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The Voice of the Guitar

Milos Karadaglic
Courtesy of the Artist
Milos Karadaglic

On WCRB In Concert with the Celebrity Series of Boston, guitarist Miloš joins members of the 12 Ensemble for an evening of chamber pieces spanning from the genuis of Bach to 20th-century Spanish pieces and arrangements of modern rock songs, all available on demand.

Sunday, May 16, 2021
7:00 PM
This concert is no longer available on demand.

Miloš, guitar
Members of the 12 Ensemble

   Eloisa-Fleur Thom, violin
   Alessandro Ruisi, violin
   Matthew Kettle, viola
   Max Ruisi, cello
   Toby Hughes, double bass

On the program:

BACH Goldberg Variations: Aria
BOCCHERINI Guitar Quintet No. 4: Fandango
GRANADOS Las Doce danzas españolasAndaluza Danza No. 5 and Oriental Danza No. 2
FALLA El sombrero de tres picos: "Danza del Molinero"
FALLA arr. Thom Siete canciones populares españolas: "Nana"
ALBÉNIZ Suite Españolas No. 1: "Asturias"
ANON. Spanish Romance
PIAZZOLLA Libertango
VILLA-LOBOS Prelude No. 1
PUJOL Suite del Plata No. 1: "Milonga"
SÁVIO Batucada
PIAZZOLLA Histoire du Tango: "Cafe, 1930"
SIMON The Sound of Silence
RADIOHEAD Street Spirit (Fade Out)
LENNON-MCCARTNEY The Fool on the Hill
HARRISON Here Comes the Sun
Recorded on March 6, 2020 at New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall.

Miloš previews the concert with WCRB's Brian McCreath (transcript below):


Learn more about Miloš from NPR Music.

See the program notes.

Learn more about this concert.
Learn more about the Celebrity Series of Boston and see upcoming events.


Brian McCreath (BMcC) [00:00:00] I'm Brian McCreath at the New England Conservatory, and I'm here with Miloš. And I'm going to ask you to say your last name for me, Miloš, because it's an interesting one and and you're better equipped than I am.

Miloš Karadaglic (MK) [00:00:10] It's Karadaglic. And actually, it means "from Montenegro" in Turkish. And it's an interesting surname that not many people have. And also the reason why it's a Turkish surname is because in the 19th and early 20th century, the Ottoman Empire was all around Montenegro and some of my ancestors had to leave the core of Montenegro, which was the only independent country in the Balkans for 500 years, to the part which was ruled by the Turks and the way that the Turks called them as a result of being from Montenegro is "karadag," which in Turkish means Montenegro. And then it became Karadaglic, which means "from Montenegro." It's an interesting history of the name.

BMcC [00:00:54] That's actually, that's fantastic.

MK [00:00:56] Actually, that's why I never dropped it. I mean, I use my first name as my kind of artist name and all of that, but my surname is always somewhere to be read because I'm very proud of my surname.

BMcC [00:01:08] I think you should be. Absolutely. Well, the thing about your background, "from Montenegro," is that you're also of an age where Montenegro went through very difficult times during your lifetime, during your youngest years. And so I'm curious about what that kind of upbringing meant for you as a musician. You saw difficulty around you, like most of us in the United States probably can't imagine. And so as a musician, how does that memory, how do those times inform what you do with your art?

MK [00:01:47] It's very hard thing to say because I don't remember anything else and I don't remember anything better. So I, I can't really compare it to a situation here or anywhere else. But what I think it does, it brings you to this incredible place where music becomes such a wonderful escape. And it creates incredible energy at a time when energy around is not so fantastic, and one of the most important memories of me as a musician was picking up the guitar and just playing for my family, and then for friends, when they would come around. And seeing that even if there are, you know, during that time we had electricity cuts, we had not so much, um, there was nothing in shops or anything like that. It was a very, very strange, strange time. But it didn't matter because the moment I would pick up the guitar and play for people, something would change. The energy would change. The light in people's eyes would change. And it gave me a tremendous amount of understanding of what the power of music is very, very early on. So I really believe if I was born anywhere else, I maybe wouldn't have been a musician because I don't think I would have had that sort of a strong experience. And those experiences, they make you stronger and maybe even better because they give you the sense of purpose and meaning.

