"Music is very jealous.”
This is the conclusion at which Spanish classical guitarist and composer José María Gallardo del Rey has arrived. Born in Seville, Gallardo del Rey picked up the guitar at the age of six, giving his first concert at nine. And music, that jealous creature, quickly became the lens through which he perceived the world. Cities would be seen through their concert halls: the Toyko Opera House, Vienna Konzerthaus, the Auditorio di Roma, Carnegie Hall. Life’s significant moments would arrive with an accompanying score. The guitarist met his wife, the talented violinist Anabel Garcia del Castillo, at a concert in Valencia, Spain. The day Gallardo del Rey premiered his original composition Glosas with the San Luis Obispo Symphony, the composer learned of his father’s death.
- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- YES, HE HAS FIVE NAMES : Valencia-based classical guitarist and composer José María Gallardo del Rey and his wife, violinist Anabel Garcia del Castillo, will perform Gallardo del Rey’s original composition Glosas with the SLO Sympony at this year’s Pops by the Sea concert.
“It was a very intense concert. We were in a very tough emotional state,” he recalled. But throughout the performance of Glosas, a concerto for guitar, violin, and orchestra, the composer said, “I felt all the time the inspiration of my father helping … He always told me that music should be first.”
A 16th century term used by Spanish composers to describe a set of variations, glosa literally means “gloss,” as if such arrangements were a new polish applied to an existing work of art. Gallardo del Rey’s Glosas, fittingly, evokes four distinct musical environments, taking the listener from the dunes of the Andalusian coast to the tropical rhythms of the Caribbean. But for Gallardo del Rey, Glosas—which the composer and his wife will perform with the SLO Symphony at the annual Avila Beach concert Pops by the Sea—will always be filled with memories both sweet and melancholy.
This year’s end-of-summer event, dubbed Pops by the Sea: Pops Romántico, strikes a wistful and cinematic note with classics such as Gershwin’s An American in Paris and Someone to Watch Over Me, as well as selections from several beloved films, such as Lara’s Theme from Dr. Zhivago, the love theme from Romeo and Juliet, and As Time Goes By, a tune made most popular by the character of Sam in Casablanca. Gallardo del Rey will also perform new guitar arrangements of several classic songs.
But Glosas, at approximately 40 minutes in length, is the concert’s crown jewel. Originally commissioned by SLO Symphony Music Director Michael Nowak to commemorate its 50th anniversary season, Glosas travels, in four movements, across the rich and varied landscape of Spain. We begin on the beaches of Huelva, a city on the Andalusian coast, with “Dune,” a movement that quotes traditional Fandangos of the region, its cadence evoking the wind’s gentle shaping of the sand. The second movement, “Caribbean Lullaby,” while suggesting the seductive tropical rhythms of the tango and the rumba, begins to slow and fade, indeed, into a dreamy kind of lullaby. (The movement was in fact written for Music Director Nowak’s young daughter Julia, Gallardo del Rey’s goddaughter.)
In his compositions, Gallardo del Rey is often joined by wife Garcia del Castillo on violin. His violin parts are thus written expressly for her, he explains. (“It’s like a tailor, you know?”)
In his performance of Glosas, he is also joined percussionist Roberto Vozmediano.
The third movement, “Watercolors,” is a tribute to the gilded sounds of the Spanish Baroque era—and Baroque composers Gaspar Sanz and Santiago de Murcia in particular. The colorful orchestrations of the closing movement, “Night of Fire,” are a tribute to the Nit del Foc, the final night of Fallas, a Valencian celebration in honor of St. Joseph which lasts five days and five nights, culminating in a fireworks display and the torching of enormous papier-mâché monuments.
Valencia is a fitting place to close. The Spanish city is not only home to the guitarist and his violinist wife, Garcia del Castillo, but is also the place where Gallardo del Rey, composer and Cal Poly professor Craig Russell, and SLO Symphony kicked off a Spanish tour in 1996—with a concert coinciding, incidentally, with the Fallas.
Gallardo del Rey has had a longstanding relationship with California and its musicians, which may explain why his California Suite, the first piece of music he ever composed, remains his most popular. But the guitarist and composer has also earned himself a following the world over. An expert at drawing regional Spanish influences—the Flamenco sounds of his native Seville featuring prominently among them—into the elegant structure of classical music, the guitarist is widely considered a musical ambassador. But it isn’t just music you’re hearing, so much as the soundtrack to his life.
Arts Editor Anna Weltner can be reached at email@example.com.