Artist Profile and Interview – Edoardo Catemario

Upon hearing a recording of Domenico Scarlatti’s music performed by Italian guitarist Edoardo Catemario, I was immediately captivated by both his beautiful sound and his sensitive musicianship. Winner of both the ‘Andrés Segovia” and Alessandria International guitar competitions in the early 90s, Edoardo has been performing all over Europe to great acclaim. Edoardo recently sat down to share some wonderful insights on his journey and philosophies with Six String Journal. Enjoy!


When did you start playing and why? Or, what drew you to the guitar initially?

My father was an amateur player, he could play sixteen different instruments. He was also a good singer and used to sing to me every night before sleep. When he started playing the guitar I became immediately attracted by the sound of this instrument and wanted to play with him, he replied that I should start studying “properly” with a real teacher. I was almost five when I took my first lesson. My mother told me that I used to practice almost one hour per day at that time. I remember only that I liked the sound of the guitar and the feeling of my fingers on the strings.

What repertoire do you enjoy playing the most?

It depends by the mood and by the time of my life. I like baroque, classic, and romantic music and sometimes some very good contemporary although I must confess that ultra contemporary avant-garde (despite having played it quite a bit) is not my favorite. Let’s say that I tend to prefer music that you can sing or whistle…

What guitar or guitars do you perform on? Strings?

Since the late eighties I’ve performed only on vintage instruments. In my experience it is the best compromise between expressivity, projection, beauty of sound and dynamics. At a point of my life, I have had a collection with several great guitars: Simplicio, Garcia, Jose Ramirez I, Manuel Ramirez, Pascual Viudes, Del Vecchio and so. Nowadays, I still have a few guitars of that collection, those instruments that I was used to play the most: Enrique Garcia and Francisco Simplicio. Two years ago I have been struck by a modern luthier: Paulino Bernabe jr. Since then I am endorsing his guitars, in my opinion the best modern instrument able to compete in projection, beauty of sound and emotion depth with my old instruments. A special mention goes to a project of a wonderful “mad genius” from Italy: Walter Franchi. I own a couple of his guitars. He has invented a method called “ guitar refurbishment” that he applies to instruments of very poor craftsmanship of the end of XIX century and early XX (Ibañez, Julve, Casa Nunez etc) making them sound like guitars of very high level luthiers. In this way you can enjoy a pure “original” sound at a very reasonable price.  I own two guitars “Torres” which actually sound even better than the original ones (I have played several original Torres). Walter looks at a guitar and does what he calls “giving it a second chance” remaking it practically from scratch. The work of a genius.

Regarding strings, since 1992 I’ve used 1992 RC classic “Sonata light”, a string made in Valencia by a flamenco player: Juan Grecos. We have been working a lot to find a nylon string with a crystal sound and no personality in order to give the player the ability to have the sound he wishes.

Which guitarists/musicians have had the most influence on you?

At the very beginning of my guitar playing my hero was Andres Segovia. Growing up I have turned my sight elsewhere probably because of my musical formation that wasn’t only guitar oriented. I have been student of one of the very last musicians of the “Neapolitan school” (Titina De Fazio Imparato) and had to learn some piano and organ in order to receive lessons by her. This fact opened my horizons quite a lot bringing me to discover the most important pianists and violinists (Rubinstein, Czyffra, Lipatti, Oistrak, Hifez, Primerose, Enescu) and obviously organists (Richter mainly). Also, I had to practice repertoire that was not guitar: string quartet, organ, piano.

During all that period I was trying to understand Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli piano mastery. Instinctively I could feel that he was the incarnation of my “ideal” musician but I couldn’t replicate his perfect taste on the guitar. It took me years to begin to understand and I am still on this process of making the music as deep as I can by respecting the composers marks, ideas, and styles.

I also have had the incredible chance to personally meet Sergiu Celibidache who deeply influenced my life. Thanks to him I discovered that perfect beauty and emotional depth was possible. I have heard the perfect balance in more than one concert conducted by Celibidache. Attending as many rehearsals as I could, I discovered his way to work on the details, on the profound meaning of the music and its incarnation in the “here and now”. It is a never ending training.

Why do you seek what you call “perfect taste” elsewhere than guitar?