BMcC [00:03:19] When you were young, you moved to London and that's where you've been pretty much ever since, I think. And so, again, thinking about your background, and I believe you still have very strong connections to your homeland, to Montenegro. But how has London and your life there affected your own sense of Montenegro and where you've come from? It's such a different place.

MK [00:03:43] I moved to London when I was 17 years old in the year of 2000, and really at that time it was like landing on Mars. Montenegro is a small country of six hundred thousand people. At that time, not many people were visiting. It was very, very unspoiled and pure. And if I think of my childhood there, it was the happiest childhood because there was so much-- everything was about family and these beautiful surroundings, and it was about the sea and going down to the seaside for months and going to school, playing music. It was wonderful. And then I was in London, this fierce city of eight, nine million people. At the Royal Academy of Music, where everybody was great, where I had to almost start from the beginning. And it was a shock to the system. But without going to London, I wouldn't be here tonight. London gave me the tools to make the music I had inside myself. London gave me the opportunities to achieve things in my career and to be in the right place at the right time, and build what I have built. And I'm very proud of that. So, as they say, it's a bit of luck and a lot of hard work, but a bit of luck is what sometimes makes the difference.

BMcC [00:05:02] Your program is called The Voice of the Guitar. And I think for a lot of people, and I'll count myself in this as well. I mean, I was a professional musician, yet even me, I listen to the guitar and it's such a beautiful inviting sound almost every time. But the difference between really, really good guitar playing and great guitar playing, I'm not sure that a lot of us know quite what to listen for. What is it that we're hearing? What are the ways that a guitar can ascend beyond sort of the normal? What is it that a guitar does? And, you know, to the degree you can, how do you do that?

MK [00:05:42] Paramount for me musically is always to make the guitar sound like a voice. To keep the line. No matter what is going on in the texture of the music, that the line always cuts through and that the line is phrased in the same way how you would sing it. I listened to many, many, many singers when I was a student and I listened to more singers than I ever listened to guitar players. And for me it's always been a priority to find that magical color and the magical sound, no matter what. And I love taking risks musically. I have never been a safe player. I love exploring the colors in any given moment that I am given the opportunity to do so. And, you know, sometimes you hit the wall and sometimes it results into the most wonderful thing that you remember for a long time.

But what makes all of that click, and meaningful, is the fact to know that a live performance is not a recording. That a live performance is an unrepeatable moment in time, that you are making the music that you will never make again, that the audience that is in the hall, the place where you are playing, the acoustics, the mood of how you are feeling in that moment, is all part of that magic. And putting pressure on that is always wrong. And that's something that I've learned, learned over the years of touring and playing. And that's why I love playing live, because it's just something that happens, and that's it. It's a bit like a butterfly. It just lives for a very short time.

BMcC [00:07:32] That's terrific. Speaking of learning things, of taking risks, you've been pretty up front in talking with people about a period of time when things seemed to really become so challenging for you that you weren't able-- you almost couldn't continue playing the guitar. You had to take time off, I guess, because there was basically overwork, that your muscles had just simply been pushed too far. I guess my question is, that I wonder, certainly, I'm curious about your process of working through that, but I'm even more curious about what that has done to your playing since then, to your sense of the music you are communicating. What are you now telling people that you weren't telling them before that incident through your music?

