Musiklexikon

  

Paul Galbraith

wurde 1998 für seine Einspielung der Violinsonaten und -partiten von Johann Sebastian Bach (Delos) für den GRAMMY nominiert in der Kategorie "Bestes Instrumentalsolo-Album". Diese Aufnahme wurde 1998 auch vom Grammophone-Magazin ausgezeichnet als eine der zwei besten CD-Veröffentlichungen des Jahres "...ein Meilenstein in der Geschichte der Gitarrenmusik". Die Zeitschrift "Stereo Review" vergab dafür 4 Sterne, und die Aufnahme war unter den Top 10 der Billboard Klassikcharts.

Galbraiths außergewöhnliche Instrumentaltechnik fiel erstmalig beim Edinburgh Festival 1989 auf. Seine Gitarre, die er zusammen mit dem Instrumentenbauer David Rubio entwickelte, wird gleich einem Violoncello von einem Holzstachel gestützt, der auf einem hölzernen Resonanzkörper aufliegt. Das Instrument hat zwei Saiten mehr als gewöhnliche Gitarren und damit ein wesentlich größeres Klangspektrum. Diese ungewöhnliche Bauweise und Galbraiths Spieltechnik sind bahnbrechende Neuerungen in der Entwicklung des Gitarrenspiels.

Mit 17 Jahren gewann Galbraith die Silbermedaille beim Internationalen Segovia-Gitarren-wettbewerb. Andrés Segovia, der dabei zugegen war, bezeichnete sein Instrumentalspiel als "großartig". Dieser Wettbewerbssieg eröffnete Galbraith eine internationale Karriere; einige der renommiertesten Orchester Europas luden ihn als Solist ein, darunter das Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, BBC Philharmonic, Scottish Symphony Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, BBC Scottish Orchestra, Scottish Baroque Orchestra, Ulster Orchestra, Hallé Orchestra und das Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

In den Vereinigten Staaten unternahm Galbraith Konzertreisen mit dem Moscow Chamber Orchestra; dort ist Galbraith regelmäßiger Gast bei weltweit geachteten Sendereihen des National Public Radio. Seit seinem glanzvollen Debüt im New Yorker Frick Museum und einem anschließenden Auftritt in der Serie "Great Perfomances" des Lincoln Center in New York laden Konzertreihen in allen großen Städten der USA Galbraith regelmäßig ein. Zusammen mit dem St. Petersburg String Quartet spielten 2003 in der Stanford University die Welturaufführung der“Rhapsodie für Gitarre und Steichquartett” des georgischen Komponisten Zurab Nadarejshvili.

Seine internationale Konzerttätigkeit führte Paul Galbraith auch nach Kanada, Spanien, Italien, Griechenland, Norwegen, Ungarn, Brasilien, China, Indien und Island.
Galbraiths neueste CD-Einspielungen (erschienen bei Delos) sind die Lautensuiten von Bach, seine eigenen Arrangements von vier Klaviersonaten von Joseph Haydn und die Folklore-CD “In Every Lake the Moon Shines Full". Bearbeitungen von Klaviermusik der Impressionisten Debussy und Ravel werden demnächst veröffentlicht.

Paul Galbraith ist gebürtiger Schotte. Er lebte in Malawi, Griechenland, London, und in letzter Zeit in Brasilien. Er war Mitbegründer des Brazilian Guitar Quartet, mit dem er bis Sommer 2003 weltweit konzertierte. Sein bedeutendster Lehrer war seit 1983 George Hadjinikos.

Quelle: Internet - www.gitarrentage-wetzlar.de

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INTERVIEW WITH PAUL GALBRAITH, by Carlos Calado

What was your first contact with music?
Well, my parents aren’t musicians, but we always heard a lot of Classical music at home. At three or four years of age, I was addicted to some of their records – of the “Peter and the Wolf” variety initially. At age seven I started piano lessons but without much success. This was when my family had returned to Britain from Malawi in Africa to settle in London. My piano teacher thought me unmusical and inspired little enthusiasm to play piano.