The guitar, historically, has been an instrument with a double face. On the one side it has been the most “popular” instrument, on the other side it was the privileged entertainment of the kings’ courts. This fact has lead to a continued osmosis of information between the courts and the taverns. During the centuries this “counterpoint” has happened repeatedly and you can easily recognize both the “aristocracy” and the “popular” of the guitar. The repertoire itself is very different. That’s how Tansman and Barrios coexist and why, in my opinion, Segovia didn’t play some pieces that other guitarists like so much. He was an aristocrat. I come from a noble Neapolitan family, I was born aristocratic but I have lived most of my life thinking this was like a “sin”. The leading aesthetic of the last forty years of the guitar has been basically popular, having noble roots and refined aesthetic was considered “vulgar”, quite funny, no? Things are slowly changing and many young players are trying to go back to the aristocratic guitar but it is still not easy for them as it has not been for me. Guitarists have closed themselves in a “guitar world” where guitarists play for other guitarists in guitar festivals and get reviewed on guitar magazines (and blogs) by other guitarists, teach master classes (abused term that often indicates a simple class to a low level student) of guitar to guitar students in a guitar campus where no other musician is allowed or is interested to come in. The funny part of this process is that almost every guitarist that I encounter blames the lack of audience and attempts to gain more audience by playing more vulgar repertoire. Sometimes you can listen to entire “jingle programs” in the hope that the audience will enjoy it. None of the performers that I have met ever questioned the fact that probably the problem was not only the repertoire but the performers themselves.

What I can say is that in my experience the quality pays off in the long term. I have been lucky enough to play in the “temples” of classical music like the golden saal of the Musikverein in Vienna or the big hall of Berliner Philharmonie or the Balshoi Saal of the Philharmonie of St. Petersburg but not in the main guitar festivals. I tend to think that the way I like and play the guitar is not well accepted by many guitarists, probably it’s a matter of culture. I have many anecdotes about discussing with (even quite famous) guitarists having to cut the chat about the real matters of music in order to avoid to give a non required lesson. Going back to the aesthetic I must confess that I can’t see myself using a ton of rubato in every single phrase, making every piece a Prelude or play in the most aseptic way, fast and furious or fast and clean. Music is more than that for me, it is landscape (to use a definition by Atahualpa Yupanqui), it is the occasion to see the life with the eyes and the ears of a great composer. It is unacceptable to me to vandalize a text in order to be “original” or, even worse, just for lack of culture.

Real music travels on a railroad parallel to the one chosen by most guitar festivals and often looks at the guitar world like you might look at an unlucky brother. It’s a pity, don’t you think?

What recording/s are you most proud of?

The next one!

What are some up and coming projects (recordings, concerts) you are excited about?

In October 2018 I am going on tour with Prague National Orchestra to perform “Sinfonia Argentina” by Daniel Doura. We will play in Prague, Tiplice and at the Hercules Saal in Munich. This is an orchestral piece for a huge orchestra and choir. The fourth movement is a small concerto for guitar, piano and orchestra.

I am on a secret project of a recording that will probably see the light in October. Shhh…

Technique and Performance

How much do you practice? And, do you structure your practice in any particular way?

It depends by what I have to do. Normally I would say between three and four hours a day. But in case of recordings or different concerts with different programs it can easily become twice that much.

I do follow always the same routines. Tune the guitar, put the score on the stand, take a pencil and start from the first bar, read the piece trying to squeeze out the emotions that it has. First comes the music and the pleasure to discover a new piece. Then I practice small parts of the piece trying to get them by heart as soon as I can, then I put together some small parts and practice slowly to gain clarity and precision, and so on for every part of the piece, from smaller to bigger (motive, semi/phrase, phrase, period, section, movement).

Are there aspects of guitar that you struggle with or that you find you are still working on?

Allow me to answer with a sentence by Carl Sandburg about the guitar: “A chattel with a soul often in part owning its owner and tantalizing him with his lack of perfection.”

The lack of perfection just drives me crazy in the effort to master it. I am not alone, I can remember an interview where Paco de Lucia was complaining about the guitar being the most ungrateful instrument.

Do you deliberately memorize music or have a technique that helps assimilate music into memory?

I do prefer to memorize everything. In order to achieve that, many years ago I started using mental training. My investigation started from a simple observation: when I was trying to play a passage with some kind of technical issue in it, despite playing it just in my mind without using the guitar the mistake was still there. I then understood that the origin of any mistake is only rarely physical and is more often what we imagine in our head.

A must read is “Mental Training for Musicians” by Renate Kloppel. This book describes roughly  every step that I follow to play everything by hart. I am sure you can find similar books  searching on the net.

Have you published any editions or do you plan to publish your own editions in the future?

