February 16th, 2014
How did you meet? What brought you together as performers?
It was in 1996 at the Guitar Festival of Gran Canarias (Spain). We became a couple first and began playing together three years later. It wasn’t a conscious decision from the beginning. We started playing duos for fun, and for some time we played both as soloists and in duo. Eventually, we realized that we both enjoyed everything much more when it had to do with duo playing: the challenge of transcribing, the possibilities of a wider repertoire, working on the music together, as well as being together on stage and traveling together.
Why Duo "Melis"? Where does this name come from?
“Melis” was the name of a famous “kithara” player who lived in Athens during the 5th century B.C. The “kithara” was like a small harp and is the old ancestor of the modern guitar (which in Modern Greek keeps the same name, guitar is called “kithara”). We both liked the name and the fact that there was a professional “guitarist” so many centuries ago. “Melis” is also part of the ancient word “Melisma”, which means 'musical ornament'.
What was the first piece you performed together?
It was the Fantasia Op. 54 bis by Fernando Sor.
Do you perform in chamber ensembles with other instruments and with orchestras?
We play very often with orchestras the concertos for two guitars by J. Rodrigo, M. Castelnuovo-Tedesco, A. Vivaldi or the Concerto Polacco by M. Pasieczny dedicated to our duo. We also like to collaborate with other guitarists or musicians and find it really inspiring and refreshing.
What, in your opinion, are the main benefits of performing as a duo, as opposed to solo performances? Do you each perform solo as well?
We both played solo for many years and at the beginning of our career as Duo Melis we combined both activities. We both felt more comfortable eventually playing together on stage, as well as working and travelling together.
How long does it take to establish a good rapport between duo partners? How does work in an ensemble affect your relationships with people? Do you find you are more sensitive to others' feelings and emotions?
It’s hard to put a timetable of when a duo starts sounding good. What we can say is that it needs a lot of hard work and it never gets really easy to make two guitars sound like one.
Playing in an ensemble teaches you many things that have to do with social behavior (like in any team, you learn to sacrifice your own ego for the good of the group). However, we would like to think that performing and listening to music should make us more sensitive to other people’s feelings.
Do you teach as a duo?
Sometimes we do teach together when working with ensembles; however we prefer to work separately with solo players. At the Strasbourg Music University, where we both work, each one us has a separate group of students .
What language do you communicate in (besides the language of music)?
We both speak Greek and Spanish fluently, and lately we have been using a mixture of both languages that nobody else would probably understand…
You have performed a vast repertoire of Spanish music. What is your next musical territory to explore? Anything experimental?
We have in mind to record a CD with transcriptions of French Baroque Music by lesser known composers as Balbaster, Forqueray, Le Roy, etc. At the same time, we are exploring and researching the repertoire for guitar duo written by the classical French composer A. de Lhoyer on period instruments.
Do you make your own arrangements for two guitars of solo guitar pieces and pieces for other instruments?
We always prefer to play our own transcriptions, even from works that have been transcribed in the past by others. The process gives us a better understanding of the work and, more importantly, we can adapt it to our technical abilities and to our musical concept of the piece. We mainly transcribe music that we really love and would like to perform on stage.