The Blue Album

The Blue Album

Pablo Sáinz-Villegas crossed continents and centuries in pursuit of some of the most beautiful melodies ever written. The Spanish classical guitarist’s quest led to The Blue Album, an enchanting collection of compositions that set the ultimate test of great artistry. Each of its tracks is built from simple tunes, so simple as to demand exceptional technique, superb musicianship, and heartfelt honesty to bring them to life. The earliest dates from the late 1600s, the most recent from the early 2000s. All share a sense of nostalgia or, more accurately, a deep yearning for peace of mind. “All the works on this album are unified by their intimacy, their moments of looking inwards, of transcending time to be in that moment of truth, of vulnerability, where there’s nothing to hide,” Sáinz-Villegas tells Apple Music Classical. While the guitar can fully embrace the intimate, the vulnerable and the introspective, he notes that the instrument’s seemingly limitless range of tonal shades, textures, and timbres enabled him to invest each piece with its own distinctive color and mood. “Sound is the vessel for music,” says Sáinz-Villegas. “It is fundamental to my artistic process. The pureness of sound, in the end, is going to be the key that opens your heart. And then, of course, you can deliver a message, you can be musical, you can build from a good sound, and be as versatile as possible with it.” Here, Pablo Sáinz-Villegas takes us on a personal journey through each of the pieces on The Blue Album. Gymnopédie No. 1 (Erik Satie) “My purpose as a musician is to use the natural bridge the guitar represents between the popular and the classical, to bring classical music to new audiences. That’s why I start the album with Gymnopédie No. 1. Satie, along with Debussy, remains one of the most relevant impressionistic composers. Sometimes the profoundness of music lies in its simplicity. That’s certainly the case with this Gymnopédie, which is very transparent, very poetic, very simple.” Les barricades mystérieuses (François Couperin) “This is another very popular piece, originally written for harpsichord in 1717. Because the sound on the keyboard dies quite quickly, the interpreter has to keep the tempo moving. But with the guitar, where the sound dies more slowly, you can explore a relaxed tempo and enter a different kind of space. You can take time here, breathe and then move ahead.” Orphée’s Bedroom (Philip Glass) “What I love about Philip Glass and Max Richter, both minimalists, is the simplicity of their music. Orphée’s Bedroom is from a suite of pieces taken from Glass’s 1991 chamber opera Orphée which is based on the plot of Jean Cocteau’s 1950 film of the same name. I love the way its singing melody transcends time—it feels like you’re floating in that space.” Canción de cuna (Leo Brouwer) “Leo Brouwer is a Cuban composer and guitarist. He worked in Spain for many years and regularly conducted the Cordoba Symphony Orchestra. Brouwer studied composition at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City and became a leader of avant-garde music in Cuba. Canción de cuna is not about fireworks; it’s a lullaby and all about simplicity. There’s no complex lullaby, because you want the kid to sleep, right?” Clair de Lune (Claude Debussy) “This composition, like Debussy’s La fille aux cheveux de lin, is one of the cornerstones of classical music. It represents much more than the piece itself; it represents a change of mentality, the creation of a new world of music. This is the beautiful thing. Debussy’s music affected society, it was part of a change of thinking in Europe and especially in Paris that happened around 1900.” Passacaglia (Silvius Leopold Weiss) “Traveling across Germany in Weiss’s time would have taken several days by horse. Yet he traveled widely as a lute virtuoso and absorbed the aesthetics and techniques of music from across Europe. The lute, which is a polyphonic instrument, had been central to the development of counterpoint for centuries. Counterpoint was the most sophisticated music of that time, perhaps of all time, and that sophistication is clear in Weiss’ Passacaglia.” Gnossienne No. 1 (Erik Satie) “Thanks to Pedro Henriques da Silva’s wonderful arrangement this beautiful piece, originally written for piano in the early 1890s, sounds like it was composed for guitar. Satie creates the feeling of time standing still and leads the listener on a journey into the most intimate part of their soul.” Keyboard Sonata in D minor, K. 32 (Domenico Scarlatti) “Scarlatti lived in Spain for the last 28 years of his life. Although he never wrote for guitar, you can hear a big influence of Spanish folk music in his keyboard sonatas. Many of them sound very natural on guitar. It’s a beautiful piece, an aria for keyboard. It’s my priority as a guitarist to make the guitar sing. I really enjoy creating this perception of singing lines.” Etude No. 11 in E minor (Fernando Sor) “Sor lived during the Enlightenment period. His music reflects the self. Fernando is talking about himself, about his doubts, his high ideals. It’s so noble, elegant, profound, and an expression of how the composers and artists of that time conceived the world. What he’s sharing in this Etude is so personal—you can feel that he’s going through all these changing emotions, sometimes longing, sometimes nostalgic, sometimes reaching great highs.” La fille aux cheveux de lin (Claude Debussy) “I feel we go to the essence of this music on the guitar. That’s the beautiful thing about an arrangement. It gives you permission to say, ‘OK, let’s approach this as if Debussy knew the guitar. Let’s capture that essence.’ This was an exploration for me—it was the first time I played such profound music by Debussy on guitar.” A Catalogue of Afternoons (Max Richter) “The nail and the flesh of the finger are in direct contact with the string on the guitar. So it’s a very subtle instrument. You have a whole orchestra within those six strings and the right hand of the guitarist. That gives so many possibilities with a piece like this, which is so subtle yet so simple. It has a wonderful fragrance like that of a beautiful tree, which holds you for two minutes of music.” La paloma (Sebastián Iradier) “Everyone in Spain knows this traditional melody. Sebastián Iradier was from the Basque country, about 20 miles from my hometown. Tárrega’s arrangement is so refined. Wow! It’s like a caress, it’s so beautiful, with a little bit of habanera rhythm. And it makes a great transition into the movie soundtrack section of this album.” Cavatina (Stanley Myers) John Williams’ arrangement of Cavatina is a guitar classic. It’s a piece that transcends time and is so intimate. Cavatina is like a Spanish romance, with a beautiful singing melody and an accompaniment that works perfectly on guitar. It’s very difficult to play because of its singing melody and more rhythmic accompaniment. I wanted to explore expanding those moments between the notes, where, in my opinion, the composer hides the surprises, the magical surprises. Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (Ryūichi Sakamoto) “I loved finishing the album and paying tribute to Sakamoto’s work with this soundtrack score. Musically speaking, it’s an epic piece. Those harmonics at the beginning are priceless to me. They make very little sound, but are crystal clear, almost like they belong to a different instrument. And then comes the more epic music, and you hear a totally different sound. This is my homage to the composer.”

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