Andrew Blanch, finalist in both the 2014 and 2016 NSW Drs Orchestra Sydney Eisteddfod Instrumental Scholarship, will be presenting a solo recital entitled From Latin America and Beyond at the Sydney Opera House's Utzon Room this November as part of the inaugural Classical Guitar Festival Sydney.
In December 2015, Andrew released his debut solo CD, Spanish Guitar Music to critical acclaim, establishing himself as a young artist to look out for. Currently undertaking a PhD at the Australian National University researching classical guitar pedagogy, he spent the first three months of last year based in Paris, studying with and researching the teaching methods of renowned French guitarist/pedagogue Judicael Perroy.
Sydney Eisteddfod caught up with him recently to discuss what audiences can expect from the recital and what he is hoping to achieve next. He also discussed why he loves classical guitar and what other performers he is inspired by.
What inspired your passion for Classical Guitar?
There wasn’t really a defining moment I could point to as such, but many things have kept me passionate and engaged along the way. Of course, I just love the repertoire we have from such a variety of musical styles and cultures. I enjoy the immense challenge of playing an instrument and interpreting a piece of music - and then sharing your music with an appreciative audience is extremely enjoyable.
What can audiences expect from your upcoming recital at the Utzon Room as part of the Classical Guitar Festival Sydney?
I’ve tried to design a program that’s as enjoyable and interesting as possible within the theme of ‘Latin America and Beyond’. The first half is dedicated exclusively to South American music (Villa-Lobos, Barrios, Rabello, Figueredo, Sojo, Canonico), while the second half goes ‘beyond’ as they say with works by J.S Bach, Ross Edwards, and Francisco Tárrega.
The whole concert provides a smattering of guitar favourites such as Paraguayan composer Augustin Barrios’ Waltz No. 4, contrasted with pieces likely to be entirely new to most audience members such as Brazilian Raphael Rabello’s Sete Cordas. I’ve tried to pace the concert with a balance between the energetic and virtuosic, and the sensitive and expressive. Also lengths of works: All the pieces in the first half are less than 5 minutes long (usually much more so), and all the pieces in the second half are more substantial works running for 10+ minutes each.
How are you preparing for this recital?
As any performer knows, there’s no substitute for just getting out there and doing it! Come Opera House time, I will have performed the same repertoire in recitals around the country including Hobart, Canberra, Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane as well as in a tour of New Zealand, can’t do much better preparation than that at this stage.
Which other performers do you most like to listen to, and why?
This is hard, because I listen to too many performers, and for too many reasons that if I were to try and answer this question directly I’d bore your readers to tears! Without getting too deep into it, my favourite performers do approach their music with intelligence and heart in equal measure. Someone like Alicia de Larrocha performing Spanish music is a perfect example, or Jordi Savall and his co-collaborators performing early music. At the same time, even if someone isn’t necessarily the leading authority on the interpretation of a particular musical style, if they approach their music with intelligence and a big heart it can be so very moving and enjoyable.
What lessons did you learn through competing at Sydney Eisteddfod?
As I said before there is no substitute for doing, and performance experience is essential to every musician’s development at all stages. I’ve performed in many Sydney Eisteddfod events over the years, and I think this has undoubtedly contributed to the comfort and enjoyment I have on stage performing for people. Regular participation in events such as Sydney Eisteddfod normalises the experience of performing, changing it from something we might dread doing, to something we can really be excited about.
What would you say to a young guitarist that was thinking about entering Sydney Eisteddfod? What advice do you have to offer?
This may not be right for everyone, but my general advice would be to enter as often as you can, and prepare well in advance. Know exactly which pieces you are going to play at least 6 months out from the competition if not 12. With the help of a teacher make sure you choose pieces that are technically suitable for your stage of development, and learn these pieces better than any piece you’ve ever learnt before. This way you are setting yourself up to have a really positive performance experience, one you enjoyed, the audience enjoyed, and something you can be proud of regardless of the result.
What do you hope to achieve next?
I’m working towards a few CD releases for 2019, including a solo CD of Latin American Guitar Music, and a chamber music project featuring newly arranged works for two guitars and voice with guitarist Ariel Nurhadi and the great baritone José Carbó.
These two projects are interesting comparisons. The trio project is extremely innovative and original, if not potentially controversial because of the repertoire we’re choosing to arrange – for this reason, the arrangements and performances need to be utterly convincing for this project to really succeed. The Latin American project on the other hand is the complete opposite – so uncontroversial and in a sense unoriginal, that I’m left with much the same challenge. Unless the repertoire choice is really compelling, and the performances fairly top notch, it runs the risk being glossed over completely upon release. I’m confident I’ll follow through with both these projects - I just hope I can do these projects the justice they deserve!
What are you most looking forward to before the end of the year?
I think the Sydney Opera House recital is going to be something special. But I must say I’m really looking forward to the Christmas period; nothing on – just sitting outside in the summer sun, reading through new music, followed by beautiful dinners with family and friends.