In Converstion: Spanish Guitarist José Maria Gallardo Del Rey

Mezzo-soprano Deborah Humble with guitarist José Maria Gallardo Del Rey
Mezzo-soprano Deborah Humble with guitarist José Maria Gallardo Del Rey

The Classical Guitar Festival is on in Sydney from November 16 to 19. Concerts at the Mosman Art Gallery and in the Utzon Room at the Sydney Opera House will feature artists from all over the globe including names such as José Maria Gallardo Del Rey from Spain, upcoming French talent Thibaut Garcia and Sydney based Australian Andrew Blanch. Not only presenting concerts, this four-day festival includes a series of masterclasses and talks which are open to the public. 

Earlier this year, mezzo-soprano Deborah Humble performed with Jose Maria Gallardo Del Rey on Sea Cloud 2 as part of a Renaissance Tours Music Cruise. She was particularly impressed with this performer’s virtuosity and dynamic communication style. In his hands the guitar sounded almost orchestral at times. She chatted to him last week about his upcoming concert in Sydney.
What repertoire will you be presenting for your Australian concerts? Was there any particular reason for the choice?

The repertoire is based on Spanish composers such as de Falla, Albéniz and Gallardo del Rey. I will open the concert with three Scarlatti Sonatas. I have also included two pieces by Australian composers. The first is by Richard Charlton who wrote a piece for me called A Short Walk in a Rainforest that I premiered in Paris in 1996. The other Australian composer is Phillip Houghton who passed away recently and I wanted to present my admiration and respect for him through a very special and delicate piece called Kinkachoo, I love you.

The reason for the choice of the repertoire is to make a tribute to all these composers who have made the guitar an important part of the Spanish Music Culture through flamenco and other popular/traditional music. In the case of Scarlatti, he composed all the included sonatas in El Escorial, Madrid when we has living and working there, so the inclusion of these items is a small acknowledgement of the Italian/Spanish style.

For Australian audience members who are not so familiar with the flamenco style, what would you tell them about this genre?

I can say that Flamenco is one of the most exciting genres of music. The rhythm, colour, harmonies, etc. provide a very special mark in this kind of music. I always say that I play an instrument called the Spanish Guitar, because for me it is the meeting point of both styles, classical and flamenco.

Can you tell us something about the guitar you will playing? Are there any particular anecdotes or stories attached to it?

I will play a guitar made by Stephen Connor (Boston, 2006) which is perhaps one of the best instruments I have ever held in my hands so far. How I came to be in possession of this guitar is a beautiful story. I was travelling with my girlfriend and two beautiful Chihuahua dogs from Madrid to New York without a guitar. When I arrived in New York needing an instrument for one informal performance, I asked my collegue Tali Roth from Julliard School of Music for a guitar to play. She gave me this Connor guitar and after playing it I felt that that the instrument was just made for me. In the beginning she did not accept my offer to buy it, but after a few months when I pestered her almost every week, she finally sold it to me and sent the guitar from New York. I am still so grateful to her for such fantastic instrument.

Is the kind of venue important when you perform? Do you prefer the intimacy of a small venue or the grandeur and acoustic of a large hall?

It depends. In a large hall you need to find the proper touch of projection to fill the hall from your guitar. I played in many of them without amplification. The feeling of having thousands of people in front of you is a fantastic one.

On the other hand, the intimacy of a smaller hall brings from a performer different levels of colours and dynamic, since the volume is not the most important matter. Actually I like playing in both types of venue. The most important thing is the connection with your audience.

You have been to Australia to perform before. What were your impressions of the country, the people and the audiences you encountered?

I love coming to Australia and I am really a great lover of this immense country. Immense in many ways. I found on my previous visits a deep respect for the arts and for the performer. I also found there was a great interest in the kind of music I am dealing with and I was shown fantastic hospitality always. So, I am so glad I can come back again this time. Thank you very much for having me.

Deborah Humble for SoundsLikeSydney©
For more information on the Classical Guitar Festival got to

Based in Hamburg, Germany, mezzo-soprano Deborah Humble is one of Australia’s most successful international artists.

Recent engagements have included Erda in Das Rheingold with the Hong Kong Philharmonic and in Siegfried at the Boston Symphony Hall, Brangäne in Tristan und Isolde in Mexico City, Judith in Bluebeard’s Castle in Melbourne, Elgar’s Sea Pictures at the Britannia in Bamberg Festival, 1st Maid in Elektra with the Hamburg State Opera, Parsifal with the City of Birmingham Symphony, Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 in Singapore at the Esplanade Theatre, Mozart Requiem with the Queensland Symphony and concerts in Italy for the Linari Classic International Festival.  In 2017 she will appear with Opera Lille in The Flying Dutchman and sing Erda inSiegfried for the continuing Hong Kong Ring Cycle recorded for Naxos.

Ms Humble is a former member of the ensembles of Opera Australia and the Hamburg State Opera, where she had her international breakthrough in 2008 as Erda in a new production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle.

In 2016 she is acting as a mentor for Melbourne’s Melba Trust Opera Program was adjudicator of  the City of Sydney Opera Scholarship alongside Margaret Baker Genovesi and Tahu Matheson. She has been included in the Who’s Who of Australian  Women since 2009 and is an ambassador for Worldwide Cancer Research.


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