BY BLAIR JACKSON | FROM THE FALL 2018 ISSUE OF CLASSICAL GUITAR
Since we last spoke with the prolific New York-based Spanish guitarist Virginia Luque more than two years ago, she has been characteristically busy with a million different projects, including the launch of a new line of hand-crafted classical guitars, and an assortment of prospective album releases. So we peppered her with a few questions.
CLASSICAL GUITAR: What was your inspiration and motivation to put your name on a line of guitars?
VIRGINIA LUQUE: For many years, I had the desire to present my own brand, Imperial. I wanted it to be a handmade guitar with a great playability, the sound I was looking for, great craftsmanship, good projection, and very importantly, a great price. So I teamed up with a marvelous luthier from the West Coast who builds these guitars with a professional sound at an affordable cost.
So far I have Model 1A, spruce/jacaranda, and a cedar/jacaranda coming up this August. Of course the spruce and cedar are for the tops; the jacaranda—from Brazil but grown in Indonesia—is for the backs. The jacaranda will not cause any trouble for players who need to fly and check with customs about Brazilian wood regulations [CITES].
CG: Who are the guitars aimed at?
LUQUE: When guitarists see a reasonable tag price, the first reaction is that it’s made only for students. Wrong! This is a professional instrument that will satisfy professionals and students alike. That was my goal.
A problem that many guitarists experience is that, depending on their development as a player, they keep switching among semi-professional-level instruments, chasing a fullness of sound. I think Imperial can bridge that gap. It has that fullness of sound—clear and velvety deep sonority—and easy playability for a demanding musician.
CG: Within the past year you released your ambitious two-disc set of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Can you tell me a little about why you decided to tackle such a difficult project and what was involved in pulling it all together?
LUQUE: First, I have to admit that piano arrangements are not my favorite work to do. I’m well aware of the many issues that a transcription presents, as the guitar does not have the range of a piano. But the Variations were the love of my life! I passionately followed every single piano interpretation that exists. I was a witness to this masterpiece throughout the years as I became a Bach music lover. So I wanted to see if I could accomplish with my two hands the closest version to the piano transcription. But I also needed to be aware of the guitar’s acoustics and characteristics, and to find the proper speed that would make the phrases not sound mechanical on the guitar. Meters needed to be adjusted carefully, without going too far away from the original tempi. This is a challenging and difficult work that offers a different power of expression and interpretation for guitarists.
By the way, next year, in New York, I will perform a live streaming concert of the Goldberg Variations. I will be recording it, as well, for a surround sound DVD.
CG: You always have so many projects in the works. What albums do you have planned at the moment?
LUQUE: I’m starting a new series of recordings called “The Gold Catalogue: Composers” on my Iberia Productions label. They are homages to composers who have enriched the guitar repertoire. Each of them will include a premiere of a work commissioned by me.
In the coming months, I will be recording a whole album of works by Jorge Morel, who is a longtime friend. It will include the premiere of a new composition I commissioned called Introduction, Petit Dance, and Giga, and another that he offered me to record years ago.
The other CDs will feature Leo Brouwer, Ernesto Cordero, Sergio Assad, and Nikita Koshkin. There will also be an homage to Federico Moreno Torroba, whom I met when I was young. He appreciated my interpretation of his music and was always offering me his feedback. He became my friend and sent me his music all the time.
On top of that I am finally releasing a CD of my original classical and flamenco-style pieces, called Ausencias. And I will also record a CD of etudes for dexterity, called Warming Up.