Guitarist takes from the piano for new sound

by Jordan Sievers

Staff Writer

One of the most interesting questions guitarist Juan Manuel Cañizares has been asked by a Japanese fan had to do with his fingernails.

“The fans always ask me very (detailed) things. From my nails to the way I play, they want to know everything,” he says.

Cañizares doesn’t think questions like these are strange, rather he sees them as proof that his Japanese fans pay a lot of attention to the technical details of his performance (the fingernails question was to do with how he plays his guitar). It could be why the musician spends a considerable amount of time here.

Known in pockets around the world, Cañizares is a modern flamenco guitarist whose last album was 2012′s “Goyescas — Granados por Cañizares.” The effort is a collection of transposed works that originally comprised a 1911 piano suite by Spanish composer Enrique Granados.

At age 6, Cañizares began playing flamenco-style guitar in the Catalonian region of Spain where he grew up. As the years progressed, so did his musical capabilities. He has released six solo albums and has collaborated with such notable artists as Peter Gabriel, in addition to being the first and only guitarist to perform with the Philharmonic Orchestra of Berlin.

Cañizares says the process of transposing from piano to guitar is interesting, but difficult. It has also required him to do more than 20 years of intensive study.

“The piano has many octaves, but the guitar is very limited,” he says. “I have to analyze (the piece) very well before I begin to transpose. It should sound like guitar music, but (the original) is not composed for the guitar, so adaptation is not so easy.”

Cañizares’ efforts seem to have paid off, though, as he has garnered attention from audiences all over the world, with Japan being one of the most receptive.

He mentions that the people who make up his audiences here are often musicians or performers themselves, which is likely the reason for the detailed questions.

“Japanese people are very educated. For example, during a concert they are silent (and listening closely). This would probably not happen in other countries. I like this kind of audience because I feel I can give them my best and it will be respected.”

Cañizares also teaches flamenco-style guitar when he’s not busy. Although he’s an expert within the genre, he says his teaching style is a totally different process.

Aspiring flamenco guitarists take note, his biggest piece of advice is to simply “play with feeling.”

“That,” he says, “is the most important thing.”

Cañizares Flamenco Quartet will play the big hall at Shinjuku Cultural Center on Dec. 18 and 19 (7 p.m. start; ¥5,000-¥7,000; 03-3498-2881). For more information, visit www.jmcanizares.com.