Was your problem with the instrument, or the teacher’s approach?
The piano we had at the time was pretty basic, as was the approach of my teacher, who took the opportunity of the lessons to have a natter on the phone, or take a quiet nap. Probably just as well! (laughs) At eight years old I got interested in the guitar, not initially because of the instrument per se, but more because of the fact that there was a group folk guitar class at my primary school. To learn guitar with a group of my friends seemed like a lot more fun. After a couple of months, the school’s headmaster phoned my parents to say that I’d learnt basically all he had to teach, which in all fairness wasn’t a huge amount, and recommended that we look up a local teacher, Graham Wade. Graham’s now mainly known for his books on guitarists, including a biography on Segovia.

So you began studying both piano and guitar together?
Yes, and there was a marked contrast between the two. On Mondays I had my piano lessons, which I did everything to avoid. And on Saturdays I had my guitar lessons with Graham, which I couldn’t wait for. This lasted only a year, because we moved again to spend a period in Cornwall where my Mother’s family lived. There I had lessons with Iain Jackson. It was really a stroke of luck to find such a teacher so far from the main cultural centres. The next year, in 1975, we moved back to Edinburgh, Scotland - my birth place - and I started going to a specialist music school, St. Mary’s. There my teacher was Barry Shaw, who is an artist –a painter – these days. Barry’s teaching method was, in hindsight, inspired. He’d take me about once a month or so to a recording studio at Murray House where he taught and filmed my repertoire of pieces for that period. Then we’d watch it, and he’d let me be my own teacher! I drew my own conclusions, without Barry having to say much at all. I think that maybe the enthusiasm I feel for recording these days is due in part to those early sessions.

Did you give up piano at that time, then?
No, in Edinburgh I began studying piano in earnest with a top-level teacher, Francesca Uhlenbruek, who had pianistic ambitions for me. So at first I ended up doing a minimum of three hours a day piano practice, and only half-an-hour a day on guitar. All the same, I still ended up playing guitar much better than piano. Musically, Francesca was a fantastic teacher but she made me completely tense-up with the fear that she might turn nasty. Actually, even today, I still end up with tense shoulders when I play piano, whilst I’ve never – touch wood – had any tension problems of any kind playing guitar. I think that’s due to the type of tuition I received.

Were your early influences only from Classical music?
Yes, basically. There were other elements in the air, though I don’t know whether they were in fact influences. I’m the youngest of three brothers, and both my older brothers - David and Richard - were ardent rock fans right from early on. David, the oldest, started guitar lessons with Graham Wade together with me, but quickly moved on to Rock music, and later became a songwriter. Richard played drums and had a Heavy Rock band. Years later they did actually start enjoying some Classical Music as well. In my case, besides playing around at school with electric bass for a short while, I never got into Pop music in a big way. Having said that, I do enjoy some Brazilian popular music, especially the songs of Chico Buarque and the singing of Elis Regina.

Which records of your parents have remained in your memory?
When I began to get a notion of who was who in Classical music, I saw that their record collection was really excellent. In the 50s and 60s, the Edinburgh festival was a kind of Mecca for Classical music. When my Dad – and later my Mum with him – went to concerts there, for example one in which Casals famously teamed up for a piano trio with Menuhin and Kentner playing Brahms, the next day he’d get the recording, if there was one available, or the nearest best thing – I think in the case of that Brahms trio it was the LP with Casals, Stern and Hess. In this way he gradually accumulated an outstanding collection. One of his great loves is pianists, especially the Russian Sviatoslav Richter whom my grandfather – himself a keen amateur pianist - also adored. And then there was Chamber Music, with recordings by the Quarteto Italiano and the Budapest quartet, amongst others. There was one record in particular which I was crazy about: the Sonatas for violin and harpsichord by Bach played by Menuhin with George Malcolm. Today, listening to these recordings, I find myself right back in my early teens.