I have been asked to publish my arrangements many times, eventually I will do it in the future. For many years I have been too lazy to put them on paper and have thought that it was useless: I redo every arrangement as it was the first time I play the piece every time I play any other instruments repertoire and believe that, if someone likes my arrangement, he can make his own arrangement and eventually listen to my recordings and use the ideas as he/she wants. It is still questionable if publishing my arrangements or not… can we make a poll?

So far, there is only one book that I have published thinking that it could be of some help to musicians. It is called “fundamentals of interpretation” and explains in 36 pages everything basic I know about music: the meaning of articulation, tempos (what actually mean Andante i.e. and why you should play at a tempo rate instead of an other), structure, etc… Also is about visible and hidden signs in a score.

It’s a book about the essential things that every musician worth to be called a musician already knows. It is downloadable for free at my website:

Do you have a favorite drill you use to warm up?

No. I have spent my life trying to be ready for public performance with no warm up. I try to play music every time I pick my guitar up. I quickly get bored by technique. When I was a student I practiced technical exercises for hours, in that period I liked it. Not anymore, my priorities have changed. Before a concert I play slowly something that I like in that moment (not necessarily from the program that I am going to perform).

Do you have any pre-concert rituals?

Not really. I have everyday ritual, kind of superstitions… I come out of my bed always with my right foot, don’t share salt with anybody, don’t step under a stair and many others, in music I never play Scarlatti’s sonatas in odd number. I can’t say that I believe in bad luck but I prefer not to challenge the fate…

Advice to Younger Players

What single most important piece of advice about practicing would you offer to younger players?

Do music, first! Be compassionate with your music, put your soul in it and then, only in a second moment, slow down every single passage and practice the technique to make it as perfect and full of energy as you can. Practicing the clarity before trying to put the music into the piece very often ends up in a totally dry performance. One very important advice: play what is written (P means *piano*, F *forte* and not whatever else you like, a rallentando mark means that you should slow down the tempo ONLY in the segment where the mark is placed).

What repertoire do you consider essential for young/conservatory students to assimilate? Why?

Etudes. All of them: Sor, Giuliani, Carcassi, Legnani, Coste, Villa Lobos etc… An etude is a great occasion to manage a musical performance in a small form. From smaller to bigger. You can’t reasonably play Chaconne if you can’t manage to play a study by Sagreras from memory and musically convincingly.

Recordings that every young guitarist should be familiar with and why?

We live in an epoque when you can have access to virtually every recording ever made. I think that it is important for everybody to know his own roots. Who are the greatest masters of the past? Start with them! It’s dangerous to build up a student career by listening only to competition winners and try to imitate that play wishing only to win a competition at your turn. Music is a different matter and has nothing to do with competitions nor with cultivating “originality”. Originality is the pompous name that many people give to their ignorance.


What is the last book that you read? Favorite author/s?

I like thrillers (especially if, but not only) blended with philosophical arguments: Dan Brown, Paulo Coelho or Tolkien. Books of art (Philippe Daverio for example), Italian literature (Fallaci, Ilaria Cenci Campani and many others), some Spanish literature (Martha Batiz Zuk among others) and obviously the great classics: from Voltaire to Verne, Cervantes, Tolstoji, Goethe, Dante, Ariosto… also some Ancient Greek literature, I have read Sophocles, Eschilo, Plato and many others.

As of now I am reading the book by Leon Poliakov about the Shoah. The next one is lying on the table near my bed: Secrets of the Sistine Chapel.

Do you try to stay healthy? Exercise? Follow a particular diet?

I wish I could. I have been a rugby player in my youth, every year I promise to myself that I will exercise. It’s now over five years without.

I am very demanding with food. I live in the field and prefer zero km food, I avoid as much as I can pre-boxed food and try to eat as much healthy food as I can. Old weeds, biological food with no OGM and no chemicals. Obviously, living in Tuscany it is easier for me.

Have a favorite pre-concert food?

I don’t eat before concerts.

Do you meditate in any way?


What is your favorite way to spend time when not practicing?

Play with my four years old son, walk with my darling, read, talk with friends, play cards with the elders of my village.

Any things else you’d like to add?

