'As always, it was sheer pleasure to observe Robin Hill's remarkable fluent technique: everything looks easy when he plays it.' Colin Cooper- Classical Guitar Magazine ----- 'Wonderful for their (Hill & Wiltschinsky) precision, touch and clarity of sound... refined virtuosity, the achievement of a long interpretive process.' Il Giornale D'Italia (Rome) ----- 'I loved your CD and thought your technique and performance were fabulous...' Rick Wakeman

Monday, March 30, 2009

The 'Concierto de Aranjuez', an ancient vinyl & advice on nail care

For a solo performer there is always something particularly exciting about being on stage with an orchestra.
The powerful sound of this mighty instrument, especially when sitting inside it, is incredible, and to be surrounded by so many people with the common interest of making music is a delight.

But not without its worries.
For the soloist a lot is at stake.
They shoulder the responsibility of the major part of the performance.
That's why so many months, and in fact years, go into the preparation. Robin was actually hard at work on this piece the day after this performance and had, as is often the case, learnt much from the previous day's experience.

Robin has performed Rodrigo's, 'Concierto de Aranjuez' a number of times before.
The most prominent being with the Liverpool Philharmonic in front of an audience of 3500 people.

But Saturday's concert with the Fylde Sinfonia, conducted by Peter Buckley, was equally important as was reflected by the full house and enthusiastic audience.

Already a comment, and question, have been left on Robin's site, in the guestbook. For anyone with an interest in guitarists and their nails you may like to read Robin's response!

But being a soloist is also a lonely pursuit.
Here's Robin trying out the acoustics in the venue earlier in the day:

Looking slightly preoccupied here:

The advantage Robin had was his guitar. After much deliberation he decided to use his 1980 Rodriguez. This is such a powerful instrument that only minimal amplification was needed, as you can see in this picture:

Between rehearsal and performance Robin was able to admire some of the other instruments:

Then of course you can always abandon your valuable guitar and leave it balanced precariously on a chair....

The concert itself went very well.
Audience, orchestra and soloist all enjoyed the experience and after the event Robin had the opportunity to speak to many people.
He was somewhat surprised to find himself talking to an ex-pupil, from 1981, who was brandishing a vinyl copy of, 'Virtuoso Music for Two Guitars' on Hyperion label, by Hill/Wiltschinsky!
We have recently re-released this album, plus a few bonus tracks, as 'Arrival'. You can read about it here, and listen to/buy on CD Baby, iTunes and many other digital outlets.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Super Mario, Shame Nose Flute, Guitar Strings Revisited

It has been quiet on the blog front since Robin's return from the Amazon but be assured there has been plenty going on.
The majority of time has been spent in practice, and lots of it, for concerts that are coming up and also working on new pieces.

However, there also seems to have been a stream of guitars arriving at the house, three in total, all to be tried, tested, and enjoyed.
Although all three are lovely instruments, none have passed the Hill test and will be returned in the next few days.
I shall not only be breathing a sigh of relief, but also very pleased to reclaim the downstairs of the house.
Three guitars in large flight cases, plus three huge boxes and the accompanying packaging, all take up rather a lot of space.

While all this has been going on I have rounded up another couple of unusual Google searches for you.
They are always popular and also serve to remind me about some of the strange things I have written about over the years.

1) How to play Mario on the guitar?

As we have two young sons I am fully aware that the person making this search was far more interested in Mario and Luigi than the Mario I was discussing..., but I hope they enjoyed it anyway. Here is where they landed:
'Hill/Wiltschinsky Guitar Duo Play Mario Gangi'

2) Polynesian nose flute national instrument

The post I wrote in 2007, 'Shame (Flute) about the African Nose Trumpet', has been a surprise hit for me. This post gets so many hits, mainly from America, and I have yet to figure out why???

3) Opera tea cosy

This search landed on the post, 'Opera House Odessa, Snails and a Tea-Cosy', one you may well remember from earlier Google searches due to the tea-cosy element.

4) Recorder notes to old house

One of the more unusual requests but none the less, they found their way to, 'Notes on a Recorder to Notes on a Scandal'.

5) Bird paintings by Robin Hill

This final search left me a little baffled as the unsuspecting researcher landed on five different blog posts, none of which I can really figure out. So if any of you can offer up a theory then feel free to leave a comment!

i) 'Classical Guitar Sound Waves...'

ii) 'Monet for Nothing...'

iii) 'An Eerie Quiet in Hillhouse'

iv) 'Domenico Scarlatti and the Honky Tonk Piano - Revisited'

v) 'The Many and Varied Uses of Savarez Guitar Strings...'

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Escape from Devil's Island

Robin has been home for a few days now and had time to reflect on his latest trip.
From a musical point of view it was a huge success.
Two concerts, both very well attended, were enjoyed by audience and musician alike.

But this particular trip took Robin to some incredible places.
He has returned with hundreds of photographs and many memories that shall remain with him always.