What other musicians were important to you initially?
Francesca Uhlenbruek, whom I studied with from ages 11 to 14, had been a disciple of the great Swiss pianist, Alfred Cortot. At weekends, we – her students – would often get invited to her apartment to listen to Cortot recordings, which little by little began to exert a strong influence on me. His style was totally unique. Cortot was THE poet of the piano as far as I’m concerned. To call his style romantic is a bit vague, but there was a very particular romantic intensity about his playing. Since Cortot records were not readily available in Britain at that time, I got recordings of the works I’d heard at those sessions at Francesca’s with whomever else I could find. When I finally managed to get the Cortot versions, the difference was like night and day. I remember this English woman pianist describing a lesson she’d had with Cortot. After having played a Weber Waltz for him, he said to her: “this music contains within it all the passion of a first love, and you merely reduce it to a marriage of convenience!” It was also Cortot who said: “music must be dangerously, sublimely contagious”, and his playing was certainly that. I also listened a lot to Glenn Gould’s recordings, but that was not until some years later.

Did you ever think of becoming a pianist?
Yes, there were times when I asked myself if I shouldn’t consider the possibility, because piano has always been my favorite instrument. But the fact remains that piano playing never came easily to me. The results were gratifying up to a point, but in order to get anywhere it was rather an ordeal. I think I never had the knack for playing piano that I had for playing guitar.

When did you give up on piano?
Francesca had known several guitarists from her time with Cortot in Paris, including Segovia, and the Venezuelan, Alirio Diaz, who was Segovia’s assistant during his summer courses, and whose playing-style in some ways resembled that of Segovia. Francesca had the idea to take me to play for Diaz during one of his visits to London. I was supposed to play both guitar and piano, but – perhaps it was destiny! – when it came to it, no piano could be found, so I ended up just playing guitar for him in his hotel room. I think I must have played OK, especially as, knowing that I was going to play for Alirio Diaz, I practised like crazy for three months leading up to the great event, and as a result my playing really improved. Anyway, he encouraged me to become a guitarist and recommended that I go to Gordon Crosskey, who was well known in guitar circles as one of the top teachers. So I went to study with Gordon at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester, and later at music college.

This was when you definitively chose guitar?
Well almost. Later on, having meanwhile studied for 3 or 4 years with an Armenian pianist, Narina Arutunian, daughter of the composer Alexander Arutunian, I met George Hadjinikos, a marvelous Greek professor – a pianist and conductor – who influenced my development enormously. I studied with him for ten years. I’d sit in a corner of his class, and watch most of the college students play for him. His musical understanding is something to behold, as is the sheer range of his knowledge of repertoire right across the musical spectrum. It was also wonderful to witness his piano playing, as he’s a tremendous pianist and everything seemed so easy when he played. This got me believing that I could do the same. So, when I was 24, I decided to take the plunge and give up everything to become a pianist, which meant of course cutting off my nails. But I suppose you could say that destiny played a part again, as I was invited to do a tour on guitar, and I enjoyed returning to guitar playing so much, that the guitar won me over once more. Since then I’ve left piano playing on the back burner, always with a mind to take it seriously again some day. As Thomas Mann said, the piano is music in its totality. I’ve always loved the instrument, and everything that it represents.

Who were your first influences on guitar?
The guitar in Britain has traditionally been very strong. Of course for many people, it’s still Segovia that first springs to mind in relation to Classic guitar, but Britain has had Bream and Williams, who are generally considered the most important guitarists after Segovia. I had contact with both of them, but the strongest influence on me guitaristically speaking, was from the Brazilian duo, Sergio and Eduardo Abreu – the Abreu brothers. My very first guitar record was one of theirs. At that time their records were everywhere in Britain, as they recorded in London. I never saw them live, but after Eduardo stopped playing, I got to go to Sergio’s solo debut at the Wigmore Hall in London. It was a very special event for me. I was 13 at the time. Later, it even happened that I studied a little with Sergio at the only course he ever gave - in England. It happened purely by chance: the course was slated to be given by Julian Bream, but Bream cancelled at the last minute. Sergio was there anyway to give a concert and took the course. These days we keep in occasional contact, which is great for me. He’s now a guitar maker.