I have developed a system of teaching based on the XVIII century Neapolitan school and its “partimenti”. This system permits to any absolute beginner to play his first song in 4 lessons. The method can be used to introduce students to music and can be applied to harmonic instruments (guitar or keyboard). It can be used also to form amateur players to enjoy music. It is very progressive and is centered upon playing with the teacher and not in front of a computer. The skills asked to learn how to teach the first and second level are quite possible to get acquired quickly by a proficient guitarist of any genre. The method itself is not centered on the classical repertoire nor classical guitar and allows people to develop a good ear, good side reading, improvisation, knowledge of harmony, tab, notation and arranging. The system is based on two “steps” which are focused on the student and not on the institutional “timing”. This is a crucial aspect of artistic learning: institutions care that you learn a “basic minimum” in a given time, you have to be prepared to give an exam at a certain date but it doesn’t matter how well you perform. Art demands the absolute best you preparation, it doesn’t matter when (although the sooner the better). Teachers who use my method (Metodo Catemario) also accept the “ethical teaching code” which is a fundamental part of the method itself: every lesson can be repeated as many times as the student (or the teacher) feel being necessary to achieve any single result at no extra cost. Only when the student is well prepared and has no doubts about that particular lesson can step ahead to the following subject.

Drew Henderson Playing Bach

I just came across the Canadian guitarist, Drew Henderson, playing the Allegro from Johann Sebastian Bach’s 2nd Violin Sonata, BWV1003. His performance is brilliant on many levels and the fact that he is playing an 8-string guitar allows him to add in bass notes that would otherwise be impossible on a standard 6-string guitar.

And, here is another magical and virtuosic performance of Joaquín Rodrigo’s Zapateado from Tres piezas Españolas. It seems that Drew does fine on a six-string, too. : )

Hope that inspires you all!

Give Your Scales Purpose

You may enjoy playing scales as much as I do. The organizational aspect of it, the ear training, the mechanical and athletic component, and the results scale practice produces keeps them on the top of my technique practice log. All musicians know how important scale work is for their musical and technical development. So if you are in the habit of running through scales as part of your routine, one simple adjustment can help: giving your scales direction.

We augment results when musical intent is paired with technical practice. To this end, start adding simple phrasing to your scales:

Step 1

Know your scales!

Scale D major open.jpg


Step 2

Add simple pair phrasings or groupings. Give a certain hierarchy to the groupings like tension to resolution or strong to weak. Establish that the two (or three or four…) notes are related in some way.


Scale D major open Phrase 1.jpg


Scale D major open Phrase 2.jpg

Keep going: group 4, 5, 6 notes together!

Step 3

Start your phrases off of the perceived downbeat.

Scale D major open Phrase 3.jpg

Off to practice!




Duo Siquiera Lima playing Handel

Duo Siquiera Lima (Cecilia Siquiera and Fernando de Lima) caught my attention while looking for duets to play with my sons. Here they are playing Handel’s Chaconne in G major.

And, if you have time to witness more extraordinary playing, this video culminates with the 3rd movement of Astor Piazzolla’s Tango Suite.



Thibault Cauvin via Paris Guitar Foundation

I was fortunate to see French guitarist Thibault Cauvin play in San Francisco years ago during a competition (which he won). At the time, he was a very young and already a very fine musician with ample technique. What set him apart from the other competitors was his ability to move energy through his guitar with an intensity that was palpable.

This wonderful video comes via the Paris Guitar Foundation. It provides a great collage of Thibault’s activities and has footage of some great playing.



Do you do these ten things?

I came across this wonderful video of Steinway Artist and Professor of Piano, Dr. John Mortensen. Watch his video if you want his reasoning behind the list below. And, while I don’t think it’s possible to all of these ten things every day, he really makes a good point about composing and improvising. This is something I rarely do. : (

  1. Listen and study scores.
  2. Sight read every day. Shoot for 20 minutes a day.
  3. Read about music. Biographies, histories, etc…
  4. Go to concerts.
  5. Record yourself and critique.
  6. Guard your practice time.
  7. Practice scales and arpeggios in all keys.
  8. Improvise and compose all the time.
  9. Attack your weaknesses.
  10. Discuss music with other musicians.


To work!

José Antonio Escobar plays Villa Lobos

I just came across this incredible video of Chilean virtuoso José Antonio Escobar playing Heitor Villa-Lobos’s Prelude Nº3 on one of Elias Bonnet’s beautiful guitars. Absolutely a stunning performance and recording. Check out José’s recording of Villa-Lobos’ complete works.



Technique Practice on Albéniz’s Sevilla

So you’ve practiced the passages using the tried and true metronome crawl up to tempo, you’ve done your visualizing, you’ve done your right hand and left hand alone, and you’re searching for yet another way to work on a troublesome passage or to give yourself an iron-clad safety net? Search no further! El_atardecer_sobre_Santa_María-1

I’m going to use a passage from Isaac Albéniz’s Sevilla to illustrate a very effective way to break down a trouble spot. This method is particularly great for passages with rhythmically equal notes. In the following example, you have a continuous string of 16th notes.

