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Alejo de los Reyes

Ph credits Paula Serrano

Where were you born?
Chivilcoy, a small town near Buenos Aires, Argentina

Where do you live? New York

Why did you start playing music?

Music was a part of my environment when I grew up, as both of my parents are musicians, both of them teachers at my local conservatory. On my father’s side, my grandfather was a luthier, and on my mother’s, my grandfather was a tango historian. « Classical » music was present every day at my home when my father (who is my main reference in classical guitar as a teacher and player) would practice, and Argentine popular music was present at every celebration, as many of my parents’ friends would play or sing tango and Argentine popular/traditional music. I learned classical guitar from my father, but I learned a lot of Argentine music from his friends as well.

What is your favourite instrument?     

The guitar, in its many phases throughout history…

What music did you listen to as a child?

Mainly the music that my father would play, which is classical guitar (Albéniz, Tárrega, Barrios, Sor, Bach, etc.). But my mother had a wider taste, hearing Argentine folk singers, such as the Dúo Salteño or the great Mercedes Sosa.

What was your first record?

Tricky question: by the time I bought my first album I had already heard all of my parents’ collection. I believe the first album I bought by myself it was « Salgán/De Lío : En vivo en el Club del Vino », which is the last album from a great tango duet, recorded live.

What musical period would you like to live in?           

Not sure. If I think about Argentine music, it would be the 1920s. When it comes to European music, the 16th century, either in Spain or Italy.

Where do you prefer to listen to music?  

In the most intimate venues, and even better if it’s in a gathering of friends after lunch or dinner.

Where can we find you when you are not making music?

Not that I spend much time without playing, but you could find me at a « milonga » (the place where you go to dance tango).

Where did you study? 

As a child, I studied at my hometown’s local conservatory. After finishing high school I moved to Buenos Aires to study at the National University of the Arts (IUNA, currently UNA) and the Music Conservatory of Buenos Aires.

Some years later, I was mentored in Switzerland by Michel Kiener and Luc Breton.

What awards have you received?       

I won first prize at the International Guitar Contest « María Luisa Anido » in Argentina.

Who is your favourite composer?

As for European music, I won’t be very original and I’ll say J. S. Bach. For Argentine music, I’d probably choose Anselmo Aieta for tango or Atahualpa Yupanqui for folk music.

Which composer would you like the public to rediscover?      

As a guitarist, I think all of the repertoire for vihuela is still waiting to be discovered by the great audience. I don’t think any other period of music got to be so elegant, fluent and spiritual yet so well-built and technically challenging.

What is your first recording?

It was « Tierra Querida », an album of my own arrangements of old tangos for solo guitar

What is your favourite recording? (Passacaglia, with you)       

« Al compás de la vihuela » is, by far, my most beloved solo album. I was able play at my best level, and also play some of the best guitars available on the whole world, not to mention the outstanding quality of the audio, thanks to producer J.J. Bieri and audio engineer J. D. Noir.

I’m also very proud of my collaboration with Rubén Llaneza, a legendary tango singer. I produced the album, and also played first guitar and arranged and conducted a guitar quartet for his accompaniment. It is his last album in a discography that started in the golden age of tango, the 1950s.

What is your favourite Passacaille recording? (Passacaille, other artist) 

What a difficult one ! I love Passacaille’s catalog. I’ll go for Michel Kiener’s Goldberg Variations.

Who do you dream of recording with? (realistic or not)          

The gorgeous Ensemble Fratres. Or, as a tango musician, with the great Hugo Rivas.

Which piece have you never recorded but would like to?       

The Bach Lute Suites.

What do you do before a concert?      

In the morning, some short exercises, and a I run through only the parts of the pieces I’m most concerned about. Then, I try to relax and concentrate on the music. If possible, I take a small nap before the concert. I mostly think about the repertoire of the concert, trying to remember the order by heart and picture the whole music in my head. I try not to play guitar too much the day of the concert. Or even the day before.

What do you do after a concert?     

A nice dinner is quite essential for me after the concert, all the better if I can share it with friends, colleagues or family. Chat, drink some wine and slowly calm the excitement and stress of the concert.    

What would you do if you were not a musician?         

I think I would do something related with computers , like software development. But is very hard to picture myself as a non-musician.

Anything important to add?

“Is it not strange that sheep’s guts could hail souls out of men’s bodies?” William Shakespeare, quote from Much ado about nothing.