The high praise the young Brazilian virtuoso guitarist, Plinio Fernandes, has received for the release of his first recording, Saudade, on the Major label Decca Gold is well deserved. The recording highlights Plinio’s wonderful versatility as a musician. From interpreting the well-loved Heitor Villa-Lobos Preludes to magical arrangements of music by Sergio Assad to collaborations with cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason and violinist Braimah Kanneh-Mason, Plinio navigates the rich musical landscape with ease and a completely natural and musical technique. He recently took some time to answer some questions for Six String Journal readers. Enjoy!
When did you start playing and why? Or, what drew you to the guitar initially?
My father is an amateur guitarist, so I would see the instrument around the house and watch him play, and naturally that inspired me to start.
What repertoire do you enjoy playing the most?
It varies a lot. Currently I am enjoying playing the repertoire I recorded for my album, as I am performing it a lot. It connects me deeply to my Brazilian roots, for being music I really love and that gives me a true sense of identity.
What guitar or guitars do you perform on? Strings?
I currently play a Jeffrey Elliot and my strings of choice are Augustine Regal.
Which guitarists/musicians have had the most influence on you?
Fabio Zanon, Julian Bream, David Russell, Andres Segovia, John Williams, Arthur Rubinstein, Eli’s Regina, Djavan, João Bosco, Racionais MC’s and Tupac.
What recording/s are you most proud of?
The recording of the 5 preludes by Villa-Lobos recorded on my debut album “Saudade”.
Are there any recordings that you consider have the finest recorded sound for guitar?
Yes, Julian Bream’s recording of Valses Poéticos by Granados. The range of colors in that is beyond magical.
What are some up and coming projects (recordings, concerts) you are excited about?
I really look forward to the concerts in the next feel months in the UK, Portugal, Hong Kong and Brazil. Also I look forward to start planning my second album.
Technique and Performance
How much do you practice? And, do you structure your practice in any particular way?
Around 4 hours a day. Usually, in sessions of 35 minutes, with 10 minute breaks in between.
Are there aspects of guitar technique or performance that you struggle with or that you find you are still working on?
Tremolo doesn’t naturally fit my hands, so every time I play a tremolo piece (which is rare) I have to put in the extra work.
Do you deliberately memorize music or have a technique that helps assimilate music into memory?
I feel lucky to have the ability to memorise music at a decent speed. When the time is short, deciding the most efficient fingerings straight away and listening to recordings of it repeatedly while walking, doing the dishes etc, help me massively. Having the music in your ears as well as under your fingerings is vital to learn things quickly.
Have you published any editions or do you plan to publish your own editions in the future?
I haven’t yet, but certainly plan to publish my own arrangements and transcriptions soon.
Do you have a favorite drill or set of exercises you use to warm up?
I start the practice with slow right hand exercises: usually, Villa-Lobos 1st estude, and a mix of Giuliani and Carlevaro exercises. After that, lately I have been doing a series of exercises that I learned from Marcelo Kayath in a masterclass, that helps conditioning the left hand to be in the correct position.
Do you have any pre-concert rituals?
I don’t like practicing a lot on the day of the concert. Having a nap a few hours before – if it is an evening concert – makes a huge difference and eating a banana 20 minutes before is a must for me!
Advice to Younger Players
What single most important piece of advice about practicing would you offer to younger aspiring players?
My advice is for them to be curious, and try and be exposed to as many different styles of music as possible.
What repertoire do you consider essential for young/conservatory students to assimilate? Why?
Villa-Lobos solo guitar works. In my opinion he is one of the best melodists of all time, and through his guitar music, one learns how to sing with the instrument.
Recordings that every young guitarist should be familiar with and why?
The output of Bream and Segovia.
What is the last book that you read? Favorite author/s?
The Torrents of Spring, by Hemingway , who happens to be my favorite writer at the moment.
Do you try to stay healthy? Exercise? Have a favorite pre-concert food?
I grew up by the sea, and have been always very physically active, therefore exercising regularly is really vital to my general health and mood. I try to play football once a week and do some Pilates/yoga about twice a week.
Do you meditate in any way?
Yes, at least 5 minutes everyday. Usually in the middle of the day, or just before going to bed, to clear up the mind and recharge my energy.
What is your favorite way to spend time when not practicing?
Reading, exercising, following the news (mostly about football and politics) and most importantly being around dear people, to compensate the lonely moments of practicing and traveling.
Apple Music: https://PlinioFernandes.lnk.to/AppleM...
Official Website http://www.pliniofernandesmusic.com