What was it like for you taking part in the Segovia International Guitar competition?
At that time - I was 17 - it was a marvellous excuse to take a couple of weeks off school! (laughs) The competition took place in Leeds Castle, situated in a beautiful part of England. The competition also served as a stimulus during a period in which I was a bit lacking in direction. This was a one-off event – the first and the last time it happened. I don’t know whether it was because King Henry the 8th had had ties there at the castle… but whatever the cause, several, if not most of us, felt an unnaturally heavy and tense atmosphere during the time we were there. A few managed to react well, whilst most didn’t. Competitions are always a lottery in any case.

How did your meeting with Segovia come about?
I met him at the official opening reception for the competition, at the Spanish Embassy in London. A group of reporters were already waiting there when we arrived, to take some photos, and they’d had the idea to put the youngest guitarist, which was me, together with the oldest, which was of course Segovia himself. So that, when I appeared, they practically threw me in front of Segovia, asking me to chat with him for the photo-shoot. That was my first contact with him. After the competition I was taken on by an impresario which was Segovia’s concert agent as well, and they organized a further meeting in which I played for Segovia when he next visited London the following year.

How would you evaluate your participation in competitions?
It’s difficult to say. Six months after the Segovia contest, I also went in for a further competition – the BBC TV ‘Young Musician of the Year’ which is still a bi-annual event in Britain. I won the String section, and played the Aranjuez Concerto with the BBC Northern Orchestra. This performance really launched my career, as it was broadcast on TV throughout Britain. After these Competitions I started concertising fairly intensively, and I soon began to feel I’d taken on too much too soon. It wasn’t easy for me to organize my life so as to be able to continue studying properly. In hindsight, I feel it might have been better for me in the long-term not to have entered those competitions, and so to have had a more tranquil and regular rhythm of development.

Why do you play music written originally for other instruments?
Simply because I want to play good music! Part of the challenge we guitarists face has still to do with repertoire, or rather, the quality of repertoire. Many guitarists don’t rise to this challenge, and end up merely playing second-rate guitar music which only interests other guitarists. This ends up creating a self-perpetuating ghetto, which has always been a danger. Besides this, there’s also what could be termed as the guitarist’s inferiority complex to be overcome, because we always tend to think of ourselves as the worst! (laughs)

Would you say that, in some ways, it was a desire to play piano music that lead you to become such an avid transcriber for guitar?
Initially yes, due mainly I suppose to the richness of this repertoire - which I adore! I think guitarists have to be adept at transcriptions in any case, because it’s a necessity. With a very few exceptions, we really don’t have a Classical repertoire - nor even a Romantic one - of the highest quality. If you want to play more first-rank repertoire, you end up having to make transcriptions. And after having made transcriptions over a long stretch of time, you end up gaining experience that helps you get gradually better at them, and to make better choices. Looking back at my old transcriptions, I now consider one or two of them wrong-headed. I’d never do them now, because they went against the natural idiom of the instrument. They were ungrateful to play, and probably to listen to as well…

How have you dealt with the original six-string repertoire on your Brahms Guitar?
It’s funny, but I’ve yet to come across a guitar piece which didn’t benefit from the extra strings I have. The basis of my guitar remains the same; the reference is still with the traditional six strings in the centre. To have recourse to the extra strings just adds richness. Of course there are technical challenges which are peculiar to this guitar, but there are also things which this guitar facilitates and which are not available on a traditional guitar.

