Deceptive Cadence
4:04 am
Sun July 20, 2014

A Guitar Hero Draws His Own Sketches Of Spain

Originally published on Thu July 24, 2014 11:26 am

If you're a classical guitarist, it may be impossible to resist the pull of one iconic piece: the Concierto de Aranjuez by Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo. Many musicians regard it as the holy grail of guitar repertoire, including a man so big in the classical world he is known by only one name: Milos.

"One thing about this particular piece is that this melody really transcends into so many different areas, to so many different genres," says 30-year-old Milos Karadaglić, who was born across the Mediterranean from Spain in the tiny Balkan country of Montenegro. "While it is a classical guitar piece and the most iconic of classical guitar pieces, it has inspired so many other musicians to play it."

Milos' latest album is called Aranjuez, but as he explained to NPR's Arun Rath, it isn't just a tribute to Rodrigo: "It's about the journey of the guitar in the 20th century." He spoke with Rath about crafting a narrative from the work of Rodrigo and another Spanish composer, Manuel de Falla. Hear their conversation at the audio link.

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Transcript

ARUN RATH, HOST:

If you're a classical guitarist, it may be impossible to resist the pull of Spain. You pretty much have to prove your chops on this.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CONCIERTO DE ARANJUEZ")

RATH: The "Concierto De Aranjuaz," by Joaquin Rodrigo.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CONCIERTO DE ARANJUEZ")

RATH: Our next guest, though, doesn't have to prove himself much these days. He's so big in the classical world, he's known simply as Milos. 30-year-old Milosz Karadaglic.

MILOS KARADAGLIC: I think when you say, you can say it harder. Milos Karadaglic.

RATH: Milos Karadaglic.

KARADAGLIC: Yes.

RATH: Awesome.

KARADAGLIC: That's perfect.

(LAUGHTER)

RATH: Welcome to the program.

KARADAGLIC: Thank you. It's really, really great to talk to you.

RATH: So for people who don't know your background, it's still probably fairly obvious from your name you're not from Spain.

KARADAGLIC: No.

(LAUGHTER)

RATH: Tell us about your background.

KARADAGLIC: I come from a beautiful small country in the Mediterranean, though. It's called Montenegro, and it's a tiny place of 600,000 people. We have an amazing landscape, amazing seaside, incredible mountains and really special people.

RATH: Are there similarities between Balkan music and Spanish music?

KARADAGLIC: Well, Spanish music is strongly influenced by the Moors. Balkan music is strongly influenced by the Ottoman Empire. So there is a link in the flavor. Also, there is a link in the region because we do share that Mediterranean mentality.

RATH: I know you have your guitar with us, and you're going to treat us to a portion of the "Concierto De Aranjuaz" from Rodrigo. What you going to play for us?

KARADAGLIC: Well, clearly I couldn't have a whole orchestra in this little box in London. But I just thought that one thing about classical guitar and one thing about this particular piece is that this melody really transcends into so many different areas, so many different genres. And while it is a classical guitar piece and the most iconic of classical guitar pieces, it has inspired so many other musicians to play it. So I will just play you the theme from "Aranjuaz" from the second movement.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CONCIERTO DE ARANJUEZ")

KARADAGLIC: So there - just a little flavor from the second movement of "De Aranjuaz."

RATH: Miles Davis said of that theme - 'cause, you know, he had his famous version - that it gets more powerful the quieter you play it. And when I hear you play it, I know what he's talking about.

KARADAGLIC: Thank you. It's always like that with things, isn't it? Because when you shout, people really don't listen. But this theme is so delicate and so special, and it's somehow - I always say, it's a place that, when you play it, you have to allow the string to become a voice, in a way.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CONCIERTO DE ARANJUEZ")

KARADAGLIC: When I'm doing it live with different orchestras, with different conductors, you inevitably pick up different energies. And if I start to get the goosebumps on my neck, then I know that it's going to be special.

RATH: You yourself have called this the holy grail of the guitar repertoire. And you know, maybe this is going to be a piece where you're just kind of doing the classical equivalent of shredding - you know, playing some fast finger work. But it's the opposite. It's more that it's so bear that you better be good, otherwise everybody's going to be able to tell.

KARADAGLIC: Second movement, yes. It is a total contrast to the first and the third movements. Second movement was inspired by loss. It was inspired by personal tragedy. But the first and the third movements were inspired by nature, by optimism, by life. And boy, in those movements, do you have to lose fast.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CONCIERTO DE ARANJUEZ")

RATH: You play some other selections from Rodrigo. One, which is I think my favorite on the album, that I hadn't heard before and that does feature some amazing finger work, as well - that's "Invocacion Y Danza."

KARADAGLIC: I will tell you, the whole album is not about "Aranjuaz." It's about the journey in the guitar in the 20th century. And that journey starts from the little piece called "Homenaje," which was written for - as a homage to Claude Debussy, by de Falla because that was the first time that a composer wrote - a mainstream composer wrote for a guitar and treated it as a concert instrument.

And I don't think that if that happened, we would've been in here or maybe even had "Aranjuaz" come to us. And then we have a piece which you just mentioned. "Invocacion Y Danza" is an homage to Manuel de Falla, and it's an extraordinary piece of music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "INVOCACION Y DANZA")

RATH: In this journey of the guitar that you're tracing, could you talk about how the other composer - the other Spanish composer you feature on here, Manuel de Falla - does he figure - how does he feature in this?

KARADAGLIC: Well, de Falla is, I said - he gave us that little "Homenaje," and that's where the whole journey starts.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOMENAJE")

KARADAGLIC: De Falla gave us some of the most passionate, sexy, fiery Spanish music. And when you read about his life - this really fascinating - is that even though he was a respected composer, even though he earned very well and was really much celebrated in Spain as the most important composer of that era, he lived a life almost like a monk in a monastery. He lived with bare necessities in a very small house in Granada. He was never having relationships or anything like that. And yet, he gave us some of the most passionate and charged music. So when you perform his music, you have to almost think about it that his music is his alter ego.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOMENAJE")

RATH: Milos joined us from our London bureau. His new album, "Aranjuaz," is out now. Milos is also on a world tour. Thank you so much.

KARADAGLIC: Thank you. It's been a pleasure to talk to you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOMENAJE")

RATH: Our theme music would sound pretty good played by Milos, but it's not. However, it was written by B.J. Leiderman. This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Arun Rath. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.