By Ivan Gomez
The Amadeus Guitar Duo is a rare combination of virtuosity, musicality and refinement that is difficult to find these days, which is probably why many prominent composers have dedicated their works to Dale Kavanagh and Thomas Kirchhoff. Among them are concertos for two guitars and orchestra by Roland Dyens, Carlo Domeniconi, Jaime Zenamon, the Cologne composer Christian Jost and Gerald Garcia of Oxford, and many compositions for guitar duo, by Stephen Dodgson and Harald Genzmer. Dale Kavanagh and Thomas Kirchhoff are each virtuosos in their own right. NYCCGS is proud to have them open up the Pro Arte Guitar Series in New York City in January.
How did you come up with your name, Amadeus Guitar Duo?
Thomas: We both love Mozart but we never play his music on guitar. We just like a name with all vowels in it and that everybody can understand — worldwide. It’s just a name with a positive connotation.
You have recorded twelve CDs already and they are all fantastic. Both of you have played works composed by Roland Dyens and Carlo Domeniconi among others. How have their pieces been with European audiences?
Thomas: Both are quite famous and well recognized in the European guitar world and I actually think all over the world now. We love their style — what we call the moderate modern way of composing where melodies and clear structures have their place. Domeniconi wrote quite a few pieces for us as a duo and for Dale solo and we are very proud to play them. Domeniconi just wrote another duo piece for us, “Tenebrae,” after a poem by German/Jewish poet Paul Celan which is very strong and deep. We will premiere it in March in Germany.
Is there another recording project in the future?
Thomas: Yes, of course. We just finished the new Spanish Night 2 with concertos written for us by Gheorghe Zamfir (panpipes), Gerald Garcia, and Joaquin Rodrigo. We are recording a baroque album in March, 2004, with Handel’s Chaconne, Vivaldi’s concerti and the Italian Concerto by Bach, and Dale will record in the fall her new CD with 20th century pieces by Domeniconi (a fantastic Bach-Chaconne adaptation), Ponce, Milhaud and her own pieces, and then in December we are recording our sixth album with orchestra, with a new work by German composer Martin Herchenröder and the great Tedesco Concerto for two guitars and orchestra.
Is it a full time job to keep up with your vast repertoire or do you both just have incredible memory?
Thomas: In the duo we play with music but you are right — quite some stuff to play. Within this year we will perform twelve different concertos with orchestra and three different duo programmes. On top of all that there are Dale’s solo programmes, which she plays without music of course.
em>Dale, I have to say that your interpretation of Carlo Domeniconi is one of the best in the business in my opinion. You really get this big, full sound and an incredible tone in all your recordings. How do you get this sound? Is it your attack on the strings? Type of guitar? Or a combination?
Dale: A combination of all but I am happy that you mention the attack thing, that’s definitely something I have been working on for a long time. Thomas’s and my sound is quite different but we like that in the duo … to have two not one … we are a duo not a solo … (smile).
How do you see the future of the classical guitar?
Dale: Hopefully thriving as it is developing right now. So many great new players out there. The quality of playing has developed tremendously.
We have probably achieved infancy in terms of how far the guitar has come compared to violin or piano. What will it take for the classical guitar to make any further development with general audiences?
Thomas: Players like Russell, Barrueco, Williams (to name just a few) have done a lot, we think. We just try to play many concerts with orchestra and attract a greater audience. In our normal concerts we have some 300 people. However, when we play with an orchestra, we have usually more than a thousand people in one concert.
Thomas and Dale, answer without thinking. Beethoven or Mozart? Giuliani or Sor?
Thomas: Mozart for his melody and variety — Beethoven for his exuberance. Giuliani for his technical development — Sor for his beauty.
Dale: Sorry I’m not able to decide on one of them (smiles).
Thomas, in your opinion what is the best piece of music written ever?
Thomas: Impossible to answer — other smart people have tried that — but if there is only one piece I could take to the island for the end of my life … probably Mozart’s Second movement from his A-major piano concerto.
Dale: I don’t know — really too hard to say … so many come to mind: Bach’s Saint Matthew Passion and Goldberg Variations, Brahms’ first piano concerto, Beethoven’s symphonies, Shostakovitch’s string quartets, Schubert, Ligeti’s Lontano … too many.
Do you think there are too many guitarists out there that are doing harm rather than helping?
Both: A clear NO!
The Amadeus Guitar Duo will be the first artists to join NYCCGS on the Pro Arte Guitar Series on January 24, 2004, at 8:00 PM.