MK [00:08:21] That period was probably the most important education in my personal and musical life. The reason why I had to stop playing was, yes, at first a physical injury in my hand, due to me asking from my body too much. Um, and I'm a very, very stubborn and very directional person. And sometimes my my body couldn't follow. So, it found a very clever way to stop me, in order for me to then understand how everything works and to understand that that there is not just one path, that there are so many paths and that music is never something that we should take for granted. And for me, music always came so easily. And at the time, when I was playing so many concerts and traveling and recording and really doing a lot, and I'm so proud of that period, anyhow. But in that time, I was just always going forward, always pushing and never really taking care of myself or recharging those reserves of creativity and strength and what I really needed to make the music that I had inside myself. And to face such an obstacle where you are really, really not able to play at all is the worst nightmare you can possibly live. And there were days when I just felt it was a nightmare, that I would just wake up out of it.

But I'm very grateful that that test, that challenge that I was facing, brought me actually closer to music than ever before, because it was the music that I needed to to discover in that purest sense in order to find my fingers again. And the process of doing that was very grueling and very difficult, and I met so many people on the way, colleagues and medical professionals, but in the end, no one could help me except I could help myself. That's why it's the experience that I put very much in my music today. I'm much more accepting of the moment. I'm much more at peace with myself, that whatever happens in a concert, it's meant to happen. I'm much more connected with what I'm trying to achieve in any given moment. As I said before, I take more risks. I enjoy that very much. It gives me so much in return. And I've also kind of been allowed to experiment more with my musical horizons and go into slightly different types of repertoire for a bit and then combine them with very serious solo recital programs, and I'm just having a lot of fun right now.

BMcC [00:11:43] I think that the program that you have, this program, "Voice of the Guitar," is so wide ranging. And when I look at the program, without having even heard it yet, you know, we have some things that we would think of as guitar standards, things that we love to hear on the guitar. Boccherini, these things, and then also Radiohead and Beatles songs. What's the relationship of those? Does one really feed the other in some particular way?

MK [00:12:16] There is really no instrument that more comfortably sits between the worlds of classical and mainstream. Guitar is somehow always the glue in any music when it comes to popular music and being exposed to more popular music, going to concerts, having time to actually live a bit of a life, I realize that there is so much good music out there and so much music can be brought to the world of guitar without any compromise or any shame, because at music college, we're always so wary of even playing a popular classical piece yet alone taking a pop piece because everyone then accuses you of crossover. But I think there is nothing wrong with crossover, if crossover means that you are taking your art and your skill into a different genre and then bringing that genre home to you. And that's the idea behind a lot of these pieces. And for me, that all started with the Beatles project, because that was something that I really wanted to do. I thought that the songs of the Beatles are not less important or valuable than the songs of Schubert, that they will be there for many generations to come. So finding a way and working with composers like Sergio Assad, who is a fantastic guitarist and such a wonderful man, uh, we worked so hard on bringing those pieces to us, and then making the arrangements with strings and opening it up.

And "The Voice of the Guitar" is really a party. It's a party for me and for everyone. It's the pieces that I have loved, that have marked different times in my musical journey. A lot of it is popular, famous. It's the sort of thing that makes some people smile, some people think, "Oh, my God, this is all popular stuff. Why is he doing that?" But I'm OK with that because it feels right. This tour has been great. We've had amazing response. And very often we have to remember that when we are playing in in places that are not Boston or New York, that a lot of people don't really know any of the repertoire. They might recognize it from somewhere. They might recognize it from a movie or a commercial, but they don't necessarily know that it's a classical guitar piece. So including it there and using that to educate a new generation of listeners is also important. And it's always been important to me.

BMcC [00:14:56] Well, it's been many years since you were here in Boston for the first time, when you played over at Longy School of Music in Cambridge. And I know a lot of people have been waiting for you to come back. So it's great to have you back in Boston, Miloš Karadaglic. I appreciate your time today. And thanks for thanks for spending some time with me.

MK [00:15:12] It's wonderful to talk to you. And I am so happy to be back in Boston because it's a really, really special place, and I am so excited about tonight.