Since a very young age, I have been fascinated by its sound. I was so captivated that I even learned to play it, especially during my student days. It seemed that there's nothing better than to take out a guitar, try a few chords and coax out of it some melody or other from scores of a the huge number of composers like Albéniz, Villa-Lobos, Ponce, Bach etc and even to improvise or try out a few simple melodic line or two whenever I'm bored with my studies. I like the South American composers. They seem to have the ability to invent some incredibly innovative melodic combinations which you seldom find in the more classical works of old Europe, a feature which lends a peculiar romanticism to its guitar sound. Recently I got the chance to listen to some of such compositions live from the Los Romeros when they came to Hong Kong. They have a long tradition of playing classical guitar music in public( more than three generations from Celendonio Romero (1st generation) to Celin Romero (2nd generation) to Pepe and Celindo Romero (3rd generation) to Lito Romero (4th generation). To them, the guitar is not just their livelihood. It's their love. It's their family tradition. It's what gives meaning to their lives. It's their life. Perhaps, that's why some call the Los Romeros the "Royal Family of the Guitar". Recently, they celebrated the 55th anniversary of their public guitar recitals and they shared their joy in the sound of that lovely instrument with us. They hit the side of the guitar, the top of the sound box, they finger individual notes on one string or two strings together, they grate the strings, they damp the strings in all kinds of rhythms(rasgueado), run their fingers rapidly over one string after another in quick succession (tremolo) or they touch the strings lightly to produce merely the harmonic but not the main tone, they tap on the sound box of the guitar as if it were a drum, they flick their finger nails against the side of the guitar etc. They play with their finger tips or their nails. There are so many ways to play the guitar.
The first piece they played for us that evening is one involving all 3 generations of their family: Celin Romero, (grand father) Pepe Romero and Celindo Romero,( father and uncle) ) and Lito Romero (son).It was the Preludio from the La Revoltosa by Lorrente, a famous composer of zarzuelas, as arranged by Palomo which displays so many types of rhythms.
The second was a piece which every classical player must have played: Albéniz's Leyenda (Legend) from the Cantos de España (Songs of Spain) written in the early 1890s, a hauntingly beautiful piece of music which relies upon a very constant rhythm and subtle changes of chordal combination. I tried to play this piece so many times but somehow never managed once to play it to our my own satisfaction! ..
Then it's another popular piece by Albéniz. It's his Sevilla from his Suite Española.
The next piece is one which evokes images of the tranquil life of small rural towns in Medieval Southern Spain in which the ladies' only form of escape from boredom might be the dance. It's Enrique Granados' 'Spanish Dance No.2 Oriental and Spanish Dance No 5: Andaluza ", adapted for the guitar from his piano music.
This was followed by the Introduction and Fandango from the Guitar Quintet No. 4 G, G 488 of Luigi Boccherini, one of the 12 such he wrote originally for the guitar and string quartet
Following the intermission, we had Federico Morena Torroba's Estampas (picture cards) consisting of Bailando un fandango charro (dancing a cowboy fandango); Remansa (the pool), La Siega (the blind girl), Fiesta en el pueblo (feast in a village/small town), Amanecer (daybreak) and La boda (the wedding) , an assortment of guitar pieces trying reproduce various kinds of feelings under different domestic and outdoor circumstances.
Then it was the turn of one of my favourite guitar composers: the Brazilian Hector Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) We had his Preludios No.s 1 & 3 written in the 1940's.
Then we had Granada, another piece from Albéniz's Suite española which "describes" or "sketches" in music how the composer felt when he first visited Granada.
Next we had two dances written by Celendonio: Dance No. 1 and his Fantasia from the Suite Andaluza., followed by De Cádiz a la Habana
The evening was rounded off by a very enthusiastic piece written by Geronino Giminez: El baile de Luis Alonso, a very lively festive piece.
It's a wonderful experience to hear this royal family of the guitar whose co-operation with each other is simply impeccable. It brought back a flood of pleasant memories of the times I was still a relatively young student in Europe when life was so free and easy. Ah, the evocative power of music, a magic which knows no bounds.