Scale Sevilla Example 1.jpg


Provided you have arrived at your fingering of choice for both hands, practice the passage by playing the first group of 4 16ths, then pause AND prepare/plant the next right and left hand fingers on the upcoming note. Enjoy the notion that theoretically it will be impossible to miss this next note if both left and right hand fingers are prepared.

Scale Sevilla Example 2.jpg

Play the same group of notes with the same pause and preparation. When your fingers feel confident (I aim for 3-5 well executed and focused repetitions), proceed to the next group of four notes. During the pause, visualize the group of notes you are about to perform before playing them.

Scale Sevilla Example 3.jpg

Play the same group of notes with the same pause and preparation. When your fingers feel confident, proceed to the next group of four notes until you have gone through the entire passage.


Now go through the passage in the same manner with the pause and preparation. Visualize the next group of 4 16th and play them. Pause, prepare, visualize though the passage. Move forward without repetitions.

Scale Sevilla Example 4.jpg


Now play through the passage without pause to assess your work. It has to feel good. Now that you are pumped, the fun can begin.


This time notice we are working with a new group of sixteenths displaced by one note.

Scale Sevilla Example 5.jpg


Scale Sevilla Example 6.jpg


Hope this helps. Challenge yourself with groupings of 6 or 8 16ths or if you really have a lot of time and the passage is particularly troublesome, groups of 3 or 5 16ths. If you listen with focus and observe the behavior of your fingers with curiosity you will improve!




David Russell Interview

Marcelo Kayath’s project, The Guitar Coop, once again publishes a wonderful interview in two parts. This time with guitar hero, David Russell. They talk technique, transcriptions, interpretations, ornamentation, guitars, and more.

Have a good weekend!

Jacob Cordover Interview

With reviews praising his superb interpretations, his flawless technique, and his virtuosic mastery of the instrument, Spanish-based Australian guitarist Jacob Cordover‘s performances speak for themselves. He recently sat down for an interview with Six String Journal where he enthusiastically and generously shares details about his journey with guitar, the way he prepares for concerts, how he warms up, advice for younger guitarists, and even why he gave up on pre-concert rituals.


SSJ: When did you start playing and why? Or, what drew you to the guitar initially?

JC: My mother has told me that I first started asking to play the guitar when I was only three or four years old. As there was no guitar in the household, but there was a piano, it was suggested I start by playing piano. When I was about 10 years old however, my parents bought me a guitar and signed me up for Suzuki guitar lessons.

It was around this time that my father took me on a trip to the Philippines. One calm, balmy evening in Manila we went to a classical guitar concert. There, sitting in the open-air-theatre – or rather an old Spanish-style interior courtyard, two classical guitarists took the stage. It was whilst listening to this concert that I first had the realisation that I would be a musician, that the classical guitar would become my “voice”. I don’t know what it was specifically, but the sound of the classical guitar entered my ears and truly captivated me. As a child I also learned clarinet, saxophone, piano and sang in choirs, but for reasons beyond my knowledge, the guitar never felt like work, I always found great satisfaction playing the guitar.

What repertoire do you enjoy playing the most? 

JC: I don’t think there is any one – in fact, what excites me most about the classical guitar repertoire is the variety offered. I go through a lot of repertoire and change programs several times a year. Besides my solo work, I also play a lot of chamber music; with string quartet, as duo with guitar, oboe, violin, cello, voice and even once with cornett. I am equally happy playing music from the Spanish Renaissance as I am working with composers on new works, I love the music of Spain and South America, Bach and Giuliani equally. Life is full of differences and the music I play reflects that. There is so much variety in life and I like that there is always a piece of music to reflect, or emote, or console any possible mood or feeling. There is a time and a place for beauty, for pain, for virtuosity, for ugliness, for chords, for counterpoint, for the avant-garde and everything in between.

What guitar or guitars do you perform on? Strings?

JC: I have been playing Smallman guitars since 2002. All 5 of my CDs (three solo and two duo) have been recorded on either a 2002 or my 2006 Smallman guitars. However, in recent years I’ve been lucky enough to have multiple beautiful instruments at my disposal. I have been performing more and more on a fabulous guitar by the young Spanish luthier Elias Bonet. I bought one of his spruce topped instruments in 2015 and fell in love with the sound. It has much more of a traditional sound than the Smallman and is full of colours, fabulous clarity and a bell like projection in the trebles. I also play on a romantic guitar built by the Famiglia Vinaccia in 1915. The family continued building their guitars in the 19th Century style right through the middle of the 20th century, so this guitar has all the wonderful characterises of an original period instrument, but is only 102 years old.

