If Pablo Sáinz-Villegas, hailed worldwide as the soul of the Spanish guitar, ever tires of being an internationally acclaimed virtuoso, he could take up a career as a diplomat.
During Noche Alegre, a post-concert reception and discussion March 30 hosted by the CSO Latino Alliance in Grainger Ballroom, Sáinz-Villegas proved that he views his role as a global ambassador seriously. He fielded questions on a variety of unlikely topics — such as his mismatched hands (one is a half inch longer), his favorite opera (it’s not The Barber of Seville) and his muse (“my wife”) — how’s that for the ultimate diplomatic answer? But in his case, it’s obvious that his response is sincere, given his heartfelt acknowledgment of his spouse, who attended the event.
Even more evidence of his diplomatic nature was his graciously worded request as he joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and guest conductor Bernard Labadie as soloist in works by Vivaldi and Boccherini. Remarking on how the audience had clapped between movements of the program's first work, Sáinz-Villegas asked listeners to hold their applause until the end, because “music is like a book with different chapters” and should be savored without distractions (like between-movement clapping).
At intermission, Sáinz-Villegas was spotted on the staircase between the first floor and mezzanine levels and graciously acceded to fans' requests for photos. Later, before the reception began, he posed for another barrage of photos with the ease of a seasoned politician.
Then with the Latino Alliance’s Angélica Cano and co-chair Ramiro Atristaín-Carrión serving as moderators, Sáinz-Villegas spoke about his journey to becoming what many have called “the successor to Segovia” (referring to the Spanish guitar icon. He responded to a Santa-length list of audience inquiries, including:
What instrument would he like to play, if not the guitar? “The violin. I know, it's a predictable choice.” Laughing, he added: “Sorry not to be more original.”
What is his secret passion? “Dark chocolate and mezcal from Oaxaca in Mexico. But let's not let that get out” because it might dry up the supply.
Who would he choose as a collaborator? “Your guy, Riccardo Muti!”
His comments kept circling back to the overwhelming power of music. “It brings us together. It's about sharing,” he said. “It always reminds us that there is something greater that lies within ourselves.
Ever the diplomat, he stressed the importance of furthering the cause of music. “It's a responsibility I gladly assume because music is for everyone.”