Cleveland Classical Guitar Society: A Conversation With Gaëlle Solal

By Mike Telin

On their website, the Cleveland Classical Guitar Society describes Gaëlle Solal as having “a big personality and energy beyond compare.” I’d like to second that, because within the first five minutes of our Skype conversation I quickly realized that the dynamic French classical guitarist loves nothing more than life itself.

On Saturday, February 28 at 7:30 pm in Plymouth Church, Gaëlle Solal will present a concert featuring J.S. Bach’s Partita No. 2, BWV 1004, the traditional Turkish folksong Srama Köprüsü (arr. Kevin Seddiki), Isaac Albéniz’s Torre Bermaja, Egberto Gismonti’s Palhaço and Agua e vinho, Ernesto Nazareth’s Brejeiro, and Anibal Augusto Sardinha “Garöto’s” Lamentos domorro. On Friday, February 27, Soal will present a 6:30 pm masterclass at The Music Settlement.

In addition to being an award-winning performer, Gaëlle Solal is also an accomplished arranger. Except for the Turkish folksong, all of the selections on her program are her own arrangements, and she laughs when asked why she puts herself through all the trouble. “I think of it in the opposite way,” she said. “When I played other people’s arrangements I was never quite sure why they chose to do what they did. And so many published parts are full of mistakes that go unfixed for years. So I thought, why not do it myself. I also did a master’s in jazz and world music in Germany, and arranging was part of my final exams. So in way it was a mix of wanting to do them and having to do them.”

Solal’s decision to pursue the study of jazz and world music came after she was invited to play in a guitar, clarinet and percussion trio who performed a combination of classical, jazz and world music. “I found out that I was to be in charge of arranging, but there was a big problem — I couldn’t read a jazz chart, I had never arranged for a trio before, and, there was no music for many of the folk songs we wanted to play. So we would listen to the recordings a thousand times and try to write them out. I soon discovered that I had no skill whatsoever, so I decided to do something about it.” 

To read the rest of Telin's conversation with Solal, click here for the full version on
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