Monday, June 18, 2012

Milos Karadalic

Milos Karadalic is a young guitarist from Montenegro, now resident in London, who seems to be today's new star of the guitar. His second album, on Deutsche Grammophon, will be released in July. He seems to be doing everything right, which is interesting to me, because I tended to do everything wrong in my career! He attended the Royal Academy of Music, studying with Michael Lewin, who is working with Milos on career development and creative assistance--meaning that he did a lot of the transcriptions on his first album. Milos also seems to have a real friend in Adam Sweeting at the Telegraph who just did a second feature article on him. Here is the first, headlined : "Classical Guitar Has a New Hero". Self-confidence is a huge plus when you are building your career and Milos has a lot. He says, “The guitar needs a renaissance. There isn’t a more accessible or beautiful instrument, and I want to bring it to a new generation of listeners.” That's probably true... not just the guitar, but music in general could use a renaissance right about now!

Milos loves the music he plays and loves the way he plays it:
"Oriental [by Granados] is the most exposed piece I have ever played, and you have to really dig inside yourself to express it. I listened to my recording again last night, after not hearing it for a while, and it’s really magical.”
Adam Sweeting's second feature on Milos took the form of an interview, cleverly disguised as a guitar lesson. It is headlined "Milos Karadaglic: a guitar lesson from the classical maestro". Apart from the predictable discussion of how difficult the classical guitar is to play, there is this interesting quote:
“Segovia had bananas for fingers, it’s really weird when he plays,” he said. “But you can’t say his technique was bad, because the body does what it needs to do to achieve a musical result. It’s like [opera singer] Maria Callas – the authority and charisma are unbelievable and unrepeatable. Nobody has perfect technique on any instrument, there’s always something that can be improved.”
After this setup, one does start to wonder, just what does Milos sound like? This video is featured in the Telegraph article, obviously meant to promote the new album. For some reason, I can't embed the video, but here is the link to YouTube. Sorry about the advert!

Huh! Well, after all that stuff about 'classical maestro', it is a bit surprising, isn't it? Quizás, quizás, quizás is a popular song from 1947 by the Cuban songwriter Osvaldo Farres. The arrangement is quite nice and the video is very well done. But. But this isn't classical music except that the guy playing it is a classical guitarist. Let's see what else there is on YouTube. Here he is playing the aforementioned "Oriental" a piece by Granados, originally for piano:

That is certainly classical music and it is played well. But it is a very simplified arrangement (though a well-done one) and the performance is rather sentimental and wandering. Let's listen to one more. Here he is playing the very difficult "Asturias" by Albeniz:

Milos certainly has the technique for that virtuosic piece. Nothing wrong with it, but the middle section, where one's musicality is tested, was rather flat, don't you think?

So here is what I think of Milos: he is a good guitarist, with lots of technique. He has male-model good looks, which he exploits to further his career--and why not? He seems to be doing everything right in terms of his career so more power to him. But, I find him a bit dull as a musician. There doesn't seem to be anything under the surface and there seems to be a real danger that he will fall victim to the siren call of crossover; doing fluffy arrangements of popular tunes in order to appeal to people who don't like actual classical music.

But there are some important things to note here: he is paying a lot of attention to those things that seem necessary to build a career these days: the look, the promotion, and the media appearances (along with lots of coverage in the Telegraph he also seems to get lots of television appearances in England, France and Germany). He is recording stuff that people not really into classical music will probably like. He is recording the tunes that are perennial favorites such as the Spanish Romance. And most importantly, he seems to have put together a team: his guitar teacher as creative advisor, a media person (Adam Sweeting), the people who do the recording and videos--a whole team of people. This is the interesting thing: in the kind of environment we have today, this is probably the crucial element. It helps if you can play, helps just as much if you are very good-looking, but even that is not enough if you don't have the creative and promotional team. Take note, all you aspiring young classical musicians.

Just one thing: if all you do is crossover and the occasional classical warhorse, played with more melodrama than insight, then you really aren't causing a renaissance, are you? What you are doing is becoming a kind of pop musician... Does Milos really want to be the Vanessa Mae of the classical guitar?


RG said...

Naked Guitarists... a future blog may be titled.

"Male model good looks" regardless, I doubt the Classical music world is quite ready for male nude performers. So, "why not" have a pretty girl do that part for the marketing mix? Whether any synaesthesia was involved, I cannot feel certain, but I certainly enjoyed the "piece".

Bryan Townsend said...
This comment has been removed by the author.