As this is all about the life of a musician, I thought I'd share some of the photographs with you.
I think the first is so evocative of the whole region.
To look out of your window and see the muddy waters of the Amazon against the backdrop of the lush rain forest is an amazing sight in itself.
But then to have a brief snapshot of life on the Amazon takes it to another level.

The local people, of all ages, from the very young to the old, paddled up in their canoes to wave and say hello:

All this against the exotic sounds of the jungle that were all around.
It was a heady experience.

But the fascinating tour continued.
After a few days they arrived here:

Devil's Island is an extraordinary place and one that, generally, is only enjoyed vicariously through travel programmes, history classes or through books such as Henri Charriere's, 'Papillon'.

Whilst the wildlife is certainly exotic and plentiful:

The accommodation for the prisoners was far from attractive:

It must have been an horrendous experience for all those poor souls interned in such a place.
The humidity and heat is intense, and solitary confinement and torture were rife at the time.
To add to the inmates' joys the coast of Venezuela can clearly been seen from the small islands but any thoughts of escape had to be carefully planned as the surrounding waters were, and still are, shark infested, which is not exactly conducive to an exhilarating swim for freedom.

But even on the island great care is needed when walking around.
Can you discern a rather 'snappy' friend which Robin, luckily, spotted before it spotted him....

But the advantage of visiting Devil's Island as a tourist, (or in this case musician having a few hours off...) rather than a prisoner, is that you get to leave at the end of the day and return to the luxury of your room:

Robin only spent a short time on the Island as his concert was that evening.
But he was there long enough to realise how desperate and difficult it must have been for the inmates.
Somehow his guitar concert that night felt slightly easier...

Monday, March 09, 2009

First Performance and a pair of Pink Dolphins

Robin has been having quite an adventure, and seen some fabulous sights, over the last few days.
Unfortunately internet access is painfully slow, if working at all, so he has been unable to send any photographs.

However, after one conversation, which was constantly interrupted by shouts of, "Wow, a pair of pink dolphins," I have found you a picture:

These are incredible, beautiful creatures, which are now at risk due to the rapid changes in the area. You can read more about them here.
The need to preserve this fabulous part of the world is something that Robin has been involved in previously. Here's the post, 'Help Save the Brazilian Rainforest'.

Robin also really enjoyed watching as groups of very small children paddled up to the ship in their canoes, waving and smiling, and generally having a wonderful time.

But there has also been work to do.
During this trip Robin has had two concerts to perform, the first of which was on Friday.
It was an easy job for the sound man on this occasion as all that was required were two microphones and a chair with no arms!
So after a simple sound check the concert got underway and went very well indeed.
Since then Robin has had the opportunity to speak to many of the audience and received excellent feedback.
No comment yet from the pink dolphins...
I do hope they manged to pick up a few sound waves and enjoyed the experience.

Today is concert day once again.
Preparations will have started, and luckily they are now heading towards Devil's Island, and the sea has calmed down a little.
That's a relief as it isn't much fun practicing scales and arpeggios whilst trying to remain upright in ones chair.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Arrival in the Amazon, Caruso and Fitzcarraldo

Finally, after a very frustrating and tedious journey, Robin has arrived at his destination and joined Seabourn Pride.
All started off well, in that he arrived at Manchester airport on time, but things deteriorated from there.

A delay in take off resulting in a missed connection and a 10 hour wait in Paris....

Those following Twitter will have read about events as they unfolded, and the support and advice on, 'ways to amuse oneself during long delays at airports', were much appreciated.
Special thanks must go to one of my Twitter friends, missmussell, over on, 'The Omniscient Mussel', for providing games and advice during this time!

On reaching Sao Paulo, and once more 'waiting', Robin was rather amused to hear someone calling his name.
It was a magician, who had appeared from nowhere, and was accompanying Robin on the final leg of his journey.
He was pleased to have the distraction of some much needed company by this point.

But after 38 hours Robin arrived in Manaus, Brazil, and was able to recover from his journey in luxury.
Incidentally, Robin made it with only about 3 hours to wonder we were all getting a little tense here.

Manaus is an incredible place, situated in the middle of the Amazon forest. But it isn't as one would imagine. Having become very wealthy in the early 20th Century, Manaus is a bustling city.
The Opera House, built during the heyday of the rubber trade was once visited by all the most famous Opera Divas and Maestros.

Thankfully Robin has a few days to recover and acclimatise before his concerts, the first one not being until Friday and the second a few days later.
When Robin joined Seabourn Pride she was actually docked on the Rio Negro, but within a few hours set off to cover the 4 miles to the Amazon.

He's ready for it though.
Last time I spoke to him he was heading up to the top deck armed with an old 78 of Caruso, which he was going to play at high volume.
If you are unsure what I'm talking about, then you are probably unfamiliar with Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, a rather eccentric character. His story was told in the film, Fitzcarraldo.