Guitar ensemble music has an important role in my catalogue as a composer. The big motivation behind this has always been my passion to engage, expose and challenge young guitarists to question the limits of the instrument and search to extend the possibilities on the classical guitar ensemble repertoire (a medium that have experienced a great expansion in recent years.) That’s the reason why, to date, I’ve written more than three hours (!) of original music for guitar ensemble (not counting guitar trios or guitar quartets on this list)
Now, if you listen to some of the excerpts of my piece NAZCAN, premiered and recorded by David Tanenbaum and the San Francisco Conservatory Guitar Ensemble in 2016, you’ll probably have a good idea of what I mean when I say “to challenge” the performers.
Now, my most significant and treasured relationship with guitar ensembles began in 2006, when I started a project called the Ensamble de Guitarras de Chile (EGCH.)
I had this idea in mind during years until I could finally gather a select group of college students –and some professionals– in my native country, Chile, to begin playing a more innovative music for a large group of guitars. And between 2007 and 2009 I would compose two of my more significant works written for guitar ensemble: “Arauco, por Fuerte, Principal y Poderosa…”, and “¡Arma! ¡Enfrena! ¡Aína!”, both compositions inspired in the text “La Araucana”, an epic poem written in the mid- 16th century by Alonso de Ercilla y Zúñiga.
During these 13 year of existence, I’ve been fortunate enough to count with more than 60 of the most prominent young guitarists of the Chilean guitar scene, with whom I’ve had the possibility of experimenting, arranging, composing and premiering more than 20 works that composers from Chile, Argentina, France, Taiwan, United States, Greece, and Puerto Rico have specially written for us. The energy that every member has put on this project has allowed me to continue with this mission, helping to expand the repertoire and the endless possibilities that this medium allows. And even though I moved to the US in 2012, the group has kept performing, recording and premiering new music: this 2019 we will premiere three new pieces that American composers Ronald Pearl, Alan Hirsh, and Andrew Simpson have especially written for us.
We have also recorded three albums, always looking to offer a new perspective on the guitar repertoire.
All these projects have been made with the endless collaboration of two great friends and guitarists: Eugenio Gonzalez, who has been a former member since 2006 and currently its music director and first guitarist, and Patricio Araya, who joined in 2010. The latter being another great guitarist who has been leading the group as a second guitar.
We have also collaborated with some international musicians too. In 2007 we had the great honor to tribute Leo Brouwer in a concert when he visited Chile for his first time. In that occasion, we performed his piece Acerca del Cielo, el Aire y la Sonrisa.
In 2009, Alex Ethier, the Canadian founder of Forestare -probably one of the few professional guitar ensembles in the world today-, and former conductor Pascal Cote, went down to Chile to work with us, giving two recitals presenting an exclusive program of only Canadian composers. This collaboration sparked the idea to bring back to Canada my piece “Arauco: por fuerte, principal y ponderosa…” The 45 minutes suite was recorded by them and released at Atma Classique in 2010.
More recently, in 2018, we invited Ben Verdery to Chile to coach us as a group (his piece GIVE was included in our third CD, Recinto de la Piedra). We had much fun, and all the members had the opportunity to work with this inspiring musician.
Since I moved to the US, I’ve been lucky to work, for my very first time, with (very) young players. The Connecticut Guitar Festival commissioned me a piece which I called “Anthem for a Never-Ending Song,” which includes an extended, repetition-oriented intention behind it –emblematic and typical from some minimal and experimental post-rock bands in which I’ve been inspired by lately. It was premiered in February 2019 by students from the Suzuki Guitar Academy in Westport, CT.
Can a musical composition save the oceans? What a great idea to compose a piece to encourage young people to be environmentally responsible through the experience of music. In 2018, guitarist, teacher and big promoter of the classical guitar Miroslav Lončar got a grant from the Wolf Trap Foundation to commission two new compositions written especially for the Park View High School guitar students in Virginia. My piece response.restoration was written for a group of 40 young players and it was premiered in March 2019. By communicating this powerful message through music, I also feel that I am making my humble contribution to encourage young people to be environmentally responsible. The other commissioned composer was Olga Amelkina-Vera. I had the great pleasure to meet her fabulous piece “Ode to Thalassa”, a clear example that composers today are successfully writing for this medium.
My current projects include a new work for David Tanenbaum and the San Francisco Conservatory Guitar Ensemble. This piece is a 40 minutes suite called La Otra Voz and has an electric guitar as soloist. I am also writing a piece that David Veslocki commissioned me for his fantastic group of students in CT.