I recently had the chance to interview classical guitarist Pepe Romero. (Read my article for Pioneer Press.) I don’t see classical guitar concerts – or classical concerts, period – nearly as often as I should. Romero’s performance on Saturday, Jan. 13, at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall in Evanston was absolutely astonishing. I’m hard-pressed to think of any guitarist I’ve ever seen who was as virtuosic. Such fluid motion in those fingers! I also loved Romero’s little percussive fluorishes, including a couple of passages where he did a classical/flamenco sort of finger-tapping – causing the strings to sound by tapping the body of the guitar, possibly brushing the edge of his hand against the strings just slightly. (Or did he even touch the strings? I couldn’t tell, but the sound it produced was haunting.) And then there was one bit of strumming where he created a sound that resembled the vibration of a snare drum – I’m not even sure how he managed to do that.
The pieces he played – Isaac Albeniz, Joaquin Turina, Federico M. Torroba, Manuel de Falla, Joaquin Malats, Francisco Tarrega, Joaquin Rodrigo, his father Celedonio Romero, himself and Agustin Castellon – were beautiful, including classical, flamenco and music that bridges the two genres. Pepe Romero introduced Malats’ “Serenata espanola” with a story about his father playing it at the age of 15, when he was already a guitar instructor, to woo his future wife. It also ended up being the final song Celedonio Romero played before he died in 1996.