26 Jul 2017

Don’t like classical guitar? You will now!

From Upbeat, 1:00 pm on 26 July 2017
Pablo Sainz Villegas.

Pablo Sainz Villegas Photo: Supplied

If you think you don’t like classical music, you’ll change your mind once you’ve seen and heard Spanish classical guitarist Pablo Sainz Villegas.

He’s considered one of the greatest classical guitarists Spain has produced. He’s even had a concerto written for him by five-time Academy Award winner John Williams.

It’s not hard to see why he’s popular – Pablo plays from the soul and means every note. He’s passionate, effervescent and mesmerizing to watch.

“Music is the language of emotion … and something we all understand,” he says.

Pablo’s touring with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra playing Rodrigo’s Concerto de Aranjuez with guest conductor Alexander Shelley.

He’ll perform the soulful piece which reflects his homeland’s rich musical history in Napier and Wellington later this week.

Spanish Classical Guitarist Pablo Sainz Villeagas

Pablo Sainz Villegas Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

In one of his more upbeat pieces he accompanies his own melody with a sound that's reminiscent of a snare drum.

“It feels like there’s more than one instrument. It’s an extraordinary effect,” he says. ““We don’t see, we don’t touch … we feel. We are like magicians.”

Pablo wasn’t willing to reveal how he did it without a bit of coercion. “It’s a secret!” he laughs. “It’s a secret between us.”

To create the snare drum effect, he crosses the fifth string over the sixth string very quickly with his right hand. He then holds them down with the index finger of his left hand and plays the melody over the top of it.

Pablo has dedicated his life to the magic of music making, which he says is not a career but rather a lifestyle. And music runs a lot deeper than just performing.

He started playing guitar at the age of six and he says it’s helped him on the path of self-discovery.

“It’s been a long journey, but a journey that taught me how to evolve as a human being, how to confront my fears, how to enjoy and love what I do and keep learning from life,” he says.

Pablo comes from Rioja, the wine region in the North of Spain. His parents were teachers and his grandparents were farmers.

He feels a strong connection to the land, his heritage and the fact that his music has the ability to connect people regardless of culture, socio-economic background, religion or race.

“When we do something in life with a purpose, that action is going to be much more powerful,” he says. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a guitarist or a journalist … if you do it with purpose and commitment and a message … that’s going to be much more powerful.”

Spanish Classical Guitarist Pablo Sainz Villeagas

Pablo Sainz Villegas Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The guitar has had a powerful influence on his life, but it hasn’t always been easy. He describes the path to success as “a journey of solitude” and as a teenager questioned his direction: “I spent long hours with the instrument and art is based on excellence … which I confused with perfection

“Perfection doesn’t exist … and then there’s frustration because you can’t get to that perfection level. There are challenging moments … but I keep going. Don’t judge yourself just keep going.”

Pablo Sáinz Villegas

Pablo Sáinz Villegas Photo: Pablo Sáinz Villegas

Striving for excellence has got Pablo to the top of his game. He’s based in New York but regularly travels to perform with different orchestras around the world.

More often than not he’s asked to play Rodrigo’s Concerto de Aranjuez, a piece he’s also recorded with Spain’s National Orchestra. He says the work is a true reflection of Spain, combining flamenco and folk flavours.

He never gets sick of it and each orchestra brings something different to the piece. He’s enjoying working with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, who bring their own flair, emotion and nuances to the concerto. “That’s the magic of playing it over and over again,” Pablo says. “Every orchestra is different. It’s a living entity.”