I enjoy playing on a variety of guitars as the instruments are so unique. I like to try each piece on the different instruments to see what qualities the different guitars bring out in the music. My Smallman has a resonance and richness that makes melodies sing whereas the clarity and colours of the Bonet brings out the intricate textures and rhythms. The Vinaccia obviously suits the 19th century music with its rich vibrato and velvety sound, but also lends an intimacy to many more contemporary works.

I play exclusively on Knobloch Strings and use them on all my guitars. Depending on the concert, the stage, and the repertoire, I change between Knobloch Actives Q.Z. (nylon) Double Silver and the Q.Z. Sterling Silver strings, and always Hard Tension.

Which guitarists/musicians have had the most influence on you?

JC: There have been so many over the years, but my biggest musical influence was my undergraduate teacher in Australia, Timothy Kain. I also had a couple of lessons with the bassist Edgar Meyer and the violinist Lorand Fenyves which left a lasting impact on my playing. They both said things that I still think about to this day, even if it was only a simple impactful sentence. In addition, listening to some of the great players of today – like oboist Nicholas Daniel, cellist Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi, or the Assad Brothers – has influenced me by pushing me to always express the music beyond the limits of one’s chosen instrument, in my case, the guitar. For me, the Assad Brothers do this extraordinarily well; their articulation, sense of line and rhythm and their fluidity have always captivated me. I love the way they always make music, that happens to come from a guitar, that is to say, I never get the impression that the musical decisions were made because of the guitar, but often in spite of the guitar. As a duo, the Assad Brothers have found a way to go beyond the difficulties and technical limitations of the guitar and always play with singing lyrical melodies, a strong rhythmic pulse and a seamless rubato.

What recording/s are you most proud of? 

JC: That’s a tough question as I’m equally proud of all my CDs. Each of them for me represents a time in my life and playing, and each CD is the culmination of the long process of getting to know the pieces intimately, internalizing them and then recording a version of each work in my voice. Now, when I listen back to these discs they carry with them the memory of the process and artistic decisions from the point in my career when they were recorded and I am proud of having created an honest and true interpretation of each piece across my 5 CDs.

I’ll give you my highlights from each CD. From my first CD, Stélé, the title track carries with it the many conversations with the composer of the work, Philip Houghton who just passed away. I am still proud of this recording of his beautiful work.

My duo CD Songs from the Forest by the Australian Guitar Duo (with Rupert Boyd) includes many more Australian works, in which I think we capture the essence and colours of the Australian musical language.

An example from my second solo CD, Blackwattle Caprices is J.S. Bach’s Suite BWV 997, which was the culmination of years of studying this piece, listening to many interpretations, delving into performance practice and being especially influenced by the interpretation of Robert Hill.

In my Zoco Duo CD Historias (with Laura Karney, oboe/cor anglais), I am proud of the arrangements we made. Although the oboe / cor anglais and guitar is an unusual combination, we were able to highlight the colours, timbres and variety of the instruments and give a wonderful representation of the sultry power of this combination.

In many ways, my most recent CD, Expresivo, was the most difficult to record. Expresivo is an album full of the classical guitar favourites and the music that first captivated me when I started to learn the guitar – works by Tárrega, Albéniz, Granados, Barrios, Villa-Lobos, Piazzolla and others. I tried very much to play this music honestly, and the way I hear it, rather than trying to capture or imitate older recordings of this repertoire from the ‘greats’.

The result is something I’m immensely proud. I think my own arrangements and interpretations are different enough to be captivating, but familiar enough to do justice to the legacy of the greats. In fact, Ken Keaton wrote in the American Record Guide “Even if you already have these pieces in other performances, Cordover’s have such a distinct and attractive personality that it will be worth finding.” (ARG Nov/Dec 2016)

Are there any recordings that you consider have the finest recorded sound for guitar?

JC: Whilst I always have chosen to record with John Taylor because I love the sound he captures in his recordings, I would be hard pressed to mention any one as ‘the finest’. Again, I like the variety. For me it’s interesting to hear how different engineers and different performers want to capture the sound of different guitars and I believe these differences in the recorded sound are just an extension of the great variety of interpretation that makes each performer unique. I have always felt I can learn so much listening to a recording and trying to answer why someone played a phrase the way they did, or why they use that guitar, or those strings, or that recording engineer with that sound. What were they striving for and why?

