Cavatina Duo is one of today's most renown Guitar and Flute Duos. In this interview Denis Azabagic (guitar) and Eugenia Moliner (flute), share with us their experience with chamber music, as well as their history as a chamber music ensemble, advice about competitions and more.
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GUITARRA MAGAZINE: We have the pleasure to be here with the internationally renowned Cavatina Duo, Maestros Denis Azabagic and Eugenia Moliner.
GM: Maestro, can you tell us about your development as a guitarist; whom did you study with?
DENIS AZABAGIC: I started studying the guitar when I was 6 years old in my hometown. My first teacher was Predrag Stankovic. I studied with him for about eight years and afterwards I went to high school in Sarajevo for three years. After that I went to the Academy of Music in Zagreb where I was only for one year because the war started in former Yugoslavia, so I went to Netherlands to finish at the music conservatory and finally to the US.
GM: How did you become so interested in guitar competitions?
DA: Well, I think playing competitions is an important aspect in the development of your studies. As guitarists we are not part of the orchestral world, we cannot hope for a position as member of the orchestra, I believe that's why we have so many guitar competitions.
I learned about competitions when I was back in Bosnia at an early age, there (in Bosnia) competitions were part of the academic program, so we had competitions on a regular basis (every 2 or 3 years) giving me a chance to learn about the possibilities, so I decided to try competing and it started going well so I just kept on going.
GM: In what way does winning competitions help the guitarist to develop an artistic career?
DA: Competitions give you a very valuable experience. Do they guide in your artistic develpment? I do not know if it benefits the guitarist in that area, but I think it does benefit the student because it helps him to set goals under pressure (having a deadline). This creates a great deal of stress, which you will have to learn how to deal with. To perform live in front of a jury is something that requires some training. Finally, if you are successful at winning competitions, this will help you to promote your name in the guitar circle, you will start to be noticed. I think winning competitions helps you build a name but does not help much to develop your artistry.
GM: Besides winning competitions what other actions have to be taken in order to become an active professional artist?
DA: Winning major guitar competitions is a good thing, but if you don't do anything after winning, it's as good as not winning it at all. You really have to work hard to promote your career; it is like any other business these days. I mention before that winning a competition gives you a good curriculum, gives you a name, but it is up to each and everyone of us to work to promote ourselves and search for opportunities, which are limited.
That the greatest benefit I got from of all these competitions was the first price in GFA, the concert tour. This gave me a valuable experience regarding touring, stage presence and traveling. Organizing a tour of 60 concerts in such a short period of time is something very difficult to do. Now a days I do not think there would be an agent or Management Company that could arrange this type of tour for a guitarist. The first price of the GFA competition is a very valuable experience. But winning is not enough if you do not use the opportunity given to you by afterwards.
GM: Changing topics, I often hear comments about guitar recitals being technically accurate but boring. What musical elements guitarists are missing when performing in a "boring" fashion?
DA: We always tend to put these aspects side by side. I feel music is like telling a story. You have to be excited about what you are saying (performing) and know what to do with it; if something is boring you just feel it. If something is played with interest, it drags you emotionally into it (the music), you don't have to think too much about it, we know what makes a concert interesting or boring.
GM: Do you think volume is an essential element for the execution of an intense and exciting performance?
DA: Volume in terms of dynamics is very important to the music, to give it another name, intensity. I don't think that there is intensity in the playing unless you are able to produce a good forte.
GM: So volume itself is not a the key to make a performance exciting, in other words, it is not necessary to amplify the guitar to make a more intense impression on the audience, it is about the dynamic range and musical intention?
DA: Well, you can amplify the guitar to blow everyone away, but that is not the point. I don't like to struggle with the volume when I play in large halls, so I like to use amplification if it is possible. The amplification itself does not give intensity. The musical excitement comes from within the person; even if you have a loud guitar this does not mean that your performance is going to be more intense. Using amplification does not help if you don't bring out the "intensity" from within yourself.
