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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

Paco de Lucía (21 December 1947 - 25 February 2014)

An Appreciation From a Classical Guitarist's Point of View

Paco de Lucía (Paco de Lucía LP Philips 6328 171), 1973

Paco de Lucía (Paco de Lucía LP Philips 6328 171), 1973

I was having breakfast in my favourite bar in Madrid when the owner came over to tell me about Paco de Lucía. The TV was on in the corner and the tragic news ran in a slow-motion subtitle across the screen.

Although I never met him I felt immensely sad. I have lost a life-long companion, which is in effect what he has been to me since I have followed his playing since I was a teenager. "How does he do that?" This was always the question I asked when I heard him. And then "I think I can see how he does it, but it is still impossible!"

I hope that all the tributes to him do not overlook his insights into, and successes with the music of Falla and Rodrigo.

Paco de Lucía was born in Andalucia as was Manuel de Falla. Both drank profusely of the rich fountain of flamenco music there. Falla studied and lived in Paris and immersed himself in the contemporary music trends of Ravel, Debussy and Stravinsky. Paco de Lucía followed a different path by steeping himself in the traditions of flamenco through the guitar playing of Niño Ricardo and Sabicas. He travelled extensively through Andalucia listening to and learning from Flamenco artists.

Listen to Paco de Lucía's arrangements and recordings of the music of Manuel de Falla, and remember he learnt it by ear for he could not read music. As he said (and I paraphrase from memory, translating from the Spanish) in an early Spanish TV profile:
"I sit every day on the sofa with a guitar on my lap and if something happens, very good, if not I leave it for another day."

The rasgueados with which he decorates the beginning of the fast section of the Miller's Dance, are pure flamenco but also totally in accord with the style of Falla's music too.

And who can forget the iconic image of Joaquín Rodrigo sitting on stage next to Paco as he stormed effortlessly through the scale passages of the Concierto de Aranjuez, albeit with sweat pouring off his brow! The scene looked thoroughly stage-managed, but according to his daughter Cecilia Rodrigo the composer was only sat on the stage because of the audience ovation. Consequently, as an "encore" the slow movement was repeated, this time with both of them side by side.

Joaquín Rodrigo said that Paco de Lucía's playing of the Concerto was the interpretation of which he had dreamed. Paco himself said he concentrated on the Spanish essence through rhythmic precision, and that this was an aspect often overlooked by classical guitar players in pursuit of tone, and sacrificed because of its difficulty.

What classical guitar players can learn from this remarkable artist

Paco de Lucía's accomplishments were so many and so amazing that I pick on just a few:

- Develop a great technique based on solid rhythmic foundations. His sense of rhythm was rock solid.

- Become familiar with the "classical" tradition just as Paco did with the flamenco one. This means listening to lots of music and studying style, harmony and performance practices.

- Be not afraid of breaking the mould and being innovative. Look at what Paco de Lucia managed with Flamenco Fusion - he invented it!

- Explore other musical styles if they take your fancy. Work at them to the limit of your ability. Listen to Paco's "recreations" of Falla's music and be inspired.

- Test yourself and explore. Be demanding of yourself, as Paco was. By his own admission he pushed himself to the limits in his arrangements and compositions.

Even if you dip no more than your toe in each of these you will be enriched. What's more you will continue, in your own individual way, Paco de Lucía's legacy. And there can be no greater tribute to him than that.

1st March 2014, Southampton, England

Printed from: http://www.carlosbonell.com/blog/?p=3095 .
© 2019.

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