What are some up and coming projects (recordings, concerts) you are excited about?

JC: My next project will be returning to Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s breathtaking setting of Platero and I for guitar and narrator. Back in 2015 I toured Platero with my brother Gideon. Early next year we will record a CD of Platero and I am excited to be developing this project further; not just as a CD, but a live staged production and other multi-media collaborations as well. These stories are just spectacular and Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s musical setting, in my mind, borders on the divine. Here’s a link to a video I recently made of one movement (without the narrator) and here’s a link to a movement, Ronsard, with narrator.

I am also excited to be heading into the studio to record some of the contemporary works for guitar and oboe / cor anglais that my ensemble Zoco Duo have premiered over the last decade. We will be recording works by composers from Australia, Norway, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S.A.

As for live performances, I’m very much looking forward to performing an arrangement of Enrique Granados’ Valses Poéticos for guitar and orchestra in the closing concert of the Art Llobet Festival here in Barcelona on November 5th.  The waltzes are little gems and the orchestration gives adds so many new colours to this wonderful work.

Technique and Performance

How much do you practice? And, do you structure your practice in any particular way?

JC: I practice each and every day and aim for between 4 – 5 hours. I have the luxury of being exclusively a concert artist so can focus all my energy on honing my performance. I start each day with at least 40 minutes of warm-ups which include scales, slurs, RH cross-string exercises and tremolo study. On concert days, I like to be well warmed up and will usually aim for at least two hours of practice before a concert. Travel days are more difficult but I generally manage to get my warm-ups done as well as playing through some pieces or working on tricky passages, even if this has to be done at the airport, bus station, or at my hotel – before breakfast, after dinner, or whenever I can squeeze it in.

In recent years, I have tried to give myself a couple of “rest days” a year where I don’t worry about practicing, but I still enjoy playing guitar so much that even on my days off I often end up playing guitar for its own sake – either reading through new music or playing some old favourites. Always after doing my warm-ups of course!

Are there aspects of guitar that you struggle with or that you find you are still working on?

JC: I still pretty much work on everything because, well, as Pablo Casals once famously said “because I think I’m making progress”.

Do you deliberately memorize music or have a technique that helps assimilate music into memory?

JC: Often memorization just happens organically, but if I’m pressed to memorize a piece quickly, or especially when memorizing Bach (or other complex contrapuntal music) I try to use every possible technique. I will try to make sure I have the muscle memory (which I prove by trying to hold a conversation whilst letting my fingers play on their own), I try to visualize the score in my head, I try to visualize the left and right-hand fingerings, and if I really want to make sure I know a piece, I’ll get a piece of manuscript and write it out from memory – not just notes, but left and right hand fingerings as well. If there is one thing I’ve learned about live performance is that you never know what might distract you at any moment, and it’s nice to have the security that I really, really know a piece inside and out.

Have you published any editions or do you plan to publish your own editions in the future?

JC: I have made lots of arrangements, not just for solo guitar but also for guitar and oboe for my ensemble Zoco Duo. Publishing is certainly on my list of things to do as I’d love to have these arrangements publicly available, but for now, you can just hear them on my CDs.

Do you have a favorite drill you use to warm up?

JC: I have a fairly consistent set of warm-up exercises which I change up (for my own sanity) a couple of times a year. The first thing I always start with is a couple of cross-string RH exercises that were once shown to me, one by Pavel Steidl and the other by the Argentinean guitarist Lautaro Tissera. I then play through that month’s selection of Aaron Shearer LH slurs exercises, a rotating selection of Giuliani RH exercises, scales – starting with three repetitions of each note accenting the first of each grouping (mim imi or ama mam) then duplets (mi, im, am, ma) and if I feel I have time with the little finger as well (ca, cm, ci, ai etc). I also do repetitions of 4 then 2 on each note with ami (amia miam iami etc) – this way you’re always changing which finger you start the grouping on. I’ll then change it up to starting each new note with the same fingering. I do these right-hand variations whilst playing two octave scales from C to Eb, then three octaves from E to C (My Bonet guitar has a 20th fret!).

I then practice tremolo – starting slowly and most often whilst playing Recuerdos or Barrios’ Una limosna por el amor del diós . I always start p and a finger together (i.e. p&a mia, p&m iam, p&i ami, etc), then a 5 tremolo  tremolo  (piami) then the regular tremolo  but either changing up the order, or putting accents of different RH fingers (i.e. pami, pami, pami, pami, etc.).

