
I have a growing collection of pieces that have been written for me. Some are solo, others are with strings, percussion or voice. I would love to make an album of these in the near future.