Joaquin Rodrigo wrote Concierto Andaluz in 1967 for the Romero Quartet, an ensemble that’s known as the “The Royal Family of the Guitar.” WRTI’s Susan Lewis spoke with the Grammy-winning Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, whose members were mentored by the Romeros. The LAGQ continues to champion Concierto Andaluz while also expanding the repertoire for classical guitar.
The members of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet first played together as students at the University of Southern California where Pepe Romero was teaching in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Some years later they began playing Rodrigo’s Concerto Andaluz, written for the Romeros, who had become their mentors.
“It’s a folkloric idea,” says John Dearman. “The first movement is a Bolero, a kind of Spanish dance. It’s long into the ancient Spanish tradition of music.”
“The second movement really captures a sort of Lucien Blues,” says Bill Kanengiser. “Whereas the first and third movements are basically a big party; its like going to Spain!”
The classical guitar is ideal for that Spanish tradition, says Scott Tennant. “For instance, we use nylon treble strings as opposed to steel strings. And that makes it easier to pluck the strings with our fingernails on her right hand and because we have some fingernails on our right hand, we can get more colors. ”
It’s also the perfect instrument for the range of different styles the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet takes on – from classical to jazz to music from other cultures. One recent project? A new work written for them by Pat Metheny called Road to the Sun.
But this Rodrigo work for orchestra and quartet has a special resonance for these classically trained musicians. Matt Greif grew up playing the violin, and says “I love when I play with an orchestra, it actually kind of feels like home.”
And the the connection with the Romeros makes it all a bit personal. It’s sort of a tribute to Pepe’s quartet that we love playing this piece,” says Bill Kanengiser. “It represents Malaga, which is where they were all from in southern Spain and Andaluzia. And it allows us to sort of channel our inner Romero.”