Do you have any pre-concert rituals?

JC: I learned over 10 years ago to abandon any pre-concert ritual. My teacher had once told me to try and think of a concert day as any other day so that you can get on stage and play as calmly as you would in a practice room, or on any given Tuesday. That really hit home at a series of concerts I did in the mid-Pyrenees back in 2006 or 2007; performing each night in a different ancient church. Often, there were no bathrooms, no places to wash your hands, no regular eating schedule, no guarantee of a chair at the ‘right’ height and so on. I learned that having a ritual could be dangerous, so learned to perform regardless of the situation.

This has been great when having to get off a long flight and go straight to a live TV or radio interview or if there is traffic and you arrive later to a concert than is ideal. The only thing that stays consistent is I always play at least a 10 minute expurgated version of my warms-ups backstage, and I try to carry a bag of cashew nuts in case I need an energy boost. Oh, and a nap. I always squeeze in a nap if it’s possible, even if it’s a short 10 minutes on the couch in the Green Room.

Advice to Younger Players

What single most important piece of advice about practicing would you offer to younger players?

JC: To practice actively and not passively. It’s amazing how much more productive a practice session is when you’re actually listening to what you are playing and thinking about what you’re doing. If you’re not paying attention, you’re not practicing you’re just playing. There is a time and a place for this “playing” too, but it’s not practice.

I also think it’s essential to practice performance. If I have a recital coming up, and especially if I’m perfomring a work for the first time, I will try to replicate the performance experience as much as possible. I give myself some time for a warm up, I walk to my chair, bow, and start to perform. Sometimes I do this in my living room to a tape recorder, sometimes to an audience of friends. I will often (more often than not) do this in performance clothes too. In my mind nothing prepares you for a concert more than playing concerts, so even if I don’t have an audience I will practice the performance aspect. I will practice my spoken introductions to the pieces, practice playing the pieces in the program order with no breaks, practice the tuning peculiarities between pieces. This can be as essential as practicing the notes.

What repertoire do you consider essential for young/conservatory students to assimilate? Why?

JC: I would say that variety is actually very important. Young students need to learn that there are differences, both stylistically and technically, between playing Bach and Barrios, or Walton and Weiss. Studies are also essential. It can be nothing but beneficial to slowly and carefully work your way through all the Sor, Villa-Lobos, Brouwer or Dodgson studies, to name just a small handful. Studies are a great way to train oneself to play music, and to play musically, in spite of technical difficulties.

Recordings that every young guitarist should be familiar with and why?

JC: Again, I’d say variety. The differences between Segovia, Bream, Williams, Russell, Diaz, Presti/Lagoya etc. are so vast. I think guitarists should actively listen to the same piece played by as many guitarists as possible, then decide not just which one they prefer, but why!?! There is no right or wrong way to approach a piece, it’s just a matter of taste. Listening to the infinite possibilities can only strengthen one’s own conviction and reasons for playing the way one does.


What is the last book that you read? Favorite author/s?

JC: I just re-read Albert Camus’ short story The Artist at Work. A wonderfully satirical yet poignant story of an Artist who battles with the will to work and the distraction of ‘fame’ – a concept that is both curious to the artist and at the same time irrelevant to his work, but nevertheless something that dominates all. I also recently re-read Music of Chance, a fabulous book by one of my all-time favourite authors, Paul Auster.

Do you try to stay healthy? Exercise? Follow a particular diet? Have a favorite pre-concert food?

JC: I swim a lot; when I’m not on tour I try to swim 3 – 4 times a week. I also have a series of Yin Yoga postures and stretches that I do regularly, if not daily. With all the traveling and guitar playing I do, I’m finding it more and more important each year to keep the body moving and healthy, and in positions that are as antithetical to guitar playing as possible!

Do you meditate in any way?

JC: I don’t mediate in a traditional sense; however, I do find swimming laps concentrates my mind and allows me to focus only on my breath alone which clears out anything else.

What is your favorite way to spend time when not practicing?

JC: I like cooking and all things food related. Nothing makes me happier than having a group of friends around, lighting up the grill and spending the day chatting, cooking, eating and drinking. To be honest though, a guitar usually makes its way out of the case at some point!

Any things else you’d like to add?

JC: Thank you for your interest in my music and for listening to my answers! I hope your readers enjoy listening to my music as much as I enjoy making it.