MANUEL LOPEZ RAMOS INTERVIEWED FOR CLASSICAL GUITAR BY JEFFREY GOODMAN

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1 MANUEL LOPEZ RAMOS INTERVIEWED FOR CLASSICAL GUITAR BY JEFFREY GOODMAN MANUEL LOPEZ RAMOS ( ) was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He studied with the most famous teacher of his country: Miguel Michelone. In 1948 he received the award of the Argentine Chamber Music Association. Since then, he toured all America and Europe, performing as soloist with many important orchestras and conductors. He was also a brilliant teacher and gave master classes at many colleges and universities in the United States and Mexico. In 1969 the Mexican Union of Theatre and Music Chroniclers awarded him its annual prize. I met and interviewed him in Mexico City in 1985 for Classical Guitar Magazine. The interview took place at his school Estudio de Arte Guitarristico of which he was the director. Over the next week or so I will post segments of the interview. The deep level of his thinking and philosophy of music and guitar shines through all his responses. He was a serious and accomplished musician, guitarist and teacher. JFFFREY GOODMAN: What was your first experience of the guitar? MANUEL LOPEZ RAMOS: One of the most important experiences was when I was very young and had been playing for six months - this was in And I heard the concert by Segovia in Buenos Aires. The impression I received from Segovia's playing is still engraved not only in my mind, but also in my soul and my body. I will never forget that. Of course before that I had heard some very good Argentine guitarists, The Impression was mainly the technique. But when I heard Segovia, I heard not a guitarist, but an artist. After the concert I felt like a cloud floating in the sky. Then I went back home late at night and played this small guitar all night, playing the Carulli Book I method! I said to myself that I will play someday like this man I just heard. And today I still feel: some day I will play like Segovia.' JEFFREY GOODMAN: What is your philosophy of' teaching and what do you try to impart to your students? MANUEL LOPEZ RAMOS: I feel that every human being has the right to play a musical instrument. Music is natural to a human being. A person who doesn't make music must feel frustrated When we receive a student we never ask if he or she wants to be a professional. We don't care. We have a system which gives everyone the tools to play, whether they will be professionals or not There arc many teachers who don't accept students who lack facility or who are not going to be professionals, They feel they are in the world just to teach the people who have great talent and were born to play. The others, they just get rid of them, without regard for the destiny of these people.

2 To be able to teach everybody it is necessary to have a system that will make everybody able to play the instrument - maybe not as well-as a professional, but at a very good level. If you don't have this methodology it is very hard to teach people who aren't that dedicated to the instrument. JEFFREY GOODMAN: What is your idea of a complete musician? MANUEL LOPEZ RAMOS: Naturally a complete musician must know all the aspects of general music harmony, theory, history - but it is not enough. It is important for a musician to live in an emotional way. If a person doesn't pay attention to what s going on around him, it is not good. A musician must care and attend to everything that s going on and not just only himself. It is important to hear all kinds of music, not only guitar, and learn how to listen and to hear and distinguish who is who among performers, and which is better than another. A musician must have a wide culture, to know and have interest in other arts, not just music. JEFFREY GOODMAN, Over the years have you found that your practice methods have changed and evolved? MANUEL LOPEZ RAMOS, I have changed my practicing quite a lot over the years, through teaching, seeing the results on the students. For example, in 1957 I discovered I had many problems in right-hand fingering, At that time it was done by intuition, and whatever finger was near to the string was used. Not by logic. Then I started to develop right-hand fingering according to principles of logic. I feel I am one of the first guitarists to do this. And now many editions are including right-hand fingering. Which is a change from the old system of including primarily left-hand fingerings, If we always use set fingerings with the left hand, we must also reason and discover the exact and best fingerings for the right hand as well. JEFFREY GOODMAN, So, when you are performing a piece, you always know which right-hand finger you are using for every note. MANUEL LOPEZ RAMOS, Yes, absolutely. When I study a new piece for the first time, I don't think about fingering at all. I first decide what I wish to do musically, and then work out the fingering to express my musical ideas. Then I follow the same fingerings for the rest of my life. Then there are many ways of practicing. First you have your musical idea of the piece, then you divide the piece into many parts to aid your memory in performance. But this is only done once you have developed your overall concept of the piece. For a student, of course it is quite difficult to approach a piece this way. He must play slowly at first and he may not he able to play it at tempo for a long time. That is why I