When did you have the idea to develop your unorthodox playing posture?
There came a moment when I was no longer happy with my development. What had worked for me up to that point no longer fitted with what I now had in mind, especially with regards to working on technique. This feeling intensified when I found myself unable to put into practice certain aspects of George Hadjinikos’ teaching. One important point that George frequently made is that in music, the essential thing is not merely the quality of sound per se, but what comes before; the movement which gives rise to sound. It’s like in sports: it isn’t just the ball itself that’s the focal point, but more importantly, the direction you want it to go in. Thinking about this, I realized the limitations of the traditional posture. Holding and playing the guitar at the same time – with the same arm – inhibits this essential relationship between movement and sound, besides easily causing a twisting of the back, and creating further physical problems. Liberating the right arm was the necessary step in enabling me to begin shaping that relationship on guitar.

And how did you come by the new posture?
It came about by chance, in a ‘eureka’ moment, when I was 20. I was sitting on the floor cross-legged and, without thinking, during the ads break of a film I was watching, grabbed the guitar and started to play, with the guitar supported by my crossed legs. I realized that this was exactly what I needed: a way of sitting with the instrument that was much more natural and comfortable – well it was in those days! (laughs) Actually, even today, when I’m in a hotel room and can’t be bothered to assemble my chair, resonance box, all that paraphernalia, I’ll sit on the floor and practise my old way.

Watching you perform, it looks very much as though you had been inspired by cellists or double-bass players in arriving at your vertical playing-posture.
I never studied cello, though I did try double-bass for a couple of weeks as a teenager. The head teacher at school thought it would be suitable, as it shares the same tuning with that of the guitar. But that really had no bearing on anything. Initially when I discovered the new position, I retained the same traditional angle of the guitar, and it was only gradually over a period of 3 years, that it got more and more vertical. And then, once vertical, the cello was certainly a direct influence.

And how did you arrive at your present set-up, with the end-pin in the guitar, the collapsible chair and the resonance box?
Three years after having changed posture, whilst playing guitar at Sérgio Abreu’s house in Brazil, he commented on the fact that by sitting with the guitar cross-legged in that way, I was dampening the most resonant part of the instrument. To hear that from a player and maker of his level made me stop and think. Then I came to the idea that I could take advantage of my already cello-like vertical posture, and use a cello end-pin, whilst sitting up on a chair again, thus liberating the full resonance of the instrument. Later on, when I discovered how much the floor resonated, when playing with the spike resting on it – especially if it was a wooden floor – it was then a logical step to think of using a resonance box. In this I was influenced by cellists, knowing that some of them used resonance boxes, and sometimes even portable platforms to amplify the sound, especially when playing with orchestra. And then I had a special folding chair made, so I would always be able to sit in exactly the same way, and maintain the exact same references in my posture where-ever I went.

Having found a new playing position, and developed a guitar which gives you access to a wider repertory, do you now feel totally fulfilled?
Since the very beginning I’ve tended to regularly pass from one definite stage to the next. The sense I get right now is that I’m close to an ideal posture, but I think it would be over-optimistic on my part to say that I’d finally ‘arrived’. Musically speaking, I’ve the constant feeling that I’m starting again almost from scratch. And as for the guitar, even that’s still evolving. Recently I added a tailpiece, which has made a marked difference to the sound of the Brahms Guitar. Tailpieces are in fact traditional ‘floating bridges’ which are used on the violin family – and mandolins, archtop guitars and the like– which secure the strings at the bottom end of the instrument. They were used on Classical guitars during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but were subsequently abandoned. It was a disciple of David Rubio’s, Martin Woodhouse - an amazingly talented luthier who’s still only 20 or so – who had the idea of using the tailpiece on Brahms guitars. Martin has been a great help to me. Another person who has also helped me here in Brazil, with tremendous generosity and skill, is the luthier, Antonio Tessarin.

