What do you find appealing about the Leshnoff concerto and his music overall?
Let me first tell you how this concerto came into being. Dr. Sol Snyder, who I am so proud to have as a friend, is not only a great neuroscientist but a fine classical guitarist as well. His involvement with the BSO and his desire to expand the repertoire of the guitar have led him to initiate the commissioning of two guitar concertos: one by Steven Stucky back in 1998 and this concerto by Leshnoff. Sol had heard a Leshnoff flute concerto performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra which he liked very much, and which he later sent to me to see what I thought of it. I thought it was a terrific piece and from that this project was born.
The most appealing elements in Leshnoff music are for me his strong rhythmic drive and beautiful melodic lines. This concerto is an honest and deeply felt piece of music which exploits the guitar to its fullest. I look forward to what promises to be an exciting premiere and I also very much look forward to working with Marin Alsop for the first time.
How do you balance teaching at Peabody with your rigorous performance schedule?
It is not easy. The only way possible is by being extremely efficient with my time and to plan everything very carefully. I have to give a lot of credit to my wife Asgerdur who handles my scheduling and who keeps me organized and on top of the things that I have to do.
Also one has to adapt to whatever circumstances, turning cars into practice studios and airplanes into office spaces. Funny thing is that some years ago I did a Lexus car commercial in which I appear playing the guitar in the back seat of a car. That was not unusual or difficult for me to do at all, I do lots of practicing in the car when taking long trips! I also get a lot done in airplanes where the phone does not ring and where there are few interruptions. I write emails, do office type work and work on my music. There are a lot of sacrifices that one has to make and it is really difficult to spend six hours working on an airplane while everybody else seems to be laughing from the movies they are watching and getting drunk!
Tonar, the record label you founded, has turned out be an excellent indie label. What’s the biggest challenge in operating a viable label at this point?
It is not really much of a challenge because it is not financial considerations that drive it. Originally it was meant as a way to make my work available to those that might be interested. But when something comes up that we feel deserves attention, such as the Beijing Guitar Duo, we’re happy to lend a hand!
How do you determine what to release on Tonar, both in terms of your own work and that of others?
When there is an exciting project, we try to make it happen. When it is ready (and not before), that’s when it gets released.
Any chance you will record and release the Leshnoff piece?
That has not been discussed. Right now I am focused on learning the piece!