Estonian TV Tower Concert - Rehearsal

Esteban Colucci, Heiki Matlik and Kamen Ong
Before the concert, with guitarist Heiki Matlik and fabulous dancer Karmen Ong.




After a concert in Tallinn with composer Rene Eespere and Heiki Matlik After a concert in Tallinn with composer René Eespere (left) and Heiki Matlik (right)




The following is an excerpt of an interview that Ole Thestrup Pedersen did to me for the April edition of the Danish Guitar Society magazine just before my concert in Copenhagen

Ole T. Pedersen: How did your interest in the guitar originally arise?

Esteban Colucci: My parents took me to a music school for children, I think I was about 4 or 5 years old, and I actually started playing the flute there, but then I moved to the guitar and never stopped.

OTP: How did your interest in tango music develop?

EC: I wouldn´t say that an interest in Tango developed. Tango is inside all of us. You may like the music, you may not like it, but it is there and you can´t help it.
In that sense I think this music is different from other kinds of music. Maybe the reason is that for Argentinians tango is not only a genre of music but a means of inner expression. Nothing defines us so accurately, so deeply, as tango does.

OTP: So far you have not recorded the traditional European standard repertoire of people like Sor, Giuliani, Tárrega, J. Rodrigo, etc. - or transcribed music by Bach, Albeniz, and Granados. Has that been a deliberate choice?

EC: When it comes to recordings every project is born out of a necessity. I do not really think in terms of the Repertory. What is standard? Who establishes it? The guitar is not like the piano, or the violin. We have a very young history. Our repertory is not yet something definitive. I am sure that many of the pieces that are being played today as part of this standard repertory will not remain.

OTP: Your 3rd opus "My Heart's in the Highlands" features among other compositions one by Danish composer Bent Sørensen. How did you get in contact with his work and what made you decide to record him?

EC: I like Sørensen´s music a lot, and when I knew he had written some pieces for the guitar it seemed a good idea to include Shadow Siciliano in that particular CD. The piece is an example of extreme sophistication achieved with very little means, which is something that interests me a lot, and also an extremely beautiful piece of music.

OTP: On the same CD you have devoted a good deal of space to Baltic composers like Arvo Pärt and René Eespere. What made you decide to turn to this unusual choice of material?

EC: My heart´s in the Highlands pays homage to a region that is very dear to me. I have a special connection to its people, to its music. On the other hand, I had been meaning to record Pärt’s music for a long time, and this CD was the perfect excuse to work on it, in fact I think I must have been the first guitarist to arrange his music for solo guitar. Then, with René Eespere the case was very different. By the time I recorded My heart´s in the Highlands he had written five solo guitar pieces, and I thought it was a good idea to put all of them in a CD.
I think René Eespere is an exceptional artist, he has a very particular, unique voice, which is what interest me the most. It doesn’t happen often, in fact it is very rare, that you find composers like him.  We also managed to film an interview with him in the Estonian Academy of Music, in Tallinn, and we included the video in the CD.




OTP: On your CD "Soliloquium" you have recorded quite a lot of modern Asian and East European music (Ali-Zadé, Ourkouzounov, Gubaidulina, and Štěpán Rak). What made you decide to become involved in this category of composers?

EC: Unlike My heart´s in the Highlands, in Soliloquium there is no connection between the different pieces.
It is not that I thought on purpose that I would do a program with Eastern music. That program developed little by little out of my interest in some specific works.
I had been working on Štěpán Rak´s Farewell Finland for 3 or 4 years until one day I thought the piece was ready to record. The same happened with Ali-Zade´s Phantasie, which is a particularly challenging work. These two pieces, which are rather long are, so to say, the center of the CD.

OTP: On your most recent release "Buenos Aires hora cero" from 2012 you are back with the tangos, milongas and love songs by Gardel, Piazzolla, and others that you have grown up with in Argentina. I suppose these tunes are still close to your heart, so to speak. What do they mean to you today?

EC: There is a little story about the way this project was born.
I have a friend, who is among all the european players I know, the one who plays our music the best. He is a big fan of Cacho Tirao, who was Piazzolla´s guitarist. So he plays only his arrangements which are usually extremely difficult because Cacho was a real virtuoso player.
My friend arrives to Argentina. It was his first time in Buenos Aires after Cacho´s death. So when we meet he plays for me Atahualpa Yupanqui´s "El arriero", in a wonderful arrangement by Tirao. And as he played I noticed a tear ran down his face. Probably it was because of the piece, which is so sad, so beautiful, or because of the memories that piece arose in him, I don’t know, but only then I decided I wanted to record again a CD with Argentinian music and pay my little tribute to Cacho Tirao including some of his unique arrangements.