3 feel it is very important for the student to playa piece that is technically not too hard. Because if he tries to play a piece which is too hard, he will practice it too slowly and form a wrong concept of the piece. The repertoire of the student has to be chosen very carefully. JEFFREY GOODMAN, What is your view of transcriptions and their use in concert programming? MANUEL LOPEZ RAMOS, I play many transcriptions and am not the kind of musician who is against transcription. There are many wonderful transcriptions and I play many of them. Playing music by Bach on guitar, in transcription from the cello suites, by Duarte and Lorimer, for example, can at times he more effective than the original instrumentation. I like very much the transcriptions of Spanish music by Albeniz, Granados. as well as original music by Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Ponce. JEFFREY GOODMAN, What other 20 th century composers do you play?" MANUEL LOPEZ RAMOS, Of the modern composers Britten and Walton are among my favorites. Walton is one of the best composers of these times. I carried on a correspondence with Walton, asking for a concerto. But his answer was very funny. 'I'm too old and too lazy,' he said. But he liked the idea. JEFFREY GOODMAN, What else influences your choice of concert music? MANUEL LOPEZ RAMOS, I am absolutely convinced that the guitar is essentially a melody instrument, accidentally a harmonic instrument. The emotion that the guitar sound produces in the audience is in the melody. And many times you may sacrifice the basses or harmonic parts by using the apoyando to bring out the melody. If you hear carefully the old recordings of Segovia, you will sec the melody is the important thing. Of course the harmony is important but the melody with all its nuances is what moves the listener. JEFFREY GOODMAN, Did you find it necessary to revise any of the notes in music you have edited by Ponce? MANUEL LOPEZ RAMOS, I did mainly the right and left-hand fingerings. Ponce wrote for the guitar with great perfection and it wasn't necessary to revise the notes. I have seen the manuscripts of the Sonata Romantica, for example, and the notes are exactly the same as in the Segovia edition. Segovia only had to do the fingerings. Otherwise it was perfect. When someone asks me how to compose for the guitar, I always say don't forget that the main thing on the guitar is the inspiration of the melody. Today many composers ignore melody: they compose for the guitar by using strange chords, noise, rasgueados, special effects, and they forget that melody is the most important thing in music. For me. the guitar represents the romanticism of human kind at all times.

4 JEFFREY GOODMAN, What are your thoughts about the future of guitar and guitarists? MANUEL LOPEZ RAMOS, In general. I have a very great fear of what is going to happen. My fear is that the audience might disappear from guitar concerts. I feel it is already happening. There are many great guitarists in the world today. Many more than in the past. But they arc great technically, yet there are no great artists, and because of this the audience will get bored and leave the concerts. The mystery of the guitar has been lost due to a mechanical way of playing, because people have misunderstood what technique is for. There is no warmth in the guitar any more. If we ask ourselves what makes an audience love the guitar, the way Segovia plays - do you think Segovia conquered the world by playing virtuoso works for the guitar? Or is it the small piece,. that are technically not difficult Minuets by Sor or Havdn. Schubert miniatures. Mendelssohn Songs Without Words these small pieces cultivated the audience for guitar around the world. Also the works like Granada. Sevilla - all these things really captivated the audience around the world. the way Segovia played them. And the reason is not because of the pieces he played. but the way he plays them. [Addendum # 1 - If you review the concert programs included in chapter 15 of Graham Wade s book Segovia - that span a time frame of from you can see how Segovia gradually evolved his recital programs along the exact lines that Mr. Ramos mentions above.] The young guitarists of today might admire and respect Segovia for what he was, but now they don't hear Segovia any more either through his concerts or through his recordings. He is considered old-fashioned, confined to the romantic epoch. But artists like Casals, Heifetz, Rubenstein. Zabaleta - they will never he out of epoch. I think the young people of today should go hack to the expression of feeling in music, because audiences after hearing ten to fifteen minutes of perfect technique will respect and admire the player, but also he getting bored at the same time. They will very quickly forget the concert, and it will he difficult to get them to go back to another concert. [Addendum # 2 - At this point in the interview I asked him, outside of the official interview, if Segovia in 1945 had a perfect technique, noting that during the 1960s-1970s Segovia s concerts in Los Angeles were invariably flawed to some degree by technical imperfections. Mr. Ramos said that even in the 1940s Segovia was not the greatest guitar technician, that other guitarists playing in Mexico and South America were perhaps more technically polished, but that Segovia always had the unsurpassed power of beauty and emotion in his playing that were hallmarks of his legacy.]

5 JEFFREY GOODMAN, How do you feel about amplification? MANUEL LOPEZ RAMOS: I am absolutely against It. I think that the fascination and enchantment of the guitar is due to the intimacy of the sound, which is totally destroyed by amplification. I think that the guitar is like a person. It is important to leave it the way it is. If you are very tall. Short, or skinny, or fat, that is the way you are and you must not try to change it. So it is with the guitar. I think that if the guitarist has artistic talent, that talent will bring the audience to the guitar, and amplification tends to throw the sound at the audience. which is unnecessary. Some people think amplification is absolutely necessary when playing with an orchestra. I remember Segovia s performance in Mexico City in 1945, playing the Castelnuovo- Tedesco concerto, without amplification, and the guitar was heard perfectly. It does, however, require a good hall and adequate rehearsal with the orchestra and conductor. If the composer wants to write for the guitar with heavy orchestral background, then it would be better to write for the piano instead and everyone will be better off. Jeffrey Goodman 1985

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