for the love of spanish guitar

pablo sainz villegas

pablo sainz villegas.

When it comes to guarantees, Pablo Sainz Villegas has come up with what is known in the trade as a whopper.

Here is what he is promising any patron taking in tonight’s Valentine’s Day program, Love, by the Lexington Philharmonic.

“Everyone who comes to the concert will fall in love,” said the internationally acclaimed Spanish guitarist and guest soloist for tonight’s performance. “Well, with the music, at least.”

Such a qualifier places Sainz Villegas on musical terrain over which he has scholarly command. He will be featured tonight playing the Concierto de Aranjuez, the signature work of Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo.

A piece that has been adapted for a number of contemporary as well as classical settings (the most famous, perhaps, being the orchestrated jazz revision Miles Davis and Gil Evans designed for the iconic Sketches of Spain album), Aranjuez is also a composition the guitarist has performed with orchestras around the world.

This isn’t even his first time playing it here. Sainz Villegas and the Lexington Philharmonic teamed previously to perform it in 2007.

“This piece is an extension of who I am,” Sainz Villegas said recently by phone from Mexico City. “When I play it, I try to become the music. For me, this piece is the identity of man’s culture and, of course, the identity of Joaquin Rodrigo.

Sainz Villegas pointed to Aranjuez’s second and most familiar movement as a definition of that identity. The movement is considered a lament for the child Rodrigo and his wife lost from a miscarriage.

“The whole second movement is about this dramatic conversation with God. It’s a cry for the love of his child. It’s a very powerful movement. I think Joaquin really transformed all that pain into a beautiful and meaningful piece of music that connects to anyone’s sensitivity. In the end, that’s the language of the music. That’s why music speaks to anyone. You only need to know the heart to receive those emotions and be moved by them.”

That should hardly suggest tonight’s performance of Aranjuez will be in any way a mournful affair. The romantic beauty of Sainz Villegas’ playing abounds in a version of the piece he recorded in 2002 and reflects the romantic heritage of an instrument and culture that are forever linked.

“The Spanish classical guitar is the only instrument that is fully linked to a culture,” he said. “When we think of the violin or the piano – magnificent instruments that they are – they could be from Germany, Italy or France. But when you think of the guitar, you think of Spain. It’s an instrument with roots in the traditions of Jewish music and Arabic music – all cultures that have lived together in Spain over the past centuries. In the end, the guitar is an expression of the country as a culture.

“For example, the first movement of the Conceirto de Aranjuez is based on flamenco rhythms. In Spain, I grew up with those rhythms, with those melodies. So it’s quite natural for me to play that music on the guitar.

Sainz Villegas has also been instrumental over the past seven years in introducing that culture to children through a project called the Music Without Borders Legacy. Though the project was introduced to aid youths in Spain and Mexico, it has been utilized through interactive concerts in many global regions. Sainz Villegas will offer such a recital for area students on Saturday at the University of Kentucky Hospital Pavilion A Auditorium.

“It has been incredible to see the reaction of all these kids. You have to realize how powerful music can be, especially when you send it to people who never had any kind of contact to art or beauty because of the environment they were living in.”

The Lexington Philharmonic with Pablo Sainz Villegas perform at 7:30 tonight at the Singletary Center for the Arts. Tickets are $20-$70. Call (859) 233-4226 or go to,

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