OTP: How do you see your career develop in the future? Have you set any definite goals?

EC: To be honest, I am always looking for something that cannot be reached, at least for me. So every step is a step further into a direction that doesn´t have an end. Every project sets me into a journey that I never know how it will finish.
Right now I have just premiered a solo piece with which René Eespere honored me, and the next few years will find me working on a cycle of 24 preludes and fugues by Georgian composer German Dzhaparidze.

What comes in between, one never knows.




René Eespere's Respectus is one of the most deep and beautiful pieces I have ever played. We recorded it together with violinist Harry Traksmann for the CD "Respectus" (2013).





With composer German Dzhaparidze, after my concerts in Moscow.






Testaments betrayed

A fragment of Milan Kundera´s Testaments betrayed that has always haunted me:

When I was thirteen or fourteen years old, I used to take lessons in musical composition. Not because I was a child prodigy but because of my father's quiet tact. It was during the war, and a friend of his, a Jewish composer, was required to wear the yellow star; people had begun to avoid him. Not knowing how to declare his solidarity, my father thought of asking him just then to give me lessons. They were confiscating Jewish apartments, and the composer kept having to move on to smaller and smaller places, ending up, just before he left for Theresienstadt, in a little flat where many people were camping, crammed, in every room. All along, he had held on to the small piano on which I would play my harmony or counterpoint exercises while strangers went about their business around us.




Of all this I retain only my admiration for him, and three or four images. Especially this one: seeing me out after a lesson, he stopped by the door and suddenly said to me: "There are many surprisingly weak passages in Beethoven. But it is the weak passages that bring out the strong ones. It's like a lawn--if it weren't there, we couldn't enjoy the beautiful tree growing on it."

A peculiar idea. That it has stayed in my memory is even more peculiar. Maybe I felt honored at getting to hear a confidential admission from the teacher, a secret, a great trick of the trade that only the initiated are permitted to know.

Whatever it was, that brief remark from my teacher of the time has haunted me all my life (I've defended it, I've fought it, I've never finished with it); without it, this text could very certainly not have been written.

But dearer to me than that remark in itself is the image of a man who, a while before his hideous journey, stood thinking aloud, in front of a child, about the problem of composing a work of art.


My daily bread

Since I am working on a cycle of 24 preludes and fugues by a Georgian composer my daily bread consists on a good dosis of attentive listening to Bach´s Das wohl temperierte klavier and Shostakovich´s 24 preludes and fugues.


Daniel Barenboim for the Bach cycle, and Keith Jarrett for the Shostakovich.


Arvo Pärt, back in November 1978

I use to read as much as I can about the people I admire. They are usually writers, filmmakers, but sometimes they are also composers. This is how I came by an extremely interesting interview with Arvo Pärt.
Nowadays you can read lots of articles about him, but mostly related to the last decade or so, which is the time when his music exploded in the international scene. The interview I´m talking about was conducted at the composer's home in Mustamäe, in November 28, 1978. That is, when he was not so widely known in the western world, and just one or two years before he would exile -first in Austria, and later in Germany escaping from the soviet banning.

I can almost imagine the picture. Late november in Tallinn, very cold, grey weather -probably snowing. Inside of a tiny apartment there are 3 people: the interviewer, Elena Pärt, and Arvo himself. They are making fun of him because he doesn´t want to talk, he gives strange replies, sometimes enigmatic ones.
But I was so strucked by one of Pärt´s answers that I would like to share it here:


Ivalo Randalu:
All right. Let's take, for example, "Tintinnabuli". What do you try to discover or find or achieve there? That keynote and the triad; what are you looking for there?
Arvo Pärt.: Infinity and chastity.
I.R.: In what way?
A.P.: Well, so... by groping around.
I.R.: [---] What is "chastity" in this context? By the means of sound?
A.P.: I can't explain, you have to know it, you have to feel it. You have to search it, you have to discover it. You have to discover everything, not only the way how to express it, you have to have the need for it. You have to desire it, you have to desire to be like this. All the rest comes itself. Then you'll get ears to hear it and eyes to see it. It's so with even quite usual and everyday things, with pieces of art and people...


19th April. 2012, My Heart´s in the highlands CD on Estonian Clasical Radio.

19th April. 2012, My Heart´s in the highlands CD was broadcasted on the Estonian Clasical Radio
with comments by composer René Eespere.


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