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Interview with Plínio Fernandes
by Bethany Tillerson (Photo credit: Lillie Elger)
This week, our guest is Brazilian guitarist Plínio Fernandes, discussing his new recording, Bacheando. Bacheando is a collection of works by Bach and composers inspired by him. Last year, Fernandes released his debut album Saudade with Decca Classics.
KENNEDY: Plínio, this is your second album. Bravo! Tell our listeners the inspiration behind this new recording, Bacheando.
FERNANDES: The inspiration for me was very natural. The album compiles the music of Bach, who is my favorite composer, and the Brazilian composers and the Brazilian music that was influenced by Bach. I really wanted to record Bach. It was a great responsibility, but it also gives me so much joy because it’s the music that I love the most. Speaking to Sergio Assad, who was the main arranger of the album, I had the idea of also featuring Brazilian composers who wrote compositions inspired by the great German master.
KENNEDY: The way you play the guitar, Plínio, creates the illusion of many voices. Who taught you how to play with such musical phrasing?
FERNANDES: It’s a great question. Thank you very much. First of all, I think that listening to a lot of polyphonic music helps a lot and having a very varied and broad curiosity towards music. The guitar is a polyphonic instrument as well, but listening to a lot of piano music, a lot of choral music as well, just helped me to develop that ear and a certain touch and an affinity to play such music.
KENNEDY: And of course the music of Bach does require an understanding of polyphony or many voices, correct?
FERNANDES: Absolutely correct. I tried to listen to as much organ music as possible and choir music specifically to develop a better understanding of that polyphony in Bach’s music.
KENNEDY: As an organist, I can tell you I totally appreciate what you’re saying. Plínio, for the young musician out there who is inspired by your playing and your example, what advice can you give her in these extraordinary times for the music industry?
FERNANDES: Well, my strongest advice is to be very curious and to listen to as much music as possible from different genres and to be truthful to what kind of music that really makes you wake up in the morning and really inspires you, and play with other musicians. That’s how you learn the most, in my experience, learning from your peers. If you’re at a conservatory or music school or university, you learn a lot from great teachers. It’s so important to have good teachers. But most important are the musicians that you are surrounded by. Learn from your friends and just be very, very curious and listen to all sorts of music.
KENNEDY: Plínio, you are Brazilian and you’ve ended up studying in England. How come you didn’t end up studying in Portugal or Germany or some other European country?
FERNANDES: My guitar teacher studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London, which is where I came to study, and he became a visiting professor. So when I wanted to study abroad, that seemed to me a natural decision to make. But also I’m a huge, huge fan of both Julian Bream and the guitarist, John Williams, who are some of my heroes, and they are British. They were somehow involved with the Academy. They weren’t teaching there. But the legacy of them was really connected to the building, and David Russell, who was also one of my idols, was teaching there at the time. And so that’s why I chose to come to London.
KENNEDY: Plínio Fernandes, much luck with this new album. Thank you so much for speaking with us today.