How would you account for your decision, already eight years ago now, to move to Brazil? Living here can't be a great help to your career, wouldn’t you agree?
Actually the move to Brazil has helped me, because I’ve started to play better as a result. I think the move was an entirely emotional one: I had to put the usual rationale aside, in terms of considering my career. Sometimes I really wonder why I got so smitten with Brazil. It could well have something to do with the fact that I spent three years of my early childhood in a tropical climate, in Malawi, Africa. Ever since my first visit in 1984 when I came for a couple of months, I’ve felt at home here. It was also during that first visit that I met my wife, Célia, and I fell in love with her and the country all at once. Soon after our daughter was born, we made the move, thinking also about the friendly nature of the people here. This is important for a child; actually for all of us.

And in musical terms; did the guitaristic traditions in Brazil figure into your decision as well?
Yes, from the start, knowing that Sergio Abreu was here was a stimulus, as he’d always been a reference, an idol for me. Normally a British guitarist would tend to look to Spain in seeking out the guitar’s roots. For me it was Brazil that was a revelation in this respect, not only through the legacy of the Abreu brothers, but even through the popular music, such as Choro. During my first visit here, I was taken by friends straight-off to meet Raphael Rabelo in Rio de Janeiro. Actually those friends played a joke on me, passing him off before-hand as merely an ordinary local player, nothing more. In the event, I sat there sweating due the sheer facility with which he played. It was truly amazing! Then he passed me the guitar, and I played Bach for him. It was a surreal meeting (laughs). The guitar traditions in Brazil are incredibly rich and for someone not acquainted with them, can come as a real eye – and ear-opener. Anyway, besides the emotional ties I had with Brazil, I’d say that yes, there were musical reasons too which helped make up my mind to stay here.

How did the idea come about to form the Brazilian Guitar Quartet?
I’d met Everton Gloeden in London, when he was over studying, and when I moved here to Brazil in ’96 our friendship continued. Sometime later on, we organized a meeting to try out an idea of mine: that of playing Haydn quartets on four guitars. And so Everton brought along his brother Edelton, and Tadeu do Amaral, whom I’d not yet met. The Haydn didn’t work out too well, but we meanwhile discovered that we made an interesting sound together. There was also a shared appetite for music and we later found that Brazilian music especially transcribed wonderfully well for guitars. And the transcriptions we eventually made were very successful, so much so that we made two recordings devoted to Brazilian music. The whole quartet experience was tremendous fun; we had a lot of laughs…

And how would you evaluate this experience with the quartet overall?
It’s now a year and a half since I left the group, but it was a wonderful experience, on a personal as well as musical level. It was great fun traveling together, and musically, participating in a chamber group helped me to develop more freedom as a soloist. Besides which, it was fascinating to discover more of the rich Brazilian repertoire, which is irresistibly beautiful.

Do you feel there’s still prejudice against the guitar?
Prejudice against the guitar comes and goes, but it’s never really been laid to rest. There was an enormous wave of popularity for the guitar in the 70s, when I was starting. At that time practically any guitarist could play in London, even players who weren’t at the necessary level to go on stage. I think part of this had to do with influences from pop music; there was a real guitar fever. During that phase, Bream and Williams were practically superstars, appearing frequently on TV shows, but all that passed and the guitar returned to its previous situation, maybe even in some ways a little worse off.

But has nothing changed since then?
Yes, it has. We now have a strong contemporary repertoire which was far smaller back then. It was Bream especially who inspired major composers and so helped immeasurably in creating a group of masterworks for us. For an instrument to remain relevant it’s essential I think to play music from your own time. Much Classical music performance these days feeds solely off music of the past and it’s now becoming increasing difficult to present modern music, especially as the general level of musical perception has deteriorated drastically over recent years. Fundamentally, I don’t think the guitar’s in any real crisis, though it still remains an inferior instrument for many. There’s still a long way to go, but I think the main responsibility rests with us guitarists. We’ve got to be real musicians. And there are still all too few guitarists who can compare with the great pianists, violinists, cellists, and so on. This is the challenge for us, guitarists.

(February 2005)




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