GM: Changing topics once again, Can you tell us about your recent appointment at the Chicago College for the Performing Arts at Roosevelt University?
DA: I was appointed last year in the spring. During the last two semesters I have done master classes and I have been promoting the appointment around the country (US) and internationally. We (the guitar faculty at CCPA) had auditions and we are having more soon. I hope that starting in September I'll have good students and I'm sure that will be the case. I am happy to have a place where I can teach and show the students what I know because I enjoy teaching a lot.
GM: Very good, now we have some questions for the Cavatina Duo. Eugenia, can you tell me how the Duo started?
EUGENIA MOLINER: The first concert we ever played was in 1993. At that point we didn't think that the Duo was going to be something serious in our careers. In my mind I was going to be an orchestra player, and Denis was going to be a solo guitarist and continuing with his competitions. In 1996 we started playing more often. The fact that we started working more complex and bigger repertoire made us think that this (DUO) could really work and it could be something very serious. 2 years and a half ago we were not really sure what was going to happen, but I think that the release of our first CD is what really launched what we have going on now, becoming a great Duo, pursuing a great career and showing the music world that guitar and the flute make a beautiful combination that inspires many composers to make great music for us.
GM: What kind of repertoire does the Cavatina Duo perform? Is there any music being written for the Duo?
EM: The kind of music we like to perform is music written originally for flute and guitar, although right now we are working on some transcriptions of Piazzolla's music among others. I think that the music written by Astor Piazzolla can be played well by this combination (flute & guitar) because his music was never written for specific groups of instruments. Interpretation is what determines whether the music is going to be good or not, not the kind of instruments that is being played.
Right now we have some music that was written for us and we are working on it. Also there are some composers here (USA) and abroad that are writing music for us, I will not mention the names of the composers, but I'd have to say that some are already quite famous. I am really excited about that. I am looking forward to perform pieces by great composers.
GM: How does it differ with the guitar from playing with the piano? Do you have to make musical adjustments?
EM: Musically I do not make any adjustments. I try to make music with the two combinations. Off course I play different when I play with the guitar because of the instrument's volume, the dynamic range of the guitar is smaller than that of the piano, and I have to adjust to that. Thanks to me Denis has learned how to play louder (laughter). He is really thankful to the fact that I always ask him for more volume, this has helped him to add power to his solo performance. Musically there is not a big difference. I love playing music no matter what the combination is, off course I enjoy very much playing my flute and piano repertoire, but playing with Denis is so special, not only because he is a fantastic musician, but also because he is my husband, and sharing the stage with somebody that I love, and make music together, is something very special, there is nothing to be compared to that, there is nothing as beautiful this.
GM: Here is a similar question for Denis. What difference do you find in playing solo guitar music and flute and guitar duos?
DA: I feel that music is music no matter how you play it. Both ways have great things. When playing solo you do not have to be aware of the other person, but when you play with someone you have to put yourself in a different dimension. Being able to do this with a person that you feel connected with is a very special feeling. The main difference between solo and chamber music to me is that you can share the experience creating of something special with someone else.
GM: What are the futures plans for the Cavatina Duo? Are you working on any new recordings, have you commissioned pieces or are you working on future tours?
DA: We are always marketing and preparing the concerts and the tours. At the moment we are working on some new repertoire for our new CD. We have recently prepared a few pieces by Sergio Assad, a good friend of ours, as well as music by David Leisner, and some transcriptions of Piazzolla. This is a long-term project but we are working hard.
EM:We are going to be touring Europe this summer in Portugal, Spain and maybe in Croatia as well. In September we will be touring California, and in October we are going to be playing in the Chicago area.
DA: In October we are going to have a live performance on WFMT Live from Studio One. I think it is October 20 at 8 pm.
GM: For more information about the Cavatina Duo and Denis Azabagic's touring schedule, you can log onto Guitarra Magazine and find more about it.
GM: Thanks for being with us and sharing this great moment together. We are sure our readers will enjoy this interview.
DA & EM: Your Welcome (At Unison!).